When the Energy is Right

by Cheryl Richardson –

“Move when the energy moves you.” Several years ago my friend Max said this to me when I was complaining about needing to get my butt in the office to clear my desk. I was in no mood to work, yet I felt so emotionally badgered by the piles on my desk that I was desperate to get them handled so I could stop thinking about it and relax.

Max suggested that rather than force myself to do something my body and mind clearly wasn’t ready to do I should honor my own natural flow of energy. Her prescription was simple: “If you have the energy to do something, do it. If you don’t, don’t do it.” Sounds great, I said, but what about the nagging voices in my head that tell me I have to get things done first? “Ah, you see, this isn’t about your to-do list or your cluttered desk” she said. “This is about your mind. You need to learn to manage your mind by telling it to rest while you wait for the energy you need to get a task completed.

(I was starting to feel a little like grasshopper ☺)

“If you move with the energy rather than against it,” she continued, “you’ll not only be happier, you’ll get more done in less time. But remember, you have to be brave enough to challenge the voices in your head that tell you you’re shirking your responsibilities or that if you wait too long, the energy may never come.”

I’d always had a tough time letting myself enjoy life until my work was all done. And “work” could mean anything – the last dish had to be put in the dishwasher, the laundry needed to be washed and dried, or my office paperwork had to be all filed away. Like so many of us, I was seduced by the myth that if I could just get everything done, I’d finally be able to relax. Not anymore, thanks to Max.

That conversation long ago shifted the way I live my life. Rather than force myself to do anything, I do my best to wait for the energy – the motivation or desire – to get the task done. When I can, I never push myself to do something I don’t want to do. Instead I trust that when the energy is right, it will happen. And it’s never let me down. As a matter of fact, by doing things like sitting once a week and responding to most of my emails rather than disrupting my day and replying as they come in, I not only get to enjoy my life, I’m far more productive. When I finally have the energy to reply, I not only get them done in a short amount of time, my responses are better. Or, when I let my inbox fill a bit more than normal because I don’t feel like sitting at my desk, I easily plow through the paperwork when the energy is right. I’ve been amazed to see work done in two hours that used to take eight.

You can easily begin to apply this principle to what you do at home, but what about at work? Being self-employed affords me the ability to more easily follow my own natural rhythms. It’s one of the things I love most about owning my own company. But it can also work when you work for someone else. Rather than beat yourself into submission to get an expense report finished, for instance, why not do something else while holding the intention that you’ll get the report done as soon as you have the energy? Then, simply go about completing other tasks while waiting for the motivation to complete the report. The energy might come in an hour, later in the afternoon, or the following week, but it will come. As a matter of fact, your willingness to practice this technique will not only give you the evidence you need to trust it, you’ll probably find the motivation sooner rather than later when you stop pushing yourself.

So, are you ready to try a new way of being in the world? It’s a great way to start a new year. The next time you catch yourself pushing your body to do something you don’t want to do, stop. Tell your mind to relax and wait for the energy. Give it time and you won’t be disappointed. Before you know it, you’ll move when the energy moves you, too!

Take Action Challenge

This week, become aware of when you push against yourself and your natural flow of energy. As you start your day, ask yourself whether or not you have the desire to do what you’re about to do. If it feels like a “yes,” go for it. If not, wait. Challenge yourself to gather evidence that when the energy is right, it’s the right time to act.


Surviving a Dry Spell

by Cheryl Richardson –

A dry spell is a period of time when progress comes to a grinding halt. If you’re trying to lose weight, for example, it may be that, despite your best efforts, the scale just won’t budge. Or, if you’re trying to find a new job, the phone might stop ringing and it may suddenly feel as though no one is hiring in your field. During this period, you’re likely to feel frustrated and discouraged. And, as a result, it’s common to do one of two things — try harder (to no avail), or give up. This is also the time when self-doubt rears its ugly head.

During a dry spell, you’ll probably begin to question yourself and your goals. For example, if you’re involved in a job search, you might start second-guessing your credentials, doubting your skills, or questioning your direction altogether. Or, if you’re trying to lose weight, you may lose your motivation and go back to the erroneous belief that your stalled progress is related to a lack of discipline. The biggest challenge during a dry spell is to be patient — to sit back, take a deep breath, and know that despite what appears to be “the end of the road,” over the horizon is a path that will lead where you most need to go.

Whenever we decide to make a major change in our lives, it’s important to know that along with taking new actions, we also may need to let go of some things in order to welcome in new experiences. Joseph Campbell said it well:

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”

While it’s certainly true that a period of stagnancy or inertia sometimes means that we just need to have faith that we’re on the right track, other times, it may mean something more. It may be that you need to loosen your grip and let go of something — an old habit, an outdated belief, or a strategy that doesn’t serve you anymore. Sometimes this letting go is more tangible like ending an unsupportive relationship to set the stage for becoming the “new you.” And other times it might be that you need to let go of an unrealistic expectation. I remember one friend who realized this when she reached a weight loss plateau and had to give up the fantasy that her body would ever look like something out of a fashion magazine. Only then could she continue without sabotaging her success.

The moral of this story is: don’t lose hope! A dry spell may be exactly what you need to re-evaluate your progress so you can redirect the course of your life. To help you use a dry spell as a catalyst for success, answer the following question:

What do I need to let go of in order to welcome in the new life I desire?

Then, pay attention to what immediately comes to mind. Listen with your heart (not your head) and write down the answers regardless of how strange or unexpected they may be. Once you do, sit with this information for a while before taking action. Then, proceed with a patient heart. When you understand that dry spells are merely speed bumps on the road to a great life, you’ll begin to see them as gifts — a reminder to slow down so you can get your bearings, reevaluate your plans, and slowly shed the old you to make way for the new!