After returning from a two-week vacation in Hawaii a friend of mine asked me how my “re-entry” was going. It seemed like a legitimate question and in fact was quite on target. The fact is that the past week had been a bit of a struggle getting back into my typical 10-11 hour workday. This was especially true since I also worked the Friday after returning home on Monday. I usually work Monday-Thursday seeing clients.
I suppose my friend’s question rang true because I had been thinking about the issue myself. Historically, when I return to work from a vacation, I am filled with energy and am rather “race-horse-like”. What was the difference after this trip?
As I got my inner-shovel out and started digging into my deeper self, I came to admit that this actually wasn’t the first time I have had a challenge at re-entry. The truth is that it happened last September when my wife and I returned from an extended trip. For the first time, we took a month long road-trip camping and fly-fishing in Montana. It was a wonderful time and in fact went by very quickly. Since we used to live in Montana, it was not the newness of the scenery or the number of fish I caught that lured us as captives. All of that was true. But the unusual difficulty of returning back to work was about the “re-entry”. It wasn’t about what we were leaving but what we were coming back to.
There are of course numerous changes in the aging process. I believe this is another. For those of us who choose to continue to work past the traditional 65-year-age of retirement, we are well served to consider our mindset when it comes to energy conservation. When we were younger we had more energy to move from marathon to marathon. However, as we age we may be better off treating life more like a sprint than a marathon. Run hard, and then rest up before the next race. Take time off to center and recoup. Pacing becomes important if we are looking at the larger and longer picture. We simply cannot continue running marathons every day, as I had been doing for so many years.
I believe my inner voice has been telling me to take a look at my schedule. As a psychologist, I learned a long time ago that “the gold is in the resistance”. When I resist something it is very important that I pay attention to it. For me, this means I know it will be important for me to reconsider my daily and/or weekly schedule.
There are two ways to view this. One view is that we have only a limited about of energy or “battery-life”. Use it up quickly or conserve it, right? The metaphor here is the typical household alkaline flashlight battery. Some people choose to “conserve their battery” by sitting most of the day watching TV.
A competing view suggests using energy begets more energy. In fact, if we don’t expend energy, we paradoxically become depleted. The metaphor in this case is the lithium battery in your laptop. It is important to occasionally unplug the laptop and make it “work”. Causing the battery to work will actually extend its life.
I happen to believe we are more like the lithium than the alkaline battery. If we don’t work (strengthen our battery) we end up in the recycle bin. But like our laptop, we must get recharged on a regular basis.
My question is, which metaphor works the best for you? What is your experience with personal energy conservation and usage?