A Coaching Power Tool By Maya Dreifus, Career Coach, UNITED STATES
Anxious vs. Energized: How to Feel Less Anxious and More Energized
In a recent, powerful session, my client, let’s call them Alex, was wrestling with how to incorporate pure coaching into their everyday work. As a professional to whom others came for advice, Alex felt it wasteful to ask open-ended questions and be curious about the other person, when what the other person really needed was an answer. The specific challenge appeared to be around slipping into the familiar ‘advisor’ role when Alex was faced with an ‘in-the-moment’ topic (vs one Alex knew about in advance).
After posing several questions to uncover what deeper belief may have been at play, I noticed that Alex was still unable to move forward in the session. I asked, “what core value do you believe may be causing you to be stuck?” This opened the door to awareness. Alex realized that they equated ‘advising’ (having an answer) with being in a position of power and ‘coaching’ (not knowing the answer) with being in a position of vulnerability. They also uncovered that being powerful was one of their core values.
This core value held a negative connotation for Alex. Power, when used to manipulate others, could result in a world of hurt. I put forward an observation that power is a continuum with a lot of shades of gray before getting to the perspective that Alex held. After some reflection, Alex figured out that power doesn’t need to be held by one individual. That transferring that power from self to the other person can be helpful and positive. Towards the end of the session Alex shared an example where, through exploration, they were recently able to help their client and felt powerful as a result. The reframing of perspective led to the elimination of cognitive dissonance, as well as a feeling of lightness, energy, and purpose.
Power Tool: Anxious vs. Energized
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, anxiety is the “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill”. The history of the word goes back to Latin, derived from the verb “ango (to constrict)”.In the medical world, in1980, the American Psychiatric Association recognized General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as a diagnosis. Today, anxiety disorders (of which GAD is one) are “the most common form of mental illness in the United States, affecting nearly 1 in 5 adults.” While feeling anxious is different from being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, one cannot help, but draw a parallel between the two.
Anyone can likely recall a time when they felt anxious. Perhaps it was before having a difficult conversation with a colleague at work. Or when weighing whether to do something that went against one’s moral compass. Or in anticipation of getting bad news. Or when walking alone on a dark, deserted, quiet street. For me, anxiety manifests itself as negative nerves, a feeling of dread, that pit in my stomach, a ticker tape on repeat that just won’t stop.
As the definition of the word suggests, there is an automatic “anticipated ill”. There is no positive connotation to anxiety, no shining outcome from operating from this perspective. Therefore, when one acts from a place of being anxious, the negative blinders immediately come on. One becomes a victim of their circumstances. Whatever information comes in is perceived with apprehension, worry, and a lack of trust. The heavy weight of dread makes it impossible to see the good, the possibility, the way out.
What if that conversation with the colleague could lead to a positive outcome? What if there were another solution that wouldn’t jeopardize one’s moral compass? What if the news were delivered in a constructive, objective way? And what if friends were to come on that evening walk, lending joy, humor, and sounds to the dark street? Suddenly, there are options, perhaps even a plan for how to move forward. And, just like that, one begins to feel energized.
There is something infectious about being energized. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “to make energetic, vigorous, or active; to impart energy; to apply voltage to.”The origin of the word ‘energy’ comes from 16th century French, Latin, and Greek, meaning “force of expression; activity, action, operation”.
While the antonyms for ‘anxious’ range from ‘confident’ to ‘unworried’, for me, these words are missing that power, spark, and action. Feeling energized brings with it a forward motion that is unstoppable. When operating from this perspective, one is in control of whatever situation they’re faced with. They aren’t waiting for something negative to happen. They’re driving the conversation, agenda, momentum, and change. When I’m energized, I feel charged up and ready to go. There is nothing I can’t conquer (with a solid plan, of course). I’m in the right mindset to face any obstacle, ideate alternative solutions and excite others to join me on the journey. And any nervousness I may feel is ultimately positive and anticipatory–like an Olympic athlete, who has trained for years and has finally taken their place at the starting line, rearing to go.
The Purpose of an Anxious vs. Energized Power Tool
One of the people I was closest to and looked up to was my grandfather. What made my grandfather so special was that he lived every second, enjoyed it, continuously moved forward, and never lost his purpose. Not as a young teenage boy, who became head of household at 10 or 11 years old, when his father died in WWII; not as a 90-year-old great grandfather, who cooked all the meals, took care of my grandmother, and had a thriving vegetable, berry, and flower garden. When he passed in 2021 at the age of 90, someone said, “he had a true zest for life”. That statement really resonated with me.
I realized that whatever the situation, my grandfather approached it from the perspective of being energized. Because he started from a position of positivity, action, and achievement, he continued to succeed. Nothing could get in his way. He moved to a different country in his 60s, learned the language, made new friends, volunteered, and continued to do his morning exercises until he physically couldn’t get up anymore. His enthusiasm, genuine excitement, and high energy left no other option, but to be on his team for whatever adventure was on tap.
Mahatma Gandhi said,
You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it.
With the Anxious vs. Energized power tool, the purpose is to help those who are feeling powerless and lost change their perspective and react from a place of power, action, and vigor.
- When have you approached something from a position of being anxious? What was the outcome? How would you change it if you were to relive that moment from a position of being energized?
- Who in your life operates from a perspective of being energized? What is one learning you can take away from that person’s approach?
- What are some questions you can ask to help move your client from being anxious to be energized?
Merriam-Webster ‘anxiety’ definition
A history of anxiety, from Hippocrates to DSM
History of diagnostic criteria
Anxiety causes and prevention
Merriam-Webster’s ‘energize’ definition
The etymology of ‘energy’ and ‘energize’
Thesaurus antonyms for ‘anxious’
Mahatma Gandhi quote