“A power plant doesn’t have energy, it generates energy.” – Brendon Burchard
The above quote comes from a conversation between Marie Forleo and Brendon Burchard, which you can find here at around 29 minutes. In the segment, Brendon shares his idea that just as power plates don’t simply have energy that they generate it; the human body similarly does not have energy; it must generate it. From a physical perspective there is a lot of truth in this idea. Our muscles atrophy from disuse. It is the act of exercise, of lifting heavy things that challenge the body and muscles enough that results in growth and the generation of energy. I like to imagine the process of growing our capacity as similar to a balloon. The more we practice at blowing the balloon the greater our lung capacity. This is actually the process for Freediving where people can train themselves to hold their breath and stay underwater for 5 minutes at a time. Whatever metaphor you might use to convince yourself that this mindset is useful; essentially what you are doing is shifting from a passive mindset to an empowered one. Instead of having or not having energy, you can do things right now to cultivate more energy. You could have some water, do a MOVE break like Hindu Squats, go for a walk, or chat with a friend.
Your body is a generator of energy. Our thoughts when they are constructive and positive is one way to generate positive energy. Stressful negative thoughts can bring us to a grind and feeling burnt out. Movement is another way to generate energy. (Think of the way a windmill generates energy.) When we are sedentary for too long we start to feel tired, lethargic and mentally stagnant. This is perhaps why some of the most successful people in the world start their day with exercise. Exercise increases your energy capacity. It literally increases your endurance and strength physically and your ability to focus and regulate your emotions mentally. The more you do the more you can do!
From an endurance perspective, if you typically don’t run and instead are a well practiced couch potato well you wouldn’t expect that you could get up with zero practice and run a marathon. You would typically train yourself to handle greater and greater distances. In this way the practice of running increases our capacity to run and therefore our capacity to generate enough physiological and mental energy to run 26 miles!
Brendon emphasizes the verb ‘generate’ because he is encouraging people away from the passive idea of ‘having’ potential or the presupposition that energy simply resides inside of people. If you’ve been a negative passive lazy person then you shouldn’t expect your self to be able to generate positive hopeful states just because you have ‘human potential’. There is a principle that I am beginning to understand that work is involved in generating the things and the mental states we desire.
I am not advocating work (‘work’ might not be the right word) in the traditional sense; sometimes the balance of optimal health requires rest and passivity. Within exercise science, rest needs to be coupled with physical exertion for proper growth and recovery. The same can be said of mental effort. Constant mental exertion results in burnout. It is a principle of MOVE that periodic breaks, whether they be physical exercise or a mental rest through mindful breathing, is a more sustainable use of energy since it enables you to work at an optimal level for extended periods of time.
Stated formally the principle might be:
Taking ownership and applying effort and attention are important steps to generating any mindset or state you desire, whether that be more energy, health, happiness or love.
Potential is great as a concept but it’s just an idea. I believe that good ideas always have to be matched by real world activity in order to have value. The idea that the things that you want can be generated through ownership, attention and effort is meant to be empowering and action-oriented.
Some of the things which I desire that fit this idea of being generated include: Energy, health, happiness, joy, friendship, strength, money , power, success, positivity, mindfulness, and love.
A state that I would like to generate more of is ‘being organized’. I often complain “I’m not organized enough!” I can tell you after years of experience that complaining has not added one iota of ability in this area. Instead of berating myself, I’m going to practice saying to myself, “Today I’m going to practice organizing 5 pieces of paper from my pile of notes/ideas.”
Now that I’ve shared this idea of generating states, I want to challenge you to take some action and to think of the things you desire. What could you say to yourself that could frame your process as generating the things you deeply desire rather than getting stuck in complaining? What would happen if you took ownership of this area and gave more effort and attention to it?
Give it a try and let me know what you come up with in the comments below!