In order to live and lead the life you want, managing energy, not just time, is key.
Yet energy extends far beyond physical stamina. Along with the physical, there is also emotional, mental and spiritual energy. All four aspects of your personal energy can be cultivated in order to enhance your leadership and life.
In this series, we’ve covered the importance of physical, emotional and mental energy. Now, we reach the most powerful ally in full engagement — spiritual energy.
I’ve asked expert Tom Ward, founder and principal of NextLevel, to wrap up this series with a discussion on spiritual energy: what it is, why it is important, and how to expand it. His personal account is valuable, interesting and inspiring.
How to Fully Engage Spiritually
Guest post by Tom Ward
I’m living proof that spiritual energy is a unique force providing direction, motivation, perseverance and, above all, a sense of purpose in life. To be clear, in discussing the “spiritual”, I’m using the meaning ascribed to it in The Corporate Athlete® course by the Human Performance Institute: the connection to a deeply held set of values and a purpose beyond our self-interest.
Though I wasn’t remotely aware of it at the time, my spiritual journey began early on in life. I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York the son of a complicated, intense father and a hyper-organized mother. I was baptized Catholic but stopped practicing when I was 14.
Growing up, I was an achiever – an A-student, All-American swimmer, and captain of my high school swimming and soccer teams. I went on to graduate from Cornell University, serve as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy, get married, and graduate from Harvard Business School. My ballistic achievement trajectory was ingrained. By 34, I had become the CEO of a company.
What’s the Point?
By outward appearances, I was living the American Dream. Inside, though, it was a different story. While my work was challenging and fulfilling, the hours I worked were taking their toll. I was constantly tired, often short with co-workers and friends, and my marriage wasn’t working. While I was playing the achievement game pretty well, it was clear I hadn’t really stopped to ask myself, “What’s the point?”
It took me another 10 years to answer that question and, in doing so, I was awakened. You see, I had been playing a mindless game, and its rewards were things I didn’t really value.
My spirit, in there somewhere, was playing no conscious role in my life. It informed nothing I did.
Who and What Do You Care Most About in Life?
To become the person I aspired to be, I had work to do. The fundamental questions had gone unasked, “Who and what do I care most about in life?” And, more important, “Was I investing my energy in behaviors that reflected what I most cared about?” I was not.
And, therein lay the greatest opportunity I had yet to come across in my life – the opportunity to realign my energy investments and my behavior, with my values. While it can be difficult to change, due to the habits we’ve acquired along the way, with a deliberate plan and consistent practice, it’s doable.
If you’re having trouble deciding what you care most about in life (and it can, and often does, change as we mature), you might ask yourself which of the following values are core to who you are or aspire to be:
© Human Performance Institute Division of Wellness & Prevention, Inc.
Another useful exercise is to think about what matters more to you in life than yourself. Who or what do you or would you devote your life to?
Spiritual Energy: The Most Powerful Ally of Full Engagement
According to the Human Performance Institute, the most powerful ally of full engagement is spiritual energy. When storm clouds come or we veer off track, re-aligning our spiritual energy investments with what we value most deeply is the key.
Developing some rituals (or habits in training) is the path to deeper spiritual alignment and full engagement in life. Meditation, prayer, journaling, yoga, and meaningful conversation with a close friend (who knows your aspirations) are effective techniques for connecting or re-connecting with what matters most to us. What’s more, it’s essential to engage in these rituals frequently enough and long enough for them to become new, values-based habits.
The Achievement Game
On my journey, realizing that the achievement game wouldn’t allow me to be the best partner, brother, uncle, nephew, and friend I wanted passionately to be, was a wake up call. It wouldn’t allow me to lead a life of service and kindness to others that I really wanted. For me, real change was necessary.
Thanks to some great people, solid choices (though not often easy), good fortune, and consistent practice, I’m now living on purpose. Investing my precious energy (most of the time) in the people and things I most value in life. May you enjoy the same.
From Tom’s account, the importance of paying close attention to and cultivating spiritual energy for life and leadership is clear. Included in this process is something I believe is invaluable—identifying your values and leading with purpose. These components enrich a leader’s ability to fully engage in leadership.
To begin the process of fully engaged leadership, start with understanding the four elements of human energy and how to expand them. Read about how physical energy is the base level to all elements of leadership, and how food, movement, sleep and strategic recovery will increase capacity. Explore emotional energy, and learn three strategies to use your emotional energy to foster a more positive mindset. Then, take a look at the downfalls of multitasking, and how expanding mental energy will allow you to be fully present and laser focused. All of these elements will greatly affect your leadership, and will propel you toward complete engagement.
Can you pinpoint what type of energy you need to cultivate the most? Will you try, or have you already tried, any of the exercises presented in this series? I’d love to hear your intentions and outcomes. Please leave a comment below, send me an email or find me on Twitter.