~ a book review
Whether we like it or not, we are all living in modern times where our days are filled with minute by minute decisions versus personal reflections, a high rate of production versus a careful analysis and of course, the day-planners, the Blackberries, the outlook calendars, the meetings, and endless to-do lists and piles of paper. Faced with demands both professionally and personally, many of us likely feel like we are being carried away with life’s currents. We characterize our day to day schedules as ‘insane,’ ‘out-of-control’ and feel hungrier and hungrier by the minute for down time and peace. We, as a society, in this modern age need to stop the juggling act.
And did you know that managing our time efficiently is no guarantee in today’s world that we will wake up each morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Just because we have mastered the act of answering 100 emails a day, taking the kids to school, making dinner for the family and getting our daily workout in doesn’t mean that we are on track, or even less insane than those people who miss appointments, forget to take out the trash and only get half-way through their inbox before falling asleep at their desk at 9pm in the evening. Just because we made it through the to-do list and are ahead of the game for tomorrow and even stocked the fridge with fresh veggies for the next two days of who-knows-what, doesn’t mean we are present. It doesn’t mean we are not distracted by the events of the day when we to lie down to have pillow talk with our spouse. It doesn’t mean the wheels of the mental engine are taking a break. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is not an effective tactic to become an enduring human being of extraordinary talent.
Pretty soon, we are headed, whether we like it or not for burnout. For feelings of apathy and listlessness, when the things that once ignited a spark inside our soul, now barely scratches the surface. We feel like each day is just running into the next, like water spilling over the edge of a swimming pool. The lines are blurred, our energy is gone and we feel tired, depressed, defeated. What happened? We were so good at managing our time?
Let’s throw way the concept of managing time. I want to introduce you to the concept of ‘managing energy.’ I learned of this concept after reading a fantastic book, by one of my favourite sports psychologist’s: Jim Loehr. In his book, The Power of Full Engagement, Jim speaks of a whole new concept, an insight, if you will, into what really drives human endurance and high performance. I am not taking about marathon runners here. I am talking about leading the high performance life where we are aware, connected and present. Jim talks about energy, not time, as being the fundamental currency of high performance (4). As blatently obvious as this seems, we do not always take this concept into account. We are often unaware of how much energy we spend on our thoughts, our actions and our emotions. Each one of those has a cost and some costs are far greater than others. This, is the first step. We need to be aware of this and honour those costs.
The only way we can become fully present and enjoy the life we are meant to live is if we learn to manage our energy. According to Jim, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest (5).
Life is not a marathon folks. It should be viewed (just like proper fat loss training) as a series of intervals. We should intersperse periods where we work very ‘smart,’ where we are hyper-focused, building our mental capacity and periods of complete passive rest, where we are on vacation, regenerating and reaping the benefits of our hard earned work. But, too many North Americans live with a constant minimal focus on the wrong things. They are focused on rewards, rather than the process, or the purpose. They are always living two steps ahead of themselves and not allowing themselves to view downtime as equally productive time. It is just like training. Without the downtime, without the recovery, we are unable to attain the highest levels of performance. We are unable to reach the most intense intervals. We are unable to manage our energy. And thus, we are unable to reach the highest level of performance.
And stress is not the enemy either. Ironically, it is the cornerstone of improvement, of growth (13). When we train, we are stressing the body, breaking it down. With recovery, it will repair and rebuild even stronger each time. The other dimensions of wellness: emotional, spiritual, mental, are no different here. If we go through a period of stress, we also need a period of recovery. We grow by expending energy beyond what we are currently capable of. But, if we do this all the time, without recovery; we burn out. It is that simple.
The last point I’d like to address is something Jim advises. Instead of having a personal constitution of self-discipline, replace it with a set of personal rituals that are fuelled by deeply held personal values. Jim describes it this way: Discipline pushes you towards a behaviour or action, whereas a ritual draws you to it. Brushing your teeth is an example of a ritual. And the power of a ritual is that they require very little conscious effort and energy, leaving you free to focus your energy reserves on more important things.
For more information on how to manage your energy, go to www.fullengagement.com
Reference: The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz