It would be nice if we could be our best selves all the time, but let’s face it – that will never happen. And that’s perfectly okay.
Even if you can’t always be your best, though, you could try to increase the amount of time when you’re acting in more ideal ways. How can you do this? Here are 5 tips to get you started.
Tip 1: Be Mindful
Before you can change anything, you need to know when you’re already being your best self. To do that, you need to be mindful.
Pay attention to how you’re reacting and feeling, and what the circumstances are. As with mindful eating, or any form of mindfulness, remember that this isn’t about judging, only noticing.
Tip 2: What Gives You Energy?
In the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans suggest tracking your energy levels during different activities. What drains you? What gets you pumped up?
You might not always be your best self when doing things that energize you, but I think you’ll find a lot of correlation. After all, it’s hard to be your best self when you’re doing something that sucks the life out of you.
You may also find some surprises. For example, before doing this, I would have made the blanket statement that I don’t like meetings. But I was thinking about very specific, Dilbert-like work meetings where we rehash things over and over without getting anywhere. Or very large meetings where I’m being talked at for a long time.
On the other hand, small group meetings that feel like they have a purpose, and where we make decisions to get things done, actually energize me. That’s an important distinction and helpful to know.
Tip 3: What Engages You?
Along with looking at energy levels, the authors suggest tracking when you’re deeply engaged. This can overlap with being energized, but not always. For example, I try to be very engaged when I drive to work, but I can’t say it energizes me.
Of course, it’s also difficult to be engaged in general these days, with all our devices and externals (or cats) grabbing for our attention. Small wonder, then, that some of the times I’m most engaged are when I’m unplugged, or at least not looking at social media or email. Although I can be very engaged with personal emails, too, if I don’t veer off in other directions.
At meetings, I’m much more engaged when I have a task to do, or if I take notes. I think this is because it forces me not to get side-tracked.
Tip 4: What Patterns Do You Notice?
After you track things for a few days, see if you can spot situations where you’re energized and engaged and if those were when you were being your best self. Can you find any patterns?
Some things you may already know, like how you’re impacted by time of day. I do better at being engaged in the morning, but for some people, it’s at night.
Or maybe you find that you don’t have times when you’re energized or engaged at all. Do you feel like you’re always tired, or that you’re just going through the motions in your day without being connected? Maybe at your job, for example, you go in and out without a lot of noticeable difference.
If you find this, see how mindful you’re being, and how open you are to recognizing what you’re feeling. Last week I talked about needing to go deep, but I understand that can be scary.
What I found personally was that I sometimes kept myself closed off from even noticing how I felt because I was afraid of what I might find. What if something I thought I liked turned out to be something I didn’t really enjoy anymore? And if I’m open to exploration, what sorrows or anger or other things might I find?
Scary as it is, be as open as you can. Even if you find some things you’re not as excited about, odds are you’ll find some good things, too.
You can also brainstorm to come up with other things to try that you think you might enjoy more, and then experiment with those.
Tip 5: Increase the Good Times
You’ll always have to do some things you don’t enjoy or get excited about, but maybe you can shift the balance. See if you can find ways of adding more activities that keep you engaged and energized.
Another idea is to balance out the less than fun activities with more pleasant ones. Can you arrange your schedule that way, such as putting an energizing activity after on that depletes you?
I haven’t gotten to this step yet, but I sometimes do it naturally. For example, on Friday I needed a break from sitting at the computer, so I went for a short walk – and the clouds were amazing!
Impact on Mindful Eating
What I appreciate about this approach is how it can indirectly help with mindful eating.
After all, if you eat out of boredom and you add more activities that engage you, boredom and mindless eating decrease.
Or maybe you eat because you feel drained in some way and think you need food. If you address that need by doing an activity that gives you more energy, you won’t be as tempted to turn to food.
If you’ve found activities that energize or engage you, please share! On my side, I’m going to dig more into what I’ve noticed for myself and think about ways of restructuring activities as needed.