[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s new book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]
I’m Getting Older, Yet Better!
Several years ago, I turned forty. This was an age that caused me to stop and reflect on my physical health. I felt tired all the time. I was stressed out. I was moody and would get frustrated with any kind of problem, large and small. I was going through some of the most difficult changes in my personal life that one can experience. I wasn’t happy with much of anything. I knew something had to change, and I took massive action as a result. Over the last six years, I have been on an amazing journey that has led to a healthier and happier level of living.
In the book The Power of Full Engagement (2003), authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz assert people need to learn two new rules when it comes to energy and performance. First: recognize that energy is the fundamental currency of high performance. Second: performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. Later on, Jim Loehr added a third important rule: the stories a person tells one’s self and others drives the way he or she gathers and spends energy.
Energy management goes beyond establishing morning routines. It encompasses whole life management. The better a person treats their body through food fuels energy. A stronger body through aerobic exercise and strength training adds a quality of life that many don’t understand. Better quality sleep allows the physical body to rest, recover, and repair itself which results in greater energy to do more.
In today’s culture, people have taken on the mindset that burning the candle at both ends is a badge of honor to “get ahead.” People go to bed late and wake up early; they eat junk food meals on the run. They sit in front of computer screens for twelve hours a day. Exercise is not prioritized, or non-existent. Is there any wonder there is an obesity epidemic in the modern age?
Conventional wisdom says sleep less to get ahead. Cut corners in health and wellness to climb to the top of the ladder faster than the guy in the cubical next door. Yeah, success might come faster, but so might a heart attack!
There is a better, healthier way to do things. Now, let’s take a closer look at living a richer life through proper eating, exercise, sleep, emotional habits, and sexual energy control.
Strategy #1: Eat Better
Eating the right foods at the right times has tremendous potential to create a good energy balance to live a high quality life. The average American, though, wakes up in a rush, runs through a Starbucks drive-thru to grab a high sugar and cream combo coffee and a high calorie pastry to go with it. At work, they grab other high carb and high sugar snacks to sustain them until lunch. At lunch, they eat fast food; they make more bad snack choices in the afternoon, and then they top it all off with a heavy dinner late at night.
But, with just a little bit of forethought on food intake, a healthier lifestyle can be achieved. It is possible to avoid putting so much bad stuff into one’s body. These bad foods actually make people hungrier, bigger, and less energetic all at the same time.
One book that had a tremendous impact on my own personal eating habits has been The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.
[Disclaimer: As a Christian, there are certain aspects about sex in this book that I am in no way endorsing. Read at your own risk. You have been warned. No hate comments, please!]
The biggest take away for me from this book is the slow carb diet (SCD). After reading the book, I began a focus on consuming more protein at specific intervals throughout the day, especially first thing in the morning. I also try to avoid bad carbohydrates whenever possible.
I don’t follow slow carb religiously, just a few of the basic tenets. But, with this diet plus exercising four days a week for twenty-five minutes each workout, I was able to sculpt my body. I dropped an extra twelve to fifteen pounds, moving from 175 pounds down to a consistent 160 pounds within a few months. I’ve never been a big guy, but even my family noticed a difference when I went on this food and exercise regimen.
Here are the basics of SCD as I understand them from Tim Ferriss and The 4-Hour Body book:
- Focus meals on lean proteins such as eggs, egg whites, meats, nuts, etc. Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already repeat meals, anyway; now you’re just picking new default meals.
- Eat 30 in 30. Translation: Eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Tim Ferriss and others on SCD claim this is the biggest change in diet that will affect weight loss.
- Eat plenty of veggies.
- Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more body fat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are the exception to the rule.
- Avoid “bad” carbs such as “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains.
- Eat every three hours.
- Enjoy one “cheat” day per week. This helps with plateauing weight issues when you are on the same diet every day.54
Strategy #2: Move Your Body!
A few years ago, I heard some wise advice that has stuck with me:
“How well we live our lives in our forties and fifties will set us up for how healthy we will be in our sixties, seventies, and beyond.”
When I heard this advice, I had just turned forty. I had exercised some in the past, but nothing consistent. I was not a healthy eater. I mentioned earlier that I was tired a lot, as well as stressed out at work and home. I came to the realization that if I wanted to age well, I knew I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes.
I have zero excuses, too. My workplace has an excellent free workout facility for its employees. So, I began to develop an exercise routine that wasn’t difficult or strenuous but got me into the gym at least four times every week. I also try to work out at the same time each day. I attempt to schedule my workouts in the late morning or early afternoon, right around my lunch hour. For whatever reason, I landed at this time due to my personal schedule and energy levels. It seems to have worked the best for me, so I’ve stuck with it.
