Most people value their time above all, but there’s something more important.
We live in a digital age. Rhythms are rushed, rapid fire, and relentless— the days carved up into bits and bytes. Quick actions are celebrated more than considered reflection. People skim over the surface of things, alighting for brief moments but rarely remaining at any for long. We’re wired up but we’re melting down.
Most people are trying to do the best they can. They survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast food on the run, fuel up with coffee, and wind down with alcohol and sleeping pills. Faced with relentless demands at work, they become short-tempered and easily distracted. Returning home from an exhausting day at work, some even find their families not to be a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an overburdened life.
Signs of stress
To evaluate yourself for signs of excess stress, ask yourself if any of the following scenarios sound familiar.
- You attend a team meeting where not a second is wasted, but during the final half hour your energy level drops and you struggle to focus.
- You race through a meticulously scheduled four-hour shift but midway through your energy turns negative, and you’re impatient, edgy and irritable.
- You set aside time to be with your family at the end of the day, but you are so distracted by thoughts about work that you can’t give them your full attention.
- You faithfully remember your wedding anniversary but by the evening, you are too tired to go out and celebrate.
The situations described above suggest that energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.
Everything you do—from interacting with patients and staff to spending time with your family—requires energy. Yet people often fail to take into account the importance of energy at work and in their personal lives.
Without the right quantity, quality, focus, and force of energy, you are compromised in any activity you undertake.
There are undeniably difficult patients, tough days, and real-life crises but you have far more control over your energy than you might realize.
The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to you is not. The more you take responsibility for the energy you bring to the world, the more empowered and productive you become. Conversely, the more you blame others or external factors, the more negative and compromised your energy.
If you could wake up tomorrow with significantly more energy and passion to invest in your practice and family, how much would that change your life for the better? If your practice team could call on more positive energy, how would it affect their relationships with one another, and the quality of service that they deliver to your patients?
To be fully engaged, you must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond your immediate self-interest. Full engagement begins with feeling eager to get to the practice in the morning, equally happy to return home at night, and capable of setting clear boundaries between the two.
You need to immerse yourself in your goal, whether it is grappling with a challenge at work, managing a project, spending time with loved ones, or simply having fun.
You must learn to become fully engaged. Four key energy-management principles drive this process.
Principle 1: Human beings are complex systems of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. All four dynamics are critical, none is sufficient by itself, and each profoundly influences the others. To perform at your best, skillfully manage each of these inter- connected dimensions. Subtract any one from the equation and your capacity to fully express your talent and skill is diminished.
The more toxic and unpleasant the energy, the less effectively it serves performance and vice versa. Imagine you are about to have a chiropractic adjustment. Which energy quadrant would you want your chiropractor to be in? How would you feel if he entered the adjusting room angry and frustrated? What if he were disengaged and spacey? You want your chiropractor energized, confident, and upbeat.
Principle 2: Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and underuse, balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.
People rarely consider how much energy they are spending because they believe it is limitless. In fact, increased demand progressively depletes your energy reserves—especially in the absence of any effort to reverse the progressive loss of capacity that occurs with age. By training in all dimensions you can dramatically slow physical and mental decline, and even deepen your emotional and spiritual capacity until the very end of life.
The richest, happiest, and most productive people fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also disengage periodically to seek renewal. Many others, though, live their lives as if running in an endless marathon, pushing beyond healthy levels of exertion.
A long-distance runner may appear gaunt and sallow, whereas sprinters usually look powerful and eager to push themselves to their limits because, no matter how intense the demand they face, the finish line is clearly visible 100 or 200 meters down the track.
Learn to live your life as a series of sprints, fully engage for periods of time, and then disengage and seek renewal before jumping back into the fray.
Principle 3: To build capacity, push beyond your normal limits, training in the systematic way that elite athletes do.
Stress is not the enemy; instead, it is the key to growth. To build strength in a muscle, you must systematically stress it, expending energy beyond normal levels. At the end of a training session, functional capacity is diminished.
But give the muscle time to recover, and it grows stronger and better able to handle the next stimulus. This is how you build strength in every dimension of your life.
The limiting factor in building any muscle is that many people back off at the first sign of discomfort. To meet increased demands in your life, learn to systematically build and strengthen muscles wherever your capacity is insufficient. Any form of stress that prompts discomfort has the potential to expand your capacity—physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually— as long as it is followed by adequate recovery.
Principle 4: Positive energy rituals, or routines for managing energy, are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.
People are creatures of habit and most of what they do is automatic. What you did yesterday is what you are likely to do today. The problem with most efforts to change is that conscious effort can’t be sustained over the long haul. Willpower and self- discipline are far more limited resources than you may realize.
A positive ritual is a behavior that becomes automatic over time, fueled by some deeply held value. You do it largely on automatic pilot. The power of rituals is they help you use as little conscious energy as possible, leaving you free to strategically focus and apply your energy in creative, enriching ways.
Look at any part of your life in which you are consistently effective and you will find that certain habits help make that possible. Creating positive rituals is the most powerful and effective way to manage energy in the service of full engagement.
Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC, is a member of the chiropractic Summit, the ACA Governor’s Advisory Board, and a board member of the Foundation for chiropractic Progress. He is the president and CEO of Breakthrough Coaching. He can be reached at 800-723-8423 or through mybreakthrough.com.