“Energy first” is a mantra I use and live by. And by energy, I don’t mean the quantity of your energy i.e. how tired or not you are – I mean your mood, your vibe, how you’re feeling.
This is a totally new way of working and living for me.
Being a doer
I have always been a doer, an achiever, a hard worker. I got stuff done. And I don’t just mean my paid work – ‘work’ also meant that form that needed to be filled in, the car insurance I needed to renew, that message I needed to reply to from the school etc. I had a constant to-do list running in my head and when I had any time I’d automatically think about what was next to do.
When I was tired or felt I ‘had to’ something even though I didn’t want to, I’d learned to push through, suck it up, get on with it. I even prided myself on these qualities – my ability to get stuff done, even when under pressure or tired.
I was conditioned to put work first. And to feel I could only relax or have fun when the work was done or I’d ‘earned’ it.
Work first conditioning
And I know am far from alone in this. So many of my clients describe how they want more time for other parts of their life, but work seems to somehow take priority again and again. Or they feel guilty when they’re not doing anything. Or they find it hard to switch off etc.
This conditioning is so strong for many people that one client who was no longer working, still felt the same pressure to put her ‘work’ first:
“Work first” is completely ingrained in me … Even now, when I have no “work” to do, I feel compelled to make those calls, book that appointment, clean that cupboard , work through that list, before any fun can begin.”
While I still have strong tendencies in this direction (and will probably always have to keep an eye on it), I’ve learned and have repeatedly practiced a new way of living and working and being. And that is to prioritise my energy. I now truly know and live by the fact that when your energy is good everything is easier.
If you’re dealing with something difficult, it will be so much easier to deal with if your energy, your mood is good.
If you need to be creative or feel stuck in some way, it will be so much easier to think outside the box if your energy is positive.
If you have an important decision to make, you’ll find it far easier to get clarity and are much more likely to make the right decision when your energy is good.
A client recently told me, for example, that he had a challenging conversation with the CEO that really triggered him and knocked his confidence. He had something important to work on that week for the CEO but noticed after a few hours that he was going round and round in circles, second guessing himself and going down rabbit holes. When he finally recognised his mood was off and he wasn’t getting anywhere, he realised the most important thing was to shift his mood. So he went for a run immediately after work and spent the evening doing the things he enjoyed and that he knew would make him feel good. When he went into work the next day he felt really positive and confidently flew through the work he had to do.
The power of our energy
This is the power of our mood and energy.
Our brains function better. We think more clearly. We are more productive and more creative. We know this from the research on Positive Psychology and it’s known as the Happiness Advantage. But we also know from our own human experience that everything also feels much easier, better and more enjoyable when our energy is good.
Hard does not equal good
In our society we have unfortunately become programmed to think that hard equals good. We pride ourselves on being able to do the hard thing. And we rarely consider whether something important and worthwhile could actually be easier. But life can in fact be a lot easier and more enjoyable than we often make it.
I have a quote in front of my desk saying:
“The energy of forcing tells you you’re on the wrong path”.
It’s a reminder to myself to pay attention to my mood, how I feel and my energy and not just push through. When things feel hard or it feels like pushing a boulder uphill, it’s actually a signal to change something.
A different way
When we learn to see things being hard or feeling stuck as a signal to do something different – to shift our mood first before we focus on the difficult thing – life becomes so much easier. So much more in flow. It’s like swimming with the current of a river instead of going against it.
Of course this won’t always be possible. Sometimes we just have to get on with things. But the more often we choose to shift our energy first and the more we recognise this as a path to an easier and more enjoyable life, the better we will get at doing it and the more habitual it will become.
In practicing this we start over-writing our “Work first” conditioning and start programming our conscious and subconscious mind with different messages of “Energy first”. And we will gradually see that there is a different way. That life can be easier, more enjoyable and more in flow than we often make it.
And the good news is that we know now from neuroscience that we have “neuroplasticity” i.e. our brain structure can and does change. So it absolutely is possible to change our habitual patterns or conditioning over time and with practice. Each time we choose the easier path of “Energy first” we are creating new neural pathways that gradually become stronger and more automatic over time.
Ways to shift your energy
So how do we do it? There are an infinite number of ways to shift your energy and the best ones are the ones that you’ve found really work for you – whatever they are. They can include anything from listening to music or to a favourite podcast, a walk or run or your favourite form of exercise, getting outside into your garden or nature, having a chat with someone, singing out loud to a favourite song, reading a book etc.
The most important thing is to get clear on what works best for you and to have a few different options for when you are at work, when you only have a few minutes, as well as those more powerful mood shifters (that may take longer) like a weekend away, a day’s hillwalking with friends or going to a rugby match etc.
You’ll also get ideas from some of my other blogs like ‘Knowing your fuel’,‘How to have more fun: The fun 50 challenge’ or ‘A simple practice that can change your life’.
Putting this into practice
So what I’d suggest is next time something is difficult, taking you longer than you expected or you feel like you’ve no choice, you just ‘have to’ do something, think about “Energy first”. And then see if there’s something you can do to shift your mood.
And watch and see how much easier and quicker you find it to do the thing that was hard. And then watch and see as you do this again and again how much easier, more productive and more enjoyable your life is as you tap into and use your own inner super power – your own energy.