So–How's Your Emotional Energy?
If you've been looking for more energy, you're not alone. Millions of people every day confess things like "I wish I had more energy." "I just can't get started in the morning." "Thinking about the long busy day ahead makes me feel overwhelmed." "There are things I want to do, and I know I I'll enjoy doing them, but I find myself saying no to them instead of yes." "I'm just feeling so drained, tense, glum these days." "What I hate about not having energy is the way it makes me feel older than I am." "Where's the fun I was looking forward to in my life?"
You don't need a reason for wanting more energy–you just know you need more. But many of us can point to special reasons why we need more.
Sometimes our energy is under attack because we're going through a major life transition. Change is exhausting. And it's not just negative changes such as going through a divorce or dealing with a loved one's illness that deplete our energy. Positive changes too–getting married, starting a new job, or having a baby–take a lot out of us.
Sometimes our energy gets depleted because of a medical condition. Any illness from a bad cold on up can make a person feel drained. And some illnesses specifically attack a person's natural energy level. If there's something wrong with your body, you need more energy now.
Sometimes we want more energy even though we're young: "I'm only twenty-four, and it just feels nuts for me to be so tired." Or we want more energy because we're getting older: "As I'm getting up in years, energy is the one thing I need more than anything else, now more than ever."
And sometimes we want more energy because our plates are just so damned full, and after a while it starts to get to us. "It's not just that there's so much for me to do every day, and so much to think about. That takes enough pushing. But then I have to do a really bang-up job too."
But we all understand how important energy is. We understand that the biggest difference between people who get what they want out of life and people who don't is energy. You could be the smartest, most attractive, most talented person in the world, but without energy you'd go nowhere, like a meatball that's fallen on the floor.
With energy everything is possible. It's energy that gives life its sweetness and tang. It's energy that makes you feel like you. It's energy that makes your dreams come true.
So—how's your energy? If you're like most of us, you want and need more. Well, you've come to the right place. This book will show you why you've been losing energy and what to do to get all the energy you want.
Where to Find Your Missing Energy
I know you've already tried to get more energy from many sources. But I'll bet they've mostly been sources of physical energy, like PowerBars and coffee, exercise and vitamins. And these haven't been enough.
Gail, 29: "Where's my get up and go? I was on the soccer team in high school and college. Track too. I always take care of myself. I eat right, I live right. Eight hours' sleep and I'd wake up fully refreshed, ready to go out and have fun. Now I'm still doing all the same things. The doctor said I'm fine physically. So why am I tired all the time? But it's not my body that's tired. It's like it's me that's tired inside my body."
Millions of us feel the way Gail feels.* The problem is that if you're like most Americans, you're close to being maxed out on the amount of additional energy you can get from physical sources. Physical energy sources are anything you go to for your body's energy needs, everything from food and rest to a carefully thought out exercise program and a full complement of vitamins. And sure, maybe you could get more sleep or eat a little more healthfully, but the truth is that people living in the developed world today are healthier and more vital than ever before. If you're feeling you need more energy, the problem is most likely not with your body.
No wonder so many of us are caught in an energy rat race. The more we need energy, the more we try to boost our physical energy, but we don't get the pop we're looking for because there's not much more to get from physical sources. We search for still newer sources of physical energy anyway, and they don't help much either.
Now you see why it's been so hard to find more energy. You're looking in the wrong place.
Emotional Energy Is the Answer
You're not just a body, are you? So it's not just your body that needs more energy. It's you, a whole person. You know that the emotional side of you is as important as your body. So it makes sense that there's another energy source. It's emotional energy.
Emotional energy is the kind of energy you're looking for anyway. It's not an adrenaline-filled, run-around-like-a-nut kind of energy where you burn too brightly. It's a special energy that's all about feeling young and deeply connected to the fun and hope in life. Everyone's experienced a moment when the chips were down and all you saw ahead was a tough, uphill climb, and yet you felt full of vitality. That's emotional energy–an aliveness of the mind, a happiness of the heart, and a spirit filled with hope. How could you possibly feel energetic unless you had that kind of energy?
