Positive Energy

Now that you’re on the journey towards minimalism you should have all the reasons in the world to be happy!  But just in case you’re not quite there yet we’re going to talk about the power of positive energy.  No, I’m not talking about the cheesy pep talk your middle school soccer coach gave you –we’re going to discuss a perspective on life and how your interactions with yourself and others can have rippling effects on the lives of those you directly interact with, and even with those that you have never met!  Sounds too good to be true?  Then keep reading.

I liken life to a spiral of interconnected energies.  Every decision you make moves you up or down that spiral, and with that movement it interacts with and impacts different nodes of energy.  Therefore, each choice you make is impacted by the other choices you’ve made.  Let’s take an example:

Josh has a high-stress job in mid-management at a large corporation.  After his stressful day he comes home, pops open a beer, and decompresses on the couch catching up on the latest Breaking Bad.  Josh didn’t have time before dinner to swing by the grocery store to pick up food to cook, so he orders some sweet & sour chicken and spring rolls delivered to his door. After a few episodes on TV, its nearly ten o’clock and Josh decides its time to go to bed to get ready for his equally long, stressful day tomorrow.  Unfortunately, Josh doesn’t sleep well because the combination of alcohol, greasy food, and lack of exercise mix with stressful thoughts about tomorrow’s big quarterly report deadline.  Therefore, when he wakes up in the morning he hits the snooze button a few times to catch a few more ZZZs.  When Josh finally rolls out of bed he realizes he needs to rush to get to the office in time for the morning production meeting.  He quickly showers, grabs a coffee and jumps in his fancy car to speed away to the office.  Stressed as he enters the office building, Josh doesn’t stop to greet his secretary, but instead heads straight to the conference room where he grabs a fresh complimentary doughnut to compensate for the skipped breakfast.  After the meeting, Josh finally catches a break to knock out some emails.  All too quickly it seems lunchtime rolls around and his co-workers invite him to a birthday party for Susan in the front office at a nearby steak restaurant.  Josh orders up a big juicy T-Bone (complete with French fries and soft drink). Of course, no birthday lunch is complete without a large piece of that dry cake from the local supermarket!  Back at the office, Josh feels the effects of that long lunch, and stressed to make up lost time, submits the quarterly report quickly without double checking his work (the boss probably won’t notice those tiny formatting errors anyways).  Meanwhile, his digestive system is also working overtime processing all that protein and sugar, making Josh feel like taking a quick siesta.  He powers through with an afternoon coffee and knocks out some more emails.  Before he even realizes it his secretary is telling him its quitting time and she’s gone for the day.  Josh knocks out a few more items and heads home, fighting rush hour traffic.  He enters his apartment and proceeds to repeat the first sentence of this example.

Let’s break down Josh’s choices and their impacts on his spiral of interconnected energy.

  1. After work, Josh chose to remain sedentary instead of exercising
  2. Josh chose to eat a greasy dinner full of preservatives, instead of being healthy
  3. Josh chose not to socialize in the evening, instead he chose to drink alone
  4. Josh chose to spend his time watching TV instead of spending his time producing something of value which he could later look back on with pride
  5. Josh chose not to meditate or otherwise clear his mind of stress before going to bed, instead contributing to a fitful night of sleep
  6. Josh chose to wake up late, instead of on-time

I think you get the point without enumerating all the various choices Josh made.  You can see that each choice had a direct consequence on his next choice.  Each choice also contributed to his overall energy level, which impacted his physical health, social relationships and work performance.

Unfortunately Josh likely fell into a trap:  he may not have even realized that many of these actions were his personal choices.  Most likely when rushed in the morning he didn’t think skipping breakfast would later justify eating donuts, or skipping the grocery store stop on the way home would leave him more susceptible to ordering food in, and therefore being less social.

Josh’s choices in this example are only a snapshot in time.  However, multiply his choices by five (or seven) days a week and suddenly you have a routine.  Observe Josh’s routine over a few weeks and it transitions to a behavior.  His behavior after a few months becomes his lifestyle.  Wow–suddenly those small choices define his lifestyle.  Now the questions becomes:  Is Josh happy with his lifestyle?  In this example, after only a few months, Josh’s lifestyle will likely result in him putting on weight, becoming less self-confident, putting his career and social life in jeopardy, becoming more stressed and more likely to develop health problems, and foregoing a lot of cash in his bank account to all those take out dinners and extra doctor appointments.

