We live in a culture where doing more, having more, and working harder are valued above pretty much everything else.
This is a dangerous attitude, a linear approach to life that denies the need for rest and renewal.
Of course, if you constantly push yourself, you know it will lead to burnout. If you operate as if you have an infinite capacity to do and never rest, sooner or later you will get the message in some form that it is time to slow down.
So the question is, how do we begin to value our energy as a cycle of work and rest instead of rest as the thing that distracts us from doing more work?
In this video, The Myths of the Overworked Creative, Tony Schwartz articulates some of the different ways to, as he puts it “ennoble renewal.”
For qigong practitioners, listen to the way he frames the possibility for restful activities to be woven into daily work. I think you will see that a restorative energy practice will enhance everything that he recommends, especially when it comes to improving the quality of your rest.
Highlights from The Myths of the Overworked Creative
Think about your energy like a natural resource: “the only resources that last are the ones we renew.”
As soon as you think about your energy as a precious resource (and here I would push qigong practitioners to think of energy in the everyday sense, beyond your practice):
- you can actively cultivate and develop more energy
- you can renew your energy
- you can learn to manage your energy more efficiently — get more done in less time at a higher level of qulity, more sustainably
You have 4 main sources of energy:
- physical (quantity) – the foundation of the others
- emotional (quality) – “how do I feel when I’m performing at my best”
- mental (focus) – attention is under siege
- spiritual (purpose) – energy of the human spirit — serving something bigger than your needs
The Myth of Doing More
We assume that the best way to get more done is to work more hours. The reality is that we work better when we build in intermitten renewal. We’re not meant to operate like a digital device: high speed, long time, multiple programs.
“Human beings are designed to pulse.”
Every system in the body pulses as it moves between spending and renewing energy. For some reason, we’ve moved away from this pulse on a daily basis and we try to live linear lives. We are violating the internal rhythm of our own body and the natural world around us.
Surprisingly, Schwartz places sleep at the center of daily renewal, citing some interesting research.
As qigong practitioners, I think we would add that the rhythm of our practice helps keep the range between extreme work and rest more manageable. Work never burns up too much of your energy and rest becomes more nourishing, faster. Of course, I don’t have any research to cite here, but I know when my practice is regular, the swings between work and rest feel smoother.
What else have you noticed about the way your practice changes your all-day energy?
If you get a chance to watch the entire video, let me know what you think the important lessons are here.