Matthew Kelly is the author of Off Balance: Getting beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth. In his book, he takes time to answer the question: How Is the best way to live? A management consultant for a firm based in Chicago, Kelly helps people all over the country figure out how to manage people – and themselves – more effectively. His nonprofit foundation is dedicated to helping people become the best version of themselves they can be.
Kelly spends some time in his book on energy (the personal kind) and how critical it is to your success. “Most people,” he writes, “don’t have the energy they need to do the things they love.” He also writes: “Your experience of life expands with the more energy you have.” If you’ve been in an extended job search, you probably have experienced days when your physical and psychic energy was very low. Kelly provides some useful insights into the kinds of energy you experience and how to manage the flow of your energy.
He explains that people, places, things and activities all have their own energy, and that the way you experience that energy may be very individualized. We’ve all walked into a restaurant or home and instantly known whether we liked it or not; we’re responding to the place’s energy. There are tasks that energize us and those that drain us. Of course, people also have the ability to energize us or suck us dry. Jacksonville author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon calls the ones who drain us “Energy Vampires.”
Matthew Kelly identifies the four levels of energy this way. He describes Level One energy as “low level, negative.” Level One is when you are exhausted, even depressed. It happens to the best of us; sometimes, we just don’t have anything more to give. If you find yourself zoned out in front of the television night after night, you’re experiencing Level One energy.
Level Two is “high level, negative,” according to Kelly. At this level, you don’t feel lethargic. On the contrary, you’re fearful, irritated, even angry. If you’ve ever had a bad day, then come home and taken it out on your kids or your family, you’ve hit Level Two. It’s a bad place to be for even a short time; to stay at this level for a while would be very destructive to you and your relationships.
Level Three energy is “low level, positive.” You feel content, even mellow. You might be inwardly focused, reflective. Kelly describes it as “restorative;” it’s a good place to recover and rebuild your energy. This is the kind of energy I crave on vacation and experience in yoga class. It takes unplugging from electronics and some peace and quiet to attain; if your life is never unplugged, you may have a serious shortage of Level Three Energy in your life.
Kelly calls Level Four energy “the crown jewel.” It’s “high level, positive energy;” the place where we live our best lives. We are confident, joyful and invigorated. There’s nothing we can’t do. People are mesmerized by that kind of energy and attracted to people who have it. That Level Four energy gets you interviews and job offers. It makes you attractive as a team member. People buy things they don’t need and get carried away by your enthusiasm. When was the last time you felt that?
You intuitively know the activities, people, places and things that give you energy. Walking your dog. Playing with your grandson. Planting a new herb garden. Getting a good night’s sleep. Watching the sun come up over the ocean. You also know what drags you down; the people who aren’t supportive, the places that are disorganized and drab, the tasks that you hate to do. When you decide how to manage your time, think of the entire continuum of energy, and decide that you control it. Because you do.