Appropriateness & the Optimal Use of Energy

In an earlier blog titled “The Value of Rest & Recuperation”, I brought up American hustle culture, how it’s expressed in phrases like “live life to the fullest”, and how it glorifies overworking ourselves. That blog focused on why we need rest and recuperation. This blog will focus on different aspects.

To recap, in American society there is a glorification of overworking ourselves. It shows up as constantly pushing towards something, and smashing all opposition or resistance with brute force and sheer willpower. Just push push push! And keep pushing. When you feel like stopping, DON’T STOP or you’re a quitter. Keep pushing through the pain!

This is valuable and useful in situations where survival is at play. It can literally make the difference between life and death. It also has its drawbacks.

This kind of mindset is unsustainable. Constantly pushing, always moving forward, and never resting or retreating has huge consequences on our physical and mental health. The armed forces even know this. They will not keep a soldier on the front lines too long before rotating them out for some “R & R” (which is originally a military abbreviation).

Economists know this, too. Have you ever heard of the “Guns or Butter model”? It’s about the efficiency of a society to manufacture one type of good over another (guns or butter). 

There is a point where you’re producing an optimum amount of both guns and butter, but if you want to produce more guns, or more butter, your efficiency at producing either will exponentially decline in both directions.

American hustle culture wants us to produce all guns and no butter (or vice-versa). But the cost is extremely high to move from 95% production to 100% production of guns. It’s far more efficient and effective to keep things at the optimal point. In terms of energy and health, management and business experts agree that it’s optimal to operate at around 70% of working capacity.

There is another commonly used and misunderstood phrase, “Go with the flow.” When I bring this up, many people instantly think of being passive, not doing anything, just letting whatever happen and not caring.

If there’s anything that my practice of TaiChi has taught me, it’s that non-resistance does NOT mean doing nothing, giving up, surrendering, or anything remotely similar. It means exactly what it says: do not resist. Nothing more, nothing less.

Anyone who does any type of wrestling, judo, or jiu-jitsu will tell you that the key is to relax. If you tense up, that tension is what your opponent will use to push you around, control you, and get you into whatever position they want. Have you ever tried to push a wet noodle? It doesn’t work very well. What about a stiff plank? That’s pretty easy. Why? It’s not flexible, doesn’t change shape according to its environment, and is easily moved as one solid piece.

Relax, as a means to keep your footing. Release your muscles, so that you can more effectively respond to what’s going on around you. Going with the flow is an active state. Relaxed arms move much more freely and respond much more quickly than tense arms. 

Keep your mind active, clear, and focused on your objective. Be ready to respond at a moment’s notice, not with tension or anger, not with a desire to pierce or invade or break, but with a desire to align, accept, and receive.

Eventually you will see the opportunity to push again. Recognize it. Be active in seeking it out. Act quickly and decisively when it appears. Be ready to let it go when it disappears again, as it always does in the cycle of push/pull.

  • Push when it’s appropriate to push.
  • Pull when it’s appropriate to pull.
  • Rest when it’s appropriate to rest.

There’s much more that can be said with this, and I’m currently designing workshops based around TaiChi Push-Hands. It’s a phenomenal practice that is analogous to the cycles we see in life. The great thing is, you don’t even need any of these analogies to be intentionally brought up in order for you to see them. Just practice, and you’ll see it.

For now I will let you consider this:

  • Are you pushing where it’s more appropriate to rest or pull?
  • Have you allowed opportunities to pass by without acting on them?
    • What is your idea of what it means to “act on an opportunity”? 
    • Does that idea bring up thoughts of stress, or being assertive/invasive, or making other people uncomfortable? (hint: it doesn’t have to be that way)

Please tell me what this opened up for you. I’d love to know!

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