The people I most admire are total animals. They are intensely dedicated to their craft, and make the most of every moment to reach their goals. They are so focussed on what they want that they don’t have time for anything that isn’t aligned with their intentions. They are constantly creating, always choose to align with the positive side of things, and are able to appreciate the true genius in almost everyone they meet.
And then there are “energy vampires”. An energy vampire is a person who drains other people’s life force.
Actually, I’ll take this a step further and offer a more “inside-out” definition. To me, an energy vampire is any thought pattern, activity, or habit that drains your life force. Whether the external influence that leads to this negative energy flow is a person, place, or thing, the vampire can only strike if you take the bait.
Energy vampires are a primary threat to your happiness. They dilute your attention and drag you down. They’ll turn you from a star player into a benchwarmer. Sometimes energy vampires are so pervasive in our lives that we don’t even notice them. We spend so much time in the clutches of negative thought patterns and distractions, yet still wonder why we never seem to get where we want to go.
The following is a list of energy vampires that have affected me most at one time or another, with solutions I’ve used to fend them off and stay aligned with my purpose:
How many times have you checked your email today? How many IM conversations do you have going on right this minute? How many IRC windows do you have open? Do you know off the top of your head how many visitors your site has had so far today? (Be honest.)
Polling is the habit of constantly checking the status of something. It comes from the mistaken idea that information that is updated in real-time needs to be tracked in real-time. Polling is an energy vampire because it snaps you out of your artistic groove. It’s not just the 30 seconds it takes to check your email. It’s the 15-20 minutes you spend responding to a new message that kills your focus.
Solution: Set a time each day to do all your checking. I generally check my feed stats, website stats, email, and revenue stats once every day around 5:00 PM.
Uninstall applications that alert you of new email. For truly urgent messages, use urgent mediums like phone or a knock on the door. If you are absolutely required to use your Inbox for urgent communications, configure your email alerts to monitor only items that require immediate response.
If you spend a lot of time on IRC, AIM, or Facebook, measure the output of this investment. How would your life be different if you spent all that time in virtual reality on face-to-face connections?
2. Arguing and Internet “Flame Wars”
Have you ever seen a news anchor host a discussion panel with experts on each side of the issue? Do you EVER see one expert say to the other “Hm, you know what? I’m completely wrong. Now that I’ve heard your point of view, I think we should pull all our troops out of Iraq.”
Nobody ever wins an argument. People argue to make themselves heard, not to listen to and evaluate what the other person is saying. Internet flame wars are even worse. When two nameless, faceless opponents square off in the digital ring, the shit can really hit the fan.
Solution: The key to winning an argument is don’t argue in the first place. Not only will you definitely not “win”, the other side is probably not even listening. Stop trying to prove that you’re right and just live by the truths you’ve uncovered from your own experience. On the internet, stay out of holy wars, and avoid starting them. Don’t post questions like “Which is better, X or Y?” or “What is the best X?” The only opinion you need on such things is your own.
I’ll admit, it took me a couple of years to stop getting into internet geek brawls, but thankfully it is a breakable addiction.
You’ll never hear someone described as the “World’s Most Accomplished Critic”. Complaining and inactionable criticism is the highest form of mental masturbation. While it’s incredibly difficult to build and do amazing things, almost anyone can point out flaws. But finding fault does not equal intelligence. There is no Nobel Criticism Prize. Action is the true nuclear weapon.
Whether it comes from you, or the people around you, complaining is the Count Dracula of energy vampires. It will gnaw at your soul and attract even more things to complain about in your life.
Solution: Three words: It’s your fault. For any situation you complain about, you have three options: leave it, change it, or don’t change it. By taking full responsibility, you can actually do something about your current life situation, instead of drowning in the victim mentality.
Of course, there are some things you can’t change. For example, you can’t just decide that your girlfriend didn’t dump you. You have no control over what other people do, but you can choose how you react. If you have no choice but to accept a situation, then complaining about it is wasted energy.
4. Partial Commitments
A partial commitment is an activity that you enjoy, and may have even taken seriously at one point, but are now in “commitment limbo” about. You can’t make up your mind about how far you want to go with this. You dabble without going too deep. You might spend a couple hours a day practicing your instrument while watching TV, but you never get up on stage. Instead of giving 100% of your energy to your primary focus, you end up giving 50% of your energy to your primary focus, 25% to this sort-of-hobby, and the other 25% wondering which one you like more.
Solution: If you find yourself juggling a few interests, but always holding back on how much you commit, the first thing to do is decide which interest to treat as primary, and which ones are merely partial commitments.
Of course, the same “analysis paralysis” that got you into this state of indecision can make it hard to make up your mind. Instead of trying to think your way to an ideal solution, start with action. Pick a passion and run with it for 30 days, and see how it feels. Organize your environment in such a way that engaging in the other, partial commitments would not be easy.
For example, I was torn between making a run at professional Poker and becoming an entrepreneur. Fortunately, I had the bankroll to be able to walk each path and decide which one I liked most.
I started out with Poker. For one month, I committed to spending eight hours per day, five days per week playing online to see how it went. I needed only about four days to know that this was not for me. The variance was painful and I realized that my true purpose in life required a more engaging presence in the world and the ability to build cool stuff.
Then I gave entrepreneurship a try for 30 days, and out popped 30 sleeps. Strangely enough, it’s a site built around the concept of 30-day challenges. :) The moment I launched the site and saw people start signing up, I was hooked. I factored Poker out of my life by cashing out my online bankroll and uninstalling all my Poker-related software.
A few years ago when I started working with Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, my first assignment was to be part of a development sprint in Mark’s London flat. One of my first few days on the job, I was literally pair programming with the CEO at his kitchen table.
He had about five or six flat screen TVs on different walls in his flat, though they were never turned on. During one meeting, we decided to use one of them to do an app demo. We turned it on, and there was a DVD movie on the screen.
It was paused.
For the last two months.
Living your life on purpose leaves little time for the boob tube. Unfortunately, millions of man hours are swallowed up every day by this brainwashing machine.
Solution: The best way to give up TV is to cancel your cable subscription. It takes a mere five minute phone call to set the wheels in motion, and when all is said and done, you can still buy or rent the shows you really like on DVD.
My appointment with the cable guy is September 24th. When’s yours?
It’s important to identify thoughts or actions that cause you to leak energy away from pursuing your purpose. Sometimes these bad habits are so much a part of your life that you don’t even notice them, but they eat away at your time and emotional well-being all the same. An important question to ask yourself at regular intervals throughout the day is “Is this the best possible use of my time?” If not, you may have found an energy vampire.
Share on Facebook
Tweet this post
Other Articles You Might Like