Isn't this what we all want: an energetic mind and heart and soul in an energetic body? I call it complete energy:
Complete energy = physical energy + emotional energy
We now know that the physical side is actually the less important part. I asked energy experts such as endocrinologists, nutritionists, and specialists in sports medicine, "How much energy does the typical American get from physical sources and how much from emotional ones?" When I averaged out their answers, I was stunned. Physical energy can supply at most 30 percent of your total energy. Even if you had perfect physical health and ate the perfect diet and got the perfect amount of exercise, all that would give you only 30 percent of the complete energy you need.° The remaining 70 percent of the energy you need must come from your emotional energy. And you need a lot.
Where I First Saw That Emotional Energy Matters
Let's face it, life is designed to exhaust our emotional energy. Most of us work damned hard. We have obligations to our family and friends. We join organizations. We have dreams and ambitions we push ourselves to I achieve. Sometimes just when we think we're stretched to the limit, some disaster or emergency stretches us even further. A family member gets sick. We get laid off. Someone we love dumps us. A pet project fails. One step forward, two steps back.
And yet we all know people filled with verve and joy in spite of all this. That's the difference emotional energy makes.
I think you have to see people thriving in spite of difficult circumstances to really appreciate it. I started seeing this when I was a kid, and it's always stayed with me.
I grew up poor in New York City. My mother and I were refugees from Europe. She started out working in a garment factory twelve hours a day. Everyone in our neighborhood was an immigrant. Everyone had it tough. Life could really get to people. But if our world was a constant struggle to find work, pay the rent, educate the children, and afford clothes you weren't ashamed to wear, people reacted to it very differently. Some were so exhausted they gave up trying. Some kept on pushing, but that's all it was–pushing. They were running on empty. You saw it in their self-pity, their rage, their constant anxiety, their utter discouragement. You saw it in their burned-out eyes, like soldiers who've spent too many days in combat.
So are we fools to wish we had more energy? Should we all just declare the human condition permanently pooped?
No! Growing up I also saw people who in spite of everything were filled with a special kind of inner energy. They led the same lives as everyone else. But still they had hopes and dreams. Still they made good things happen. Still they found ways to make themselves happy and stay upbeat.
My Uncle Morris was like this. He worked long hours managing a laundry .His wife was a crazy troublemaker–everyone said so. His kids were no bargains. Everything in his life was a struggle. But he was always emotionally vibrant. He kept working on plans for owning his own business. He was always taking us on trips to the country. He was always singing and teaching us new songs. And whenever he visited, he took the trouble to bring a box of candy or cookies especially for me.
High-Energy People Have High Emotional Energy
I'm sure you too know people who have plenty of energy no matter what, as if they'd found a secret stash. I'm talking about people who do a lot, are upbeat, and get a lot of enjoyment from what they do even though so many forces in life seem to be against them. But we don't think of them as living in an unattainable stratosphere. There's something about being filled with energy that makes us feel, "Yeah, I can see myself like that." We know intuitively that emotional energy is our birthright.
We wish we knew these people's secrets because of the enormous difference we know emotional energy makes in their lives. And that difference is the emotional energy factor.
- A man spends his life hanging in there, working at a job he doesn't like, struggling to support his family, and all the while he remains cheerful, never complaining. Without emotional energy, this man would've become just another miserable, angry guy.
- A young woman spends years trying to find herself, to figure out what work she wants to do and how she wants to live. It's confusing and it should be discouraging, but she hangs in there, full of hope, knowing that every person can find a life that fits. Without emotional energy, this young woman would have given up.
- A man spends years dealing with a chronic, debilitating physical condition and yet radiates warmth and hope: Instead of spreading gloom, he spreads joy. Without emotional energy, he might've collapsed physically and become bitter, cold, and lonely.
- It's Wimbledon. The deciding match of the men's finals. Two world-class tennis players have been going full out for hours. Both are in superb physical shape. But at this stage in a grueling competition that stretches the human soul to its limit, one player will keelp on finding the fun in the game, will keep on wanting to win the most. Without emotional energy, the winner would've been the loser.
