For Work/Life Satisfaction, Follow Your Energy

So, you know you’re supposed to find your passion and do that for your work, don’t you? It’s an idea deeply embedded in our culture, an idea that says, hey, it’s simple, just figure out what you’re passionate about, do that, and life will be good. It should help one succeed in life, rather than fail - that is what we hear.

But it’s not that simple, is it?

My name is Melissa Schenker, and I am a work/life consultant. I've been helping people find satisfaction at work for 20 years, and in those years, I’ve had lots of conversations with people looking to do work they love. Through those conversations, I’ve learned a lot about how people get stuck, and how to get them unstuck. One area that people have a lot of questions about is the idea of passion. 

Many of us don’t have a thing we are passionate about. Some of us find the notion of passion to be overwhelming - it’s so big and so lofty that our brains shut down in the face of trying to sort out what our passion might be. And lacking that, we feel a sense of failure - on a really big scale that can induce major self-doubt and anxiety.

If I was forced to give people only one piece of useful insight, it would be: Follow your energy. Do more of what raises your energy, and less of what brings you down. 

It’s that simple. 

Even people who do have a drive for something, in particular, can use this idea to sort out how to go about things. 

Here’s how you use this idea. Notice how your body responds to activities that you enjoy, and notice how your body responds to activities you don’t like. Try it on right now - imagine an activity that you enjoy. How does it feel to do something you like? How does your body react? Most people find themselves getting straighter and taller, their shoulders go back, their eyes are clear, even shiny. Energy flows. Now, try on what it feels like when you do something you find boring or tedious. What happens to your body? To your energy? Most people find their shoulders slump, their lower back collapses, their eyes get dull. Their energy lowers, even kind of seeps away. They have to drag themselves toward completing the thing they have to do.

To use this as a career tool pay attention to the activities, people, places, purposes that raise your energy and seek to do as much of them as possible.  Jot it down, make lists. Notice what makes you feel sludgy, slumped, slow. Do as little of that as possible. 

Each of us can use our energy as an “internal rudder." I talk about energy and the internal rudder with every single one of my clients. Universally, every single one of them gets what I’m talking about. We are unique individuals and your energetic reaction will be idiosyncratic to you, no two people are the same. What energizes you may drain your best friend. 

If we pay attention to ourselves, rather than what we are “supposed” to do, then we can more easily sort out how to be and what we want to do in the world, for the world. We can use this information to create opportunities for ourselves and to assess the opportunities that come our way - is there enough energy raising activity or meaning? Even when you are doing work that you love, activities that raise your energy or for a cause that energizes you, be aware that some percentage is likely to lower your energy. Only you can decide on the right mix for you. Know that what works will change over time, or as things change in a workplace, or as you master skills. 

Using your energy as your internal rudder is likely to guide you to work that you are good at, or that you want to master and get good at. Your failures may bring you down temporarily but when you use your energy as a guide, you’re likely to want to rise to the challenges, you’re less likely to sink in defeat. When your energy flows, you can bring your unique self and gifts to your work. Everyone benefits. 


Melissa Schenker is based in Austin, principal of the Work/Life consulting firm. She is an MBA graduate of the Sloan School at M.I.T. She is also author of the book, Sweet Relief From the Everyday Narcissist.

She specializes in helping clients deal with difficult people, work life satisfaction, and living with authenticity. She has 15 years of experience helping clients navigate the powerful intersections of their personal and work lives.

Melissa's site - Sweet Relief for Your Emotional Life features resources to finding work/life balance and finding relief from narcissists. 

Melissa has recently launched her interactive series and sign-up is now open.

Chelsea Francis