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Last Updated on May 7, 2020

The Causes of Lack of Energy (That Go Beyond Your Physical Health)

The Causes of Lack of Energy (That Go Beyond Your Physical Health)

Think about this: you just spent a day at work, and you’ve thought all afternoon about how you want to tackle a goal that’s been on the back-burner all week. As the day wears on and you make your way home, you tell yourself over and over like a broken record how you need to put your head down, so to speak, and finally get around to doing that one thing you need to do.

You get home, put your bag down, and… fast-forward a few hours. Before you know it, it’s time for bed.

What happened?

Well, you lost all the energy you needed; your mind effectively gave up before you even started.

A lack of energy can go beyond feeling physically tired. It can permeate into what’s known as “mental tiredness.” And it’s a real thing, affecting almost everyone for various reasons. But what if I told you it’s completely possible to tackle it? All it takes is identifying some of the sources of your lack of energy and finding ways to work with it.

Let’s go through the lack of energy causes and how to fix them.

1. An Unfulfilling Job

Everyone knows they spend at least eight hours a day at their job for generally five days a week. If you think about it carefully, though, you’ll realize that this 40 hours a week translates to about 88 full days a year you’re at your job.

We’re talking 88 straight, 24-hour days worth of work in a year. That’s about 25% of your entire existence, not including sleep, spent at your job. That’s a lot of time.

So if your job is unfulfilling to you, no wonder your mental fortitude takes the biggest beating.

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Unfulfilling can also mean several things:

There are many more situations, so inevitably the question gets asked: How do I know if my job is unfulfilling?

Do you feel drained? Do you dread going to work each morning? Do you often think about what you’d rather be doing when you’re at work? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you probably need to reconsider your career choice.

Why? A recent study found a direct link between job satisfaction and mental health[1]. Those who reported less satisfaction with their jobs suffered from higher bouts of depression and sleep difficulty.

How to Fix the Problem

An unfulfilling job is an incredibly common problem faced by people around the world. Some people don’t know what their dream job is, while others don’t have the skills to get into their dream job when they want to.

The first step would be identifying jobs that would feel fulfilling. Make a list of your skills and the topics you enjoy learning. Which jobs would those things serve?

If you already know what you want to do but don’t currently have the skill set for it, take small steps to get where you need to be. Take an online class, find a mentor, or go back to school (if you have the time and the means). Is there a related job you could do that could help you build the right skills? If so, start there.

2. Overwhelming Task List

Got stuff to do? Great, so does everyone else.

Got a lot of stuff to do? You’re not alone.

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Imagine this:

You open your task list, ready to start checking off items. You sip your coffee, sit down, and almost fall backwards off your chair when you realize you’ve got about 18 things to do in the next five hours.

And this may be a contributing factor to your lack of energy. Feeling overwhelmed is a quick way to feeling burned out. When we feel like we have too many things to do, we tend to freeze (or have what’s called workload paralysis[2]) because we don’t know what to tackle first.

This feeling continues, and before you know it, the entire day has gone by and you’ve filled your time doing everything except what you need to do; in other words, you do nothing of importance.

Then, as the days turns into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, you come to the harsh realization that you didn’t really achieve all the things you set out to do. It’s a defeating feeling when you don’t think you’re capable of achieving much.

The defeating attitude is a vicious cycle, too — you start by feeling overwhelmed, don’t do anything about it, then waste time before feeling defeated — and a fast track to a mental burnout.

How to Fix the Problem

Split up your list. If there are too many things to do in one day, move items to your “tomorrow” list, or even to a “weekend” list. Make your list achievable by writing a time limit next to each item so you can imagine how long a full list will take to complete.

3. Saying “Yes” Too Often

“Hey, want to go catch a movie?”

“Want to come over?”

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“Can you pick me up from the airport?”

“Want to grab dinner?”

If you’re a yes person, no doesn’t exist in your personal dictionary. The problem is, it should.

If you’re spending all your time doing everything everyone else wants but no time doing the things you want, you won’t get much accomplished in your life. Just like in the above example, when you realize months later you didn’t get very far, you tend to become defeated, which ultimately leads to feeling mentally exhausted.

