In our last chapter on Mental Toughness, we talked about “taking every thought captive” – managing our thoughts. In this chapter we’ll talk about “taking every energy source captive” – managing our energy and increasing the energy of others, and with it their courage.
Energy, like mental toughness and courage, does not come to us by accident. We need to be intentional about it. We need to be intentional about giving it and having it. Encouraging people includes being a source of positive energy for them. When you encourage them, you give them energy as well as courage. When you discourage them, you deplete their energy as well as their courage.
Being intentional about giving positive energy to others means you consciously ask yourself:
- Am I increasing the energy of the person I’m engaging with, or decreasing it, or breaking even?
In a group setting you ask yourself:
- Am I increasing the energy in the atmosphere, or decreasing it, or breaking even?
Energy is not the same as courage, but it is an important part of giving courage to others and to yourself. In this chapter, we will look first at ways to give yourself energy (or receive the energy that is available to you), and then we’ll discuss ways to give energy to others. There is an interesting connection between them.
Your greatest source of energy is your ability to give energy to others. When you focus on giving energy to others, your own energy increases. If you want courage, think of yourself as someone who gives courage to others. If you want positive energy, think of yourself as someone who gives energy to others. If you are a leader of a team, think of yourself as the team’s number one source of positive energy.
Now let’s look at your energy from a different angle. What other energy sources do you have?
Managing Your Own Energy
Your Energy Sources
From time to time you may feel yourself dragging a bit. You may feel lethargic, or bogged down, or burdened, or hemmed in – perhaps even trapped. Life feels like a heavier load than it used to.
Then something good happens that restores your energy more quickly than you expected. The burden feels lifted. Life feels lighter. You stand up straighter and start walking more quickly with that spring back in your step once more.
What happened to cause that positive change? Did you have a success that restored your confidence? Did someone say something that lifted your confidence? Did something change in your environment? Did your perspective change? Or was a burden truly lifted?
Think about times when you felt energized and see if you can recall where that energy came from. Going forward, be especially alert to your own energy level. If it has dropped, try to figure out what made it drop, and if it increased, what gave it a boost.
Be especially alert to the effect that other people have on your energy. As you are intentional about the quality of the energy you are giving to yourself and others, be just as intentional about people who are depleting your energy. When you are interacting with people who threaten to deplete your energy (intentionally or more often unintentionally), remember that whether they succeed is your choice, not theirs.
Instead of treating energy as something that just happens – something random or accidental, depending on how the day is going – treat energy as something you manage willfully. You can willfully redirect your attention toward things that energize you, so that over the course of a day the things that energize you are influencing you more than the things than drain you.
What people give you the most energy? What activities? What thoughts? And which ones deplete your energy? Be willful about the level of impact each has on you. The reason this is important is that many of us tend to focus more on things that deplete our energy than on things that increase it. Sometimes you have to focus on things that deplete your energy because of the urgency to resolve them. But your desire to protect your energy can still make a big difference in the kind of impact the event has on your energy. If you gain positive energy from the thought of conquering the challenge, then choose that perspective instead of focusing on the weight or wrongness of the burden.
The same applies to dealing with people who deplete your energy. Your responsibilities may require you to engage with them, but you can manage the impact they have on you.
The things that energize us often give us the strength to handle the things that drain us, so we have to be friendlier with the things that energize us than with the things that deplete us. Sometimes we accidentally become too friendly with the things that deplete us – annoyances, disappointments, grievances, frustrations, failures; and we wind up distancing ourselves from the things that energize us – our successes, our friends, our faith, our hobbies, our favorite things. We focus more on the things that deplete us, as though they are more real, or more important, or more valuable. Avoiding that trap is a willful, intentional, mental discipline.
As simple and trite as it may sound, we simply must focus more on the things that bring us joy than the things that bring us misery – more on the things that give us energy than the things that drain us. If you find yourself focusing more on the last insult you received than on the last 10 compliments you received, then it will take an act of will to rebalance.
Managing Things That Deplete Your Energy
We can lead ourselves to be more willful about tapping into our energy sources instead of our energy depleters, and we can lead others to do the same. What are some of the forces that deplete our energy? Fear, worry and negativity would be three. As they deplete our energy, they also take away our courage. We will look at all three of these depleters of energy and courage in our next chapter – Conquering the Enemies of Courage.