Many people have physical goals they are trying to accomplish with their own unique exercise plan to get them there. For me, I strive for a balanced exercise routine of four to five days a week. I’m not interested in running marathons, half marathons, or even 5k’s. I have no desire to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Paul Michael Levesque. With a large family and work responsibilities, I have time limitations. I have to keep my physical body “tight and right” in an optimal time frame.
I keep my exercise routine to a simple twenty-five minutes and I’m done. I do cardio on an elliptical machine two to three times a week—Mondays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays. On alternate days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do a cardio warm-up on an elliptical for ten minutes. Then, I spend the remaining twenty minutes weight training with nautilus-style machines.
This exercise routine, combined with my protein-eating habits described in the previous section, has produced results. I have been able to trim off ten to twelve pounds of excess weight, sculpt my body, and stay at this level for over three years. With this twenty-five minute routine, four days a week, I spend a minimal time working out, and it has increased my energy to a high degree. I also need less sleep than I ever have before.
Want more energy? A methodical, consistent, and focused exercise routine really is a game changer when it comes to energy management.
Strategy #3: Get Some Quality Sleep
Sleep. Some don’t get enough. Others get too much. Either way, the right amount is important for energy management. When I was younger, I didn’t eat well. I didn’t exercise much. My sleep patterns were inconsistent. As a result, my energy levels were all over the place during the day as well as from day to day.
Over the last few years, though, I have established better sleep patterns. I attempt to go to bed the same time each night, around 10:00 p.m. I wake up the same time each morning, close to 4:15 a.m. These sleep habits combined with better eating and exercise have led to higher energy levels. I don’t need near the amount of sleep that I used to. I accomplish more at work. I’d also like to think that I’m a lot more pleasant person when I arrive home at the end of the day to greet my family in the evening. I have energy still left in the tank to pour out to the people I love the most.
I believe establishing good habits in the areas of food and exercise will result in six to eight hours of sleep. A person will wake up more rested. Of course, some people need more sleep than others. I get that part of it. I’ve always been on the low end of the sleep cycle. Others may need eight to ten hours of sleep. I’m sharing my own experience. This is what I have discovered in my own experiments in energy management.
Quality of sleep is an important factor for the greatest impact on minimal sleep. Here are a few sleep hacks I’ve picked up along the way to achieve better sleep quality:
- Be careful of caffeine intake during the day, especially any time later than mid-afternoon.
- Get 20–30 minutes of exercise each day, but don’t exercise in the evening hours. That could energize you too much before bedtime.
- A short, 20-minute power nap in the early afternoon (if possible to get away with taking one!) can be a game changer for daily energy levels and mood.
- If possible, establish a consistent bedtime as well as wake up time. This is a lot bigger deal than people realize. Do this one thing and a lot of problems will disappear.
- Keep the room temperature on the cool side whenever possible.
- Keep the room as dark as possible.
- White noise generators or small fans help block out some of the background noises that may keep us awake or wake us up in the middle of the night.
- Keep cell phones in a different room, or at least turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature so that email alerts, text messages, or phone calls won’t disrupt sleep in the middle of the night.
- Avoid using bright screens before bed such as TVs, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Quick side note: In the latest version of Apple iOS, there is now a special “Night Shift” screen setting to help with this problem.
- Consider melatonin supplements if needed.
- Establish a regular “getting ready for bed” routine that cues the body that it is time to sleep.
In my experience over the last three years, quality sleep (not always quantity) is one of the keys to having more energy.
Strategy #4: Control Your Emotions
To most people, I’m sure I appear to be pretty stable and even-keeled when it comes to my emotions, at least in public anyway. I don’t get crazy enthusiastic about anything (which could possibly be an issue). But, I don’t grow upset about most anything, either. In public, I may not appear to struggle with emotional ups and downs, but in private, I do.
I don’t like surprises. I don’t like major, last-minute changes. I don’t like unexpected problems. When I encounter these issues in my life, I tend to have a strong emotional response to them. I lose self-control. I become angry, upset, and judgmental. I want things my way or not at all. “How dare you turn my life upside down by bringing your problem into my world and handing me a headache to deal with?” This is the attitude and self-talk that tends to come out of me.
What happens, though, when people lose control of their emotions? Valuable energy is wasted on problems that are oftentimes out of the person’s control anyway. Nothing can be done about them, but people tend to stew, fret, and be upset anyway. This type of emotional response results in exhaustion and energy-depletion. Joyce Meyer says, “It’s so important to realize that every time you get upset, it drains your emotional energy. Losing your cool makes you tired. Getting angry a lot messes with your health.”
