I waited nervously as we went around the room to introduce ourselves. We were sitting around a large conference table. A room full of founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs. High achievers. I don’t know why I was nervous. I am the founder of two companies. I fit in here. But it got worse as my turn got closer. I didn’t retain anything anyone was saying. Then it was my turn. I flew into a jumbled explanation of what I do. I was solely focused on finishing, worried about what everyone thought of me, terrified that they were all wondering why I was there. Instead of my usual warm smile, my face was a frozen mask of fear. It felt warm, the blood rushing up to my head. My breath was short. Everyone could tell.
At least that’s how it felt. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as that, but I definitely did myself no favors that day. I didn’t show my true personality. I also haven’t been invited back to that meet-up.
This week we wrapped up a project with the NBA and received some great feedback from our client. I was in a stellar mood and had this Slack conversation with my team member that worked on the project.
We both had a great day after that, productive and fun. Our working relationship is stronger for it too.
Reflecting on these two polar outcomes, it became crystal clear that the biggest single difference was my energy in each situation. In the conference room meet-up, I was fearful of some made-up inadequacies that only resulted in me feeling (and probably looking) inadequate. In my interaction with my team members, sharing my positive, playful energy ended up having a positive effect on her, which benefited both of us and our relationship. Had I brought that same energy to the meet-up, I’d probably still be going back to them!
Energy is the mentality we bring to a situation. It determines the quality of our interactions and experiences. The lesson here is, bring the right energy to the situation and you’ll set the tone for good outcomes. So how do you go about this?
The starting point is identifying your different energy states. If you’re able to recognize your current energy state, you can better understand how you are reacting and projecting to those around you. To do this, you have to pay attention to yourself. You have to be able to get a read on yourself. It’s helpful to consider typical energy states we all experience.
Different types of energy
- Fearful energy – this is what I was feeling in the room at that meet-up. It’s that feeling that you’re unable to cope with the situation you’re in. With this energy, you lack agency. You’re merely reacting.
- Playful energy – this is what I was feeling when we got that client feedback. It’s that good mood, nothing can go wrong, made it mom, top of the world feeling! This type of energy unlocks your creative side, tapping into your imagination to help you bring forth something from nothing.
- Solemn energy – this is the feeling you get when you reflect and make sense of past experiences or thoughts. It’s regenerative, almost healing energy. It’s equanimity. You let go of the need for control and progress, and merely accept and reflect with a calm, composed nature.
- Assertive/Focused energy – this is your engine’s energy. It drives you forward to complete ambitious projects, make bold decisions and take calculated risks. This energy is at it’s best when a clear goal or directive is known.
- Annoyed/Angry energy – this is that feeling of frustration, that the world is out to get you, that you’ve been hard done by. It is often conjured by external things, but the feeling is 100% your reaction to these things.
- Kind energy – this is the feeling that makes you want the best outcomes for those around you. It’s egalitarian, philanthropic, low in judgment and high in acceptance without being passive. It’s warmth.
You will undoubtedly experience many other levels of energy on the spectrum, but these six are helpful, to begin with.
How to recognize your own energy
With those types of energy in mind, you know what to look for. So how do you go about looking? Mindfulness. Pay attention to how you feel and notice what it feels like to you when you recognize one of the states described above. Meditation is an excellent discipline to practice this skill.
If it’s difficult to notice the energy you are carrying, an easier place to start is to pay attention to other people. Observe when they are driven by fear, kindness, playfulness, etc. Pay attention to how people interact in these different energy states.
How to channel your energy for positive outcomes
Finding the right energy, the right mentality, to bring to a given situation will vastly improve your experience in that situation.
The lesson from my interaction with my team was to be conscious of not only bringing assertive/focused energy into our interactions. A small dose of playful energy goes a long way! Going back to my meet-up, if I’d recognized the fearful energy, I could’ve questioned whether it was true. Byron Katie has an excellent framework for this. As soon as you recognize a feeling or energy state, ask yourself four questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
That last question is the clincher. In my meet-up scenario, I would’ve been more confident, maybe playful, proud of my achievements and eager to learn from those around the table.
You could consciously call up kind energy the next time you meet a client or chat with your spouse to ensure you have the best intentions for them.
To ensure you get sufficient rest from your hectic schedule, you could look for moments of solemn energy to let go, relax, and reflect on your bigger picture.
How you choose to use your ability to recognize and react to your energy states is up to you, but always remember – you can’t fake it. If your heart isn’t in it, the energy won’t be authentic. You have to really feel it first, for your words, actions, and body language to flow outwardly from there.