29 Apr Renewable Energy
Intuitively, I prefer chocolate cake to broccoli.
The honest truth is that I find much of the literature on well-being patronizing and a bit boring. Either it’s a rehash of the same old clichés, or it seems to be written by over-zealous people who have a lot more time on their hands than I have.
To make matters worse, it’s often delivered in a pompous, know-it-all, evangelical tone that brings out the worst in me. Thoughts like “Well if you binge on chocolate cake when nobody is looking of course you’ll get fat”. Or “By the time you have done all that, how much of the day is left?”
Like most people, I probably know enough about healthy eating (eat less) and exercise (do more) and positive thinking and keeping the end in mind. The problem for me is not what I don’t know, it’s what I don’t do.
Correction: didn’t do. Because over the past few months, a few new insights have surfaced amid the tired old maxims of Do’s and Dont’s, that have made a real difference to my own energy levels and in turn to my business. But first, the back story.
At the end of March, I was seriously fatigued and overwhelmed. The combined workload and growth of this business, taking on new staff and managing family commitment had exhausted me. I had not been out for a bike-ride or run since the previous October, I had gained several kg in weight and was not sleeping well. My job was hugely meaningful, yet my energy was sinking from one week to the next. And I was getting ill.
The first insight was born out of necessity. Observing my own behaviour, I began to see how, over the previous seven months, I was letting self-care go a little every day. It was the reverse of Darren Hardy’s theory on marginal gains: it was in fact an “accumulation of marginal losses”. Exercise went early on, I was drinking more coffee than water, personal planning was being ignored. Every day, in the field of self-care, another small bit of ground was being conceded.
But perhaps most scarily of all, my ability to focus began to disappear. I have always counted on my ability to concentrate when under pressure. In my twenties and thirties, this saved me on many occasions, particularly when deadlines were looming.
But not this time.
I began to suspect that now, in my fifties, age was slowing me down. Of course, this in turn breeds more disempowering thoughts: defensive thinking, taking fewer risks, etc. Not good, particularly when accompanied by chest-pains and irregular heartbeat that had me visiting first my doctor and then a cardiologist.
Over Easter, I took a break and rode to the south of England on the motor bikes with my brother Lee. Riding in the beautiful New Forest and some great conversations with my brother and some complete strangers helped to restore perspective and self-awareness. I began to see how self-care was slipping by the day, rather than in dramatic falls. And I began to notice something else, too.
Riding a motor bike is fairly energy intensive – staying alert and alive is a full time job when every idiot is out for a Sunday drive. I noticed that in every interval of 5-10 minutes, energy was either rising or falling. Also when walking in the forest or along a deserted beach and thinking empowering thoughts, energy is being “credited”. When staring at emails and playing out anxious scenarios, my energy was being “debited”. I began to pay attention to these tiny fluctuations like never before, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could often change a “debit” to a “credit” by just focusing on the present moment, noticing “here” or by tasting the glass of water I was drinking.
Upon returning to work, I called the team together to discuss lessening my role in a few of the direct operational areas and redefining my role and creative spirit. I started studying energy levels beyond the simplistic clichés and also to dig into the psychology behind it; particularly some of the subtle links between energy and self-esteem. After a few weeks of being my own “guinea pig”, I felt emboldened to try some of these new tactics with others… an experiment that is still ongoing at the time of writing.
I still eat chocolate cake; indeed I had a hefty slice only yesterday 🙂 But the pains and guilt have gone, and my energy levels are more than triple what they were at the end of March. As so often happens, a bad experience has opened the door to some new learning. I am fascinated by the array of mental, emotional, physical, social and environmental factors that make a real difference to energy levels; the small changes that make a big difference. When energy is better, everything gets easier.
A constant and repeatable theme of our Platinum Practice and Mastermind Academy is a focus on managing Time and Energy – really the only two resources we actually have to create value for ourselves, patients, clients and team. Look after them…