Let’s talk about energy for a moment. Your energy to be specific; this isn’t a conversation many of us have, but it is an important one. As an example, we all have that one friend who seems to do it all (leads a big work project, volunteers during the week, is on the parent council for their kids’ school, serves on a board, etc.)…and does it effortlessly with an endless supply of energy. That one friend who also shows up with baking or soup when your household is sick…all homemade. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of energy reliably present in your life? I know I want it. So how do we get it? What gets in our way of having this reliable abundance of energy? I mistaken believed when I stepped out of working for a corporation and started my own business that my energy levels would be higher; working for myself has many advantages, but I learned something important. Energy leakage in your day that exists in one format will find ways to repeat itself in others. Put another way, it was I, not my working life that siphoned off energy and left me depleted. A rude awakening to be sure, and I’ll be honest, I was not fully prepared to own that one, it took me a long time to come around, but when I did I learned a few things about energy that I want to share with you.
One source of energy drain is not being able to let go of our expectations of others (our need to “steer” them). In working for myself I no longer had to navigate someone else’s expectations of me, but that wasn’t taking away as much energy as I assumed it did. It was my expectations of others (spoken and unspoken) that sucked the life out of me. According to David Richo, author of How To Be An Adult In Relationships, “Every unit of energy we invest in changing others is subtracted doubly from our own lively energy” (page 144). He goes on to explain that it may not be because we are control freaks, but more likely because we are trying to prevent ourselves from having to feel emotions we’d just rather not. Avoiding certain feelings, like vulnerability, shame, anger, disappointment, etc. rather than dealing with those feelings does take an extraordinary amount of energy, it’s like you are running a perpetual “firewall” in your brain that uses more than half your waking energy to keep in place, protecting you from feeling unwanted emotions. Once I understood I was freaking out about being an entrepreneur (whether I was letting myself “feel” it our not), I looked at my working life with more objectivity and realism and was better able to plan for the things that scared me the most. Voila, more energy. What are you trying not to feel?
The other energy bandit we have in our working lives is not using our voice when we need to; we should always be ready to ask for what we need 100% of the time, which includes saying “yes” to yourself more often then you say “no”. This sounds easy to do, but in practice it’s a slippery one because it requires you to confront your internal critic. It also requires leveraging what you learn about “letting go” and applying it to your expectations of self. Saying yes to yourself means when your mind says “OMG I am so tired today” instead of sucking it up and playing through, you give yourself permission to take a break, a nap or go to bed early. It means dealing with your internal critic in a new way, like when your brain says, “Why did you do that? That was really stupid!” (internal critics not being known for their subtlety) you re-phrase it for yourself saying “That may not have been my best move, but this is what I learned __________.” If you can do that for yourself more often you will be better able to do it with others, like letting your boss know you can’t work late on Wednesday because you have a prior commitment, and then exploring other ways to meet the deadline. This is a nerve racking, but empowering, conversation and you can physically feel the energy flooding your system when you politely stand for what you need while collaborating with someone who has their own needs. Ask for what you need of both yourself and others and watch your energy levels soar.
Another source of energy is expressing yourself through your unique talents and abilities, being creative and able to immerse yourself in doing something you love. Hopefully you are able to express this through your work, being able to enjoy the fruits of your own labour in a heartfelt way. This can be done at home too through activities you love, which may include volunteering, being on a board or a beloved hobby. Nothing is off-limits here if it allows you to use your abilities constructively and gives you more energy than it takes. That is the key, receiving energy. Sometimes something that would give us a great deal of energy is lost because we look at it through the eyes of someone else who doesn’t value it the same way…and then we stop valuing it too. A good example (in my case) is this blog, countless well-meaning colleagues have expressed surprise at the time and energy I put into it and the lack of financial return-on-investment (blogs in this day and age are expected to pay for themselves if you are doing it “right”). For me, my blog is not a place to seek advertising revenue or be a commercial transaction, it’s a place to share what I learn with others and that gives me energy as long as I have the freedom to be myself with it. Could it do both? Probably, but it would diminish my motivation to write it, becoming yet one more “deadline” in my week (and adding to energy drain, rather than contributing to my energy). This can also be explained when people who have a hobby they love decide to do it for a living…and then sadly find out it takes all the joy out of it. Receive the joy in what you do, but also know what about it gives you this energy and nurture it.
There are other energy thieves out there, but these are the “big 3” most of us encounter in our working life. Getting back to the wisdom of Mr. Richo and his informative book, “Drop every ‘yes, but’ that comes to mind as you read this list.”. Doesn’t that feel empowering?
This blog was inspired by David Richo’s book How To Be An Adult In Relationships, specifically the section on “Protecting Energy” on page 144. It’s a great book, highly beneficial to anyone who reads it.
As we head deeper into January it becomes harder not to set goals for yourself. Friends and family have new goals (develop a new skill, run a marathon, get to the gym, etc.) and it makes you second-guess yourself if you have not joined in (at least you have less to talk about with them if you haven’t). Is this truly all there is to moving forward, just living in the present?