The good news is you can become a “no” person whenever you feel like it, and in turn start accomplishing the things you want. But if you’re used to saying yes, it’s not an easy thing to suddenly switch gears.

Being able to focus on yourself gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment and in turn helps your mental state; it’s OK to put yourself first.

How to Fix the Problem

Saying no will likely be difficult at first if you’re used to always saying yes. Start by trying to say no to one thing each week. If you’re worried that saying no will affect how the other person thinks of you, this may be a problem related to self-esteem more than anything else. It may be time to do some self-reflection to see why you want to please everyone by refusing to say no.

4. Lack of Hobbies or Passions

Hobbies and passions are what fuel us to do great things. In many cases, they lead you to your life’s purpose. At worst, they give you an incredible sense of fulfillment and source of happiness in your life.

When your job gets tough, it’s important to have an outlet to focus on. When your job isn’t aligned with your passions or purpose, it’s especially important to have an outlet to apply your skills and excitement towards. In fact, having something to put your attention towards can help provide your life with direction and meaning.

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In a roundabout way, focusing on hobbies or passions can ultimately improve your work or family life.[3] All this is to say: you’re a much better person, especially mentally, when you apply yourself towards things that interest you.

When you don’t have any source of motivation to work towards, you become tired of dealing with the mundane things that life throws at you. And then you become annoyed and yet again, defeated. This frustration can lead to mental exhaustion if it continues long-term.

How to Fix the Problem

If you haven’t made time for a hobby in the past, it’s time to carve out some “you” time each day. Take an hour in the morning or evening to put toward something you enjoy doing. If you don’t have a favorite hobby, start trying things. Say yes to joining that tennis match with your friend or sign up for that free pottery class in town. You never know what you might end up enjoying.

The Bottom Line

Feeling tired from a lack of sleep is one thing. Feeling tired because work isn’t fulfilling, you have no hobbies or passions, you stretch yourself thin, or you feel overwhelmed is another thing.

It’s important to know the difference and work towards defeating the lack of energy you may be feeling.

The four sources listed above are a starting point for you in your quest. There are many more, but these comprise some of the most common. Once you’re able to identify the specific problem in your life, you can get yourself back on track and feel more energetic in your daily life.

More Tips About Regaining Energy

Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

Reference

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Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

It has been said that rarely am I short of words, and yet I’ve rewritten this article on positive and negative reinforcement five times. Why?

It’s not as if I have a lack of thoughts on this subject. It’s not as if I don’t spend my days enabling people to communicate powerfully and get what they want in life. So why the rewrites?

I’ve found myself thinking about the diversity of people I’ve coached and how different we all can be. Usually when I write for Lifehack, I’m able to see instant commonality in the subject that means I could share some ideas that would resonate wherever you are in life, whoever you are, regardless of what you were looking to achieve or what adversity you may be facing.

However, with this, it’s a “How long’s a piece of string?” answer, i.e. I could probably write a whole book’s worth of words and still have ideas to share.

Let’s look at some key points:

  • You will have times in your life where you need to get someone to do something.
  • You will have times when someone needs you to do something.

Let’s look at how positive and negative reinforcement would work. In both of these situations, you can face some big obstacles:

  • Someone may resist your desire for them to change.
  • Someone may challenge your authority or leadership.
  • Someone may be at risk of getting hurt.

The important thing to remember is that, in life, we all have to be influenced and influence those around us, and some ways will help us get the result we want, and others won’t. However, that may differ on where you are, who you are talking to, and what you want to see happen!

So, how do we know when positive reinforcement is effective[1], and can there ever be a time when negative reinforcement is good?

Worryingly, if you get positive and negative reinforcement wrong, you can risk your career, your business, your relationships, your reputation, and your brand.

Positive and negative reinforcement each have their merits, so it’s imperative to know when to employ them. Interestingly, despite a ton of evidence to the contrary, we still rely on the wrongs ones in society, business, and even in parenting.

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The 4 examples below showcase the use of positive and negative reinforcement, and whether they personally apply to you right now or not, they will resonate and be very useful to you personally in every area of your life.

