I live like a two-year-old, I run until I collapse. I wake up in the morning full of excitement and run toward my day with enthusiasm. As the day unfolds, I show up and give my full attention to the people and projects that move through my work and life. At some point, my energy begins to wane. Most days I make it home before the cup is completely empty, but not always. I have been known to sit and rock quietly in my office at the end of the day. Sometimes tears of frustration leak down my cheeks. Occasionally, I throw things in anger. But almost always, I come to the end of my energy before I come to the end of my day.
It never occurred to me that there was another way to live. I’ve always been a hundred and ten percent-er. A couple years ago, in the middle of a graduate class, I had an epiphany. We were doing role play session, working out family dynamics. I played the role of a 15-year-old stoner kid, who didn’t want to be in a therapy session with her parents. My job was to participate (or not participate) as this kid. I spent the night checked out, looking out the window, unwilling to respond to questions, defiant, and downright difficult. I was vaguely aware of the conversation going on in the room, but mostly I just ignored it. It was the most fun ever!
As I drove home that night, I thought about how good it felt to participate in this way, to literally show up differently than I do in every other interaction in my life. I was stunned to realize that this was an option, that how I show up in a room could be moderated in some way. I could participate at a hundred and ten percent, or eighty percent, or even forty percent. The choice was mine. Until that very moment, I don’t know that I understood that I had a choice.
I’ve been thinking about this for years but have not really put it into action. These days I am experimenting with energy management. Instead of only thinking about how I plan my hours, I am beginning to think about how I manage my intensity…my energy. Not every little thing deserves my full attention, there are some things I should let slide. Not every decision needs to be made, not every issue needs to be addressed, not every crisis is really a crisis. I have some work to do in this area. My default is always full throttle, but I am at least aware there are options. I think that’s a start.
As I get older, I recognize that my energy is probably my most important asset. When I take responsibility for managing my energy, I am no longer at the mercy of everything that flies through my life. I can choose to wrestle every detail down to the floor, or I can leave a few hanging. I can step away from the tyranny of the urgent and focus on what is truly important. I am taking baby steps toward a more balanced being… by managing the way, I show up.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.