- Look at some of the greatest artists, producing beauty out of darkness, joy out of misery. There are many, like the painter Renoir, who was racked with pain from arthritis, almost unable to hold a brush in his hands, or Rembrandt, who struggled with loneliness and poverty. Yet both worked for years producing one radiant masterpiece after another. Then there were Beethoven and Mozart. Both of them produced some of their most shining, happy music during times when the circumstances of their lives were most desperate and filled with loss. Many great artists have had difficult lives. Without emotional energy, think of all the great art that never would have been born.
- A scientist or inventor faces years of heart- and spirit- breaking frustration and yet keeps on trying until he finally reaches the brass ring he's been struggling toward. Without emotional energy, almost no difficult scientific or technological problem would have been solved.
- An inner-city woman works at low-paying jobs and brings up six children, sending them all to college. And that's the easy part. The hard part is that all the while she inculcates in them a loving, hopeful spirit. Without emotional energy, life would crush many of us.
- Think about a person so passionate for a cause that he or she fights for it in spite of everything. Gandhi is an example--he spent long periods of time fasting, depriving his body of energy, yet finding an energy source that enabled him to fight the British Empire. Without emotional energy, we'd all be stuck with every form of injustice.
- Why has Anne Frank touched so many of us? It's not just because of what happened to her–similar stories happened to millions. But in spite of the most oppressive conditions, we can read from her own pen how she radiates a kind of hope and spunk. Without emotional energy, the human spirit could not survive for long.
The more pressures you have to deal with, the more important it is to take care of your emotional energy. As you can see, it's the most precious form of energy you have. It's the kind you need the most of. It's the kind that makes your life feel satisfying and enables you to do something with it.
Having Emotional Energy Changes Everything
Every dimension of who you are feels better the more emotional energy you have. Let's start with your body. Suppose you've been working unusually hard. Long hours, not enough sleep, not enough healthy food.
Well, this is where emotional energy comes to the rescue. If there's a group at the office working this hard, those with the most emotional energy will feel the best and be able to keep on going the longest. This makes sense. Why do people poop out? It's not just physical exhaustion. The first ones to drop out are the ones who get discouraged and feel most emotionally drained.
Emotional energy comes to the rescue when the body has reached its limits. In fact, I've seen people damaged by disease whose physical energy has been beaten into the ground but who are able to fight on because their emotional energy gives them the hum and spark they need.
Laura Hillenbrand wrote a best-selling book while in the midst of suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. It was so bad that in interviews she talked about "my broken body." On her best days she had only enough physical energy to drag herself out of bed to write at her computer for an hour or two.
But ah! the miracle of emotional energy. She had a story she cared about. The joy of sharing it filled her with energy. The fun of playing with words and anecdotes gave her fuel. And so she wrote Seabiscuit, about an unlikely horse who became a champion. No one who reads this book could imagine it had been written by someone crippled by an extreme deprivation of physical energy. But that's the power of emotional energy.
I know about this from the inside. I'd been going along doing my work, but for about a year I'd noticed there was something wrong with me. I had to push myself to do everything I'd been doing easily before. I found myself sleeping more but feeling less refreshed. I had aches throughout my body, including my heart. I had no desire to exercise. Physically I felt more and more dragged down and clogged up.
Finally I went for a checkup. I'll never forget how the phone rang around midnight a few days later and woke me up out of a deep sleep. It was my doctor. The lab had just called her, waking her up. My thyroid levels were so low that it was an emergency .As my doctor said, "With levels this low I'm amazed that you're able to function."
Yet my spirits were up, and I'd been functioning fine, although I was in the worst physical state of my life. How could this be? This was precisely the period when I was doing research and learning secrets about what people do to get more energy. Emotional energy is such a powerful force that just hearing the secrets of high-energy people enabled me to keep going in spite of a condition that usually knocks people out of circulation.
Emotional energy can come to the rescue no matter what physical condition you're struggling with. Physical energy is limited under the best of circumstances. But your emotional energy is potentially unlimited. And unlike physical energy, which runs down as we get older, emotional energy can increase the more you learn what works best for you. Imagine that: every year of your life getting more and more energy.
