"Move when the energy moves you." Several years ago my friend Max said this to me when I was complaining about needing to get my butt in the office to clear my desk. I was in no mood to work, yet I felt so emotionally badgered by the piles on my desk that I was desperate to get them handled so I could stop thinking about it and relax.
Max suggested that rather than force myself to do something my body and mind clearly wasn't ready to do I should honor my own natural flow of energy. Her prescription was simple: "If you have the energy to do something, do it. If you don't, don't do it." Sounds great, I said, but what about the nagging voices in my head that tell me I have to get things done first? "Ah, you see, this isn't about your to-do list or your cluttered desk" she said. "This is about your mind. You need to learn to manage your mind by telling it to rest while you wait for the energy you need to get a task completed.
(I was starting to feel a little like grasshopper ?)
"If you move with the energy rather than against it," she continued, "you'll not only be happier, you'll get more done in less time. But remember, you have to be brave enough to challenge the voices in your head that tell you you're shirking your responsibilities or that if you wait too long, the energy may never come."
I'd always had a tough time letting myself enjoy life until my work was all done. And "work" could mean anything - the last dish had to be put in the dishwasher, the laundry needed to be washed and dried, or my office paperwork had to be all filed away. Like so many of us, I was seduced by the myth that if I could just get everything done, I'd finally be able to relax. Not anymore, thanks to Max.
That conversation long ago shifted the way I live my life. Rather than force myself to do anything, I do my best to wait for the energy - the motivation or desire - to get the task done. When I can, I never push myself to do something I don't want to do. Instead I trust that when the energy is right, it will happen. And it's never let me down. As a matter of fact, by doing things like sitting once a week and responding to most of my emails rather than disrupting my day and replying as they come in, I not only get to enjoy my life, I'm far more productive. When I finally have the energy to reply, I not only get them done in a short amount of time, my responses are better. Or, when I let my inbox fill a bit more than normal because I don't feel like sitting at my desk, I easily plow through the paperwork when the energy is right. I've been amazed to see work done in two hours that used to take eight.
You can easily begin to apply this principle to what you do at home, but what about at work? Being self-employed affords me the ability to more easily follow my own natural rhythms. It's one of the things I love most about owning my own company. But it can also work when you work for someone else. Rather than beat yourself into submission to get an expense report finished, for instance, why not do something else while holding the intention that you'll get the report done as soon as you have the energy? Then, simply go about completing other tasks while waiting for the motivation to complete the report. The energy might come in an hour, later in the afternoon, or the following week, but it will come. As a matter of fact, your willingness to practice this technique will not only give you the evidence you need to trust it, you'll probably find the motivation sooner rather than later when you stop pushing yourself.
So, are you ready to try a new way of being in the world? It's a great way to start a new year. The next time you catch yourself pushing your body to do something you don't want to do, stop. Tell your mind to relax and wait for the energy. Give it time and you won't be disappointed. Before you know it, you'll move when the energy moves you, too!
Take Action Challenge
This week, become aware of when you push against yourself and your natural flow of energy. As you start your day, ask yourself whether or not you have the desire to do what you're about to do. If it feels like a "yes," go for it. If not, wait. Challenge yourself to gather evidence that when the energy is right, it's the right time to act.
This week's fun & inspiring video comes from the World Science Festival of 2009. Thanks Terry!