Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Discover and Balance Your Energy Style

he first step toward learning how to manage your performance is
to determine how you personally use energy, because we are not all
alike. We all have a different energy utilization styles. I have found
that most people fall within one of two categories: the type A and the
type B personality.
We’ve all met people who are boisterous, outgoing, and overdra-
matic. This is the type A personality. The positive aspect of this per-
sonality is that those who have it are energizing and inspiring to be
around. The downside is that they can use more energy than needed
to complete a task and burn themselves out.
The type B personality includes people who live very much
in their heads. They are introspective. At their best, they are great
planners and organizers. At their worst, they fritter away their
energy by worrying about everything. Often they need external
As your read the descriptions below, keep in mind that while
each of us has a strong tendency to be either one type or the other,
depending on how we habitually deal with life, no one is type A or
type B 100 percent of the time. These two types are meant as guide-
lines to help you evaluate what you are in the present moment so
that you can learn how to modify your energy utilization curve.
Whether you are experiencing the intense energy of the type A or
the slower, more introspective pace of the type B, keep in mind
that your ultimate goal should always be to balance your energy to
help you deal more effectively with any situation in which you find
The Type A Personality
A typical type A personality works from his sympathetic nervous sys-
tem (fight or flight) and wastes energy by always being in overdrive.
His motto is “Okay, let’s go!” and he will often find something to
keep him busy even when the task at hand is finished. He can be his
own worst enemy because he is always wearing himself out. When he
talks, he breathes shallowly and uses short, choppy sentences. I think
of type A personalities as “interval” people because they do every-
thing quick and fast. They jump rapidly from task to task and from
thought to thought.
High-energy professions tend to attract type A personalities. I
know an ophthalmologist who is type A. She is in a constant state of
activity, seeing fifty patients a day, moving from room to room, and
writing up reports. When this individual speaks with me, her voice is
breathy and her words staccato because her breathing pattern is
quick and shallow, coming from the top third of her lungs. Her sen-
tences are short and choppy. A side effect of this quick, shallow
breathing and these overblown emotions is an overproduction of
acid in her stomach. Every day of her life she takes Prilosec tablets
for her acid reflux.
The Type B Personality
The type B personality, who works from the parasympathetic nervous
system (the relaxation response), is always worrying about every-
thing. This kind of person is always sighing and saying, “Oh, man,
what am I going to do? How are we going to get this done on time?”
You can literally hear the air escaping from his lungs. By the time he
goes into the business meeting, he’s totally worn himself out by imag-
ining every possible scenario over and over in his head. He hardly
has any energy left for the actual task at hand. If the type A personal-
ity does everything in intervals, the type B personality doesn’t tend to
jump from one thing to the next. He just feels overwhelmed and at
loose ends.
Five Steps to Help Balance Your
Type A Energy Style
If you are a type A personality, what can you do to bring yourself back
into balance so that you are not constantly exploding with physical
and emotional energy and burning yourself out? I suggest the follow-
ing five steps:
1. Slow your breathing. Learn to listen to the sound of your own
voice. When you hear the pitch going upward and feel your
sentences getting more rushed or your words more staccato,
deliberately slow down your speech. This will enable you to
step back from a stressful situation, calm your thoughts, and
achieve some emotional objectivity. While the person you are
addressing is speaking, take a moment to inhale all the way
down into your diaphragm on a slow count of two and exhale
on a slow count of four. Connecting to a slow, steady, deep
breath will slow down your heartbeat and give your nervous sys-
tem a signal that it can pull back from the “fight or flight” syn-
drome. In other words, your body will know it is safe to relax.
2. Speak in complete sentences. Type A personalities often speak in
incomplete sentences or jump from thought to thought.
When this speaking pattern intensifies, consciously pull your-
self back and make yourself take the time to speak in com-
plete sentences. This will give your body the signal to slow
down, breathe more deeply, and refocus.
3. Increase dietary fiber. Since this personality type usually pro-
duces more stomach acid, increase the fiber in your diet to
give your stomach something to soak up that extra acid.
4. Practice calming techniques. Make time in your day to practice
activities that dissipate stress, calm your nervous system, slow
down your heartbeat, and help you to become more self-
aware. This includes activities such as meditation, yoga,
biofeedback, and visualization. If you can learn how to medi-
tate and visualize effectively, you can take yourself to a more
calm setting in your imagination where your mind will be
freer to come up with creative strategies for accomplishing
your daily tasks. As time goes on, it will take less and less effort
to achieve a sense of being centered and balanced when you
feel yourself going into overdrive.
