Manage Your Energy, Mine Your Potential
People are attracted to energy like moths to a flame, and when the flame gets turned up too high - or low - they may become repelled.
I had a friend who possessed so much energy she reminded me of a SuperballÂ® that had been thrown against a hard surface. Her bouncing energy made it impossible to focus on what she had to say. Another friend had such low energy I teased him that people were going to start putting mirrors under his nose to see if he was breathing. Neither had a clue that their energy level was hindering their ability to communicate and harming their careers.
I often advise clients to dial their energy either up or down. "Picture a thermostat," I counsel. "Then simply dial it up or down." Rarely does one need to adjust the dial more than twenty-five percent, and usually just a "tweak" will do it. In addition to gauging the amount of energy we emit, we need to explore the different types of energy that fuel us. I have learned that there are two primary energy states: anxiety-produced energy and grounded energy. I have to confess that too often I am fueled by a tense, anxiety-produced energy. I am productive but not very pleasant to be around.
When I am in this aggravated state, adrenaline and cortisol are coursing through my bloodstream, and I am being manipulated by the primitive "fight or flight" syndrome.
Adrenaline and cortisol can become seductive, as can the heightened feelings of productivity and power. But then I remember that the disadvantages of this anxiety-produced energy far outweigh the advantages. My muscles are tense. Minor irritations escalate into major frustrations, and I am unable to truly connect with others. Additionally, I pay a physical price: my stamina wanes and eventually I burn out.
When I operate from grounded energy, the dynamics drastically change. I am alert, optimistic, level-headed, connected, and my muscles are more relaxed. I still get things done but not with the frantic hypervigilance caused by anxiety.
We have the power to change our level of energy as well as the type of energy we emit. Here are seven tips that my clients and I have found particularly helpful:
Match your energy to build rapport. I match my energy level to the person with whom I am communicating by monitoring and matching his or her breathing rate, vocal speed, and volume.
I used to go on sales calls with a partner, and I would monitor my partner's energy and raise or lower mine to create balance. If my partner's energy was high, I would dial mine down; if her energy was low, I would dial mine up.
When I present, I monitor the audience's energy. If the audience's energy level is waning, I dial mine up to reenergize the crowd. If the energy level in the room is too high, I dial mine down to restore calm so that the audience can focus on my message.
Monitor your breathing. Breath helps us manage energy. When I am feeling that my energy is anxiety-based, I observe how I am breathing. In almost every case, I am taking shallow breaths or, even worse, holding my breath. When I take deep, cleansing breaths and become more conscious of my breathing, I am able to shift to a more grounded energy.
Take a posture break. My massage therapist tells me that most of my tension lodges in my neck. She suggests standing up, stretching, and rolling my neck from side to side every half hour. Experts agree, saying that standing up every half hour increases our energy by thirty percent.
Poor posture contributes to poor breathing and ultimately to diminished vocal quality. Some say that when we slump our shoulders we diminish our lung capacity by thirty percent or more.
I constantly remind myself to "stand in my power" by standing up straight, tucking back my arms, and projecting my chest forward, or as one client says, "letting my headlights show."
Drink water. We all have read about the health benefits of drinking lots of water. Drinking water every twenty to thirty minutes also sends a signal to our metabolism to keep up its energy. Doctors tell us ice-cold water is even more effective.
Eat smart. My trainer suggests that I eat six times a day. He says eating low-fat, high-fiber, and high complex carbohydrate snacks between meals actually increases energy and metabolism. I do know that when I skip between-meal snacks - or worse, entire meals - my blood sugar falls and I become tired. But just a few bites of high protein food fuel my energy.
Caffeine overstimulates me and causes my energy to become anxiety-based. I also stay away from sugary foods for the same reason.
Everyone's body is different. Pay attention to yours to determine which foods fuel you and which deplete your energy. And remember, what your mama told you is true: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A breakfast high in complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber -- and low in fat -- will get your day off to an energetic start.
Exercise. A study conducted at the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs, Colorado showed that exercisers scored better than non-exercisers in all leadership categories including organization, interpersonal skills, and energy.
Exercise benefits us all, and it benefits us in different ways. I am a high-energy person. Exercise is essential for me because without it I am bouncing against the walls. For me, exercise converts anxiety into grounded energy. For my friend Bob, exercise takes on another characteristic: it helps Bob get his juices going in the morning. Exercise primes his pump for the rest of the day.
Get rest. You already know that the body needs rest to recuperate and regenerate itself. As with food, the amount of rest needed each night varies by person. I need eight hours of sleep. When I don't get them, my energy wanes and I become irritable.
We all have times of the day in which we are more energetic than others. The most productive people plan their days around their peak periods.
I am a morning person. Between 6 and 9 a.m. I can do the work of three people. It is during this time that I do most of my writing. Between 3 and 4 p.m., my energy wanes. Being an extrovert, I find that if I use this time for phone work, the interaction with people energizes me.
How about you? What are peak and low energy times of your day and what are you doing during those times?
Much of our success in life depends on our ability to manage energy. By becoming conscious of our energy level and those around us, we tap into our potential and electrify our careers. We attract people to us like moths to a flame.