For each we will look at:

  1. What’s the problem?
  2. What have you tried?
  3. Now what?
  4. The results!

The Boss

Okay, you may not be a boss, but everyone will have times in their life where they need to get people organized and working together to get the best result. Often, leaders say things like this to me:

  • “I’ve told them until I’m blue in the face not to do that!”
  • “They constantly refuse to use the new system.”
  • “They just don’t listen.”
  • “They don’t respect me.”

What Did the Boss Try?

Often, I hear “We’ve tried everything!” No matter who is reading this, trust me, you’ve not tried everything. (That’s the first thing to accept.) When you accept that, you then need to look at what you have tried to move forward.

The boss has tried:

  • Giving the person training.
  • Spending time with them and showing them how to do it.
  • Telling them it wasn’t good enough.
  • Telling them we aren’t doing that any more.

Now What?

The above situations create tension between the two as you constantly battle to maintain your position on the situation. If you are looking to get someone to do something, and they constantly resist, you need to stop and ask yourself some questions:

  1. What have we tried? This helps you to understand what they are good at, so you can utilize that in the conversation.
  2. From their viewpoint, what could prevent them from doing what I’ve asked? What could they fear, and how will we allay those fears?
  3. What do they want? Seeing their viewpoint enables you to use their terminology and language so they feel listened to.
  4. What do they believe? Do their beliefs prevent them from seeing the benefits? Beliefs can be changed but not by force—coaching is very powerful for this.
  5. How do these answers differ from my beliefs and views? Bridging the gap helps you to see both views and communicate more powerfully.

In my experience, rarely does a boss or leader need to say the word “No.” If someone is not doing what you want them to, the quickest way to see results is to ask questions and listen. Often, when you really listen, you discover a big gap between what you think you are saying and what the other person is hearing.

The reasons why someone is not doing what you want can include:

  • They don’t know how to do what you’ve asked them to do.
  • They are scared to get it wrong.
  • They fear what people will think of them.
  • They don’t have the confidence to come and tell you they need help.
  • They are scared that someone will tell them off.
  • They don’t understand where the boundaries are.

People tell me, “But I said that to them!” If you are too close to the situation, then how likely are they to take notice from you? Here’s what you can do:

  • Get out of your usual environment – Neutral environments make difficult conversations easier. They can take you both off your guard, which can be good.
  • Start by making that person feel safe to say anything. Start with ground rules like “This is a confidential conversation” and “I won’t make any judgement on what you say, I just want to understand.”
  • Be prepared to say “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t realize.” When you do this, positive and negative reinforcement can be used.

Learning how to coach people instead of tell people is key. Enabling the other person to see the benefits of what you want for them (and not you) is quicker than trying to dictate action.

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  • Lay out expected outcomes.
  • Create boundaries.
  • Explain what support and help you will provide.

The Results

This style of reinforcement is about utilizing both positive and negative reinforcement. It enables someone to feel safe to explain why they’ve not been taking action and helps them to overcome the limitations they feel while safe in the knowledge that they will get the support to change with the positive results explained in a way that matters to them.

The Young Child

If you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong end of a relentless tantrum of a small child, you will know it can feel impossible to get through to them. While many elements of The Boss scenario could work, there are times where you may need some negative reinforcement.

What’s the Problem?

My children are now 15 and 18. I can honestly say that, while we have had some challenging behaviors, our parenting means I have two children I’m very proud of–great communicators, great work ethic, kind, funny, considerate. The point is that, for my children, this stuff works. And, to be honest, when I’m with other people’s children, they often say “How did you get them to do that!”

Young children are amazing. It’s like they’ve just woken up in a new body and have been told to go touch, feel, experience everything–every emotion, every taste, smell, experience, texture, the lot! They are curious and keen to know more. They sap up everything, and a lot of that we don’t want them sapping up!

When they go to put a pencil in an electric socket, or let go of your hand as you cross the road, it’s imperative they get the learning and knowledge they need fast. I once was talking to a parent that said I was wrong to say no to my children. I asked, “At what age would you like me to introduce them to that word?” to which they had no answer.

While I agree that there are usually a lot more words than just no for children, “no” is a word that kept you and I safe when we were small.

What Have You Tried?

