A few weekends ago I asked my family if they looked forward to the week ahead.
It was Sunday, a sunny snow day after a big blizzard and everything was opening up again. The roads were passable, the sidewalks shoveled, and pristine snow shimmering under a blue sky. We played outside, even took a beach-walk on frozen sand, watching thousands of seagulls bob on icy waves, and then enjoyed a family brunch.
We had lots to be grateful for. So why did I have this little nagging dread building inside me about the week ahead?
It turns out they did.
I assumed my dread stemmed from years of business and then medical training that had driven into me the expectation that each week would bring a crisis of some kind. Now, even with a relatively stress-free week ahead, something in me would tense up on Sundays, preparing to defend against some attack.
This dread was uncomfortable and a waste of energy. It did not help me prepare; it exhausted me. If there actually was a tough issue to tackle that week, the tension could be even worse. My mind could spend hours (mostly in the pre-dawn morning) mulling it over and over - spinning, not really moving forward.
As my family and I chatted about it, I realized that this dread often appeared for children as well. They did not look forward to Mondays. The weekends were about freedom, the week about being controlled.
So how can you look forward to the week ahead?
I’ve found a few techniques to be really helpful:
Plan, and plan well - key is to distinguish between what goals you commit to achieving that week (I call these “solid” goals) vs. your ongoing longer-term goals (“stretch” goals). If you sort your week’s goals into these two categories, you’ll have clarity and a higher chance of achieving your solid goals because they’re not intermingled with your stretch goals.
Jot stuff into a ‘gratitudes and worries’ journal (especially on Sunday night) - it’s amazing how effectively you can calm your emotional / 2 a.m. worry brain just by defining one next action you can take to address a worry. Martin Seligman talks about the power of how this practice can really build emotional resilience in his book “Flourish”, and I’ve found it very helpful for me.
Invite your best self to join you each day - that version of yourself that is well-rested, confident, happy and loving the challenges and opportunities the day presents. I know this can sound silly, but it is another helpful tool in calming your emotional brain. In addition to making your work day more fun, this best self is also particularly powerful at soothing your 2 a.m. worrywort - you know that great defender inside you who also unfortunately derails your days by robbing you of the restful sleep you need. Just let the worrywort know that in addition to your next action, you’re also going to hand the problem over to someone who will be even more capable of handling it - your well-rested best self. In their classic amazing style, your best self will of course take the problem and let you are your worrywort know that “I’ve got it!”
Have a great week!