Another energy depleter is fatigue. Fatigue can be physical, mental or emotional. It is important to remember that fatigue in any one of those three areas will also be likely to reduce our energy in the other two. While fatigue sometimes is necessary, be intentional about stepping outside yourself in order to objectively evaluate the price you are paying for it, so that you don’t wind up feeling like a helpless victim of it. Helplessness is one of the greatest energy depleters of all.
As soon as you begin to experience physical, mental or emotional fatigue, be intentional about where it is coming from and how you are going to manage it, even if you can’t prevent it. What can you do to prevent it from crossing the line from necessary to destructive – from doing good in the sense of your best effort to doing harm in the sense of physical injury, poor judgment or debilitating anxiety?
If you are a leader, preventing fatigue on your team is extremely important.
Watch out for forces that can cause fatigue to set in. If you are creating a culture that encourages hard work, initiative, and a “what will it take?” mentality, make sure that you are also creating a culture that encourages relaxation, celebration and enjoyment. As much as we admire diligence, it is balance that produces peak performance.
When fatigue sets in – whether it is physical, mental or emotional – that is when the goblins get turned loose in our minds. It is when we are worn out that we are most likely to feel discouraged, pessimistic, defensive, irritable, weak, anxious, frustrated, negative, cynical, impatient, unfocused. It is when we are tired that our perspective gets distorted.
Sure, there are times when every member of the team needs to give 110% to meet a special challenge. Nothing wrong with that. But at what point do people get so ground up that they lose their perspective and their ability to bounce back? That’s what you have to be alert for.
A proactive approach to managing a team’s energy is crucial to a company’s motivation and performance. Leadership decisions about staffing, hours, work loads, stress, and priorities can make or break a team’s ability to keep firing on all cylinders over the long haul.
Being an Energy Source to Others
Now let’s talk about some ways you can provide positive energy to others. You may also find times when you can give your own energy a boost with these ideas. I will put these points into a leadership context, as though you are a leader giving positive energy to your team. It will be easy to transfer them to the context of giving positive energy to anyone. These ideas will sound familiar, so I will keep them brief. The point is to see them in the context of energy as well as encouragement. Remember that your number one energy source is your ability to give energy to others.
- Project your own confidence, passion and enthusiasm.
We already know this, so it doesn’t require any explanation. It’s just a question of staying aware of it, especially in adversity. A leader’s confidence, passion and enthusiasm is truly contagious, and so is the lack of it. This kind of encouragement can be the game-changing energy source for the “What will it take?” mentality that is needed to face tough challenges.
- Show your belief in them.
Your employees’ belief in themselves has a direct impact on their energy, and your belief in them has a direct impact on their belief in themselves. Think back to the last time you had a leader who expressed genuine belief in you and explained why. Remember the energy boost that gave you. Compare that to the way your energy level responded to the last leader who didn’t believe in you.
- Show your support of them.
Sometimes our loss of energy comes from feeling alone. The worst cases would be when we feel abandoned or betrayed. Less extreme would be the feelings that other people don’t care enough about us, or what we’re doing, to support us. Or they don’t take us seriously enough.
When employees suffer the loss of energy that comes from feeling alone or overwhelmed, that lost energy can be restored with words like, “You’re not in this alone. I’m by your side, and so are the other members of your team.” If you offer a specific means of support, that is even more powerful. The nature of their energy can be transformed from the kind we feel when we believe we will lose to the kind we feel when we believe we will win.
- Show your appreciation of them.
Appreciation provides energy when a leader recognizes an employee’s specific efforts, achievements or qualities. It says that these efforts, achievements and qualities truly matter.
- Show people that you enjoy them.
We know that it is important to let people know that we like them and respect them. But there is a special kind of energy that we experience when we enjoy other people, and it energizes them to know that we enjoy them. Let them know that you not only like and respect them, but that you also enjoy them.
- Project hope and optimism.
The people you lead will have more energy when they are inspired by feelings of hope and optimism. Very few things drain our energy the way hopelessness does.
Your desire to be a sincere source of courage and energy to others will reward you with their trust, respect, admiration, gratitude and loyalty. You will be known as a person of strength, integrity and selflessness. People will want to know your opinion in matters that are important to them. You will be honored for the quality of the influence you provide. And you will be energized.