While young children are incredibly intelligent, explaining the merits of your preferred course of action is not going to keep them safe. Tying them to your waist isn’t working. Punishing them and telling them there’s no more park time until you walk next to me doesn’t work either. So how do you say no and keep them safe?

Now What?

Sometimes negative reinforcement is essential[2]. For instance, my son (who adored Bob the Builder when he was little) was playing with his plastic tool kit and discovered an electric socket…I didn’t stop to explain the merits of how that could be dangerous. I said calmly, “No, that’s dangerous!”

Here’s the important point: It’s not just about your words. With young children, it’s important that your body language clearly says the same.

The Results

I did feel like the luckiest parent on the planet to have two children sleeping through the night, but that didn’t tell the full story. I can remember spending a few weeks calmly picking my daughter up with no eye contact, no overly big hug, no conversation, just saying, “Sorry darling but now’s bedtime, so back we go.” And yes, being the strong-willed girl that she is, there was sometimes a good hour of that until she got the message that Mum really isn’t going to play, turn into a dinosaur, sing, or read a story.

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The thing with positive and negative reinforcement is that you need to have faith it will work, and you are doing the right thing.

Of course, when I went in to get her from her cot the next morning, I had a big grin on my face that said, “Wow, what a grown up girl you are staying in your bed all night!” I used positive reinforcement to get the day started.

The Teenager

What’s the Problem?

If I’m honest, I don’t have problems with my teenagers. However, I think that is in no small part to my style of communication. Having respect for them is key, and appreciating how much change is happening in their lives really helps–as someone who helps large teams of people deal with change, I know how hard it can be.

However, when I wrote the article How to Enjoy Parenting Teens and Help Your Kids Thrive, I was inundated with stories of hellish behavior from other parent’s teenagers, tales of staying out all night and not phoning home, abusive behavior towards parents and teens–I really felt for all involved.

What Have You Tried?

The problem with teens is they know exactly how to wind you up like a little clock-work toy. And if you’ve had a tough day, the last thing you want is to have to deal with someone who can’t even communicate with words, let alone put their dishes in the dishwasher.

Losing it is never the option, but it can easily happen. Shouting, bribery, and doing it yourself because it’s just easier really don’t work in the long run.

Now What?

If you consider everything we’ve covered, you can see that you need to communicate using positive and negative reinforcement. In life, there are consequences to all actions, and teens have a ton of stuff to learn to become effective, successful, happy adults.

Before you embark on any course of action, consider how the other person perceives the world. What are they going through?

You may have loved being a teen, but that doesn’t ensure your children will. Likewise, in life, there are things you love that others will loathe–seeing the world through other people’s eyes really helps you to understand the best way to communicate.

The only big difference for teenagers is to use emotion with caution. I personally let my children see all emotions–I’ve not hidden my tears when I’ve lost a loved one as it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. However, if a teenager in a foul mood can spot a weakness, they may just take advantage of it.

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The Results

My kids love to tell everyone I’m a scary mom. I’m not, I just have high standards, and I’m not prepared to drop them.

We shy away from telling people what we expect and then wonder why we are getting as stressed as the other party because no one knows where they stand.

I’m happy for my children to take over the TV room and eat far too much sweet stuff and binge on a box set. Just don’t put cups on the carpet, we have places for drinks. It’s having the confidence to say this is the rule.

People think negative reinforcement is a bad thing. However, how can someone change if they don’t know what they are doing wrong? And that’s the issue: so many of us are fearful of saying “Stop doing that!” If you lack confidence, find your voice because people aren’t mind-readers.

Final Thoughts

Before you start considering whether positive or negative reinforcement is best for others, ask yourself what you respond better to.

Personally, I respond far better to negative reinforcement–I can improve and be more successful and happier if I know what I’m doing wrong. Furthermore, I know that sometimes negative reinforcement works better with some clients who really don’t want to look at the issue–but it’s always done with respect and love.

Coaching people is also a great representation of when positive and negative reinforcement is best. We are looking to find ways to increase the positive action with positive reinforcement and ways to reduce the negative results with negative reinforcement–and usually my clients keep those changes for the rest of their lives.

More on Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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