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Haphazard Energy Spending

Couple Playing on a Swing


This post is copyrighted and the original work of Halli Bourne.


How Our Deliberate Use of Personal Energy Can Change the World

The American Dream, the idea of the happy ending, is an avoidance of responsibility and commitment.  ~Jill Robinson

In The Epic of America, James Tuslow Adams coined the term the American Dream, which he defines as the “opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”  The American Dream of my childhood promised rewards for hard work, regardless of financial beginnings, race, gender, or religion, in a land of freedom and liberty.  Yet in the midst of our emergent plutocracy, many Americans work hard for little pay, and experience discrimination, infringement upon their freedom and the systematic curbing of their liberty. The Fetzer Institute, whose mission is to “foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community,” initiated a reassessment of the definition of the American Dream in 2010, asking the poignant question: “Does social change depend on personal change?”  In the wake of Wall Street racketeering, a resultant wrecked economy, political and corporate corruption, and horrific acts of violence, it would be easy to believe the American Dream is broken, and its people along with it.  Broken dreams produce feelings of hopelessness and inertia in people and societies.  The Fetzer Institute adds, “We can’t hold up a myth of community and wait for it to take hold. We have to work within our own myth, however impoverished it seems to us. To deepen the American Dream is to engage the imagination — to create better stories of who we are and who we might become.”  What stories are we telling to ourselves about our individual lives and the communities in which we live?  Do our stories inspire action or they do support our belief that action is pointless?

Inertia is an “indisposition to motion, exertion or change”— a tempting state to slip into when the world out there, as well as our personal world, feel overwhelming.  We can tell ourselves our miserable job is the best we can expect or our unhappy relationship is as good as it gets.  The telling of such tales takes energy to maintain, often unconsciously, and can actually be a cover for an unwillingness to change.  My father, for example, was an accidental hoarder given to saving pill bottles, issues of National Geographic, and bits of wire and odd screws “just in case.”  Seven years after his death, my mother continues to sort through his possessions.  In a conversation he and I once had, he admitted feeling undone by the enormity of the problem he had created and found it easier to avoid it altogether, despite the mess it presented to his family.  People in dissatisfying relationships sometimes choose to cheat rather than investigate the source of their misery, a strategy which potentially adds to the suffering of their partner and obscures what is truly at issue.  An honest look at how we are spending our energy can help us become more effective in our own lives.  Changing from a lamentable job to a more satisfying one, however, requires a deliberate redirection of energy.  If we are avoiding the change needed in our own lives, how can we hope to create a more sane, harmonious world?

Like my father, many of us have no idea where to begin investigating our own discontent or how to redirect reckless energy expenditures, much less re-imagine the American Dream.  Many find working with a life coach key in changing old habits.  The life coaching process guides clients to discover and define the steps necessary to realize long-cherished goals, while generating an atmosphere of positive support, enthusiasm and accountability to encourage forward action.  Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves in Emotional Intelligence 2.0 offer the following 15 strategies to increase self-awareness and accountability in order to create lasting change:

1. Quit treating your feelings as good or bad.

2. Observe the ripple effect from your emotions.

3. Lean into your discomfort.

4. Feel your emotions physically.

5. Know who and what pushes your buttons.

6. Watch yourself like a hawk.

7. Keep a journal about your emotions.

8. Don’t be fooled by a bad mood.

9. Don’t be fooled by a good mood either.

10. Stop and ask yourself why.

11. Visit your values.

12. Check yourself.

13. Spot your emotions in books, movies, and music.

14. Seek feedback.

15. Get to know yourself under stress.

Prem Rawat “Maharaji”, a spiritual teacher, states “The world doesn’t need peace.  You do.”  Social responsibility is predicated upon personal responsibility.  How can we change the greedy, selfish, judgmental, violent thoughts in our own minds?  Ghandi told us, “You must be the change you want to see the world,” adding, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”  As we change ourselves, we become microcosms of the world we want to see.  As we learn to regard ourselves compassionately, we become more compassionate with others.  As we address our feelings of anger, overwhelm, exhaustion, and helplessness, we empower ourselves to take meaningful action in our personal relationships, our workplace, in our town or city, and in our global community.  More than merely living in the world, we choose to spend our energy creating it.

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