Emotional energy can actually change your appearance. Let me ask you this–why are there two words, beautiful and attractive? Because they're different things. We've all seen beautiful people who seem dull and lifeless. We know they embody physical perfection, but we're not attracted to them. Maybe we think we should be, but we're not.
Yet someone can be attractive without being beautiful. When we say someone's attractive, we say we're drawn to them. There's a magnetism. They radiate light. Notice that these words have to do with energy. When we're drawn to someone, it's their energy that draws us. And it's the emotional energy factor that makes all the difference. People who look happy and alive arouse more attraction than blank but pretty faces. Imagine what more emotional energy will do for your appearance.
While looking good and feeling good are important, other things are as important. Like changing your life, if that's what you want to do. When you increase your emotional energy, it's amazing how your dreams become realities. And that's because obstacles lose the power to stop you.
Pick a dream, any dream. A couple starting out thinks it's impossible to save for a down payment on a house. But emotional energy makes it possible to hang in there and do what it takes to get that down payment.
You're stuck in a job you don't like and dream of launching a freelance career. It's emotional energy that keeps you focused and protects your hopes so you can get going and keep on going.
You're stuck in a troubled relationship. What else but emotional energy can make it possible for you to hang in there and make things better or develop the courage to get out when you see that nothing can be improved?
You've dreamed of completing your education. But there are so many demands on your time. Emotional energy makes it possible for you to say yes to yourself and no to others so you can make this dream come true.
There are countless stories of people whose dreams came true because they had more emotional energy. For now, here are just two.
Sara, 44: "Trying to get pregnant after 40 is not for sissies. The first in vitro we tried failed. I was devastated. I saw I was in for along and difficult journey, and there was no guarantee I'd have a baby at the end. My emotional energy was at a very low level. Thank God I avoided making a mistake I think many women make. I didn't wait for a baby to make everything all right. I knew I had to get my energy in a good place. So I did everything I could to feel emotionally nourished. That made all the difference.
"Of course there were lots of difficulties. The hardest was a miscarriage after a couple of failed tries. Now that I have the daughter I've always wanted, I'm glad I hung in there. Without emotional energy I wouldn't have persisted. If I hadn't persisted, I wouldn't have my daughter now."
Don, 32: "I was actually one of the first of those dot-com start-up people. And we'd gotten pretty big too. But then there was the crash of 2000. Everyone reacted differently. Most people were shellshocked. But in spite of all the crap I had to deal with, I had a lot of emotional energy and we hung in there. Nothing had to be a certain way. Everything was flexible. Size didn't matter. So we survived. And we're gonna survive."
There's another word for making your dreams come true: success.
Here are some truths about success that make clear the huge role emotional energy plays. Success means having to deal with lots of rejection, frustration, difficulty, and defeat along the way. It means taking risks. And it means finding the strength to stay connected to what you really care about.
There are always two paths: an easy path that doesn't take much out of you but doesn't take you anywhere special, and a tough, scary path that takes you to where a dream comes true. This harder path places huge demands on your energy .The easy path lies in wait, tempting you to give up your dreams.
Now you see the risk. Low energy doesn't mean you'll find it harder to keep going. It means you'll fall off the path that leads to your success and end up on the path of least resistance which leads to Nowheresville. But don't worry. However drained you feel, you can get back your full energy.
How to Tell if You're Emotionally Fatigued
People know there's something wrong with their emotional energy. It may creep up on you, but then it hits you that emotionally your tires have gone flat. This can come at any time. Sometimes it comes after you've been struggling with a difficult situation for a long time.
Molly, 32: "People think of me as a dynamo. I'm always on the go, and I love being active. But I've been in this relationship for two years now, and it's just bad. We have nothing in common. We don't click. I know it's over. I have to end it. But two years of struggle and disappointment have left me so weak I don't have it in me to help myself. I know what I have to do, but I can't bring myself to do it. And the fact that this hasn't worked out somehow makes me feel disheartened about everything."
