In this post I show you four steps to energize yourself so that you end your day feeling strong, as if your day hummed along, no matter the obstacles in the way. Get this down and nothing will eclipse your sun!
We all know that every living thing on earth needs energy to survive and thrive. Energy powers every neuron that fires and every muscle that moves. We know we need to get quality sleep, eat right, and exercise if we want to keep ourselves energized. So why is it so difficult for most of us to maintain these healthy habits? The answer lies in the fact that in order to get our butt to the gym we need to maximize our energy in 4 specific areas. First, let's take a look at the two basic types of energy that every living organism uses.
The Difference Between Protective Energy and Growth Energy
Living organisms use energy in two basic ways: to protect themselves or to grow. Protective energy (also called catabolic) tends to leave us feeling depleted or anxious; growth energy (also called anabolic) makes us feel optimistic and energized. We feel this on the cellular level. When we feel angry or fearful and in need of protection, our body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. When we exercise or feel joyful, our body releases the feel-good endorphin and serotonin hormones.
We tend to take energy for granted, but we are always responding to it, and the impact of protecting and contracting energy, or expanding and growing energy adds up over time. This pattern of responding to challenges becomes the story of our life.
Why It Takes More than Willpower to Energize Yourself
Will power alone is not enough to sustain healthy habits or to accomplish a future goal, because our brains are naturally wired to respond to whatever is staring at us in the moment. The current moment is real experience; the future is hazy. Therefore, to change our future, we need to experience our current moment differently, and we need to do it from four dimensions: Physical Energy (Body), Thought Energy (Mind), Emotional Energy (Feelings), and Spiritual Energy (What we Believe).
Here's an example of how contracting energy plays out in the four dimensions. I have always struggled to force myself to regularly exercise. It's just not my thing. I haven't yet reached the point where sweating on a treadmill gives me pleasure. Here's what's going on inside my head on the days that I don't get my butt to the gym:
Physical Energy: Like anyone over the age of 50, physical energy is front and center for me. I am painfully aware that my bad knee can give out at a moment’s notice, it’s hard for me to get a good night’s sleep, and that I’m still struggling to lose the 10 pounds I put on in my 40’s. That's objective reality.
Thought Energy: I think, “I should go to the gym. But what's the point? I can’t count on my body any more. I’m old and getting older. It’s just going to get worse and there’s nothing I can do about it!”
Emotional Energy: I feel, “Damn you, body, I thought I could count on you! It's not fair!” And right behind the anger comes fear: "I can’t do what I want, go where I want, be the person I want to be." And shame: "So this is what it means to be old, in decline, not fully functioning, less than."
Spiritual Energy: Then comes the kicker: "If I am less than, who cares what kind of shape I'm in? What's the point?"
Oh how easy it is to go from objective reality (yes, age takes its physical toll) to feeling fearful and not in control of my life! I don't let that fearful feeling in though; I simply tell myself that I should get to the gym, but I don't feel like it today. The gym will still be there tomorrow.
Does this sound familiar to you? One of the biggest self-improvement mistakes we make is to wait until we "feel" like making a change. If I waited to feel like going to the gym, I'd never get there. I need to dig beneath that surface feeling to get to a larger purpose that will motivate me to go.
We Create our Energy by the Actions We Take
As I write this I have just returned from the gym, even though I went to bed way too late last night and our dog, Hailey, kept me up with her fussing and turning. (She's aging too.) Here's what I said to get myself there:
Physical Energy: Yes, my body ain’t what it used to be.
Thought Energy: So I have to work harder to increase my energy and maintain my body. I may need to make adjustments over time as my body changes what it is able to do, but it's up to me to do everything I can to keep it going.
Emotional Energy: I feel gratitude for my body and how well it still works. I feel compassion for it; I want to take care of my body as best I can. I'm proud of the weights I can lift and the toes I can still touch. I know how good I feel after I work out!
Spiritual Energy: I am healthy and strong. My life matters. My loved ones count on me. My clients count on me. I am making a difference in the world.
By focusing on my larger goals and remembering how good I feel when I get to the gym, I was able to fight every bone in my body that said, "you can skip it today." I made getting to the gym a non-negotiable rule. I don't want my life to add up to a bunch of skipped opportunities.
Energize Yourself with this Simple Routine
I’m not going to sugar coat it: it takes effort to stay focused on goals and to stick to them. We have a gazillion daily distractions designed to keep our inertia going. But making a relatively small effort, consistently, will change your life. Here’s how to begin:
1. Set a baseline for how you are doing in the four key areas of your life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10. This is important so you can see your progress.
2. Set an intention for each area. How would you like to be doing in 6 months? If setting four intentions feels like too much, start with just one.
3. Each morning, set one intention for the day which will be a step towards achieving one of your big intentions. Then, each each evening ask, “How’s my physical energy? Thought energy? Emotional energy? Spiritual energy? How did I do with my one intention? What got in the way? What will I do better tomorrow?”
4. Once a week, check in on your life baseline. How did you do this week? What are your new intentions for the coming week?
Commit to doing this routine every day for just one month. How do you feel? Lighter? More purposeful? More engergized?
I'd love to hear how this method for energizing yourself works for you!