You are the generator in your life. The only energy in it comes from you.
Don’t believe me? Spend a couple days depressed, tired, or apathetic. What happens in your world? Everything slows down, right? Sometimes it may come to a stop completely.
Now compare that to what happens when you’re feeling energized, excited, and full of life. You amaze yourself by what you can accomplish, don’t you?
That means if you want to make changes—if you’ve set goals and you want a shot at achieving those goals—you have to think of yourself as a highly efficient, super-powered, energy-generating machine.
Hard for writers to do. Most of the time, we tend to feel behind, rushed, worn out, or plain exhausted. But it’s precisely because we feel that way that we have to make a change.
The One Thing You Must Have to Achieve Your Goals
Think about those people in the world that accomplish great things. I’m willing to bet that they all have one thing in common.
A ton of energy.
When I see people I admire at various events, I’m always amazed at the energy they have about them. They act like they could go all day without getting tired. They seem positive, pumped up, and alive.
How do they do that?
Obviously super achievers have a lot to accomplish in their days. It’s not like these folks get to lie around for hours resting up for their presentations. Whether you’re talking about your writing heroes, musicians, entrepreneurs, or others, most everybody that reaches a certain level of success has this one trait in common.
Granted, some of them are likely extroverts, which means they feed off social activities, actually gaining energy as they interact with others. Many writers who are introverts experience the opposite—we may enjoy interacting, but it drains us. Soon, we’re out of energy and must get somewhere we can be alone to recharge.
But whatever your natural personality, one fact remains: everything has to come from you.
When you think about that, it can be overwhelming. Not only must all your writing come from you—all your novels and short stories and essays and blogs and tweets and more—but so must the enthusiasm for your work, the creative ideas, the motivation to do it, and the energy to make it happen. Meanwhile, everything else in your life has to come from you, too.
Think about your typical day, what you do to take care of yourself and your family. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a personal maid running around bowing to your every wish, there are a lot of things you have to accomplish. All that requires energy.
Just staying afloat in our lives takes a good amount of fuel, so when we’re thinking about changing something, or accomplishing something new, we’re talking about needing even more energy.
Really, we are generators looking at finding ways to boost our power.
Want to publish a novel this year? Sell more books? Work daily exercise into your life? Establish a consistent blogging practice? Figure out a way to create a more balanced routine so you don’t always feel behind?
Whatever goal you’re contemplating, there’s one thing you’re going to need:
How to Become a More Efficient Energy Generator
Are you already feeling tired?
The minute we think about the energy we’re going to need to get the work done we need to do, the first thing we may feel is the opposite—tired!
The good news is we can change this thinking. We can turn it around so that when we visualize the work we need to do to accomplish our goals, we feel energized instead.
It all starts with the energy we generate inside us. We are generators. And as writers with a number of things on our plates, we need to become more power efficient.
Here are five ways to get started.
1. Take care of yourself.
This absolutely must come first. If your body is tired and your mind stressed out, it doesn’t matter what else you do—you’re going to be working at 50 percent, sputtering and leaking gas and dragging yourself through your days.
Musts for self-care include:
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes every day, even if it’s just taking a walk. Exercise generates energy!
- Stretch your muscles—I highly recommend yoga, but you can also just do a simple stretching routine. Tight muscles cause pain and stiffness, which rob you of energy.
- Eat energizing foods, including fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Avoid energy-draining foods, like fast food, high-fat foods, and high-sugar foods.
- Get at least 10 minutes of “quiet time” a day. You can meditate, journal, listen to relaxing music, whatever—just get in that ten minutes to let your brain rest.
2. Police your own thoughts.
We often sabotage our energy with our negative thoughts. Let’s say you get home from work, and you know you need to make dinner, get the kids to bed, and after that you need to write a blog post and hopefully get a few minutes on your work in progress.
What’s the first thing you think? “Ugh. I’m tired and don’t feel like doing it all.”
Stop! The instant you find thoughts like these in your head, tell yourself to stop. Change the thought. “Yes, I may feel tired right now, but I’m going to sit down and take 10 minutes to just relax, and I know after that I’ll be ready to go again.”
You know yourself best. You know what recharges you. Whatever it is, do it. Don’t let other things distract you. “But the kids are hungry now.” They can wait 10 minutes. Maybe they can help get dinner started while you take your 10 minutes. Whatever your situation, do what you need to do to power up.
Did you know that thinking negative thoughts is often just a bad habit? You may not really be tired at all. Instead you may just feel stressed, rushed, or overwhelmed. But since we’re all in the habit of saying how exhausted we are, it’s our default go-to.
“Negative thinking, in all its many-splendored forms,” says Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, “has a way of creeping into conversations and our thinking without our noticing them. The key to success…is learning to spot these thoughts and squash them like little bugs. Then replace them with positive ones. You’ll notice a huge difference in everything you do.”
Let’s say you really do feel too tired to do it all. What energizes you? Besides 10 minutes of relaxation, how about some upbeat music? That often works wonders. Positive interactions with others helps, too. Maybe someone in the household will help you with dinner, and you can make a game out of it. Get laughing and your energy will soar.
To become a more efficient generator, notice whenever you tell yourself that you’re too tired, or too wiped out, and stop.
- Ask yourself how you really feel—are you physically or mentally tired?
- ACT—if you’re physically tired, take a 15-minute nap. If you’re mentally tired, go to a quiet room and meditate for 10 minutes. Use a candle to help your mind find some peace. Or take 10 minutes to write down what you’re stressed about, then promise yourself you’ll deal with it later.
- Tell yourself that you are a reservoir of energy—you only need to find the key to unlock that second tank inside you.
3. Drop your attachment to comfort.
Does anything feel better than wrapping up in a soft throw on the couch after a long day’s work, or taking that warm bubble bath after a stressful week, or sleeping in on a Saturday morning?
The problem is that for many of us—introverts especially—we can become overly attached to that feeling of being safe and warm and comfortable in our quiet little worlds. We need this sort of home-base to create, but, at the same time, we have to be careful that these desires don’t sabotage our energy.
How does this happen? It’s that thing of being afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Your goals may require that you do just that, but when the time comes, if you’re overly attached to that place of comfort, you’ll find yourself procrastinating. I’ll do it tomorrow, you’ll think as you curl up on the couch with a good book.
The only way around this energy-zapper is to start associating that comfort zone with something negative. Take a step back and imagine yourself on that cozy couch five years from now, with everything else about your life being the same, because that’s how it will be if you don’t take action toward your goals.
It’s wonderful to get to that safety zone when you need to, but if it’s calling to you every time you know you need to do something that feels a little uncomfortable, it’s time to start seeing it as the saboteur that it is.
I’m reminded of Christopher Plummer, playing Archbishop Vittorio Contini-Verchese in the televised version of Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds. In one scene, the younger priest helps the aging Archbishop to bed, and Vittorio says something like (I couldn’t find the exact quote):
“Ah, my beautiful bed. One day, I will die in it.”
Don’t allow your comfort zone to get too firm a grip on you.
4. Stay in the present moment.
One of the reasons we often feel sapped of energy is because we’re imagining everything we have to do. Instead of thinking of writing just a few paragraphs, we imagine the whole book we have to complete. Instead of thinking about walking just a few steps, we imagine the three miles stretching out in front of us.
This trick always works: shorten it up. Tell yourself you only have to write for five minutes. Anyone can muster the energy for that. You only have to walk fifty steps. You only have to start your blog post, you don’t have to finish it. You only have to edit two pages, not the whole book.
Whatever task is facing you, if you find yourself feeling tired and overwhelmed, break it down. All you have to do is find the energy to get started. Ninety percent of the time, once you get going, the energy you need to finish will find you.
If it doesn’t, most of the time you can stop. Where’s the harm if you don’t finish it all in one night? But work up that battery just long enough to take the earliest steps, and most of the time that’s all you’ll need.
5. Limit the “have tos” on your list.
There’s nothing that saps our energy faster than feeling like we “have to” do something.
It’s amazing how often we get caught up in this feeling when we’re all free individuals who don’t “have to” do much of anything (except die and pay taxes, as they say, though even the latter is a choice).
A couple things you can do here to increase your energy. First of all, anytime that “have to” sneaks into your mind, stop and realize that you do have a choice.
“But I have to go to work,” you may say. No. you’re choosing to go to work so you have money to pay the bills. You could quit today if you wanted to. Of course you’d have to deal with the consequences, but maybe there’s a way to do that. If you really want to quit, maybe it’s time to look into just how you could make that happen.
In the meantime, realize that your “have tos” are self-imposed. Remembering that you do have a choice can give you more energy. Maybe you have to go to work, but you don’t have to stay beyond quitting time, or you don’t have to experience it as drudgery. Maybe there’s a way you can make it fun, or a learning experience, or even use it as material in your writing. Whatever works, just change your thinking around.
Second, make sure you’re living your life on purpose, and that you’re doing something you want to do every day. There’s nothing that puts a spring in your step more than doing those things you enjoy. If that’s writing, make sure you have time every day to do it. It’s all up to you. You are the creator of your life.
If you’re involved in too many “have tos,” what can you change? What can you delegate? What can you back out of? Where are the time wasters in your day? What activity can you swap out for something that you enjoy doing?
Bottom Line: It’s Up to You to Generate Your Own Energy
One more thing—if you’re not fired up about reaching your goals, realize that you may have the wrong goals.
In other words, to be an efficient generator, you have to be excited about what you’re getting powered up to do. Are you?
If not, take a minute to go back over your goals, and make sure they resonate with your deepest self. You can always change them. Seek out that spark inside you that starts the fire. That fire is where your energy comes from, and it’s up to you to stoke it.
“Being able to do the things that energize you is not the luxury you get to have once you’ve been successful,” says Matthew Perman and John Piper, authors of What’s Best Next. “Rather, it’s the way to become successful. For you will work harder, longer, and with more diligence at things you love to do over things you dislike to do.”
Are you energized and ready to go after your goals? Please share your thoughts with our readers.