The environment is stronger than your energy store

Ok, Confessions of A Conscious Change Agent…I feel tired.  It’s 9.43am on a Friday and apart from a small amount of food prep and breakfast, I haven’t done anything today.  Brilliant.


Ever have that feeling of being tired but not having an obvious reason to point to?


Ever have that feeling that you’re working pretty hard, but with little demonstrable output?


Ever took a night off because you were feeling low on energy but then didn’t wake up any more refreshed?


So, this is inviting an inquiry into what really energizes you. I know, especially as I have had it consistently reflected back to me by my coaches over the years, that I get strongly energized by my environment.  So what’s the big deal?


My current dilemma is that the places I feel I could go to get energized are the same places I struggle to sit down for long before I get back pain.  Which equals pain, distraction and an unhappy Jack.  But ultimately, many of them are probably no worse than the current chair I have in my home office.  What I like about home, though, is the freedom it provides.  If you work from home, you probably know what I mean. If you get tired, you can go lie down.  If you get hungry, you can go eat something conducive (not sugary snacks on offer at coffee shops, which very quickly make me feel even more tired).  If your back really hurts, it’s easy just to get up, start wandering around and stretch.  When you are at a coffee shop, it’s not easy to just to up sticks and do that.  Then there’s the co-working space I use.  For me, on one level it is super cool because there’s the energy of other people, a lovely community, a variety of different spaces and leaving your laptop open to thieving is no problem.  On the other hand, the sitting problem remains and the main working space is now downstairs with no natural light.


As I write this, I am sat in one of Boulder’s parks.  I have the whole park to myself, and I am sat under a bandstand and though a little chilly, I am getting by with just a shirt and hoodie.  So, one of the things I am looking forward to is that I can use the warmer weather to go and do work from wherever I want to – the creek, the park, Whole Foods cafe, coffee shops, the mountains, the co-working space.  My friend Steven Ringelstein of The Business Gym texted me photos this of his work session by the creek, and I am looking forward to my return text from somewhere even cooler.


I observed this in others and in myself – when you spend too much time at home, your world narrows and the risk of self-preoccupation increases.  Seeing homeless people, overworked mothers struggling with their children, shop assistants bored out of their minds waiting for their next all-too-short break, or whatever goes on in your community, reminds you of the relative size of the difficulties you are facing.  Last night when I was feeling frustrated because I had earmarked the evening to work and was too tired to do so effectively, I got an email from a friend who had witnessed a 65-year old man have a seizure outside a coffee shop and fall hard onto the shop window, causing himself a lot of damage and being rushed to hospital his life in the balance.  Self-indulgent frustration-at-one’s own issues, I was guilty as charged.


When I stepped outside of the house this morning, that first split second of contact with fresh Spring air, I felt instantly uplifted, somehow like I belonged in and was being welcomed back into the natural world.  Thankfully, I have never suffered from depression – but I know that spending time in green spaces is reported to be a good antidote for it.  It makes sense to me.  Too much time inside, looping on the same old problems, is not good for anyone.


One of the challenges of physical pain is that it can easily give you the sense of ‘same old’, of no progress and of the resignation that can go with that.  I first started getting hamstring and back pain as a 19-year old.  And here I am at 29 and, albeit with some better strategies to reduce the pain, it kind of feels the same way.  And it feels like it has an inhibitory impact on me in the same way, hence where I started this blogpost and the challenges of just being comfortable to work.  But everyone probably has some equivalent of that – introverts who find the noise of other people really distracting, people who are super sensitive to light levels, mothers and fathers who are trying to compress work days into a 5 hour window when their kids are at school, someone is trying to do a net business but is on a super bad wifi connection.  I actually remember what the latter was like, having my longest ever phone feud with British Telecom (over 26 hours! to Indian call centres, really not recommended) because we went months and months in a rural area without decent internet when I was trying to get my last business going.  It felt so unfair that I had to travel 10 miles to the nearest city and go to the public library, often having to wait for other people to finish using a computer terminal, just to start my work day! (and sure some of you have struggled with much worse) I used to look at people who had permanent desks with phones and internet, and think to myself that they have no clue how advantaged they are.  And they probably used to look at people like me and dream of having complete control over their time.


So, my question for you is firstly, what really energizes you?   And I encourage you to cast the net wide – food, friendships, space, tastes, sounds, place, emotions, quality of relationship with yourself.  And remember, it can often be both adding and subtracting.  I.e. more of something, less of something else.  With food, I was big into the question, ‘what am I eating that is making me tired?’  Then one day it dawned on me to ask also ‘what am I not eating that could be making me tired?‘ (answer, slow-carbs, protein and enough moisture in my meal).   Now I check both ways as well as look at my underlying emotional experience, as often it’s a low-level anxiety about something I haven’t handled that’s contributes to my feeling tired.


The second question for you is what’s your story about the obstacles you are currently facing?  And what’s not the whole truth about that story?  If there were someone else who was struggling right now and was willing to take on your life enthusiastically, what story would they be telling themselves?  The story is not the event is so personal development 101, but it amazes how I cycle in and out of fully remembering it.  And as we all know, that’s okay, we fall down, we all drift from presence, it’s just how quickly we notice it and how quickly we are willing to do something about it.  Ultimately, it’s good to struggle, it’s good to live the tension of working on yourself and working in the world, it’s good to have things you need to overcome in your business.  Then you can hold out invitations and answers to other people, not from theory or regurgitating others, but from hard-lived experience.  People really dig that.


About Jack Butler

Jack Butler is a social entrepreneur, coach, workshop leader and speaker. His latest venture provides full spectrum human development through coaching, programmes and other development resources for leaders and entrepreneurs. He founded Future Foundations (, a leading youth personal development training organization. He is a professional member of the International Enneagram Association and a former fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Jack was the IAB 2007 Young Entrepreneur of the Year runner-up and took a double first class degree in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge. Jack spends his time between London and Brighton in the UK and Boulder, CO and the Bay Area in the US. In his spare time, he enjoys physical challenges (3 Peaks Challenge 2010, Tresco Marathon 2006) and supporting The Simultaneous Policy Organisation ( He is a Partner in Passion and Purpose of the Grubb Guild, a voracious reader of personal, cultural and spiritual development, and likes to inquire, journal, travel and write.

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