Energy in the dictionary is defined as “the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity” and later as “the capacity to perform work”. Synonyms include vigor, animation, spirit, and vitality. There are generally two types of energy
Stored or potential energy is at rest and can be found in body fat or muscle or in a common battery. Working or kinetic energy is when we take that stored energy and use it to do physical and or intellectual work.
Physical or Mental Energy?
In his 1907 classic “The Energies of Men” eminent psychologist James Allen wrote “Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake...We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources”. Allen goes on to say, “Our scientific respectability keeps us from exercising the mystical portions of our nature freely. If we are doctors, our mind-cure sympathies, if we are mind-curists, our medical sympathies, are tied up.” In other words, we artificially separate the mind and the body which results in foolishly limiting our potential.
What was true in 1907 is true in spades over 100 years later. You must combine both your physical and mental powers if you want to optimize your energy and accomplish your goals. Physical energy can be enhanced by:
Getting enough sleep (generally 7-9 hours).
Exercising 4-5 days a week for 30-60 minutes.
Managing your weight.
Eating a balanced diet.
This might not sound “new” to you, yet, how many reading this are struggling in one or more of those areas? If you are, you are not alone. You must engage your mental powers first, however, to unleash the physical powers. In fact, developing the motivation to do the physical things is dependent upon the mental things. There are three keys:
Self-compassion includes three core concepts: your sense of humanity and connection to others, self-kindness, and mindfulness. Developing these skills provides you balance, resilience, and self-esteem.
Self-efficacy is the control that you have over your own life and your ability and confidence to do what you need to do, what you want to do.
Values alignment is the personal work of considering what is important to you and focusing your energy in those areas that are most important. So, for example, if family is very important to you but you spend almost no energy on and with them, you have a misalignment. Misalignments create anxiety, fear, regret, apathy, being out of balance, and on point to this writing saps your energy. Your time and effort must be aligned with what is important to you.
The combination of focusing on what is important to you, personal control (self-efficacy) and perspective (self-compassion) provide the mental power to activate your physical power, release your energy, and enhance your focus. With reasonable levels of these skills you create energy and motivation. They are the foundation to every other physical, mental, intellectual or spiritual goal you may have. Your priorities provide focus that further harnesses your energy to productive goals and desires.
You will notice I don’t discuss the myriad stimulants easily available in nearly every store and perhaps your own kitchen (Is the picture at the top misleading?). The reason is that these are temporary workarounds for when you find your energy waning. In a pinch there is a place for these substances but a daily reliance on them to simply get by reflects a profound imbalance in your life that needs attention. You are better off dealing with the root issues rather than surviving through constant or chronic use of workarounds.
Nearly all human beings suffer from a bias toward inertia (inactivity). Here is where we run into the paradox – I need motivation to get motivated. How many treadmills, abs busters, and bicycles (diet plans, self-help books, exercise DVD, etc.) sit unused after an initial period of temporary motivation? We need a constant stream of motivation. So, if something entails doing a daily activity, reading a book, following the easy 7 step plan, or nearly anything else based mostly on willpower, it will not likely be effective for most people.
Where Do I Start?
So, where to start? I urge you to start at the beginning by making your core personal values explicit. This is the first step to unleashing your mental and physical energy and focus. As a free bonus this effort will help you understand your authentic self and support a sense of wellbeing. The first chapter of my book outlines a simple and doable process. As you might expect, the next step is chapter two, then chapter three, and so on through chapter 10. Alignment of your life with these principles and practices will in fact increase your energy, focus, and accomplishment.
I hope this information is helpful for you. May you take the steps that are right for you to help you access your personal reservoirs of energy and motivation. You cannot access this from a rousing speech, a can, or a powder, it must come from within. Others might help, support, and guide you, which is great, but you are in charge of your life and yours is the only essential role. You are certainly worth the effort!
David R. Edwards is the author of New You! Who Knew? This approachable guide helps you step by step to make your potential motivation and energy real, active, and progressing. You can find out more and get the book at www.davidredwards.com