Adaptive Energy: What It Is And How To Get It

Self, Health And Wellness

With luck, times in our lives feel fairly stable – not perfect, but with no major upheavals. Then there are years when many things happen. People become ill, jobs change, our dentist retires, our friends move away. Any one of these shifts may not be a big deal. Each requires energy – what I call adaptive energy – to navigate.

What Is Adaptive Energy?

Adaptive energy isn’t an everyday term. It’s the effort required for us to roll with the punches – make the large and small adjustments to the ever-presenting changes in our lives.

For example, after being a member of one gym for thirteen years, I noticed this summer that I was going less often, and wondered whether the use I was making of it was worth my fees. A new owner took over the gym, costs were going up, and some of the familiar faces I was used to seeing had disappeared. With all these small factors accumulating, I thought, “Maybe it’s time to look around.”

Inertia made me postpone a search, but eventually I got started, and found another option where I could drop in and get the same features I had been using at my old gym. I bought a pass and started going. Not hard.

The Inside Story

Describing my actions, though, doesn’t capture what was happening inside. In order to consider finding a new gym, I had to recognize that the old one wasn’t working for me. There was a small wrench of sadness at the thought of leaving a place which had been part of my life for many years. I had to acknowledge and accept that my physical capacities have reduced in thirteen years, the reason I was using this gym less now. That was part of the letting go.

Looking for new options simply required scouring newspapers and flyers. I visited two gyms to check out the feel of them and see the facilities. Where were the lockers? Change rooms? How many elliptical machines were there?

I chose a facility and went for my first visit. After so many years of familiarity in my old gym, I felt awkward and uncertain as I tried to navigate the controls on a new elliptical. Where to put my towel as I stretched?

 I’d used the ladies’ only section in my old gym; this one didn’t have one. It felt different.

This new gym will suit me fine, with a few more visits.

To pull myself out of the gravitational pull of the “old” and find a “new” that works, took adaptive energy.

And this is a small change. No huge emotional or financial fall-outs were involved.

If many parts of our lives change at the same time, then our store of adaptive energy can run down. We get stuck, and feel unable to make the changes required to give us the lives we want.

How to Get Adaptive Energy

When we start to feel ground down and unable to find the energy to do get things done, we can make three lists.

  1. What is changing?
  2. What new beginnings are emerging?
  3. What is staying the same?

The first will often contain things we re letting go of, or losing.

The second, new beginnings, will have things we have already acted on in some way, or new options that present themselves. These infuse our lives with new action or opportunity. For instance, I had already begun taking a Pilates class.

The third, what stays the same, is what anchors us. It may be where we live, or who we live with, or our work, our health, or things we enjoy doing. Some of these may be aspects of our lives that we take for granted.

What Your Lists Show You

Making these lists will give you a different look at your life.  Which list is the longest? Do all the items have the same weight of importance, or are one or two much bigger?

* If “changing” is the longest and you feel anxious about that, look at which items in “changing” can give rise to a “new beginning” most easily.

*If “new beginnings” is the longest, check in with your feelings. Are you excited, overwhelmed, or something else? Is there a way to prioritize which new beginnings you are paying attention to now?

*If “continuing” has the most items, that may comfort you. Or, you may decide you want more new beginnings happening.

Do Something Different?

When you have had a good look at your lists, see how you are feeling. Do you feel calmer and more able to take action on some items?

Or are you weighed down by the number of changes underway? If so, choose on or two changes, and decide what you can do to address them, in the short term. Give yourself permission to let some other things slide. Write down your plan for the next two weeks.

Your adaptive energy will increase, as you practice tackling a manageable task and getting it done.  Using these lists will help your gain perspective and keep going forward.

In my next post, we will look at adaptive energy when going through divorce.

Subscribe to YourTango's newsletter to keep up with us for FREE

- Our best articles delivered straight to your inbox
- The latest in entertainment and news
- Daily horoscopes and love advice

Karen Kristjanson is a life coach and the author of Co-Parenting from the Inside Out: Voices of Moms and Dads. For more information on how she can help you, reach out to her at her website.