Happiness and the Majority
Do you think most people are happy with their lives? Happy with their families, careers, and marriages? I think the answer is no, unfortunately. A cursory google search is all one has to do to find evidence of these conclusions: between 40–50% (the exact number is hard to pinpoint) of first marriages end in divorce (although it does appear to be improving — and yes, many are happier once the dust settles from divorce). In the United States, over 47,000 people committed suicide in 2017¹. According to Gallup’s Global Workplace Report, only 31% of employees in the U.S. & Canada are engaged at work, and only 82% of those engaged employees strongly agree that they like what they do each day². These statistics are tragic — but that is the reality we currently face. What about the other side of the statistics? What are the people who have figured it focusing on?
The Way it Should Be
For every negative statistic, there is the other side: the positive component. There are people who are living happy and fulfilled lives, happy with their marriage and career. People that have figured it out. I like Tony Robbins’ definition of leadership — and we’re all leaders to varying degrees: First, see things as they are, but not worse. Second, see things as they could be. Finally, make things the way we see them.
The way I see it, those statistics should be AT LEAST 90% of people identifying as happy and fulfilled in their lives, marriages, and careers. What if that were the case: over 90% of people leading happy lives? How much more could we collectively accomplish! It’s an ambitious goal — where would we start?
Getting to the Root
I have a theory: One of the main reasons people are unhappy is that they lack energy. Think about the last time you had an ‘abundance of energy.’ How did you feel? When my energy is high, I feel unstoppable; when it wanes low enough, I start to doubt my ambitions. Energy gives us the capacity and ability to handle the challenges life puts in front of us. There are many reasons people are unhappy; tragic life events and upbringing, lack of direction, association with the wrong people, lack of discipline, etc. Each is deserving of its own article.
“Energy gives us the capacity and ability to handle the challenges life puts in front of us.”
Today, our focus is energy, and where we should focus to maximize our energy levels. I am not so naive to think that this article exactly applies to each person and their unique situation. However, I challenge you to take from it what you need at this moment. I do believe that each one of us could benefit from having more energy. I also believe that it is our responsibility to figure out what we need as an individual in order to have an abundance of energy in our own lives — and do those things regularly.
What the Dr. Ordered
Dr. Peter Attia said, “There’s no more potent drug that’s ever been developed than sleep, exercise, and nutrition.” Dr. Attia has figured out the main pieces of the puzzle. To have an abundance of energy, first, we must build a solid foundation of sleep, exercise, and nutrition. I’ve found that to be true in my life. When we’re children, energy comes naturally and without much additional effort on our part. We’re constantly growing and learning. The world is new. For most of us, over time, our average energy level decreases. We get busy. Life happens. We don’t take care of ourselves as we should. As we get older, and our bodies age, energy doesn’t come as naturally; we must work for it.
The thing is, you can have as much energy you had when you were a child at the age of 20, 30, 40, or even 50+. There’s a catch though: you’ve got to work harder for it. To have an abundance of energy requires that you take enough of the right action. Energy requires action.
Look to the lightbulb in the picture above. How many things had to happen for you to see its energy? What went on and is currently going on behind the scenes for it to produce light? Think of the miners who extracted coal from the earth. The coal that was then delivered to a power plant. The process it took to turn the coal into energy and transfer it all the way to the light bulb. If you only remember one thing from this article, remember this: Energy requires action.
T. Harve Eker said, “Energy is contagious: either you affect people or you infect people.” “Ok, so most people are unhappy… maybe I’m even miserable… so what?” Look, here’s the deal: we’re all human (at least, if you’re reading this I hope you are). Humans are social creatures. We need each other. You’ve probably heard that we are the average of the people we spend the most time with. It’s true! And when you improve as an individual, you improve those around you.
The opposite can be true. Are you affecting people with your energy, or infecting them with your lack of energy? I think you get it, we don’t need to go there. The bottom line is the world needs you to show up. Your family needs you to show up. Your co-workers need you to show up. And showing up day in and day out takes work.
“The bottom line is the world needs you to show up.”
Start With the Foundation
How do you build something strong that withstands the test of time? Simple: start by building a strong foundation. (Technically, the first step is to visualize exactly what we want. For brevity, let’s fast forward and hit that topic another time.) I wholeheartedly believe what Dr. Attia said to be the foundation of energy. Sleep, exercise, and nutrition… Taking care of oneself. If you want energy, start by focusing your efforts there.
