Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Conserving energy means spending it.

Published: 04 Jul 2012

My wife and I know a very talented person. He often gets picked up for larger projects, we hear frequently about opportunities presented to him. He is excited and eager for them but his lethargy eventually ruins everything. It’s certainly tragic, because with his talent he could do great things for the world. More than the tragedy, I’m just plain confused.

Why do people with talent and ability squander opportunities? I don’t believe it is possible to capture all the opportunities available to us. We have to be observant and have good judgement. The most successful people in the world know to identify the most rewarding opportunities. However, a large subset of highly capable individuals miss out on opportunities purely because they would rather sleep in.

When I was talking to my wife about this, she understood it perfectly but couldn’t articulate it. She understood my confusion, but she struggled to explain it to me. Finally, she broke through my mental barriers.

Conserving energy for a future event doesn’t work.

She said to imagine someone preparing to run a race. They don’t run races, and don’t know what to expect. They worry they’ll need all their energy. Instead of training by running the distance and getting into prime shape, they sit around and conserve all their energy.

It’s a misunderstanding of consequences and preparation. Newton already told us this was a mistake; an object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Any person who doesn’t actively seek capitalizing opportunities will be unable to perform when an opportunity is presented. The habits and lifestyle choices are detrimental, just as not preparing to run a race will end in failure, and probably a pulled muscle.

The habits of lethargy develop quickly.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that when I’m working on my projects, my momentum is based on how my work day is. When my nights and weekends are dedicated, I have to be very careful with my mental state and momentum.

On days where I am very busy, being ran ragged and stressed, I can produce a lot in the evenings. It’s the mundane, boring stuff, though. I generally stack up the boring tasks specifically for those days.

Other days are seemingly perfect. I’m able to exercise my mind through the day, applying new logic to new problems but using previously discovered solutions. I am very happy for these days, I get home and that momentum continues. I am very productive.

However, the days where I’m stuck waiting between projects or have little to do of any consequence, I struggle. Sometimes the fire never comes. I get frustrated but no amount of frustration breaks the curse.

The lethargy continues and affects my future. After a good nights sleep or some other break in routine I usually do better.

Just tonight I had this happen. I cooked dinner for the family, thinking it would definitely get me back into gear. It helped, a little bit, but not enough. I still stumbled along, feeling half asleep.

It’s a terrible place to be, especially if it was a lifestyle habit.

Protect your energy.

What’s the solution? It’s about protection and it’s about preparation. The more you prepare to have a lot of energy, the more energy you have on a daily basis.

Treat every day like you have a race to run tomorrow.

Be prepared, have things to occupy yourself with to combat the mundane. The great thing about mundane tasks is you can typically take a break from them to do something more stimulating, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Don’t engage in the pacifying behaviors that are so appealing when battling for motivation. I know when I struggle for motivation I typically spend time doing non-productive things. Maybe play a video game or something else. Stop. Just don’t. Instead, pick up a book. Read something interesting. Find inspiring Wikipedia articles (picking a random president works well for me).

After some time, motivation should trickle back in. An accomplishment will be made. Then it all opens up and comes back.