Shitty Days and How to Win Them

Today was a shitty day.

I spent half my afternoon staring at a computer screen. The other half of the afternoon was spent feeling sorry about the first half.

The result? A grand total of 0 words written.

It didn’t stop there, of course. To celebrate my grand failure, I drank a latte, ate half a pound of sweet potato, and spent the evening vegetating in a food coma.

Shit happens.

I have a reputation for being in control. It’s not true. In the past, a day like this would trigger a downward spiral of binge eating and self-hate. One bad decision would turn into two, which would turn into four…and on and on. It would take me months to get out.

That doesn’t happen anymore. Nowadays, I can be back at cruising velocity in a few days.

Beating shitty days comes down to two things, really:

  • Mental toughness (a learnable skill)
  • Specific techniques (a learnable skill)

I’m still feeling shitty right now. I didn’t want to write this. I wanted to stay at home and feel sorry for myself.

But I know how to get myself out.

Here’s how.

1. Recognize it’s a shitty day

Don’t laugh. This is important.

The worst mistake I’ve made in the past is holding shitty days to the standard of ordinary. These types of days are a different beast. They deserve special treatment.

If you want something lame but surprisingly effective, try saying, “Today is a shitty day” out loud. I did this about 15 times a few minutes ago. I feel a lot better.

Whatever works, right?

Put down your ego. If it’s a shitty day, accept it. That’s the first step.

2. Reach out for help

Before, whenever I had a shitty day, I would try to do things on my own. Nowadays, the first thing I do is message one or two good friends to ask for help.

Again, put down your ego here. You’re compromised—you had a bad day because you are NOT in control. This is the ideal time to ask for help.

Plus, It’s not a burden to friends, it’s a favor. If a good friend is having a hard time, I would be insulted if they didn’t ask me for help.

Today, so I sent a message to two good friends.

Message to Female Friend (we met earlier this morning):

Sorry to be awkward today, I’m not doing too well, actually.

Message to Male Friend:

I just spent all afternoon watching stupid videos, and now I’m depressed, haha.

Nothing fancy, but it doesn’t need to be. Just let them know you’re struggling. Here were their responses…

Female Friend:

If it’s about writing, just sit down and write like you always do!

Male Friend:

That occasional binge does a lot of mental harm, but in all reality the damage is minimal. […] It’s normal to slide back and forth, as long as the moving average is up.

The answers you’ll get might be “obvious” things that you know already. But that’s not the point. The point is to realize you aren’t alone… Again, this is under appreciated.

2. Drastically lower standards

Shitty days come from not feeling in control.

Let’s say you ate eleven chocolate croissants in the morning. Your diet is ruined. Life sucks. What’s the point of going to the gym anymore? Now you just want to curl into a ball and eat eleven more croissants…

With this kind of negative momentum, doing anything positive is a huge win.

Do you normally deadlift 400 pounds for 5 reps? Drastically lower standards. Just do 1 rep instead.

Do you normally write 2000 words a day? Drastically lower standards. Write 200 words instead. Is that too hard? No problem. Just write 20.

Do anything you can to make the first step happen.

I didn’t want to write today. I wanted to eat a giant plate of mango sticky rice and then stare at my bedroom ceiling all night.

Yet, here I am. Here’s what saved me: I said to myself, “Just write 500 shitty words. Your readers will forgive you.”

That was it. I messaged my friends and drastically lowered my standards. I sat down, took out my laptop, and started typing.

Now that I’m writing, it doesn’t seem so hard anymore. I’m well past the 500-word mark, and I could write a few thousand more.

3. Ride the momentum

Savvy readers might have noticed that all of the above steps have a single goal in mind—momentum.

Yes, one bad decision can cascade into two and four and eight and on and on. But so can good decisions.

Do whatever it takes to get the ball rolling. The rest is easy.

Less than an hour ago, I said to myself, “Just 500 shitty words.” Now I’m all finished, and I think I’ll go to the gym too.

Maybe it wasn’t such a shitty day after all.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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