Soon that additional energy will flow into other areas of your life. It’s not a new concept, but all too often overlooked and pushed aside by our busy schedules. Most people often look for a quick fix rather than a plan of consistent action. There is no magic pill to feel healthy and energized, to lose weight, to ‘simulate’ exercise. If you’re looking for that, read no further. If you’re looking to build a solid foundation that will increase your energy, and ultimately, the energy of those around you, read on.
Area # 1: Sleep
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I hear that from time to time. I agree with the sentiment: life is short and we are not experiencing it and progressing while we sleep. And perhaps some people can get away with extremely little sleep over long periods of time. I can’t. I need about 7.5 hours of sleep a night to feel well-rested. I can get away with 6 or less for a few nights in a row, but it will become a struggle, and my productivity and mood decrease. Consistently sleeping 7.5 hours per night has a huge impact on my energy and productivity.
There are many books written on the subject of sleep, and I recommend you do your own research. Try different things to see what works for you. Each of us has an ‘energy puzzle.’ That puzzle is the combination of actions unique to each of us that gives us the optimal amount of energy in our lives. What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for the next (although some things are more universal than others). Your responsibility is to figure out your puzzle by testing different things.
Three sleep tips that work for me:
- White Noise — White noise isn’t only for babies…When I was going through Air Force pilot training, another trainee said he slept with white noise. I thought it was kind of weird, but the idea intrigued me. I had heard of people using white noise machines to help babies fall asleep, but never of adults using them. I gave in to curiosity and ordered from Amazon. Now, I have difficulty falling asleep without white noise. White noise helps me get to sleep faster and to stay asleep. It also drowns out other random noises like vehicles and people making noise in my apartment complex.
- Total Darkness — To get solid sleep, our bodies require it to be dark. The darker, the better. I recommend blackout curtains and to get rid of or dim electronics that emit too much light in your room. Our skin can sense light; not just our eyes. Sleep masks help, but the best thing we can do is to create a sleeping environment that is as dark as possible. (If you work the graveyard shift, you have to figure out a way to make it dark.)
- Protect Your Sleep — We must protect our sleep. If you require 8 hours of sleep (I’m a 7.5 hours of sleep type) and have to wake up at 6:00 AM, ensure you get to bed by 10:00 PM. You have to make sacrifices, but how much better do you feel when you wake up well-rested? My (wonderful) girlfriend sometimes gives me a hard time about it — that’s ok. I need my sleep to be able to show up more for the people I care about (and that includes you, dear stranger).
Area # 2: Exercise
Have you ever noticed when you have a lazy day, it’s difficult to build momentum? Inertia is real! Maybe a new Netflix show got hold early on in the day. It can be tough to get started. To get past the inertia and start building momentum, you must take action. Sometimes we just don’t feel like putting down the remote and getting off the couch; In those times, you must force yourself to action. Go for a run, hit up the gym or join a Hot Yoga Studio (or online, just search Yoga on Youtube).
When we move certain parts of our bodies, chemicals are released that make us feel good. We won’t get into the science here, and we don’t need to. Each of us is a ‘scientist of sorts’ for our own body. It is our responsibility to try different exercises to see what works for us and our energy puzzle. And when we find what works, to build habits that make them stick in the long run. What works for me, won’t necessarily work for you.
Three exercise tips that work(ed) for me:
- Running — I enjoy running. When I run for multiple days in a row, I notice. It’s something most of us can do a few times a week. It’s important to wear properly fitted running shoes (I prefer the barefoot/minimalist style of running and am noticeably faster with that style of shoe). Like anything, the more we do it, the better we will become.
- CrossFit — I used to struggle to go to the gym (until I caved in and hired a personal trainer). I enjoy CrossFit classes and the group workout mentality.
- Hot Yoga — Hot yoga is as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical exercise. I found tremendous value in hot yoga when I was going through challenging times in my life. Hot yoga isn’t cheap — but it’s worth it. If you aren’t able to afford it, that’s ok. Many great youtube channels allow you to do yoga at home.
Area #3: Nutrition
We’ve heard it before, “garbage in, garbage out.” All too often, we treat ourselves like… well, let’s just say it: we treat ourselves like shit. We don’t mean to, but life happens. We started that new diet but lost momentum after the first 3.14 minutes. (Or, maybe it was the other type of pie that distracted us). Fast food is just so darn convenient.
