One mindset challenge that plagues many of my readers is an almost obsessive focus on their own needs, problems, and challenges – when they aren’t successfully distracting themselves from it.
I also spent a lot of time stuck there. It’s a great mindset for generating lots of stress. But other results? Not so much.
One mental shift that helped me a lot was thinking of goals, plans, projects, and desires in terms of energy flows that are in motion. My previous tendency was to think in terms of end points and static states.
So instead of fussing over where I am and where I want to be (the end points), I prefer to observe where energy seems to be flowing well in my life and where it’s getting stuck and becoming stagnant. Then I work on getting the stagnant energy unstuck and getting it flowing again.
This is a key distinction. When people focus on getting from A to B, they often run into some problems, namely two main ones:
- What if the goal (endpoint B) isn’t clearly defined?
- What if the path to the goal (from A to B) isn’t clear?
Then what they tend to do (if they invest enough effort) is figure out what B is supposed to look like, and figure out what the path from A to B will be. But there’s a big problem with this approach because they’re trying to gain clarity while they still have all this stuck, stagnant energy swirling around at endpoint A and not really flowing. And while they don’t have enough clarity to tell themselves that it’s time to move, this stuck energy is causing problems for them.
People often spend years waiting for clarity on these two simple questions, telling themselves they cannot go full throttle till they have stable, believable answers. And that is a huge mistake.
Suppose point A is having a job you dislike and point B is having a job you love. People try to clearly define B and then plot a course from A to B before they start moving, and this rarely works well because the energy at A isn’t flowing. Such people often feel de-energized and demotivated by all the stuck, stagnant energy from the job at A. How are they supposed to have the energy necessary to create clarity about B, let alone plot the full course from A to B? Of course what really happens is that they stay stuck at A, often for a very long time – till this energy finally demands release, and they get fired or laid off, quit out of desperation, or succumb to health problems and feel compelled to finally transition.
Feeling needy, stressed, or frustrated is a sign of stagnant energy. So if you notice yourself feeling needy and self-absorbed with your personal concerns and stresses, consider that this is a hint to look for areas of stuck energy.
When energy is flowing nicely, there’s a certain grace and ease to life – it feels more open, fun, playful, loving, and expansive. We feel more connected, supported, trusting, cooperative, and hopeful. We feel more courageous and confident.
Energy wants to flow. It likes being in motion. It isn’t even that particular about where it flows. It just wants to flow somewhere. And if it doesn’t have anywhere to go, it tries to move around in whatever space it has available. When it’s bottled up inside you, that energy goes into creating circular thinking much of the time. You may experience this as worry, confusion, stress, or anxiety. This stuck energy can also manifest as physical illness.
Note also that this idea of energy flows is just a model – a way of thinking about reality. You don’t have to believe in energy flows in order to use this model and benefit from it, much as I explained in the recent article Your Least Favorite Screwdriver. You also have some flexibility in how you frame this. You could imagine electrical currents flowing through your nervous system, spiritual energy flowing through your chakras and astral body, or thoughts and feelings flowing through your mind. I often merge the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual frames when I think about energy flows because this model helps me solve problems no matter how I frame it.
I sometimes find myself stuck trying to plot a course from A to B, especially when I’m not super clear about what B looks like. But when I’m trying to build clarity while my energy is still stuck at A, this can be frustrating. I start feeling impatient after a while. I sense that the stuck energy wants to move, but I’m keeping it bottled up waiting for clarity.
And you know what? This is okay sometimes. It’s okay to have some stuck energy now and then, as long as we’re aware of the stuckness and we’re working on getting it flowing again. It’s okay to keep it stuck for a few weeks while we work on some clarity – as long as we have good reason to believe that we can and will converge on enough clarity to get that energy moving.
If we’re moving towards mental clarity and making genuine progress, this is helping some of the energy to get flowing again. A good indicator that our clarity efforts are helping is that we start to feel a rising sense of hope and optimism. The little bit of energy that’s getting back into flow often generates some mild enthusiasm. We can feel that bigger changes feel increasingly inevitable. Negative stress starts going down, often replaced with feelings of relief or surrender to the unfolding transition.
For instance, I knew a couple of months ago that I wanted to shift up my exercise and social investments this year. I’ve been building towards such changes for a while. But I also felt that I had too much on my plate in December and January. I expected, however, that my schedule would lighten up a bit in February, and I’d have more capacity to make other changes without feeling overwhelmed. So I let the energy of these desired changes stay stuck for a while, knowing that I’d get the energy flowing again. And that’s exactly how it played out. Earlier this month, I joined a new meetup group and a new fitness studio, and I love how the energy is flowing again in new directions.
But I also tried to create a modest relief valve to let the stuck energy know my intention for getting it flowing again. I would visit or walk by the fitness studio before joining, and I’d browse through the classes on their website. Sometimes I imagined doing workouts there. I leaned into the meetup group in a similar manner, signaling an intention. I noticed the telltale signs of increasing optimism and enthusiasm as I did this, as if the stuck energy approved of my plans and was onboard with it. I think this helped the energy remain calm and relaxed instead of creating too much stress.
On the other hand, if you’ve been dealing with stuck energy for months or years, and you aren’t getting any closer to converging on enough clarity to see your path from A to B, then don’t keep waiting for clarity since your stuck energy isn’t going to like that. You have to give it some reasonable hope that it will get flowing again.
If you lack clarity and aren’t clearly converging on a solution, then get the energy unstuck and flowing in any direction. Get that energy back into motion, so you can use it. If the energy gets too stuck, you may feel chronically drained, stressed, anxious, or worried. If you’re already experiencing such states daily or close to it, then it’s time for change without fussing so much about where you’ll land. You’ll be amazed at just how much more becomes possible for you when chronically stuck energy suddenly becomes free and flowing again.
If you’re in a chronically stuck situation, what you may not see is just how stuck you truly are. Long-term stuckness starts to feel normal after a while. It is NOT normal or healthy though. When your energy is trapped for so long, it causes problems for you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s so important to just get out of the stuckness any way you can. Sometimes that means taking the evil exit – for your own health and sanity.
Simply using this model of energy flows has been super helpful on my path of growth. It’s helped me in pretty much every area of life. In fact, I often write articles by asking myself: Where does the energy want to flow today? When energy (especially creative energy) is flowing nicely through my life, I can co-create with it. I can summon and ride waves of inspiration instead of having to push myself. The energy carries me forward much of the time.
But when I allow this energy to get stuck, life becomes so much harder. It feels like I have to fuel everything with my own power, yet I lack the motivation and focus to do as much (because the energy is stuck instead of flowing), which leaves me feeling even more stuck.
Energy wants to flow. If you help it flow, it will help you even more.