Does this sound like someone you know?  I can think of a LOT of people that end up like Josh.  So the question becomes:  How do you make the positive energy spiral work for you to end up with a healthier, wealthier, more positive life?  Let’s read Jennifer’s story to find out.

Jennifer works in the same company as Josh.  Her typical after-work day starts with her commute home on her bicycle, which allows her to de-stress from the work day and burn a few calories at the same time.  Jennifer also enjoys the time soaking up a few rays since its usually sunny where she lives.  When she gets home her energy level is typically high after the small amount of exercise on the commute, so she goes on a run around the local park or attends a yoga class at the corner studio.  On her way back the house Jennifer walks to the grocery store and buys some spinach and lentils to cook back at home.  Feeling satisfied by that healthy meal she settles in for the night by calling her college roommate who recently had her first child.  Before bed she reads a chapter of an executive leadership book and thinks about how she can apply the concepts to her job.  Jennifer turns in for the night, double checking to set her alarm to give her plenty of time to wake up early for a quick meditation session before having a wholesome breakfast of oatmeal and berries.  After her morning routine she bikes into work and chats with the secretary and several of her colleagues before she heads to the conference room for the morning production meeting, minding to fill her bottle with tap water before she goes in.  She is alert in the meeting, unlike Josh sitting across from her who keeps nodding off between swigs of coffee.  After the meeting Jennifer knocks out some work in the office, then heads to Susan’ birthday lunch party where she orders a salmon-topped salad and finishes it off with a small piece of cake.  After lunch she finishes up her quarterly report and exchanges hers with another co-worker’s to double check each others’ work.  They help each other out with a few suggestions and submit it with plenty of time left to go out on the production floor and practice some of those executive leadership concepts she read the night before.  Her employees sure do admire her high level of energy and interest in their lives.  At closing time Jennifer waits for the secretary to say goodbye to Josh before walking together to the bike rack for the commute home.

Let’s break down Jennifer’s choices and their impacts on her spiral of interconnected energy.

  1. After work, Jennifer chose to commute by bicycle, giving her time to decompress after work and priming her energy levels to want to exercise more when she arrives at home.
  2. Jennifer chose to exercise, which allowed her to meet more interesting people and motivated her to eat a healthy dinner.
  3. Jennifer chose to call her old roommate, valuing human interaction as a means to positive energy (its infectious!)
  4. Jennifer chose to partake in a self-improvement reading program and be humble enough to apply the tips to her own life.
  5. Jennifer chose to mediate for a few minutes in the morning, to vector her energy for the day ahead.
  6. Jennifer chose to watch her diet throughout the day, to include eating healthy meals, drinking lots of water, and enjoying some sweets along the way knowing full well that she’ll burn those extra calories on her run that night.
  7. Jennifer chose to arrive to work a few minutes early so she could socialize with the office staff, spreading her energy to them and cultivating more fulfilling relationships with them.
  8. Jennifer chose to work in collaboration with her co-workers to help them out without expecting anything in return (however that ironically usually benefits you too, as in this example).
  9. Jennifer chose to proactively visit other employees to sharpen her management skills, spread her energy, and make an impact on the lives of others.
  10. Jennifer chose to wait for the secretary after work and walk out together, showing that she values those relationships.

Now fast-forward Jennifer’s life a few months.  Her routines changed to behaviors, and since then have morphed into a lifestyle!  She has amplified her relationships, become noticed by her management as the next candidate for promotion as a result of her new leadership style and ability to get others in the office to want to work with her, she has broken her own personal record in the 5K run, and she is planning on taking a trip with here old roommate’s new family to the Bahamas with all that money she saved by not driving her car to work.

It may surprise you to know that Jennifer’s lifestyle was once very much like Josh’s is today.  However, she read a great blog a few years ago that made her aware that a few of her daily choices were dragging her further and further down the spiral.  She set her mind to being on the lookout for those choices, and made sure to choose the option that most aligned with sustainable finances, natural health, and positive energy.  Since that time she has been a healthier, happier person–and she’s uplifted those around her while achieving goals that once seemed much too far out of reach.

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