No, being in the here and now is step one (http://www.chhr.ca/blog--everyday-potential/forget-about-goal-setting-in-januarydo-this-instead). Being present and appreciating yourself for all that you are is what allows new opportunities to emerge – opportunities that are based on your current gifts and not some imagined future state. The flaw with New Year’s resolutions is that they set us up to fail (have you ever noticed how when we finally achieve that future vision of ourselves we set new goals…it’s like we are always waiting or working towards being something else, but we never get to enjoy it…). It seems simple enough to make an agreement with yourself (i.e. you will be on time to every meeting this week). But what happens when we forget, or get interrupted, making it impossible to keep this agreement? Then we have failed, and our motivation to keep working towards the goal is diminished every time we fail (or even think about the fact that we did fail, even if it was only once or twice). Can you feel the energy being sucked out you? I got tired just writing that.
A healthier way to approach self-development is to see what is possible, as in “I have 15 minutes right now, how can I use this to my best advantage?”. It helps to have an intention for yourself, an intention based on your current strengths and abilities…an intention that speaks to what is possible. So how do you do that? You leverage what you have today. Ask yourself: What is my vision for myself (my career, my life) today? How can I intentionally invest in that vision? What small things can I do to support this vision and hold my commitment to it? What self-development is needed to move myself forward in my life in the way that I envision it that will support all that I am today? Along the way ask yourself what values this vision is based on and why are they important to you? What beliefs do you hold that makes those values an important part of who you are? This helps to anchor you in purpose and intent. Only by leveraging what is present in you and in your life today can you unlock what is possible for you tomorrow...and it keeps you off the “hedonic treadmill” of set a goal/fail or set a goal/achieve it and then set another goal.
This way you get to enjoy who and what you are today, while exploring what is possible for you from a place of strength, not weakness (or failure). With this approach to moving yourself forward you are able to bring yourself more fully into the world with confidence and well being. And isn’t that the best thing you could possibly reach for in this New Year?
"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present." ~ Eckhart Tolle
Heading back to work after the Christmas break, how did you feel? Rejuvenated? Feisty? Tired? Broke? All of the above? Oh the great holiday hangover that often clouds how we view ourselves and what we set as our intention into the New Year. A friend of mine is adamant that January is the worst possible time of year for setting goals, especially “life” goals; it’s cold, dark and everything is asleep outside. Not exactly inspirational, I agree. And yet, what is happening under that blanket of snow in nature is nothing short of rejuvenation. This is the time of year when nature is at rest, enjoying the fruits of her labour from the long summer growing season and the fall’s command to store energy. By resting she is readying herself for the frenzy that is spring, when everything wakes up and emerges, fresh and new.
Much like nature, we too may know there are demands coming that we want to meet. These demands express themselves as gentle yearnings for that which is fresh and new (tricking us into thinking we need *new* goals). Rather than give in to the sappy sentimental miasma of New Year goal setting take a page out of nature’s playbook and use this time instead to rest in what you already are. This does not mean doing nothing or standing still. Under that blanket of snow many subtle and transformative changes are happening to ensure that spring will be met with readiness, and so you too can do something that is healthier than “goal setting” to put you in a position to meet your year with energy and intention.
What nature is silently doing right now is taking stock of what is present. What you have in place for yourself today informs what is possible tomorrow, but at this time of year it is easy to become caught up in creating a vision of your tomorrow (absent of today) that sets yourself up for heartache and failure because we (the beautiful flawed beings that we are) tend to set goals that are based on what is missing, rather than what is present, in our lives. Nature does not gather herself around what she thinks she should be, she gathers herself around what she is, because what she is points to what is possible, and because it holds possibility it is enough. Do you feel you are enough? Make a list of all that you are and all that you bring to the table. Are you a child, a parent, an employee, a leader, a caregiver? You have gifts in all of these areas (and more) of your life. What are they? How are they viewed and valued by you? By others? What possibilities do you have at your fingertips by virtue of who you are? Take an objective look at what you have to give others (and yourself), reach out to others to ensure you have a complete and accurate picture of yourself (we are so very good at self-judgment and distortion, don’t allow that to limit you). Go into this work with an open heart, self-compassion and an understanding that only by seeing and knowing what is present in you and in your life today can you move into what is possible for you tomorrow (and know you are already enough, rest in that).
This is what January is all about; compassionately taking stock, being grateful for who you are and what you have; connecting with your deepest self. January is a quiet month in nature on purpose, for it is this remarkable silence that allows you to hear possibility calling, and know that it will call for you based on who and what you are today, not some imagined, perfected future state. January can feel like a long month, the longest in all the year, yet it is a month that is about anything but waiting for your future self to emerge. It is about courage and loving yourself, caring for yourself and honouring who you are so you can bring yourself more fully into the world.
It takes courage to look deeply and listen to yourself. Can you find that courage and listen to learn who you really are? If you do, you’ll see all that is possible for you.
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I believe in giving back to others in many tangible ways. When I learn something new, or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website. You can always find my latest blog entries here, on Facebook or Linked In.