If you’re exhausted heading into the new year, join the crowd. Ask most people what’s to blame for their depleted energy, physically and mentally, and they point to one major category of ills: profound change.
This is where I ask you to depart from the crowd. Change isn’t the culprit zapping your energy — change is constant, inevitable and usually welcomed. I know that if things hadn’t changed in my life over the past 25 years, I’d be terribly disappointed. An entire generation of young people who missed their senior year of high school or college, suffered isolation, or worse, moved back to their parent’s house, then entered a world drastically different than what they’d expected might argue with my interpretation of change. I’m sure they’d scoff at the classic example about babies not only welcoming change but demanding it when they cry from dirty diapers.
What we really resist
But despite our proclamations, I don’t believe people resist change. We resist being controlled, living without meaning and having limited learning and growth opportunities. The real problem with blaming change for feeling dismal is that it relegates you to victimhood — opening the door to diminishing your three psychological needs for:
- Choice (victim’s stance: I’m helpless; I can’t control anything),
- Connection (victim’s stance: It’s everyone else’s fault, including my organization’s unethical leadership, my inept boss, my stupid relatives, the government, the left, the right…)
- Competence (victim’s stance: I can’t deal with all the changes at work; I hate wearing a mask that always fogs up my glasses).
Human beings simply cannot experience resilience, vitality and well-being without experiencing choice, connection and competence. We’ve just lived through a perfect storm eroding the three foundational needs required for optimal motivation and thriving.
Try this if you want to move through the doom, gloom and burdensome energy of the past and generate vitality in the new year. Develop psychological sense.
In my book, Master Your Motivation, I describe an empirically sound, evolutionary idea — motivation is a skill. More specifically, motivation is the skill of developing psychological sense. Equipped with the ability to create optimal motivation, you can navigate the changes and challenges the world throws at you.
3 steps to begin a robust and positive new year
- Take a mindful moment when your energy is flagging. Notice what your body and heart are telling you. Are you physically tired from lack of sleep, proper nutrition or exercise? Or are you psychologically depleted from a lack of choice, connection and competence? Note that when you don’t experience optimal motivation, it takes its toll physically, too! (You know what I mean if you’ve ever had to drag yourself from bed even after a good night’s sleep.)
- Appreciate that our collective lack of energy is our lack of skill to create choice, connection and competence for ourselves under external pressure.
- Proactively create choice, connection and competence. Ask yourself three simple but profound questions to shift your energy for a goal, task or situation:
- What choices have I made; how do I feel about my choices (why); what choices do I have?
- Which choices deepen my connection to the people involved; how can I align with my values and a sense of purpose; will my choices contribute to the greater good and welfare of others?
- Which choices will help me grow and learn; what skills can I gain; how will this help me demonstrate skill over time?
A story of psychological sense in action
In Rocio’s own words…
Rocio discovered the power of psychological sense. I hope you give it a chance yourself in the new year.
Remember, when you proactively create choice, connection and competence, you are more likely to experience sustained high performance and reduced strain and fatigue. Then you will have the wherewithal to devote quality time to health, family and friends and all those dreams you’d pursue, inside and outside of work, if you only had the energy.