One month last year, our electric bill came back very high. My secretary commented, “You are paying too high a price!” She suggested calling an electrician to come and check our connections to assure that no one was “stealing” energy from our house.
It works the same way in our life. We end up paying too high a price because of lifestyle drainers that steal energy from our lives. Living well requires that a leader periodically evaluates his connections. I have identified at least nine lifestyle energy drainers in my own life.
1. Over commitment. Sometimes my inability to say “No!” causes me to over commit. I like challenges, finding problems and thinking strategically about how to resolve them. Here is what I have learned: “I am not indispensable and not every problem in the world is mine to solve.” Whew! Feels good to say that. When I say “Yes” to one thing, it actually means I am saying “No” to something else. I don’t have unlimited capacity.
2. Under commitment. Going to this opposite extreme of the first energy drainer only produces boredom. When I have no external, compelling purpose or mission for my life that is bigger than myself, there is nothing exciting that gets me out of bed in the morning.
3. Clutter. I am actually enjoying selling most of my stuff as we prepare for another international move. It is freeing to get rid of clutter and begin to simplify life. When I was part of the national team in our organization, I found a quote that I kept on my desk to remind me of this energy drainer; it said “Leaders need a clear mind, a clear desk and a clear inbox.” Before that time, I could feel my energy drained away with the hundreds of unanswered emails in my inbox. I read Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, and decided to make changes to end each day with zero emails in my inbox.
4. Debt. My wife and I have always been on the same page in this area. With the exception of two times in our married life of 26 years, we have been debt free. The times we carried debt stole energy and added stress to our lives. The reasons we went into debt were definitely joyous events, and we always had an intentional plan to pay it off. But, what if we had saved ahead of time and paid cash up front? Dave Ramsey has excellent advice in this area.
5. Workaholism. At times in my life, I have ignored the command for a Sabbath rest, which led to burnout in my emotional and spiritual life as well as my marriage. Richard Swenson in his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, offers this simple formula:
6. Not attending to home/marriage issues. Bobby Clinton identifies failure to address critical family/home issues as a common race ender for many leaders. A good marriage requires effort. When I have not put in the hard work and effort into my marriage, the relationship deteriorates. Duh! Jay Lorenzen recently had a great post on Friend-Lover – the meaning of marriage that challenged me in this area.
7. Avoiding difficult conversations. I don’t like conflict. I have learned, however that the pain and emotional drain of unresolved conflicts is far greater than the discomfort of having the difficult conversation.
8. Lack of exercise. Six years ago I stopped exercising. It took only months for stress to turn into migraines, and recurring migraines to turn into a hospital visit within two years. After that visit, I began exercising again. The last four years, I have more consistently enjoyed greater health and energy levels.
9. Neglect of spiritual and moral issues. I am designed to be in a right relationship with God, living out and obeying His commands. Times when I have allowed unconfessed sin to linger in my life have been times when my life and energy is drained. King David identified this energy drainer thousands of years earlier in Psalm 32:1-5:
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the LORD does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Which one of these lifestyle energy drainers steals the most energy from your life? What else would you add to the list?