4 STEPS TO MANAGING YOUR ENERGY & BUILDING GREAT HABITS
Two weekends ago I attended the West End Buddhist Centre’s weekend meditation retreat here in Toronto. A monk named Bhante runs the centre and holds the monthly retreats. I first met Bhante when we were sitting beside each other at a conference, and he has since become one of my favourite people to follow for my personal and spiritual development.
One of the main lessons I got out of the retreat this time was the importance of managing our own energy. Energy can be physical energy in terms of what we eat or how often we exercise. It can be emotional energy in terms of what we focus or how we let our thoughts affect us. Or it can be social energy, which relates to who we surround ourselves with and how we let other people’s opinions affect us.
Ultimately, managing our energy comes down to these four steps:
This step is about not allowing our minds and ourselves to go down paths and into situations that we know will bring us down energetically. It means avoiding the sugar-rich foods that will make us feel good temporarily, but will leave us feeling bloated or guilty later. It means catching our negative thoughts and not letting our emotions become anchored in certain situations. Finally, it means saying no to invitations from people we know are going to bring us down, avoiding our enemies, and not letting other people’s judgments (which is different from constructive criticism) bring us down.
Unlike the first step, which is about preventing external influences on us, elimination is about preventing our own internal beliefs and conditioning from holding us back. It is about taking a deep look at our behavior, our emotional patterns, and being honest with whether we are living in line with our true self. For our physical goals, it might be getting rid of the junk food in our house and not letting excuses get in our way (such as “I don’t have enough time to work out”). For our emotional well-being, it might involve looking at our current beliefs, and thinking about the pain or pleasure they are creating in our life by having them, and removing the ones that no longer serve us. For our social goals, it might be about cutting out friends and people who are energy vampires.
With the awareness the first two steps, we are better able to see what habits, resources, and mindset we need to better meet our goals. For physical goals, it might involve learning more about healthy eating, getting an accountability buddy, or putting triggers in place to stick with your routine (such as putting running shoes beside your bed when you wake up to remind you to go to the gym). For emotional goals, I’ve found it useful to ask myself 24 daily morning questions that put me in a good mindset, practice gratitude for myself every day in the mirror when I go to the bathroom, and make sure I get in a morning meditation. For social goals, it has meant being the initiator to bring people together when I’m feeling isolated, practicing gratitude for the people I do have in my life, and taking time every weekend to connect with someone I love.
This is about sticking with the newly cultivated patterns of thought and behavior. Like most people, I struggle with as well. It is about doing your physical activity and green juices even when you just feel like staying in bed. It is about not letting yourself get down emotionally by believing your inner critic or staying stuck in a negative place. It is about keeping up relationships, and ensuring you have fun and variety in your life. I’ve found it helpful to put reminders into my phone such as to go to the gym, make a green drink, practice gratitude in the mornings, or meet one inspiring person every week. I’ve also found what really motivates me is reminding myself of WHY I want to do this action, and equally important, WHY NOT DOING IT will cost me and lead to pain in my life.
As with anything, these practices are a process, and we all falter along the way. I’ve found just being aware of these four steps has helped me better identify which part of the process to work on. It has also helped me become more aware of the root of the problem, which usually is in the conditioning and patterns of thought of my mind.
What are your steps to creating great habits? What has worked for you to make them stick?