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The Sad Face of Energy Loss for Leaders

You’d think the magazine Men’s Health was just for the boys, but I, too, have found valuable articles in there. Recently I read one about how to stay your healthy best in 2011 and it offered good advice such as: get more sleep, exercise regularly, and take unplugged vacations.  But the article was like so many others seeking to help us with our health: they add a whole new list of to-dos to our already-busy schedules.

For the overwhelmed, there’s another strategy for improving wellness. It’s one that not only fits into busy schedules, but can lighten your load. Ask yourself, “What can I stop doing to reduce the drain on my energy?” Notice the emphasis on the word ‘stop.’ It means saying sayonara to habits that may have benefited you at some point, but no longer serve your health.  It’s an approach that can create positive effects almost immediately.

Think of it this way: even when turned off, your favorite lamp plugged into a wall socket draws energy from your house. Everyday home electronics and appliances—TVs, coffee-makers, stereos, cell phone chargers—are energy vampires. According to Cornell University if your home is typical, you live with 20 such vampires, devices that still suck power from your home even when switched “off,” adding at least $200 to your yearly energy bill.

Same goes for your wellness, except it feels even worse. When depleted, your energy may not seem as simple to replenish as your utility bill. When too many energy vampires are sucking the life out of you, it sets you up to be less resilient and adaptable—more prone to overreaction, fatigue, and illness.  By choosing lifestyle behaviors that empty rather than fuel you, you have less oomph to meet your day-to-day challenges. Fortunately, the beauty of human energy is that it can be constantly renewed … in ways that are more fulfilling than writing a check to the electric company.

As energy audits become popular for enhancing the performance of your home, why not do an energy audit for your self? To get started, take a look at the vampires lurking in these three areas:

  • Your Thinking – Each of us entertains thousands of thoughts a day. Each one is a chance to shift our thinking from energy-depleting to energizing.  What percentage of your thoughts is expending your energy rather than rejuvenating you? 20%? 50%? If you answered 20% or more, your thoughts may be sapping your energy reservoir.
  • Your BodyEating mindfully, exercising, caring for that constant low back pain before it gets out of hand: all of these actions naturally contribute to sustained high energy. What body symptoms and lifestyle habits are escaping your notice? If you aren’t sure, do a simple body scan, starting with your toes, working your attention up your legs all the way to the crown of your head. Where are you holding stress?  Now shift your scan to a day in your life, beginning with the moment you wake up to the moment your head fell on the pillow for sleep. Which lifestyle behaviors naturally contributed to your energy and which left you feeling depleted?
  • Your Relationships – Consider family members, friendships, work colleagues—all of your interpersonal interactions, whether daily or occasional. Which relationships have a tendency to drain your energy over time?

Of course these exercises are sometimes easier said than done: you’re being asked to notice the things that tend to escape your attention—or that you might typically dismiss as unimportant. Guiding clients through such audits is one of the most satisfying parts of my job, because it quickly leads to an action plan for renewing and rejuvenating your self.

Based on what you learned from your personal energy audit, what one thing could you stop doing to reduce the draw on your energy? Maybe you decide to quit engaging in a negative relationship with a coworker. Or, perhaps you stop will-powering your way through that weekly headache and take a moment, instead, to heed what it might be telling you about your stress level. Just by stopping that one thing, you’re on the right path.

To take the analogy even further, some people who convert their homes to solar energy have actually reversed the flow of their electric meters. They then sell their excess electricity back to the utility company. Why not aim for that with your own energy? Vanquish the energy vampires, then start tapping into sustainable energy sources. You’ll soon have plenty: not only for yourself, but to share with others. Now that would be happy energy news.

Photo by: grendelkhan