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The Energy Vampires That Stop You from Thriving

Recognise the energy thieves in your life.

There are many things in modern life which sap our energy, leaving less for the pursuits we really enjoy. There is no point dwelling on those things we cannot affect, however, there are many we can. Top of the list is the pursuit of issues that you cannot change or will have little influence upon. This is a question of perception and proportion, something I suggest you employ before embarking on anything time consuming. For instance, you have no influence at all on whether North Korea launches weapons tests. The only thing you might do is to lobby your member of parliament or your senator. After that there is absolutely no point wasting any time worrying about it. Further investment in this issue is a complete energy drain.

Investing yourself in always being right is also a complete waste of your energy. Sometimes it matters; a lot of time, both socially and with your family, you need to let things go. Always correcting others or being vigilant for others' mistakes is both alienating to others and exhausting for yourself. If you’re running a top level laboratory—it matters. If you’re discussing a sports score—it doesn’t. It is really good for everyone if you can recognise the difference.

Close third is perfectionism. This differs from above as its focus is turned in on you. You will exhaust yourself in a bid to be perfect. Humans are not perfect and far from striving to achieve this impossible standard we should be learning to accept ourselves, mistakes, faults and all. Start by being kind and forgiving to yourself and others. Adopt a kind internal voice: No telling yourself off for being stupid or an idiot. Ask yourself, instead, “Did I achieve my goal or did I learn?” Those are actually the only two outcomes.

Next is unrequited love or friendship. This needs to be recognised and then given up as a miserable waste of time. You need to invest your energy in the people where it is returned and the benefit is mutual. Of course, there are ebbs and flows in any relationship and sometimes you will not be getting your fair share and you will be giving more but in a good relationship, when you need more input, the roles will be reversed. If this is not the case then you are wasting your energy, your time and yourself.

Additionally, whilst anger can be very usefully employed if well-directed and controlled, hatred and resentment will only affect the person feeling them. As mentioned in my other articles, I believe that resentment is the equivalent of swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die; only you will suffer! Hatred, too, is highly corrosive for the person feeling it and very rarely affects the person it is directed towards. These emotions are exhausting to maintain, significant energy vampires and corrosive to those who hold on to them. Far better to express your anger or hurt and then let it go, whatever the response.

Next I would say that I lack of close or intimate relationships will start to drain your energy. Everyone needs to be listened to, understood and valued. As humans, we thrive when this is the case. However, these relationships require investment. We are back to the first point where you need to judge which relationships are worth your while. However, deciding that no-one is worth this sort of investment is damaging and will limit your scope. We all need to be needed and we all thrive when we can value others and be valued for our own humanity. Robert Weiss (1974) states that “attachment is the feeling that one has intimate bonds that provide a feeling of security and place”.

Failing to look after yourself physically is a big energy vampire. If you drink or smoke too much you will ultimately feel this, first in a lack of energy and then, possibly, in ill health. The same is true if you eat poorly and are significantly over or under weight. Failing to keep yourself hydrated will make you feel tired, so drink enough water. Sleeping badly is another energy thief. Lack of exercise will exacerbate all of the above. Attention to your physical well-being is paramount, as ill-health will ensure you have very little energy for the things you enjoy.

Rumination will exhaust you. If something is bothering you, you need to work out what appropriate action you can take. Once you have taken that action and done as much as is possible you need to shelve it. Constantly worrying at something sets you up for a negative thought pattern and ensures that you will return to it again and again, like a dog with a bone. Ultimately this can lead to sleeplessness and depression. Try to break repeat negative thought patterns. Get up and make a tea/coffee. Go for a walk. Practice mindfulness or meditation or simple appreciation of what you do have, rather than what you don’t have. Constant negative thought patterns can lead to despair and futility as described by Martin Seligman as “learned helplessness” (2006). If you can’t break the negative patterns by yourself, seek help.

So there you have it. The top energy drains. Add any that are your personal favourites and work hard to conquer these so they don’t steal your joie de vivre. Put time and energy into the people and projects that enhance who and how you are. These include the important people in your life, work, good food, leisure and pleasure. Most importantly of all, befriend yourself and forgive yourself because not having yourself on side, supported and loved, may just be the biggest energy thief of them all.


Weiss, R (1974) The Provisions of Social Relationship. In Rubin, Z (Ed) Doing Unto Others: Joining, Moulding, Conforming, Helping, Loving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Spectrum Books, 17-26

Seligman, MEP PhD (2006), Learned Optimisim, How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Vintage Books, Random House, New York

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