Enjoy the break before the sprint

”Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”

Aha moments sneak up on us sometimes.  I’d just finished a two and a half hour executive board meeting.  I was mentally exhausted but clinging to the edges of excitement generated by ideas around organizational synergies, partnership opportunities, etc.  On some level I knew that after such a long and trying day, I shouldn’t try to communicate any complex messages or speak much at all.  My information recall was spotty and my thoughts were sluggish at best.  I ignored these warning signs and sturbbornly forged ahead.

Despite the fact that the person I was speaking with was also exhausted from a meeting which required an unrelenting level of concentration due to complex decision making, I was determined to engage in conversation.   My only excuse is that I was too exhausted to exert any self-control.   The inner voice that usually tells me to slow down or stop was just a whisper.  Then the dreaded happened.

I was so excited about my ideas that I started speaking too quickly and ran out of breath before the end of a sentence.  It had to be disturbing to see and believe me it was even worst to feel.  Panic due to the loss of breath, inability to complete my message and general embarrassment.  

This has happened before when I’ve spoken about topics which I am passionate about (mostly when I’m tired).  My breath speeds up, thoughts start racing and there goes my breath.  So, walking out of the meeting, I asked a senior executive and fellow board member about his comfort and control in public speaking.   I said, “I want to address my public speaking.  When I’m passionate about a topic, I tend to talk too quickly and lose my breath.”  He looked at me and simply said, “Then don’t do it.”   The jolt from that simple answer stopped me in my tracks.

That simple but powerful advice will stay with me for a long time.  If my inner voice is too faint to hear, it means I need a break.  It’s time for me to stop, listen and re-energize.

“Life is a series of sprints, not marathons.”

According to the authors of The Power of Full Engagement, “we live in a digital time. Our pace is rushed, rapid-fire, and relentless.  Facing crushing workloads, we try to cram as much as possible into every day.  We’re wired up, but we’re melting down.  Time management is no longer a viable solution.”

It’s clear my capacity for future growth will be dependent on my ability to manage my energy more effectively.  Particulalry, knowing when to sprint and when to recover.  Most important of all, when to listen to the little voice that says, “Don’t do it.  Enjoy the break before your next sprint.” 


Principal 1:  Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy:  physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Principle 2:  Because energy diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

Principle 3:  To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.

Principle 4:  Positive energy rituals – highly specific routines for managing energy – are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

Making change that lasts requires a three-step process:  Define Purpose, Face the Truth and Take Action.

Recommended Reading: 

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.  How Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.


Categories: Professional Development


1 reply

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