Sustainability is said to be the new global megatrend. Everything has to become sustainable if the world is to progress positively. Sustainable use of the earth's natural resources, recycling used products and the development of processes that ensure burnt energy is constantly replenished.
I couldn’t agree more.
But one hugely important global energy crisis gets little mention in this context – human energy. In the face of 21st century’s prolonged excessive stress, rapidly-increasing rate of change and 24/7 pressure, human energy is facing the real risk of total burnout. We are burning human energy at a rate far in excess of our ability to generate new energy. The signs are clear in every workplace and in the community - stress-generated illness, road rage, crime and violence, depression, divorce, suicide, the list goes on.
Take the example of driving a car. If you don’t regularly pull off the road and fill-up at a service station, the car will eventually stop. And the harder you drive it, the hungrier is its fuel consumption. You are driving yourself hard. You need energy-generating ‘service stations’ where you can drive off life’s road to refuel your energy – especially your emotional energy. Just stopping for a rest or sleep isn’t enough. If you stop your car for ten minutes every hour for a rest, the car still runs out of fuel. Similarly if all you do is go home and sleep or watch TV, you may not be burning much energy, but also you are not generating new energy.
There is a natural answer – create personally-chosen enjoyable experiences that give you a positive burst of new energy. Not just physical energy, but rather a more holistic energizing of ‘mind, body and spirit’, emotional/mental energy. I once asked a friend what she did for energy and she said she went to a gym three times a week. I commended her for that and then asked her what she did to energize. “Oh, I belong to a tap-dancing group” was her immediate response- it’s fun, entertaining, creative, socializing, etc. A whole different set of criteria to those she used to answer the energy question. Both are important, but feeling energized is a more holistic benefit that we all need to cope with the stresses of daily living.
I like the yin and yang concept of energy in and energy out. A constant flow of energy coming in to replace energy being burnt. Relying solely on a passionate work interest is problematical because that interest is not solely within your own control, leading potentially to negative stress. Which brings in another aspect of yin and yang – complementary opposite interests. Interests that are not necessarily opposite but are distinctively different. Both need to be capable, each in their own way, of mentally transporting you and your thoughts to a world of your own creation – one that leaves you with that “where did the time go??” feeling afterwards.
Passion is a word that appeals to me - “a source of unlimited energy from your soul (or ‘spirit’ or ‘heart’) that enables you to produce extraordinary results”, as my good friend Charles Kovess, Australia’s Passion Provocateur, describes it. When you lose yourself in an interest you love passionately, you find yourself.
The real you comes to life, expressing every fibre of your being, positively, enthusiastically and creatively.
A passionate interest can be part of your work or your personal life. For many people it is more likely to be a personal interest. Such experiences are also nature’s way of managing stress – the ‘fight and flight’ syndrome – where stresses are temporarily laid aside for interests that are enjoyable and mentally relaxing. Like the steak-knives, “but wait, there’s more!” An interest in which your mind is passionately absorbed also heightens self esteem, self belief, self confidence and the sense of self worth.
Nor does it stop with the end of the experience. There is a ripple effect, with the heightened feelings flowing through to the rest of your daily living. The benefits can flourish indefinitely and, at times, be utterly life-changing. A passionately enjoyable, stress-free interest therefore has the capacity not only to ensure sustainable human energy. It is positively life-expanding, enabling people to develop their potential. Surely this is in harmony with humankind’s natural desire to constantly grow, develop and progress.
By all means let us develop greater global sustainability. Not just to sustain our use of the resources of the earth, water, sun, wind and fire, but also to ensure our future emotional prosperity. Passionate interests not only sustain human energy but actively contribute towards expanding the potential for positive human progress.