We think about energy as simply a matter of calories. But this misses the importance of our body’s two basic settings.
People often wonder how I get so much stuff done with my days.
It’s all about energy.
I was lucky enough to be born with one of those metabolisms, where I can consume food and my body turns it into energy. (The energy I don’t consume gets turned into fat.)
I guess I just got lucky.
Humans are pretty similar creatures when it comes down to it. We’re all working off the same basic blue-print. And sure, there are some genetic advantages that some people have. Ussain Bolt has those steel spring legs. Lionel Messi has the reflexes of a snake, the sure-footedness of a mountain goat and the left-boot of God.
But I don’t think genetics really explains all that much – definitely once you get away from more physical contests like sport.
And I would say (even though there’s probably no way to measure it) the variation in life outcomes is far greater than the variation in human, natural-born skills and abilities.
So why do some people kick-arse in the arena of life, and some people just look like they’re making up numbers.
If there was a simple answer to that question, I’d be even richer than I am now.
But I think one of the big differences is energy. If you have more energy, you can get more stuff done, and that increases the odds of success.
And my experience is that successful people have more energy. I certainly seem to have an extra spring in my step compared to most, and I’d say its true of most successful people I know.
And it’s hard to see how you can do all that much extra with life if there’s nothing left in the tank after doing the dishes and putting the kids to bed.
So energy matters.
And I’ve seen people spend years trying to raise their energy levels – through yoga, health supplements, colonic irrigations, burying themselves up to their necks in Sumatran volcanic ash.
But I think it’s a mistake to think about energy purely in physiological terms – as if there were an optimal combination of probiotics and breathing exercises for maximum energy.
Don’t get me wrong. All that stuff is important. (I mean look at me, it’s obvious that I treat my body like a temple.)
But the energy you need to be successful isn’t really about physical energy.
I mean, say you decide to spend an hour every night doing a bit of property self-education. How many extra calories does that require?
Not a huge amount right? And most people have surplus calories (i.e they’re getting fat, – or have to join gyms to burn off what they don’t need).
If it were just about purely physical energy, Australia – one of the most obese nations on earth – would be primed for success.
Or think about it this way. You’re exhausted after a long day of work. You’ve already brushed your teeth and gotten into your pyjamas. You’re just about to turn off the light, when your partner comes in to tell you they just won 50 grand on a scratchie.
What happens to your energy levels? Suddenly they’re through the roof right?
I think if you look at the human, we have two basic modes – what I call “rest mode” and “opportunity mode”.
It’s an efficiency feature. If there are no opportunities about – food, mating, pretty rocks – then we just take it easy.
That made sense in our energy-poor evolutionary nursery. No point going around blowing off energy we might need later. If there’s no need to, better just to rest up – go into low power mode.
But if there is something worth spending energy on – suddenly an injured mammoth wonders into view, or a hot cave-woman is waving at you – then the resting default is deactivated and our opportunity mode kicks in. Our energetic resources are suddenly there at our command. Opportunity makes our energy available to us.
So my theory about what separates high-energy from low-energy people – and the successful from the not-so-successful, is that high-energy people spend more time in mental states of opportunity.
They are excited about where their life if going, and what can be achieved from moment to moment. This puts them in their opportunity setting, and their body is making energy available to them.
People who aren’t so excited about life – who have to get up for a job they hate, and see no way of changing up their situation – drop out of their opportunity setting. The body goes, there’s nothing exciting going on here, may as well just rest.
I’ll assign the very bare minimum of energetic resources to get these stupid tasks done. Here’s your stupid report, stupid Mr Humphries.
And in time, super-successful people learn how to keep themselves in their opportunity setting. They watch their mindset, and keep closely connected to their motivations and their goals.
(This is why goal-setting and motivation is so important from the get-go and always – it’s directly connected to your energy levels.)
So this is my advice. If you feel like you’re lacking juice and pep, rather than reaching for the spirulina supplements, check in with how you feel about life.
Are you in your opportunity setting? Are you excited about what is heading your way and what you might be able to achieve.
If not, then expect your body to be pointing you back towards bed – at every moment of every day.
You’re not lazy. We’re all just built that way.
How do you keep yourself in opportunity mode?