Sometimes the realization that you've lost emotional energy comes I after you've had the rug pulled out from under you.
John, 36: "When so many of us got laid off, I thought, Okay, this is going to be tough, but I know the drill, so I'll work at finding a job and I'll be fine. It was hard because I'd had a future with that company and that's gone. But, you know, be a man. I get that. I mean, I'm a triathlete, for chrissake. But I don't feel any bounce in me. I go through the motions of job hunting, but I'm scared I'm not going to be able to keep going. It's easier to take just any job."
And sometimes, scarily enough, the realization comes out of nowhere.
Julia, 41: "I've always loved gardening. And I've had this garden for years that's been my pride and joy. Now it's March and I should be in a fever of excitement. But it's the most mysterious thing. I'm just not interested. My garden was everything to me. Now it feels like nothing. I mean, I know I'll do something, I always do–rake away dead leaves, whatever. But it's a chore now. What's happening? Where's my energy for this?"
Wherever it comes from, here's what emotional fatigue feels like. When you check in with yourself to see if there's any fizz left, you feel flat. Down. Blah. Glum. In a slump. Irritable. Too pooped to pop. Discouraged. Nervous. Out of ideas. Older than your years. Gripped by an inner fatigue that's hard to shake.
Is it the same as depression? That depends. A major depression is a life-threatening psychiatric disorder that needs professional attention. You know you're suffering from a major depression if you're paralyzed with emotional pain and unable to function in your life. When you see someone with major depression, it's very striking. Anyone suffering from it should make getting treatment the top priority.
On the other hand, most of the time when people talk about being depressed they are talking about emotional exhaustion to one degree or another. For these people–and these are the vast majority of people to I whom the word depression is casually applied–the fastest, most effective, and most healthful treatment isn't getting a prescription or finding out how you really feel about your mother. Instead, it's finding specific things to do to build up your emotional energy.
Here are some other ways to tell if you're struggling with emotional fatigue:
- Have you been feeling irritable, unable to cope, annoyed at every demand and intrusion? If so, you're suffering from emotional fatigue.
- Are there things you need to do in your life that you're not doing? I'm not talking about procrastination—we all have long lists of things that we haven't gotten around to doing. But if you're not doing things that you really need to do, then you're suffering from emotional fatigue.
- Do you feel that with your life in general (not just in one particular part of your life) you're just going through the motions, phoning it in, pushing yourself to do what has to be done even though your heart isn't in it? If so, you're suffering from emotional fatigue.
- Has it been more than a week since you did something for yourself that took some effort but gave you real enjoyment? I'm talking about making an effort, not just watching TV or talking on the phone. And I'm talking about real enjoyment, not about a meaningless moment of pleasure. If it's been more than a week, you're suffering from emotional fatigue.
If you're emotionally fatigued, I have some important news for you. In all the years I spent researching energy, my most significant finding is that the amount of emotional energy that you have is under your control. It's not about your upbringing. It's not about your genetic makeup. It's not about your personality. You can increase your emotional energy whenever you want. All the potential emotional energy in the world already exists inside you. It's all about how you approach life. You just have to do what people who are filled with emotional energy do. But you shouldn't delay–waiting will only make things worse.
And you should also know that you have lots of company.
Welcome to the Club
It's important for you to know that, based on data from the National Institutes of Health, one out of eight adults is in the same low-energy state you're in. This makes sense. After all, the number-one question people bring to their family doctor is "Why do I feel so blah?"
We don't realize there are so many fatigued people because of a kind of optical illusion. We compare how drained we feel inside with how energetic other people seem to be. Seem. But are they really? Don't be so sure. Most people keep their exhaustion hidden.
I learned an important lesson about the danger of comparing your insides to other people's outsides when I was seventeen. I was studying acting in Manhattan that summer with the great Herbert Berghof. He was one of the premier acting teachers, on a par with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. Naturally I had a crush on this handsome, dynamic older man. Somehow we fell into a routine of my driving him home after class.
That day he'd been lecturing on the need to maintain an intense connection with your audience. I asked, "How do you get that kind of energy night after night?" He sighed. It was late on a dark, warm, soft New York evening. We were parked in front of his house on Washington Square. The top of my convertible was down. Something made him let down his guard.
"I'll tell you the truth," he said. "I only feel really alive for maybe five minutes a day. Those are golden moments, and I never know when they're going to come. The rest of the time. . . " He sighed again. "That's why they call it acting. Conveying the illusion of an energy you know about only because of how much you wish you had it."
I've heard of faking orgasms. He'd been faking energy!
My years as a researcher and clinician have taught me that my wonderful teacher was not the only person to spend his days looking for energy and pretending he's got it. Coffee merchants and motivational speakers would go out of business tomorrow if we all had as much energy as we pretend we do. The screen world is filled with images of people bursting with energy .The real world is filled with real people desperately seeking more energy. That's what you and I are. We are energy seekers.
You'd be surprised at how many of the things we do are actually expressions of our search for energy. These go way beyond our search for more energy from physical sources. They include our seeking new experiences, our passion for authenticity, our attempts to connect with others, our need for change, our love of fun, our hunger for travel, and our restless creativity. All of these mark us as energy seekers.
But others have found what you're seeking, and you can find it too.
How You Can Get More Emotional Energy
What, then, is the secret of high-energy people? They live in the same world you and I do. But high-energy people consistently focus on increasing their emotional energy. That's their secret.
Many of us make a mistake: We say that to have emotional energy, you have to have a positive attitude. Well, yes, people with emotional energy do have a positive attitude. But you can't just tell yourself to have a positive attitude. We've all tried that, and it doesn't work. That's because emotional energy comes from the things you do to give yourself emotional energy.
So much of life is like this, isn't it? People do well in an area they care about–losing weight, making money, taking fabulous vacations–because they make it a priority and follow certain guidelines. Everyone who does the things that give emotional energy gets emotional energy.
This book contains everything that works to increase your emotional energy. After years of research, I've discovered that there are twenty-five simple, specific, effective shortcuts to boost your emotional energy. These are the secrets of high-energy people. Ideally, you'd have all of them working for you. But you certainly need as many as you can get. Your body has certain nutritional requirements. The twenty-five secrets are the requirements for emotional energy.
You particularly need whatever emotional energy boosters are missing in your life. To help you with this, with each emotional energy booster I've included a diagnostic question that will help you see whether that one is needed by you right now.
The energy boosters come in a certain order: Those that come first give the most energy most easily to the most people. This makes sense. If you're emotionally exhausted, you want quick results with a minimum of effort. But this isn't a step-by-step program. We're all unique. What you need, what will work best for you, will be different than for anyone else.
Here's how to use this book. Use whichever energy boosters feel right to you now. Trust yourself. At other times others will feel right. The secrets that work best for you are the ones you like to do the most and the ones that are easiest for you. I wish we could say that the foods that tasted best were best for us. But the fact that an emotional energy booster appeals to you is a guarantee that it will help you.
You Can Get the Emotional Energy You Need
Everything that gives you energy is good and needs to be embraced. Everything that saps it is bad and needs to be avoided. When you're not taking care of your emotional energy, you 're not taking care of your life.
So, okay. No more neglecting your emotional energy. You don't need to. You're now holding in your hands everything you need to get more.
What I love most about life is how full it is of wonderful things, like a huge, varied, beautiful garden. There are wonderful people, wonderful things to do, wonderful discoveries to make. The worst thing about life is that often this garden seems to lie out of reach behind a heavy locked door. Maybe others have access to all the wonderful things, but you don't feel you do.
Emotional energy is the key that unlocks the door to that garden. So whether you're in a temporary slump or you've always thought of yourself as needing more energy, you will experience yourself as a high-energy person as you discover the secrets of emotional energy.
* To protect people's privacy and ensure that they would open up to me, I promised everyone I interviewed that I would change his or her name, as well as all identifying details.
° If you're wondering whether you could do more to address your body's needs for physical energy, check out the Appendix, "The Physical Energy Factor."