We usually think about time as the limiting resource each day. We never seem to have enough time! However, we can use the time that we have more effectively if we learn to manage another valuable and limited resource – emotional energy. How many times do you fall into the over-stuffed chair at the end of the day and spend precious moments watching whatever is on TV because you feel too tired to do anything else?
We only have so much of ourselves to give each day. Think of the emotional energy that you spend each day as Emotional Pennies. Imagine that you start each day with 100 Emotional Pennies. You can’t carry any over to the next day and the goal is to end up with as many Emotional Pennies as possible at the end of each day. The more pennies you have at the end of the day, the more energy you will have to enjoy your evenings.
Some common things that we all spend emotional energy on are: work, family, health, other people’s problems, spirituality, friends, and things over which we have no control. Your list may not have all of these items and probably has quite a few more. Which of these are wise investments and which are wastes of our Emotional Pennies?
A totally silly way to spend Emotional Pennies is on things over which we have no control. My personal pet peeve is when someone gets angry and cross when his or her favorite professional team loses. Tying your sense of well-being and happiness to a group of people you do not know and over whom you have no control seems about as absurd a being angry over which direction the wind is coming from.
The first step in limiting our unnecessary expenditures of emotional energy is to pay attention to how we are spending our Emotional Pennies. In everyday life, we want to invest our emotional energy in things we enjoy, people we love, and situations that we can change for the better. A good test question to ask is: “If I face this situation and invest some emotional energy into it, can I resolve it so I never have to put another Emotional Penny into it again?” If the answer is yes, go for it! Break off the relationship, improve the situation and/or release that old resentment!
As a general rule, you want to avoid any situation that constantly drains your emotional energy with no hope of the situation improving or resolving. However, sometimes you have to invest a bit before you figure out that you are facing a lost cause.
For example, we tried to work with the school to make it a safe and healthy environment for our youngest son, Andrew, when he was in 7th grade. He had asthma at that time and was allergic to dogs. There was a helping animal in the school for one of the other students. I spent tons of emotional pennies at the school talking to the principal, guidance counselor, assistant principal, and teachers. I could not get them to keep the dog and Andrew apart.
It took me awhile, but I finally realized that I couldn’t change the situation. My options were to continue spending almost all of my 100 pennies at the school each day or to get us all out of that particular situation. In the end, I homeschooled Andrew for the rest of that school year and none of us ever regretted leaving that penny-sucking, black hole behind.
Emotional pennies are a great tool to help us put the moments of our day to best use. We can dramatically improve the quality of our lives by spending our Emotional Pennies with intention. By spending on things that give us a return investment in love, support, and satisfaction, we can create a life that doesn’t exhaust us.