Running On Empty (You Don't Have To)

How effective do you feel right now? What energy are you bringing to the things you love? To the people you love? Do you find that your lists of “I should be” and “I should do” are exhausting you? When is the last time you’ve filled your own tank?

It is time that we stop perpetuating and parading statements that champion doing more hours of work and getting less hours of sleep. To live life fully, we need to relinquish giving and prioritize receiving. (Key word: notice this is not taking. We must allow–give permission to–ourselves to receive.)

Find the empty by naming the feeling

In Dr. Jonice Webb’s book RUNNING ON EMPTY, one of the most effective starting points is to use the popular “name it to tame it” strategy. By pausing throughout the day and taking time to feel your current emotion and then to–name it! There is a certain power in doing this practice, mainly because we are feeling creatures. Webb quotes Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor in her book as saying, “Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.”

I liken naming feelings as facing down an intimidating dog. Turning and running from the dog emboldens the dog. Facing it, inspecting it, may lessen its charge. As with feelings, naming them takes the charge away from the feeling and gives that energy back to you.

Dr. Webb has a great list of feelings on her site that can help your practice of identifying emotions.

Sleep as fuel is more essential than food

Tony Schwartz, the founder and CEO of The Energy Project highlights the essential element to our success and in feeling effective: SLEEP. He describes through simple analogy that our bodies can function without food for several days, but one night of less sleep, let alone many nights of inadequate sleep is devastating to a plethora of our body’s functions.

No wonder Bill Gates picked a book of sleep for his top 5 books to read in the winter of 2020. (His pick was Why We Sleep. Another popular sleep book now is Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis.)

Find your own way to fill and sharpen

I have a particular fondness for Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, especially the translation by William Martin. The wisdom of Lao Tzu shines forth brilliantly, even thousands of years after his writing it. Take for instance this gem:

Fill your bowl to the brim

and it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife

and it will blunt.

Chase after money and security

and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people’s approval

and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.

The only path to serenity.

The premise throughout is doing what is needed, and no more, and no less. Act with the right amount of energy; refuel in the right way with the right amount. Find your source. Source can be friends that fill your cup, books that foster empathy, meditation that stills your busy mind. The key is prioritizing your energy above all.

tao te ching silence as anchor


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