5. Build “steady-state” behaviors into your lifestyle. Since the type A
personality does everything from speaking to working to
thinking in short intervals, it is important for you to counter-
balance that habitual behavior by adopting more activities
that are “steady state,” that is, longer in duration. A good way
to start is to make time to walk every day. Walking is great
because it keeps the body moving while allowing the mind to
function at a more focused, relaxed pace. If you obsess about
the office or your next project while walking, you will defeat
your own purpose. Let this be a time out where you can admire
the scenery, smell the roses, and become reacquainted with
yourself. In other words, let your walking be more like medi-
tating than running a marathon.
If you practice these five points, I guarantee that they will help
you to balance out the energy of your type A personality and increase
the efficiency of your performance at work. It might seem contradic-
tory to say that slowing yourself down several times during the day
will increase your productivity, but experience has taught me that a
lifestyle based on constant frenetic activity soon reaches a point of
diminishing returns.
Helping a Stressed-Out Coach Learn How to Relax
Many football coaches are classic type A personalities. You can hear
it in the way they bark at players during the game. “Let’s go. Do this.
Get over there.” You seldom hear them using complete sentences.
They are always speaking in choppy intervals, taking short and shal-
low breaths. This kind of never-ending stress is hard on the body,
causing weight gain and often heart problems.
One particular coach became overweight and developed colitis.
Since this man was always in interval mode, I reconditioned his
nervous system to remember what relaxation felt like. To accom-
plish this, I had him spend twenty minutes walking at a steady-state
pace before every game so that he could get used to keeping his
breathing deep and even. During the off season I had him work with
other steady-state activities such as meditation. He not only began to
handle the game better, but he also lost weight and handled his life
Five Steps to Balance Your Type B Energy Style
At its worst, the type B personality can be dreamy, unfocused,
depressed, and filled with worries. Here are four steps to help bring
yourself back into balance if you are a type B personality:
1. Put the interval back into your life. In other words, get yourself
into a routine where you do things at a specific time. Wake up
at the same time every day, exercise at the same time every
day. Get creative about structuring your life so that you are
filling your day with interesting activities.
2. Put your worries into perspective. Worrying about something is
almost always far worse than the reality. If you are worried
about something, such as your financial future, get the facts.
Sit down with your accountant and find out exactly where you
stand and what you can do to improve your financial position.
Talk out your worries with a trusted friend or mentor. If you
are a type B then you tend to live too much in your head, so
get outside of the closed circuit of your own mind and obtain
some perspective.
3. Face your fears through action. Type B personalities tend to
spend too much time planning how they are going to accom-
plish the next challenging task. Needless procrastination will
only increase your stress levels. There comes a point where
you have to realize that over-planning can lead to paralysis.
Know when to say “Enough thought!” and face your fears
squarely by taking firm action.
4. Create the interval in your exercise program. Where the body goes,
the mind will soon follow. If you usually walk two to three
miles per day, alternate that with periods of running every
other day. If you exercise at the gym, put more variety into
your activities. Do ten minutes on a treadmill, ten minutes on
a stationary bike, and ten minutes of rowing or climbing.
By restructuring your life so that you spend more time moving
forward in short energetic bursts, you can balance the energy of your
type B personality. A sigh of depression is not necessarily a sign of
exhaustion. It is often a signal that your energy is blocked. Release
your bottled-up energy by reintroducing your body and mind to the
joy of movement and vitality.
Putting the Interval Back into a Golfer’s Game
Recently, I helped a type B client who was a tremendously talented
golfer. He would always do well at driving the ball to the green, but
his performance fell off when it came to putting. The reason for this
was because he worked himself up into such a state of tension from
anxiety that he wore himself out and lost his focus. It got to where he
began to consistently fall apart on the last day of any competition.
This makes sense when you remember that type B personalities do
well with steady-state activities but tend to have difficulty maintain-
ing control of short bursts of energy.
In order to help him remain focused and keep his energy levels
high, I began training him to work with the concept of “interval.” I
did this by having him run for thirty seconds (tension), then walk for
thirty seconds (relaxation), then run for thirty seconds, then walk. In
this way I reconditioned him by actually retraining his nervous sys-
tem to automatically let go whenever he became tense. It worked,
and his game improved.
Whether you are a type A or a type B, balancing your energy style will
help you go the distance as well.

No comments: