Is Your Work Expanding or Depleting Your Energy?

Women in Business

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by Cindy Petitt

Can you imagine jumping out of bed every morning, anxious to get to work, and leaving work at the end of the day with your battery fully charged, because you love what you are doing?  It is estimated that less than a third of employees nationwide actually feel this way. The rest are buying time, experiencing frustration or working hard and feeling unfulfilled.

Being in a job that constantly depletes your energy is unhealthy for you, as well as those around you. An energy zapping work environment creates stress and depression, and leads to destructive self-medicating behaviors and a negative attitude that is toxic to others. In essence, you are living life in a state of resistance or resignation— neither of which is good. Allowing this blocks access to the drive inherent within all of us to thrive, be fulfilled and experience the delight of joy and fire of passion. 

There is no doubt that our environment affects us physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Yet, there also is much we can do to mitigate the effects that are negative. In fact, many studies show that people who have the least and face the most challenges are often much happier than those who have easier lives with abundant opportunities. The key is recognizing your locus of control; what you experience is internal, not external. Happiness truly can be an inside out proposition. 

There is a high probability that the majority of disengaged employees are focused on what is missing or what they dislike about their work -- that’s what depletes their energy.  To create an energy generating experience, begin by paying attention to your job benefits, as meager as they may seem at the moment.  Think about why are you there and how your job serves you.  It may be the only benefit you can come up with is that your paycheck puts food on your table. That is OK.  Typically, once you adjust your focus from negative to positive, the positives will grow. The next step is to think about how you can use your job to further something important to you. For example, can you use your job to develop a new skill (e.g., discipline, resilience, patience) or to practice making a difference even in small ways? If your talents are not being used, does this provide space for you to be creative, plan for your ideal job or expand another part of your life? Look for the silver lining.  You want to shift from resisting your situation, to flowing with it and learning from it.   

Often Olympic athletes have micro rituals; something they can do in a matter of seconds, right before they perform, to put them in the zone. You can create your own ritual that triggers a change in energy or mindset.  For example, while touching the tips of your index finger and thumb, visualize a time when you were excited, happy and energized. Hold this vision until you can actually recapture those feelings. If you do this enough times, eventually, just bringing together your finger and thumb will automatically give you a positive energy surge when you need it.

Here are a few additional ideas to try out for the next 30 days to see if you begin to feel a difference. 

Before Work
Do some form of exercise to get your body moving and your energy flowing. It may surprise you to know that 20 minutes of exercise can elevate your mood for up to 12 hours. Exercising outside or with a view of nature—particularly green trees, flowering plants or flowing water—increases cognitive functioning, energy and a sense of positive well-being.  

During the Day
Look for opportunities where a subtle action will make a positive difference for a colleague, customer or even a stranger. For example, it can be as simple as smiling at someone after you have made eye contact, so they know you are smiling at them.

When you are in a meeting or situation where you feel your resistance or tension building, tune into what you are holding on to that is causing tension. Gently tell yourself to let it go. Then take a deep breath and release it. 

Reframe conversations from what you can’t do to what is possible. When you look only at what you can’t control, your world gets smaller; when you focus on what is within your control, your world and influence get larger.

Avoid gripe sessions. “Bonding by complaint” is a very powerful force and it is just as harmful to your health as breathing secondhand smoke. 

Before Going to Sleep
Write down one thing you are grateful for that happened during your workday.  Having a positive thought before going to bed will improve the quality of your sleep. 

Our brains naturally have a negative bias, but you can choose to rewire your brain to a positive bias by practicing some of the above ideas to create new thought habits. When you take back control of how you feel at work, you will be amazed at what happens to your energy. 

Cindy Petitt is an executive coach and management consultant. She has conducted studies on factors that help and hinder the advancement of women to executive levels in male dominant corporate environments. She also conducts workshops for women on topics such as personal presence, communicating with influence, and leadership; and workshops for men and women on gender differences.



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