Summary of the Article “The Skill that Matters the Most”
By Tony Schwartz, published in the Harvard Business Review
Would you like more energy, passion and power in your life? This article from the Harvard Business Review has some key insights on the misconceptions of self-control and how to create and sustain having the energy you want so you can do what is really important to you.
Imagine with me that you have a reservoir of water. If you don’t want to run out of water, you have to use water efficiently so that it does not drain out too quickly and you have to figure out ways to constantly be replenishing water.
In this insightful article, Schwartz says, “Energy is the fuel for self-control. We each have one reservoir of energy to get things done. Each act that requires self-control progressively depletes this energy reservoir, whether it’s when you use it to resist a piece of cake, or focus single-mindedly on a difficult problem, or stay calm when you feel provoked.”
Basic ways to increase energy include healthy eating habits, aerobic exercise and getting enough sleep. I would add to this list being intentional about regularly scheduling things that are joy-building and life-giving. These things build our capacity.
Schwartz says, “If you use your energy at the right times, in the right ways, you spend less of it, which leaves more in your reservoir to exercise self-control. For example, it serves us best to do our most challenging work in the mornings, when our energy reserves are highest and the number of potential distractions we face are fewer.”
“…The irony is that the more conscious effort you expend to build new behaviors — the more you use will and discipline — the quicker you burn down your reservoir, and the more likely you are to revert to your old behaviors.
“That’s why the ultimate secret to self-control is to build something we call “rituals” — meaning highly precise behaviors, done at specific times, until they become automatic so they no longer drain your reservoir and undermine your capacity for self-control.”
“Civilization advances,”said the mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, “by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”
- What works best for me to build my capacity? What gives me joy? What things are life-giving for me?
- What routines and rituals can I add to my life to add more capacity to my life?
- What things drain energy from me?
- For each item that you identified that drains your energy, what resources do you need God to give you to remove this?
- Interact with God about this and see what he has to say about each one.
- What rituals can I employ that deal with things that drain me?
This link is to a copy of this article in Word, with my highlights.