Christine Miserandino was able to do the impossible. She discovered a deeply effective way to communicate how energy works in humans.
Christine has lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where something goes wrong with the immune system, and the body ends up fighting off healthy cells as well as foreign ones. Her best friend once asked her what it feels like to have Lupus–and her answer has forever changed the way we look at human energy.
THE SPOON THEORY
In her 2003 essay entitled, “The Spoon Theory” Christine Miserandino tells the story of how the spoon theory came to be. After being asked, “What does Lupus feel like?” Christine grabbed all the nearby spoons and gave them to her friend. Now holding 12 spoons, Christine pointed to her friend. “Here you go, you have Lupus,” she told her. Each spoon represented one task that the friend could exchange a spoon to finish.
Christine made her friend list off the things she did just that morning–with each one costing a spoon. Waking up would cost one spoon, getting dressed another, cooking breakfast one more, a shower the fourth, and so on. By the time Christine’s friend was ready to go to work in her theoretical day, she was down to just 6 spoons. Work cost her four spoons, the ride home one more, and her last spoon was spent cooking dinner. She wasn’t able to socialize with anyone or even clean up the pots just used to cook with–as she had run out of energy for the day.
To be clear, I don’t have Lupus. I will never fully understand what the difficulties in Christine’s life are like, but I am appreciative of her theory–as I think it applies to all of us.
A similar effect to the spoon theory is Ego Depletion. Ego Depletion shows that the use of self-control depletes energy from the psyche–and over time enough energy has been used that an individual can no longer persist on difficult tasks or actions.
This means if you are concentrated on a task for a moderate period of time, it will have an impact on your ability to do the next one, so on, and so forth. In other words, every time you spend a spoon on a task, you’ll have less and less of them to work with throughout the day as well as a more difficult time using the other spoons correctly.
HOW TO USE SPOONS EFFECTIVELY
Daily energy is a finite resource for anyone, and use of energy (or spoons) has a negative impact on tasks requiring self-control for the rest of the day. This has major implications for our daily grind:
- Do Complicated Tasks Early: This is a day old secret for entrepreneurs. “Early bird gets the worm,” and all that. Both Spoon Theory and Ego Depletion describe that the best task you’ll do in the day will be done first thing in the morning. When you get up, make sure you don’t waste this crucial time period–use it to push closer to that Champagne Moment you’re working towards.
- Set Priorities: First of all, get a planner. Second, use it to set monthly, weekly, and daily priorities. Every task you accomplish each day will slowly drain your self-discipline, to the point where attempting even an easy task is fruitless. Set priorities and accomplish the most important daily goals first–that way if Ego Depletion sets in you’ll already have the main tasks done.
- Recharge Properly: In the fitness world we have a saying, “You don’t put unleaded gasoline in a Jet Plane.” If you’re the type that’s trying to get more done in a day than the average person then your sleep, nutrition, and workout schedule are imperative. There’s a million studies and posts on the overwhelming positive impact of those three things, so… do it. Having more spoons is the name of the game.
THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID
I love Christine Miserandino’s story because she proves to her friend that people without Lupus don’t have to plan out how they will expend energy; whereas those with Lupus do. Christine points out that for her to even visit a friend she sacrifices one of her 12 spoons. Yet she still finds that important, but it also shows she doesn’t just waste her energy. Here’s three things you should do to stop wasting your own energy:
- Zero Days: A Zero Day is a day where ZERO progress is made on any goal. When you have a Zero Day there is a high probability that the next day you will also do nothing, followed by the next, until you wake up years later in the same or worse position that when you first envisioned your goal. Do at least one thing every day to move closer to your goals.
- Negative Interactions: Ego Depletion research shows that we use more energy the more disagreeable we find an action or idea. That’s because it takes more self-control to handle. While it’s important to practice self-control, looking at negative content (I.E. the News) purposefully takes away spoons for no reason at all. This is why I don’t watch the news, and I unfollow negative people from social media.
- Complete Time Wasters: Let’s give it the names it deserves: Netflix and video games. Go ahead and argue with me here, but you know it’s true. The third is just as bad: becoming a scroll zombie. If you are mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed–you are wasting the heck out of your time.
Christine’s theory was made for those with autoimmune diseases and disorders that impact energy. My goal through this blog isn’t to diminish the impact of those issues, but for us all to learn and apply the lessons she, and others like her have discovered through her difficulties. It’s important that we stay focused, and spend our own spoons wisely if we want to achieve more.
If you have time, I urge you to check out Christine’s blog at www.butyoudontlooksick.com.