I don’t know about you, but I want to live a long time; older than 114 years old, to be precise. To do that, I want to set myself up for success by stacking the deck. We stack the deck by making healthy choices when it comes to what we put in our bodies. Think of your body as a high-performance sports car. Anything less than high-performance fuel and oil will limit its performance — if it’s too poor fuel, perhaps with other contaminants, the sports car may even stop functioning completely. After reading a few books on toxins, the gut, and health, I truly believe many diseases and illnesses can be prevented by what we put into our bodies.
We keep guzzling low-grade fuel … and it should come to no surprise that our energy suffers because of it. I get it, we didn’t come with an instruction manual when we were born. We’ve got to write our own by figuring out our energy puzzle. What works for you? It is your responsibility to try different things to determine what works for you, then do those things regularly.
Three diet tips that work(ed) for me:
- Meal Prepping — While living alone, I found it challenging to cook a healthy meal every night. What worked for me was to meal prep Sunday afternoon. I would cook my lunch and dinner meals for the week. For me, it was chicken and vegetables. If you’re picky or you’re cooking for more than yourself, get creative with it.
- Ketogenic Diet — When I want to reset my energy to a high level, I’ll go on Keto. When I go on Keto (once I get past what’s referred to as the ‘Keto Flu.’) I feel great! I feel like I’ve added an additional processor and greatly increased my energy. It’s not necessarily a long-term solution and I’ve only done it three times for ~30 days, but it’s worth trying out.
- Daily Supplements / Vitamins — Part of my daily routine is to drink two glasses of water upon waking one, one containing fiber and a superfood supplement. I’ll also take vitamins and a probiotic. In the afternoon, I often make a shake with greens, fruits, nuts, and other superfood items. Doing these things regularly has a big impact on my energy. (By the way, 90% of the body’s serotonin production originates in the digestive tract, and serotonin is also known as a happiness causing hormone.)
Your Energy Puzzle
“Figuring things out for yourself is the only freedom anyone really has. Use that freedom. Make up your own mind…” -Starship Troopers. (Great, cheesy sci-fi flick by the way.) It is your responsibility to figure out your energy puzzle by testing and experimenting. Take notes, keep a journal. A lot of figuring out your puzzle is trial and error. Once you have an idea of what works for you, implement daily habits, and track those habits (I use the habit tracking apps HabitBull and Coach.Me). I encourage people to find others to hold them accountable. Accountability could come in the form of a friend, mentor, coach, or peer group. Don’t leave your energy up to chance, stack the deck!
“It is your responsibility to figure out your energy puzzle by testing and experimenting.”
“My grandma smoked, drank whiskey, never exercised, and ate fast food until she died at 104 — I don’t have to eat healthy because of my genes.” There are people out there who aren’t as affected by eating unhealthy as others are. Genes likely play a big part in that equation. It’s likely our theoretical grandma could have had much more energy in her life, and lived longer, had she focused on good sleep, exercise, and nutrition habits.
You won’t notice results right away. We’re not here for a quick fix, we’re here to build a solid foundation of energy. By taking small actions each day, over time, our life and energy will greatly improve. Those actions add up, and just as interest compounds, so too do our actions.
The Way Forward
Our mind and body cannot resist repetition. If we do something enough, it will start to become a habit. If we say something to ourselves enough times, we’ll start to believe it. We’ve talked about the blueprint to build a strong foundation of energy. I’ve noticed drastic changes in my life by focusing on the areas of sleep, exercise, and nutrition. I want to help others figure out their puzzle and unlock energy in their lives. Now you know the three areas to focus on to improve your energy, your mission — should you choose to accept it — is to figure out your puzzle in each of the three categories: Sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
Regardless of where your energy level is now, you’re likely one idea away from increasing it. It is your responsibility to test out different ideas and methods to figure out what works for you. (Have I said it enough?). Once you’ve figured out your puzzle — implement what you’ve discovered. Energy Requires Action. Start taking the necessary actions to show up in your life in a bigger way. Remember, your family, friends, and co-workers need you to show up. The world needs you to show up!
Thanks for taking the time to read!
: American Foundation for Suicide. (2020). Suicide Statistics. Preventionhttps://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/
: Gallup. (2017). State of the Global Workplace. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238079/state-global-workplace-2017.aspx