You do not have boundless energy. Even the most driven and motivated people have a finite amount of energy to spread across all their activities. A critically important portion, emotional energy, is easily depleted and unlike physical energy, no amount of food can replenish it.
Emotional energy is the mental fuel that enables you to be enthusiastic for life. A common complaint among athletes and executives I work with is a disconnect between the obvious reasons they should be enjoying their lives and the reality of their exhaustion and indifference. It’s important to realize that the exhaustion is real, not imagined, and that you cannot think your way out of being emotionally exhausted. When you’re giving every bit of your brainpower to your business or you’re constantly doing things for other people, you’re burning emotional energy and failing to take any time to replenish it.
A similar thing happens in sports. When you pour every bit of your physical and emotional energy into your training, you’re not just getting physically tired. You’re also exhausting the reserve of emotional energy that helps elevate your training performances. When an athlete starts going through the motions instead of really being engaged in their training, some part of the cause may be physical fatigue, but a large portion has to do with emotional energy that has been depleted and not replenished.
In my work, I’ve found there are three key steps to alleviating emotional exhaustion and boosting the emotional energy you need to rediscover your enthusiasm for your training, career, and relationships:
Step 1: Identify the Drains
I hate to say it, but people are often the biggest drains on your energy. You know who they are; the people who seem to suck all the energy out of every room they enter. They’re the second cousins who overstay their welcome and feel free to judge the way you raise your children, or the coworker whose negativity seems strong enough to make the plants wilt. They’re the cyclist on the group ride who constantly gripes about the wind, the pace, the cars, and the way everyone else rides.
What to do: Put as much distance as possible between you and these people. No matter how much you give, they’ll never stop asking for more. Think of it as preserving your energy so you can direct it to something positive for you. Life’s too short and way too enjoyable to waste your energy on negative people.
Step 2: Carve Out Quiet Time
Before you scoff and say you barely have time to blow your nose already, I’m not talking about finding four hours a day to walk in the woods. Quiet time can be the drive to work, a 15-minute walk with the dog, your workout, a long shower, or sitting on your back porch with a glass of iced tea. It’s not the amount of time, but what’s going on during that counts. You need a second to stop the merry-go-round in your head so you can recharge your emotional energy.
What to do: Give yourself two 15-minute periods per day, all to yourself. Try guided meditation during this time, or just be still and quiet. When you first start taking short breaks for yourself, they’ll seem like a waste of time, but stick with it. After a few weeks, you’ll be amazed by how refreshed you feel by consciously stopping the flood of ideas and obligations for just a few minutes.
The most successful executives I know carve out at least 30 minutes for themselves each day, typically in one or two chunks. For athletes, these quiet periods may be best before a workout, to clear your mind and get to a state where you can fully engage in the physical effort of training, or after a workout when you use a quiet time to facilitate both physical and mental recovery after training and before you get on with the rest of your day.
Step 3: Let it Go
There are a finite number of things you can control in your life, your workplace, or even your home. Energy spent worrying about circumstances beyond your control is energy you can’t put toward enhancing your life and performance. If there’s a chance your job might be outsourced or fall victim to downsizing, griping and wringing your hands won’t help. Similarly, you can’t control who is going to show up for a bike race, whether there will be a headwind, or whether your child is going to be up late the night before with a fever.
What do to: As an athlete, you need to optimize as many variables as you can control, and the first one is your preparation. Going in to your event with the best fitness possible gives you more ability to handle adversity. Study the route, dial in your nutrition, make sure your equipment works, and bring the clothing you’ll need if the weather turns nasty.
From the career side of things, the best thing you can do is put your energy toward doing your job well, maintaining contacts you might need later on, and saving money to help you get through the transition.
And if your second cousins think your kids will end up in prison because of the way you’re raising them, let their words go in one ear and out the other and stop inviting them to dinner. Invest your emotional energy in the people and activities that are most valuable to you and that can have a positive impact on.
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