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Senior Correspondent

A colleague and I were lunching this past week and she kicked off the conversation by asking how I maintain my energy level, given that we work with individuals and businesses dealing with complex and challenging issues on a regular basis. "Do you ever feel depleted, and if so, how do you handle that, given what your clients expect of you?"

We happened to be meeting outdoors at one of my favorite restaurants on the Katy Trail. I was feeling relaxed and energized by the breeze and my response was simple. "We selectively work with clients who put as much energy into their challenge as we do. We coach individuals and organizations who are generally healthy and want to grow. We also keep in mind that our clients ultimately do the work themselves. We provide perspective, education, structure, great coaching questions and a tool here and there. But, just as sports coaches do not play the game, we take care not to do the work that our clients are most capable of doing."

"Do you ever get tired and out of balance?" she wanted to know. And, of course we do. The key is to notice when that is happening, earlier than later. And then it's time to rest and restore or participate in a favorite recreational activity. I have a menu of activities that are fun for me ranging from board games with family to bicycling a hundred miles.

Our work as coaches demands that we pay a great deal of attention to our own energy. Is our energy positive or are we trending toward negative? Are we participating in “can do” conversations or are we involved in “no can do” conversations? Are we spilling over onto others in a positive and productive way?

 One of the comments we hear on a regular basis from our clients is "I feel so much better about x or y. I can truly see how to handle this now!” They leave the session energized, focused and reconnected to their own power." We call that “zap” and it’s when someone is ready to take positive and productive action. And, of course we are equally zapped when that happens. The energy we put in comes right back to us. What a deal!

Or, are we unconsciously depleting others of energy by the kinds of conversations we engage in? Are we involved in friendships or working relationships that ultimately cause others to overly depend upon us? We call that “sap.” It not only saps those we most want to help but it saps us! Not such a good deal!

Today's workplaces are extremely demanding and we can find ourselves sapped, not so much from the work itself, but from the 24-7 global environments many of us work in. So many factors we cannot control but here are a few small, but significant, factors we can control.

  1. Pay attention to your attention. Are you focusing your attention mostly on can do or no can do kinds of thoughts? Are you zapping or sapping yourself?
  2. Do you take a moment to give yourself credit for each accomplishment during the day or are you off to the next thing? Zap or sap?
  3. Speaking of time, do you typically lay out too many tasks or overbook your schedule? Do you schedule reasonably and include time for yourself? Zap or sap?
  4. Do you notice yourself getting behind in other people's work, work that you absorbed because you did not prepare the appropriate person to do it? You know, the "it's just easier to do it myself" syndrome. Zap or sap?
  5. Do you find yourself taking on the worries of the world around you? Many people actually think that worrying is productive and so they spend energy worrying rather than taking positive, productive action. Zap or sap?
  6. Do you expect yourself to be perfect? Or are you okay with being human? Zap or sap?

The lunch meeting with my colleague turned into an afternoon bike ride where we continued our conversation about what energizes and de-energizes us. Cycling along, soaking up the early autumn sun and warm breezes, engaging in great conversation, while absorbing the sights and sounds of the Katy Trail. That would be a Zap!

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