THE BLOG
09/20/2013 04:33 pm ET | Updated Nov 20, 2013

How Do You Spend Your Energy?

As fall is about to pop, I think of technicolor: the evolving spectacle performed by battalions of elm, birch, and maple. I look forward to the piles of yellow, red, and orange leaves that beg you to dive in. I crave the fermenting smell of seasons changing.

But I saw a tree the other day prematurely bare, and I envisaged the stark gray of early winter. My work takes me from Maine to New York between fall and the holidays. I watch the seasons change on the same roads up and down the coast, and I imagined it in time lapse. The bright green becomes the fall rainbow before time where only the evergreens color the monochrome landscape.

Both kinds of trees show off in their season. The deciduous reign in fall, but the evergreen stand out against the snow. Each has a totally different cycle. Each would die if they lived like the other. Which kind of tree, deciduous or evergreen, most represents the way you manage your energy?

I think most of us become miserable because we haven't paid enough attention to how we most naturally perform best. Based on your genetics and your health, every day you have a limit. Like a child that plays until it can't anymore, and then falls asleep in its chair during dinner, at a certain point the human body needs rest. But we all burn energy differently.

Each day, week, and season do you burst like the maple or burn consistently like a spruce? Trees drop their leaves by the season or handfuls each day based on survival. The Elm lasts through the dark months, where the water is held hostage by the cold, by going dormant. The pine needs less light and water and so it can slough and produce needles in any season. Both varieties are beautiful, but they thrive in the right ecosystem.

Some of us thrive through the cycles of work and family by engaging fast and furious and then hiding away for a while. Others are always present, consistent and available. Neither style is better or worse. Both ways of being are essential in any culture or community.

The problem comes when you find yourself in an environment that doesn't match your natural style.

You're deciduous: You like to make sales presentations once a week, and a change in your business model has you at client sites daily; you are a homebody, who likes to travel three times a year, and now your job has you on the road every week. You loved to see your parents for the weekend, and now they live with you.

You're evergreen: You like to be out in the field, and suddenly you're tied to a desk; you have a clear schedule for every day and now a change at work means every day is different; you love family around all the time and your nest just emptied.

Are you deciduous or evergreen? When we recognize how we are at our best, whether we're made for bursts of energy or the slow, consistent burn of our internal resources, that's when we can advocate for ourselves.

We will always be miserable if we're doing things against our nature. We will always feel off if the requirements of our daily life don't match how we want and need to expend energy. And, when we find cycles of life that best match who we truly are, we can always show our our colors.

For more by Jon Wortmann, click here.

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