How do we utilize our energy in the most efficient way? A few years back I created a folder on my computer that is made up of collections of notes, summaries, and writings from anything self-development. This includes books on motivation, positive psychology (yes there is a science to being happy) health and well being, and philosophy in relations to living with more purpose. Overall I have become fascinated with the positive rituals which enable us to bring our best to the world and providing a feeling of more depth. There is a common factor in habits and rituals from some of the most accomplished in history.
Performance, health, and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. As with a runner or sprinter, their ability and performance will improve or decline based on the amount and quality of training which they apply. The same goes for the underlying skills that it takes to sustain motivation and energy to perform these tasks. Why are some people motivated at higher levels? Many people have dedicated their lives to this topic and still haven’t come up with a precise answer. For an in depth review and analysis check out The Talent Code, Will-power, or other books that express the idea of the Self-determination Theory.
Professional Athletes and business professionals lives are designed around expanding, sustaining and renewing the energy they need to compete for short, focused periods of time. At a practical level, they build very precise routines for managing energy in all spheres of their lives – eating and sleeping; working out and resting. The essence: If you want stronger muscles, first you have to “Overload” them—you need to lift more weight or run a little faster/further than you’re currently comfortable lifting/running. Not TOO much or you’ll injure yourself, but a bit out of your comfort zone and into your stretch zone so you’re challenged and properly overloaded. Now, your body doesn’t like to get it’s butt kicked and it basically says, “OK. Apparently you want me to be able to lift that weight/run that mile. Got it. We’ll get to work to make sure next time it’s easier for you.”
That response is called “Overcompensating.” Your body overcompensates to the demands you just put on it by strengthening your muscles/heart/lungs/whatever needs to be stronger for you to perform at your new level.
This training effect process of overloading and overcompensating is basically how ALL growth occurs—from muscles to myelin. Same idea with muscles, If you use your muscles a certain way—by trying hard to lift things you can barely lift—those muscles will respond by getting stronger. If you fire your skill circuits the right way—by trying hard to do things you can barely do, in deep practice—then your skill circuits will respond by getting faster and more fluent.”
Although this seems all focused to exercise and athletes, these are examples of how all of these skills transfer over to our mental muscles such as discipline, will power, self-awareness, and habits.
Action step: Precommitment and scheduling in positive rituals. Creating positive rituals is the most powerful means we have found to effectively manage energy. Where do we start?
Detailed goals – most people lack direction. One of the biggest impacts in my life took sitting down and crerating this feeling of self-awareness to determine what my ultimate goals were. From here I detailed these goals as much as I could and continue to do so, reflecting, and and adjusting. Once your goals are set you, it’s time to put your routine or training plan together. We’ll call this your positive rituals that will be scheduled in like meetings. These rituals are designed to work as habits that work into your sub-conscious mind and create a feeling that “pulls” at you crating a wave of momentum.
Why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, so we’re often blind to their influence. But as we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning. This is how new habits are created: by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.
Will Power and Discipline
Try beginning with the new habits of strengthening will power, it’s that little extra that top performers use to carry on when most people settle. Will power is directly related to discipline – Every practice of self-discipline strengthens every other discipline. Unfortunately, every weakness in discipline weakens your other disciplines as well. The more you practice self-discipline, the better is your self-image. You see yourself and think about yourself in a more positive way. You feel happier and more powerful as a person. You know that you have put in the time and energy already and each new obstacle stands as a new challenge to overcome, making you that much stronger.
The simplest rule in the practice of self-discipline is to eat “dinner before dessert.” In a meal, there is a logical order of dishes, and dessert comes last. First, you eat the main courses and clean your plate; only then do you have dessert. This goes the same with productivity, business plans, relationships, and your health! Do your work, eat your dinner, and then enjoy dessert and free time! The feeling of these accomplishments are deposits to the energy bank.
Final mind muscle: Self-awareness.
Self-awareness is discovering your true self… what is your ideal self? Like all of our “muscles,” self-awareness withers from disuse and deepens when we push past our resistance to see more of the truth. We fall asleep to aspects of ourselves each and every day. Much as we must keep returning to the gym and pushing weight against resistance in order to sustain or increase our physical strength, so we must persistently shed light on those aspects of ourselves that we prefer not to see in order to build our mental, emotional and spiritual capacity. The better we know ourselves, the more enjoyable life becomes.
So where do you start today? Find something to get excited about. Enthusiasm and excitement are supporting muscles that have great power to give you a boost. If you must, fake it until you make it – rise to the occasion – what would your “ideal self” do? You would be surprised at how creative and strong you are when you throw yourself into the occasion and ask yourself to show up. Stretch that comfort zone for a little growth, starting TODAY!