Energy Sinks

January 11, 2006

When I use the term "energy sinks," I'm referring to those moments or relationships or incidents that occur all the time in life that consume your energy like an elephant sinking into an Olympic-sized pool of quicksand.

I can write with some authority here because I've had a problem dealing with energy sinks most of my life. I still have the problem, though I'm getting better about energy sinks with time and constant conscious effort to improve.

Energy sinks occur most often in people who try to please everyone all the time. Statistically, if, like me, you are the first child in a family, you have a better chance of being pulled in and drawn down by energy sinks than your siblings do.


Because the eldest child in a family usually tries to please everyone else in the family more than the younger brothers and sisters. And this desire to please carries over into adulthood.

If you're trying to please everyone all the time, you've put yourself in a no-win situation. Because no matter how hard you try and how hard you work and how good a person you try to be, you're just plain not going to please everyone all the time.

If you persist in trying to please everyone all the time, you've opened yourself to constant energy sinks.

An energy sink, then, represents a position where you are going to squander some of the energy you have for the day on a situation that doesn't deserve the energy you're giving it.

Example of one of my typical energy sinks:

I get an e-mail from a vegan guru criticizing the Health & Beyond Living to the Max program, telling me people aren't intelligent enough to develop their own health routines and that they have to be led by the hand. This person proclaims my approach as being potentially harmful to other people. He gives no recognition to my experience or to my years of study in the alternative health field or to my desire to help people reclaim their health.

In no uncertain terms, he flat out informs me that folks must be led by a guru like him — that they aren't smart enough to understand health or nutrition on their own. He knows this to be a fact, and he knows I am wrong in what I'm teaching.

If I don't publicly retract what I'm saying immediately, he threatens to tell everyone he knows that my writing is dangerous and that they shouldn't read it.

Now, my friends, this little piece of confrontational and aggressive e-mail represents a classic energy sink.

(And one of the keys to dealing with energy sinks is to recognize them when they arrive and not after they've drained you and left you tense and half exhausted!)

A few years ago, I would have dropped everything I was doing and would have spent hours trying to explain my point of view to someone who confronted me as above.

You see, in those days, I not only still wanted to please everyone, but I also still thought it was possible to please everyone if I just wrote hard enough and made myself clear enough.

I hadn't yet learned that some individuals aren't as open-minded as others, and that some people are so entrenched in their points of view that no matter what you say to them you can't move them off the hard rock on which they stand.

Of course, the letter I spent hours writing might or might not be read with any degree of attention, but you can be sure a response would be forthcoming that would require more thought and more writing, and this might continue for days.

A classic energy sink.

Was anything gained by a dialogue like this?

No, not really, since both parties had points of view they considered the correct one.

Was anything lost by a dialogue like this?

Yes, hours and hours of time and energy that would have done more good had both of us involved in the energy sink used that time and energy for something other than to argue our particular point of view.

So these days, when I get an energy sink letter in my e-mail box, if it's nasty and confrontational, I either ignore it altogether or politely thank the person for sharing his or her thoughts.

I then move on about my business.

But do I reject what all energy sink letters say?

Not at all, and this is an important point for learning to deal with energy sinks.

By not engaging in the energy sink, you save valuable time and nerve power; but by ignoring what the person had to say, you may miss a possible opportunity for growth.

So I always read and think carefully about what everyone says to me since one of my goals in life is to improve as much as I can each day. At the same time, I don't let aggressive and critical comments, situations, or relationships take away too much of that day's storehouse of energy that I prefer to put into my work.

In other words, I learn what I can from each situation, but I don't get bogged down in conflict.

You can do that too if you make a conscious choice to recognize and then not get engaged in energy sinks.

Chet Day
Editor, The Health Circus

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