As I find Mondays notoriously difficult to navigate, I decided to start a series about how to get over them. Or, to be more precise, how to get over the feeling of being stuck, of not advancing fast enough. Or, in some Mondays, how to get over of that intense headache, which may, or may not, come from a weekend hangover.
Today, the reward detachment technique. It’s not something we can use only to unblock Mondays, as I try to make use of it in many other contexts, but it helps a lot.
Simply put, it just means plodding forward, without expecting any reward for what you do. You may call it sheer will, blind discipline, or whatever works for you. As long as you just sit at your office (or at whatever your job is) and just do what you have to do, knowing that you’re not feeling great. Also knowing that you’re not going to feel great either, at the end of the task.
Or, to add a bit of a nuance to it: knowing that it may, or it may not feel great after you finish that task.
The reward detachment works with a delay, it’s inertial. In the beginning, we may not feel unstuck at all. We may even feel more pressured or like we’re not making any progress at all. But, as the day advances and as the tasks are crossed off of our to do list, we’re slowly getting into the vibe. Sometimes, when I approach Mondays from this perspective, it so happens that at noon I already got over my entire to do list. So I even get some extra time to plan other things over, or just to enjoy my second double espresso of the day, while indulging in some impromptu reward (yes, once the ordeal is over, I do enjoy some rewards), like numbly browsing the web, practicing some new song on my guitar or learning some interesting, geeky stuff.
I find the ability to detach yourself from the outcome of your actions fundamental for a balanced life. We grow up with the illusion that we control things around us. We don’t. What we control is our reaction to these things. We can’t control the Earth rotating around the Sun, but we can control our sleeping patterns. We can’t control the weather, but we can control our blues when it rains. We can’t control gravity, but we can enjoy bungee jumping, every once in a while.
So, once we understand that we can’t control things around us, we also understand that a reward is not intrinsically linked to the end of a task.
There might not be a reward at all, but the fact that we did that thing, well, that’s something that nobody can take from us. And it all adds up.