"Performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy." - Jim Loher and Tony Schwartz, Authors of The Power of Full Engagement
Just last week I quietly put up my first blog entry on “A Balanced Life.” I was really afraid to take that first step and allow myself to be vulnerable, despite knowing that such honest dialog can be beneficial to us all.  It is where growth begins.  I was humbled and encouraged by the kind words and enthusiastic responses I received from those who read it.  Thank you!  Many of you have have nodded along as you read, agreeing that we share some things in common in our quest for balanced living.  I am also grateful to you for the ideas you have given me.  


I wish I could offer some practical tips based on my own methods for making daily life a breeze. You know, the stuff of a Martha Stewart protégé: how to make healthy meals in a snap, clean your house in 30 minutes using only a lemon, and 10 after school snacks made of broccoli that your kids will devour.  Though I have a few ideas brewing on pooling our ideas for easier routines, I’m not sure I can offer you all the gems you need right now.  In fact, I have a confession of sorts, though I suspect it’s not totally unique.


There are days that I sit on my couch and watch my baby as he pulls every pot, pan and kitchen utensil we have out of its cabinet or drawer, and strings a trail of them around our house like he’s Hansel on his way to the witch’s lair (and in his version of the famous tale, the witch’s house is made not of candy, but of more kitchen utensils, especially spatulas).  While I watch this, I ponder what I should have started making for dinner ten minutes ago and consider wrangling the older boys from outside for the commencement of the dreaded “H” word (homework).  By the way, not an inch of counter space is clear of dishes, and I swear we ran the dishwasher that morning!


Woah, wake up, please! I apologize for draining you of your energy with that scenario.  You may want to pause and do ten jumping jacks to liven yourself up.  Good news first: thanks to the exponential growth of technology, according to Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Authors of Abundance, you and I may well see in our lifetime artificial intelligence built to solve our domestic woes.  Now the bad news: Martha-bot (that’s what mine will be named) ain’t here to clean house yet, Sister.  Until her technological refinement, it’s on you and me girl.


If you are like me, and you are very much so if you can’t find any of your four spatulas, in the midst of your struggle to figure out quick dinner plans, you can hear the far-off  voice of some admonishing middle school teacher droning on about “time management.”  Sweet friend, if you ever wanted to tell her to hush, rejoice.  We’re not struggling with time management.  Given an extra hour each day, you and I would likely choose sleep! Oh no, what we’re dealing with is energy management, and we can tame that beast.


You may think that you could not possibly find more energy on a given day.  There’s not enough coffee in Columbia to help with that.  Recently, thanks to a book called The Power of Full Engagement, I challenged some of my own practices.  The authors, Jim Loher and Tony Schwartz, who typically work with the likes of business executives and high performance athletes, tell us just how one can manage energy for high performance.  Okay, so whether you are poised to move up the corporate ladder, or just wish it didn’t feel overwhelming to prepare a meal quickly with a screaming munchkin or two clinging to your legs, there are points from this book we can all take away.


Loehr and Schwartz suggest that we can actually increase our capacity for stress.  They believe that, like an athlete builds her muscles through rigorous exercise followed by periods of rest, we can build upon our own tolerance for stress by challenging ourselves and then taking an appropriate recovery period.


I do not need to tell you that parents rarely have down time in the best of circumstances.  However, what makes the authors’ advice practical, are their realistic suggestions for small steps people can take toward relaxation, such as adding journal keeping to their daily ritual or adding a yoga class to their weekly routine.  The message for us: self-care is one key component to building and maintaining energy.  Although the book discusses other key practices for building energy, I believe the self-care concept is hugely important in this fast-paced society we live in.  I’ve been searching for ways to provide more self-care for myself.  Indeed, the example of journal keeping stuck with me since that is something I have loved to do since childhood.  I actually have several journals going now.  I also set a goal for myself for 3 jogs per week- with an important caveat: since I’m a super busy Mama, I will genuinely do my best to reach my jogging goal, but will not guilt myself for missing it.  This is not to be mistaken for a lack of commitment, but as a realistic approach to what I can fit into my schedule and a key principle for a balanced life.  Fair enough, right?


Even though we know what’s good for us, it’s often easier said than done.  I’m over a week away from my last brief jog.  We’re all familiar with an old saying about Mama’s happiness... and though I’m not the biggest fan of that saying, I firmly believe that part of the source of our energy and for our best performance in any capacity- as business people, spouses, parents- we must heed our self-care.  What do you think? What challenges do you face in caring for yourself and how can you work creatively to see that you're taking care of numero uno? I love to hear from you, so please leave a note about how you make sure to take care of you!
 


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    Jennifer Loebel

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