When I lived in the Washington DC area, I’d regularly drive through a death-defying interchange, locally referred to as the mixing bowl.
Here’s the best way to describe the experience: take hundreds of cars traveling at high speed, throw them into a gigantic bowl, shake the bowl, dump the cars into random lanes having nothing to do with where they need to be, and watch them scramble to merge into the lanes leading to their destination.
Driving through the interchange was stressful and draining.
The problem wasn’t the volume of traffic or scale of the roads. I’m from Southern California, where I comfortably navigate high-speed freeways and massive interchanges.
And my stress wasn’t caused by the hyper-vigilance required to get out of the exit-only lane the on-ramp dumped me into and across three lanes of traffic to where I needed to be. I’d made that same move, in the same car, at least a hundred times.
The energy drain was from all the other stuff happening, creating emotional and physical reactions.
So much to pay attention to in my peripheral vision: multiple drivers trying to get into my lane, cars entering and exiting the freeway in 10+ places, lanes with fast-moving cars, and lanes with traffic stopped or crawling along.
And there was my physical reaction to stress: hunched-up shoulders, shallow breathing, hands clenched on the steering wheel.
The impact of all of that? A drip, drip, drip of energy.
The same thing happens in everyday life … mental, emotional, and physical energy leaks out, often on an unconscious level.
The loose doorknob, backlog of mail, half-finished house project, disorganized office, malfunctioning track-pad on your laptop (okay, on my laptop!), leaking faucet …
Drip, drip, drip.
The friend who constantly criticizes, the thank-you note you’ve been meaning to write for two months, the co-worker who bends your ear complaining …
Drip, drip, drip.
The nagging knee pain you’re tolerating, the delayed decision on when and where to go on vacation, your favorite jacket that’s missing a button …
Drip, drip, drip.
Anything in your life that’s incomplete, unresolved, undone, undecided, or that you’re tolerating, causes you to lose energy. If it bugs you even a teensy bit when you think about it, it’s an energy drain.
All these little (and sometimes big) energy leaks matter.
They wreak havoc on your focus, muck up your motivation, and keep you stuck.
And that makes it a thousand times harder to achieve what’s most important to you.
One of the best ways to set yourself up for success next year is to start eliminating your energy drains. You’ll free up energy you can redirect towards your 2014 goals. You’ll feel lighter, less distracted, more focused.
Freeing up energy creates a potent force!
Here’s how to get started:
1. Make a list of everything that feels even a tiny bit draining when you think about it, deal with it, or look at it.
Consider your physical environment, relationships, personal finances, technology, goals / dreams, and mind, body, and spirit … every part of your life. Nothing is too small or off-beat to be on your list!
Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else. And then stop. For now :-).
2. Partner with someone who will support you and cheer you on.
Find a friend who wants to work on her own list and check in with each other weekly. Put together a small group of friends and help keep each other on track. Work with a coach.
Support makes the process easier, and it’s also an energy input.
3. Pick one or two easy items to start eliminating. Some items on your list will be easy to fix.
Sew the button on your jacket. Fix the leaking faucet if you’re handy, or hire a plumber. Write the thank-you note.
Each time you eliminate something, cross it off your list. You’ll get another energy boost and you’ll build momentum to tackle the more difficult items.
4. Keep adding to your list. Keep your energy-drain antennae up and any time something is nagging at you, get it onto your list.
Yup, your list will probably get longer before it gets shorter. My first energy-drain list climbed to over 100 items.
But something surprising happens as your list grows. Naming, owning, and eliminating your energy drains becomes energizing. I had the majority of my list knocked out within four months and then used my freed up energy to …
5. … Tackle the items that feel harder.
Take small steps. Use your support (see step 2).
And choose to believe you have the courage, patience, and resilience to deal with the hard stuff on your list.
6. Celebrate EVERY item you eliminate. Enough said.
The more energy drains you eliminate, the more space you create in your life. And the more space you create, the more successful you’ll be in achieving what’s most important to you.
Happy energy-drain eliminating!
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery