When taking stock of our lives, many of us ask ourselves what we need to do to become centered and focused on what we desire, and in a state of joy and inspiration regardless of challenging life situations. And how can we use these practices to transform our professional lives?
The advances in technology that were supposed to save us time and energy have created a modern world that expects more and more of us with fewer and fewer resources. Our best laid plans fall to the wayside as we deal with constant stimulation, created by newer and newer technology.
In all our professional programs at Daniels, we look across disciplines to seek new angles on learning. When it comes to managing our own energies, I’ve found power in Albert Einstein’s thoughts: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”
I don’t have to know much about the laws of physics to know that what you focus on, or where your energy is directed, expands. Transform your energy, transform your life.
We often think of energy in terms of the physical body, but our mind and spirit have a profound effect on our energy. I encourage our Executive Education students to think holistically, so I offer the following to create the groundwork for transforming your available energy into action. As Plato said, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”
(As with all health advice, please get your doctor’s approval first).
The foundation of all energy starts with physical energy. It is the quick go-to during the day to renew and revitalize. Physical energy consists of breathing, moving, eating and sleeping. Moving and sleeping are incredibly important for energy, but we will focus on breathing and eating, since they are the top two of the four in order of importance for energy.
Exhale, inhale and hold your breath. We can go without eating, moving or sleeping for periods of time, but we cannot go without breathing. Yet we take breathing for granted. We can lower our stress in as little as 60 seconds of deep focused breathing. Stress depletes energy. Deep focused breathing renews it. Your mind follows where your body leads. Dr. Andrew Weil created the 4-7-8 method of breathing for relaxation:
- Place your tongue behind your upper front two teeth.
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.
- Repeat three times for a total of four breathing cycles.
All food gives you energy. The idea is to focus on food that sustains your energy so that you can turn your focus to other things for the next three to four hours until your next meal.
- Start your day with at least 16 ounces of water, and drink 16 ounces of water before each meal, in addition to hydrating as needed during the rest of the day. Even mild dehydration could leave your body and mind less energetic.
- Healthy fats, lean proteins and complex carbs, mostly in the form of vegetables and fruits, consumed together create energy that lasts. A glazed doughnut gives you quick energy then quickly crashes shortly thereafter. Sometimes, only a glazed doughnut will do. When that happens, enjoy it to the fullest.
- Do not eat breakfast … if your dinner meal was less than 12 hours ago. Intermittent fasting, 12 to 16 hours between evening and next day meals, has been shown to increase energy and decrease weight in recent studies.
- Keep a log to track your energy levels for a week and note the foods eaten as well as when, to see what works best for you.
The brain controls all thought and action. It is approximately 2 percent of your body weight, yet uses 20 percent of blood, oxygen and calories. It is the most energy demanding of all organs in the body, and can be your best ally or your biggest enemy.
Brains are complex. There are two fundamentally different modes of thinking. We are most familiar with focused thinking, however elusive that seems to feel in today’s world. Diffused thinking is a more relaxed, big picture state of thinking that allows space for creativity. There is a time for focus and a time for diffusion.
Focused thinking mode is for problem solving using familiar pathways in your brain. Set yourself up for success in the following ways:
- First, get the clutter out of your head by writing it down on paper, then chunking and simplifying. This is your to-do list that will never be completed.
- Prioritize prioritizing. Ignore all that you could do, which is most of your to-do list, and do what you should do. This becomes your success list that will get you where you want to go in life.
- Select the top one to three priorities for the day and use a timer to focus on at least the top one, either two 25 minute chunks of time, or one 50 minute chunk of time. Turn off all distractions including your cell phone.
Diffused thinking mode is for thinking outside of the box. To create space for diffused thinking, plan time in your day for whatever puts your brain in a neural resting state, which can include:
- Walking outside.
- Listening to music.
- Taking a long warm shower.
- Playing with your dog or cat.
- Breathing with the 4-7-8 method.
One hour of focused attention equals four hours of distracted attention. Ideally, find one hour minimum in your day to focus deeply, and you will create more space and energy for the creative diffused mode to blossom.
Remember when you first fell in love? Your energy for your newfound love was over the top, even though you gave little thought to much else, including eating, sleeping or even breathing for that matter. Falling in love is like magic energy. Alas, this soon fades to real life and relationships.
Your purpose in life is like magic energy and it does not need to fade. What do you value? What is so important to you that you are willing to suffer for it? Losing weight to be healthier, spending time with loved ones, learning a new language, changing jobs to get on a better track to follow your dreams rather than just working for a paycheck?
A life lived on purpose is the most powerful and energetic of all. Be clear about your top five values in life and make sure that your success list aligns with what is most important to you. The spirit has boundless energy and flow when you love yourself enough to create the life that you desire. In the words of the famous inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
Jan Drobnick is an adjunct faculty member in Daniels’ Executive Education program. She teaches mindfulness, energy and all things wellness for the Custom Corporate programs to help clients understand the connection between taking new intellectual growth with the energy required to transform it into substantive change. A certified health coach with the American Council of Exercise since 2001, Drobnick is working on her behavior change specialist and mind body (mindfulness) specialist certifications. She weaves her recent neuroleadership certification from Pepperdine into her teachings. Drobnick has a BS from Regis University in Health & Wellness.