How To Be More Intentional With Your Energy

Have you ever wondered how your life might change if you learned to channel your energy into the things that mattered most? I came across a clip of an interview Oprah did a few months back, in which she talked about how she came to point in her life when she realized that there were people in her life whose energy was not supportive of who she wanted to be; that she had to take responsibility for the energy she allowed into her space in order to accomplish her goals. When I saw it, it's something that resonated with me deeply.

In my own life, it’s a practice that has become even more intentional as I've gotten older. In our 20s, we do everything in our power to cling onto friendships and relationships that ultimately don’t serve who we desire to be. Over the years, I’ve seen that some of the ideas we have about ourselves are often tied to some of the people from our past. It’s inevitable that not everyone you were close to when you were younger will make the entire journey with you through life, but for those that do, you cherish them like gold. In my own life, I'm grateful for the handful of friends that I continue to grow and laugh with as the days and years go by. With that core tribe by my side, it’s been easier to identify what energy will match the one I already have when I interact with new people.

Surface Level Relationships

I think we can all relate to having had a job or two where we come across people that no matter how hard you try to get past a surface level relationship with them, they're just not interested in knowing you further than that. I actually really respect that. Much like Oprah says, we all have the right to choose who we let into our space but it wasn’t until I turned 30 that I fully embraced that. Not everyone that we meet will be a friend or foe, some will just kind of be there. A few years ago, I had a job where I was ever so fortunate to have a solid group of people that I became close friends with and a large group of people I loved to interact with on a daily basis. Then there was a small group that I exchanged pleasantries with, but nothing more.

 Photo by  Rawpixel

Photo by Rawpixel

Several months ago, that small group and a handful of others were at an event I was attending. They were all sitting down when I arrived. A few stood up to greet me and catch up, but the rest just gave a “hey” from their seats. Weeks later, one of those people mentioned to another old co-worker of mine that they thought it was odd I didn’t try and catch up with everyone there. The interaction we had that evening was almost identical to the interactions we would have at work, with one minor change: I had accepted that these were surface level relationships. I have always believed that close relationships are built on the mutual interest in one another, which requires both parties to reach out. However, I constantly found myself trying too hard with some. On this night, I felt much more comfortable in my own skin than I had when I was trying for them to accept me. Over the next year, I made it my birthday resolution to only put as much energy in as I was getting out.

Intentional Relationships

In my personal life, I immediately noticed a change. There were several, long-term friendships that I instantly noticed took a backseat. Rather than be upset about it, I acknowledged that friendships also have their natural cycles where we won’t always be in constant communication. Often times, that time and space allow for both parties to grow and come back to a much stronger, more dedicated friendship. Sometimes though, you may not hear from that friend again. Some friendships are seasonal, some are not. Either way, believing in the greater good is always a good place to start.

This method began opening up space for other relationships to flourish. I made new connections while traveling, reconnected with old friends, and forged new relationships at work. It honestly brought so much joy to my life. Every time I picked up the phone, facetimed, or grabbed coffee or dinner with a friend, there was a genuine sense of gratitude on both sides. I found myself gravitating towards that feeling of flow in other areas. I naturally gravitated towards those who fueled my curiosity, often having some great conversations about music, philosophy, and books. The contrast this offered me on the night of the event was the final validation I needed to know I was on the right track.

You see, we are living in a time when people are yearning for that deep, human level connection. We want friends that make us feel like our most authentic selves. The ones that we can be vulnerable with, laugh with for hours, and share our wildest dreams with. They’re the ones you can sit in silence with and yet know exactly how they feel. Years ago before life got busier, my best friend and I would sit outside of Starbucks just having marathon conversations and laughing like hyenas. I’ll do anything to clear my schedule to have one of those moments. We long to be loved for who we are. We are social creatures after all.

Intentional Boundaries

How do we go about making these changes and start having deeper and more meaningful connections in our lives? When we were younger, our days were filled with school and friends. We would spend hours at a friend’s house or talking on the phone. The days moved slowly and we liked it that way. Now, we live in a fast-paced, forward-looking world. It can feel overwhelming trying to make these sort of changes in our lives. It’s hard to not get caught up in surface level interactions. Our society has thrived on that for the last few decades, but it wasn’t always like that. There was a time when communities were closer and connections were deeper. While the process can be different for everyone, I’ll share what has worked for me: 

 Photo by  Alicia Steels

Photo by Alicia Steels

How to Create More Intentional Changes

Identify, Compare and Contrast

The first thing I did was to identify which interactions I had throughout my day that gave me energy rather than drained it. Where was I forcing a connection and where it was naturally there? I want more of those laughing until you cry moments, the ‘I’m SO happy to see you moments’. The ones that I ended up bonding with were the ones that shared qualities and characteristics of the friendships I already had: meaningful conversations, laughter, empathy, and some shared interests. We don’t have to like everything the other person does. It keeps things interesting.

At work, what I found was that in most cases, I tended to force a connection when I was seeking some form of validation either from coworkers or bosses. In my personal life, I didn’t have this issue. Why is that? Well, work is where I spend most of my time. Since my free time is pretty sacred to me, I don’t tend to tolerate these forced interactions as much because I don’t feel like I have to. The reality is though, you don’t have to do it at work either.

Adjust Your Mindset and Actions

The wonderful thing for me was that while I was doing this work, I ended up starting a new job, which made it perfect for trying out my new approach. Right off the bat, I had a fairly strong connection to my team. Some connections were stronger than others, which dictated how much energy I put into each one. I did the same thing with the rest of the office. As it turns out, not only did I create those strong bonds with the people I connected with, but I took my surface level interactions to another level.

 Photo by  rawpixel

Photo by rawpixel

In adjusting my mindset, what changed was my perceptions of those interactions. Think about what it means to live in a smaller town. You may not have close bonds with everyone in the town, but most likely, the interactions you have are lighthearted and pleasant. With everyone else at my work, I focused on that. The organization did an amazing job of creating a great company culture, so it wasn’t too difficult. I would ask them questions about their weekend and just listen. I picked up on things they liked, things they cared about, and shared interests. In my last job, I sought validation from others, so I turned that around. Whenever someone in the office did something kind or thoughtful, I would thank them. It goes a long way. After all, that’s what being part of a community is all about.

Give it Time

As with anything else, it’s important to give things time. I was fortunate to start a new job and be able to push reset on my old ways of doing things. It's possible to see these changes in your work or personal life, but you have to give it time, much like working out or growing out your hair. In moments where I start to feel impatient, I just think about the Serenity Prayer (the beginning part, at least):

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.
— Serenity Prayer

At the end of the day, the biggest change we can make is the one in ourselves. We may not be able to change others, but we can change the way we respond to them. When I heard that that person had been uncomfortable with the fact that I didn’t go out of my way to have our typical, meaningless interaction that we normally had before, it made me realize that social norms only continue to be norms if we allow them to be. Communication and friendship is a two-way street. I want the relationships in my life to be mutually beneficial. I want those ‘laugh so hard, can hardly breathe’ moments. I want the people in my life to feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Most of all, I want us to stop pretending that we don’t have a say in it all.

So tell me, is there anywhere in your life you’d like to make these changes? Are there any other steps you’ve taken that have worked for you? Share in the comments below :)