On almost any given day, there will be problems that trigger emotions that pull people away from where they need to be. Many have a tendency to overreact to these problems, losing valuable emotional energy on them. Instead of getting upset and angry, seek out solutions to those problems and take action. Make a shift in mindset and energy to seeking solutions and taking action—a much better way to control emotions. Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler Motors said, “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”
For the Christian, prayer is always an excellent, positive first step in attempting to deal with problems in which you have zero control. In fact, prayer should always be our “go to” response when we encounter difficulties. I know I can always run to the Father when I feel like life is out of control. When nothing I am doing or could do will make a positive impact to turn the situation around,
I know God can take care of it. We serve an awesome, all-powerful, all-knowing God. Nothing is too big for Him. Nothing catches Him by surprise. He promises those who seek Him will find Him. “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7 NIV).
Another helpful suggestion I have about emotional control is the practice of meditation. Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation has done wonders for me. Now, anytime I become stressed, I find myself doing these breathing exercises and not holding onto the stress within my body. I attempt to release it as fast as possible through these breathing exercises. A calm confidence replaces my stress and I am able to deal with problems in a positive way.
Successful people have learned how to handle their emotions. They have learned how to channel negative, energy-depleting emotions into positive action. This flips the whole equation around and gives them more energy. Gaining emotional control will result in more high-energy, high-impact days. Paulo Coelho said, “When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It’s very simple.”
Strategy #5: Control Your Sexual Urges
Sexual energy is a lot bigger deal than people realize. Or, they realize it’s a big deal but don’t want to discuss it. Sex is one of those weird issues people often don’t want to meet head on within the Christian community.
I debated for quite some time if I should include this section in this post. The more I thought about it, though, the more I believe in the importance of sexual energy. How sexual energy is used impacts energy management. This section will not be for the faint of heart, but I will attempt to not be too graphic either. I do believe the topic needs to be discussed, though, in light of an overly sexualized culture. I have extended a warning!
God designed human beings as sexual creatures. He gave them a sex drive for specific reasons. He wants His people to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28, NLT). He created human beings with sexual desires for pleasing spouses, as well as for personal enjoyment.
However, western culture is over-sexed. Sex whenever and with whomever one wants has become the norm. Sex education begins at an early age in the public school system. Students can get free condoms at school. Because of the relative anonymity of online pornography, porn addiction has become a huge problem as well. Twenty-first century technology combined with mankind’s lust-driven sin nature has not been a good combination for anyone.
Unfortunately, Christians are not immune from this over-sexed culture, either. In many ways, I believe Christians may have more challenges in this area. The majority of believers do (possibly) believe God’s Word teaches sexual activity outside of marriage is sin. Whether they practice this belief, though, is a whole other issue. This is why so many believers carry around a lot of struggles, hang-ups, hurts, and guilt when it comes to sex, singleness, marriage, divorce, and re-marriage.
As a Christian man who has had his own unique challenges in this area, I have noticed a big difference in quality and quantity of sexual energy as I have moved into mid-life over the last several years. As this shift has occurred, I’ve also realized how high testosterone levels and enraging pent-up frustrations have drained me of much life energy I had when I was a teenager and young adult.
The challenge for younger Christian men and women who may be over-sexed is how to deal with their sexual energy in a positive way. From my own personal experience, I know it’s a huge challenge. I may have more questions than answers in this area.
Now that I’m entrenched in mid-life (at the time of this writing I’m 46), the sexual energy/hormone issue is not as much of a challenge as it was when I was a younger man. My life energy is more calm, stable, and focused. This has been a freeing experience in and of itself.
Let me add here that sexual drive is important and vital to a productive, successful life, especially for men. A man’s libido is the driving force that propels them to do anything and everything. A focused love/sex life in a monogamous relationship between a husband and wife is what has created thriving civilizations and cultures around the world. Comparing cultures that have thrived over a period of time versus those that have struggled, one key factor for those cultures that have flourished is: monogamous marriages between men and women.
In his classic book Think and Grow Rich, author Napoleon Hill talked about the “transmutation of sexual energy.” He mentioned that men of genius used their sexual energy to fuel their creativity. Equally important, though, is the fact that the sexual relationship must include love.
Napoleon Hill says, “Sex, alone, is a mighty urge to action, but its forces are like a cyclone—they are often uncontrollable. When the emotion of love begins to mix itself with the emotion of sex, the result is calmness of purpose, poise, accuracy of judgment, and balance.”
To be successful, happy, and fulfilled, figure out a way to channel all sexual energy into a focused path. The best and most focused path is to love a spouse and engage with them in a physical relationship on a regular basis. Be completely devoted to them in meeting their physical needs and not obsessed with meeting personal needs outside of this relationship.
For those who are unmarried, the challenge becomes greater but not impossible. I’ve known several people who have remained unmarried, yet (at least on the surface) appear successful because they have a singular, focused pursuit in which to release their sexual energy. This focused pursuit could be a hobby (such as music), their occupation, or a life goal accomplishment.
Control sexual urges. Marry the right person. Love that person wholeheartedly, and meet their needs. Transmute sexual energy to fuel creativity. Then, go out in the world and do amazing things with focused energy!
The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.