For a few years, I couldn’t find good energy for the work I was doing. It sounds a bit woo woo, but hear me out. I’d lost some mojo, have high expectations of myself, and like to torture myself when I don’t live up to them. The feeling was getting worse, not better. Around the middle of 2021, it was super-bad. My confidence was the lowest in years, I couldn’t get my words out, and I was anxious and unhappy. It was hard going—I was tripping over every hurdle, couldn’t shake off small challenges, and my head was full of catastrophe.
I could see the symptoms, but I completely misdiagnosed the root cause. I thought the problem was technical—You need to learn to communicate better. Or, related to how I am—You need to toughen up and be more resilient. I was wrong on both counts, and I’m happy that I was. The problem was to do with energy. I was routinely spending mine in ways that left me empty, and then blaming myself and persevering through the grind. It’s a toxic cycle, like this:
It turns out I didn’t need to change myself to get my mojo back. I needed to change my environment, and how I invest my energy. There’s some practical ways I do this. For me, it’s two questions when deciding how to spend my energy:
Is this an environment where I can do high-quality work that makes a difference?
Will my contribution be valued?
If the answer to either of those isn’t “Yes!”, I’m out. Now, there’s are things implied behind these simple-sounding questions. Make a difference isn’t about social impact and changing the world with my work—for me it’s about achieving an outcome, helping someone, or improving something. There’s a bit to unpack in environment and being valued too. Ask me about it if you want to go deeper on this. After 12 months of trial and error, I’m glad to say it’s working for me. Work isn’t a grind, I got my mojo back, and my tank is full. One delightful consequence has been the impact outside of work. People that know me say that I look well, seem lighter, and have spark. From my point of view, every interaction is better, I’m having fun, and life is really good. All great reasons to keep truckin’ on this path.
The energy we put out in the world is the energy we get back.—Oprah Winfrey
This seems so very obvious now… and I’m embarrassed to reach my 40s by the time I figured this out. Oh well, onwards! I’m not sure who else needs to hear this, but I know you’re out there, because I’m hearing from a few folks lately who’ve found themselves in similar situations. If you’re going through something like this and need some ears, you can borrow mine. I’d be happy to help.