Why ‘Top Up My Battery’ is a Flawed Metaphor

It’s common to hear people say ‘I just need to top up my battery’. It’s so common! As I typed this, Google’s autocomplete function suggested the words ‘my battery’ after I typed the words ‘top up’!

It’s a useful metaphor in that it recognises that:

  1. Our energy levels don’t stay constant. We use energy, we generate it, and we store it
  2. We need to actively manage those processes

It’s also a simple, memorable metaphor that we can all relate to.

Yet I reckon ‘top up my battery’ is a flawed metaphor for a few reasons:

  1. It suggests we only need to get the things that give them energy when they’re ‘depleted’. What about when we’re feeling great? Do we ignore those things until we’re exhausted? I think not.
  2. It gives no room for growth. A battery has a fixed capacity (which tends to degrade over time). We humans have the capacity to grow and adapt, including to grow our capacity for staying energised.
  3. It can over-simplify how energy management works. ‘Battery going down, battery going up’! Human energy management is way more dynamic and complex, right? We might have high energy for one part of our life (e.g. physical exercise) while having low energy elsewhere (e.g. our capacity for tough conversations).

By sticking with the battery metaphor, we’re running the risk of never being able to sustain our performance and grow our capacity. We book holidays for the sole purpose of getting our energy back because we’re whacked up until then. It creates a pattern of groundhog days - where’s the meaning and growth in that?

What might happen if we tried out a few other metaphors for how we manage our energy? Here are a few to play with:

Fuelling the Fire: The human spirit as an inner fire. Experiences, passions, and connections act as fuel. Balancing the fuel sources and preventing burnout is necessary for keeping the inner fire alive.

Navigating Life's Rapids: Life is a river with varying currents representing different life experiences. Navigating the rapids requires adaptability, resilience, and strategic energy management to navigate the twists and turns successfully.

Dance of Balance: Life is a dance, where balance is crucial for graceful movement. Different aspects of life - work, relationships, self-care - represent different dance partners, and maintaining harmony among them is essential.

How do those shift your thinking?

If we want to successfully play the long game that helps us make lasting change happen, lead people well, and live life deliberately, then energy management is a core discipline worth mastering.

For more like this, check out:

Forget Time Management, Master These Disciplines Instead

Deal in Energy

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