Energy, Not Effort

Ever been told you’re not living up to your potential?

Ever had someone tell you to give it a little more effort?

Our world, and especially our culture, is obsessed with effort. That’s too bad. Because what really matters is results.

As a writer, you know this to be true. If you write a great story, promotion, or website page, no one, other than you, cares how long it took. What they care about is how well it turns out: how many sales it brought in, how many leads it generated, how it stirred emotions, etc.

So, here’s the thing: life is the same way. And that’s Key 4: Energy, not effort.

It does not matter how much effort you put into life. As a writer, I bet at least once in your life, you’ve had that experience where you were excited about an idea or project and the words rolled onto the page quickly, easily, and with amazing clarity and power.

To me, the difference between energy and effort is this: Energy is focused action with clear direction. Effort is just work for the sake of being busy.

My wife and I sometimes talk about the “coolness factor” of people being busy. I don't get it. Listen to a group talking and they’ll all try to one-up each other on how busy they are. Busy with kids’ practices and school work. Busy with meetings and trips, etc., etc.

Crazy. I want to have a competition about how little (but highly-focused) energy I put in and the amazing results I’m getting. Let’s talk about working 20 hours a week and making six-figures … now that’s worth talking about.

So What?!

In order for us to be headed in the right direction, we need to understand the importance of ignoring the common wisdom that says hard work itself is the key to success. Instead, let’s focus on increasing our capacity for sustaining energy and applying it where it matters.

How? Here are three things you can do starting today to use your energy, not effort.

One … relax. Seriously. How many things have you worried about in the past only to find out they weren’t really as big a deal as you thought. Reserve that worry energy for your writing.

Two … stay aware. Be in the moment and keep a check on how you feel. What’s stressing you? When do you feel really good? What makes you smile? What makes you tense? Don't worry about changing any of these things, for now just be aware and you’ll be far ahead of the throngs of people living like lifeless drones.

Three … dismount. If the horse you’re riding dies, whipping it won’t help. Our brain loves to stick to a plan — even if it’s not working. So, be willing to change your plan without feeling guilty about it. Go where the energy is, not the effort.

There’s one more of the Five Keys to Exceeding Everyone’s Expectations coming your way tomorrow. Watch for it.

In the meantime, leave me some comments and tell me if I’m nuts or on the right track.

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Published: November 24, 2011

6 Responses to “Energy, Not Effort”

  1. You're not crazy, Sean. My wife and I have had the same conversation. At Thanksgiving today, listen to the most common response when you ask people how they are: "busy". I think I'm going to exaggerate and tell people I'm on the 4-hour work week plan! Happy Thanksgiving.

    Steve Roller

  2. Great article Sean! Really enjoyed it and the concept of energy vs. effort really hit close to home...Thanks!

    Guest (Scott)

  3. Not crazy, Sean. This is great stuff. Resonates big time. And I love the 4-hour work week idea, too. Let's make it a Thanksgiving tradition to compare notes on the responses we get to that one!


  4. This is SO SO true!

    We're wearing "busyness" like a badge of honor.

    Melzetta Williams

  5. I have heard people mention the difference between effort and energy, but no one has worded it as simply and accurate as you.

    Nor do I think you could have suggested a better three steps at the end. I, and I am sure so many others, need that reminder.

    Consider my energy tank refueled.
    -Garth E. Beyer

    Guest (GarthBox)

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