Advertising
Advertising

The 7 Energy Sinkholes (and How to Avoid Them)

The 7 Energy Sinkholes (and How to Avoid Them)
20071010-whirlpool.png

    Energy sinkholes are situations that repeatedly drain your energy and stress you out. There are plenty of good reasons to invest your energy, so don’t waste your attention on a sinkhole. Unfortunately, it is often hard to see sinkholes since they rarely cause a drain all at once. Instead they slowly leech away at your lifeforce until your stressed, depressed and apathetic.

    The best way to get out of these sinkholes is to get a routine. Having a preplanned method to handle these problems can keep your mind focused on more important things. Here are the big seven that may be stealing from you right now:

    1 – Disorganization

    Having to constantly find documents, forgetting commitments and appointments puts is a huge sinkhole. The solution out of this is simply to create a system for organizing and routinely tidy it up. You may have implemented a few systems, but here are some areas you might consider giving a clean-up:

    Advertising

    • Computer hard-drive
    • Calendar
    • To-Do Lists
    • Project Task Lists
    • Office/Desk/Home
    • Filing System
    • Closets

    2 – Poor Diet and Lack of Exercise

    Exercising isn’t just to look good on the beach. Staying fit keeps your energy levels high. You can be slim and still be drained because you aren’t fit, so don’t use the scale as the measurement. Here are some things you might want to consider to get out of this energy trap:

    1. Make a Routine – Find a gym partner, class or workout time that you can exercise at least 3-4 times per week. I’ve experimented with different amounts and found six days a week works best for me. If you are unsure how to start, just try it for thirty days to see how it goes.
    2. Replace Foods One at a Time – Don’t try to overhaul your eating habits overnight. They’ve been established over years, so they can’t change in a snap. I recommend switching out one unhealthy food type for a month before making more changes. When you take it gradually it is far easier to stick with long-term.
    3. Time Your Meals – The best way to eat would probably be 5-6 smaller meals spread throughout the day. Since this isn’t a reality for most people, a decent alternative is simply to time your meals so your blood sugar levels remain steady throughout the day. This will ensure you aren’t starving for some parts and fatigued from a big meal in others.

    3 – Problem Contacts

    We all have those few customers, clients and friends that cause a disproportionate amount of our stress. I say the best solution is simply to fire them. Cutting down on people who drain your energy can help you focus more productively on the rest. If a transaction is fair, then both parties should have the ability to opt out if it becomes too much of a hassle.

    4 – Focusing on Your Weaknesses

    Advertising

    My definition of a weakness is anything you aren’t interested in becoming skilled at. If you aren’t keen on improving, you can’t build strengths and any talent you do have will degrade. Don’t try to do everything and outsource the tasks that don’t fit within your strengths. Virtual Assistants and freelancers can deliver a much higher quality than you could on your own, and often their fees are less than the cost of your time.

    5 – Squeaky Hinges

    A squeaky hinge is any piece of technology that works, but has irritating side-effects. This could mean a computer that is too slow to run the programs you need. A dishwasher that doesn’t get all the food off. Or an alarm clock that isn’t loud enough.

    If the solution to a squeaky hinge is cheap, fix it immediately. The costs will soon outweigh any replacement expenses. If the solution is expensive, write down the total cost and keep track of any wasted time/money due to the problem. Keep track of squeaks will make you aware of what the total cost is, and whether a replacement is warranted.

    Advertising

    6 – Blog/E-Mail/Facebook Addiction

    Information addiction can be a huge drain to your energy. I love using blogs, e-mail and social networking sites to get the latest news and keep in touch. But that love can quickly turn into an obsession if you aren’t careful. Soon you’re like the rat frantically pushing the lever for more cocaine doses as you hit Stumble one… more… time…

    My solution was to designate a time for information inflow and keep it restricted to that time. Once per day is all I allow myself to read new RSS feeds, incoming e-mail and Facebook. For other stats and random surfing I limit myself to once per week. The result is more energy and almost no impact on communication.

    7 – Pleasing People

    Advertising

    Don’t waste your time trying to please the people around you. This isn’t an excuse to be an inconsiderate jerk, but put a high value on your time. Learn to say no to people who don’t show respect for your time. Helping other people is great, but it’s better to focus on serving the greatest good than simply appealing to the whims of your friends and family.

    Don’t waste your energies trying to fit others expectations. Set your own dreams, standards and ambitions and make them your highest priority. When you’re nearing your end you’ll likely regret more the sacrifices you made to your individuality than how pleased your parents were of you.

    More by this author

    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

    15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Right Now 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick 18 Tips for Killer Presentations

    Trending in Featured

    1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 3 How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

    Advertising

    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

    Advertising

    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

    Advertising

    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

    Advertising

    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next