Are you living a zero-sum game?

Imagine this: you’re feeling good and your energy is high. But, your partner or your kids are in a foul mood. So you try to help out, take care of things, make them feel better. You’re successful – they smile and seem to relax. And then you realize that you don’t feel as good as you did before. In fact, your own mood has tanked. The whole exchange has just brought you down.  

Have you ever had this experience? 

Exchanges like this are an indicator of foundational beliefs in scarcity and competition. Many people have a cognitive bias toward seeing the world in this way, but it leads to drama. Drama occurs when our number is low and we try unconsciously to steal energy from others so we feel better.

Drama is an unskillful technique which mostly doesn’t work for the intended purpose because it actually makes others feel worse. 

It also is only one of the possible options. Here’s another possibility: there could be enough energy for both of you. When others are low, you could help without any depletion to you. I know this is an option because I live it, myself. If I didn’t, I couldn’t do the work I do. I’d be burnt out by lunchtime. 

The first step to this new paradigm is to become more conscious of your own energy levels.

Energy feels like connection, joy, and presence. Start calibrating how you feel on a scale of 1-10 as you go through your day. Make it visible by sharing it with others. Listen and respond to your partner and kids as they share their numbers with you. 

If your energy level is 4 or less (out of 10), you’re in the danger zone. Ask yourself what you need to help yourself feel better.  If both you and your partner are under 4, stop everything and figure out how you can both feel better.  

Although certainly if you take a piece of cake there is less for others, moods and energy operate under a fundamentally different set of rules. When you learn and apply them, you’ll be a better parent, a better partner, and a better friend.

To your success,