Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Mia Principle: Why Our Energy Levels Should Be Our Greatest Priority

Mia Bella is the gray cat we rescued from a high kill shelter in Kentucky in 2014.  She has become a very special part of our home.  Unfortunately, a week or so ago, I began to notice changes in her behavior.  Her energy level decreased; her eating declined.  We brought her to the vet and it turned out that she was running a persistent low-grade fever, most likely the result of an infection.  As of this writing, her condition is improving.

What was striking in Mia's situation was that, as her fever set in and her energy level decreased, the most distinctive aspects of her personality began to drop away.  A very social cat who loves to play with the other cats in the home, Mia increasingly chose to isolate herself.  Her affectionate attachment to us, most observable when she would follow me to the basement in the morning and share in my early routine, similarly waned.  She stopped going into the basement.  More subtly, she stopped behaving in the little ways we had come to love, from telling us that she wanted food to looking out the sliding glass door to watch the animals in our yard.

In a sense, Mia had stopped being Mia.  That's what alerted us to need to seek a vet.

But there's an important principle here:  Our greatest strengths--what make us distinctive as people, as spouses, as traders--are dependent upon our energy level.  When we lose energy, it is as if we descend that hierarchy of needs described by Maslow and hoard our remaining energy for basic activities such as sleeping, eating, and staying alert.  Mia no longer had energy for her curiosity--her looking out the window, her seeking out the other cats.  Even going up and down stairs was a chore.  

The Mia Principle--the expression of our strengths is a function of our energy level--is vitally important to anyone operating in a performance field such as trading.  Our cognitive strengths, our ability to detect patterns in real time, our ability to dig beneath the surface of information to generate ideas, require a high degree of clarity and alertness.  Our personality strengths, from our ability to engage meaningfully in relationships to our ability to rebound from setbacks, require sufficient energy to sustain constructive efforts.

The Mia Principle helps explain many performance slumps.  We fall short of our goals and become discouraged.  We work harder to succeed, only to become increasingly overloaded and overworked.  Each new effort drains us of further energy, ensuring that successive attempts at success become increasingly inefficient.  When we are in performance drawdowns, we're typically in energy drawdowns.  What we need is inspiration, not further drains on our energy level no matter how well intentioned.  Ironically it is the most achievement-oriented of us, the most persistent and driven, that are most likely to fall into the energy trap.

If Mia's experience holds true for us, our greatest performance hurdle is that we spend far too little time in states of inspiration.  When we have fewer activities that give us energy than require energy, we gradually power down.  At such times, the lower power drains our strengths.  Like Mia, we continue to sleep, eat, and take care of life's basics, but what suffers is what most makes us who we are.  We lose our strengths, our greatest competencies and life visions, when we lose our energy.

What if our trading performance doesn't require umpteen efforts at discipline, but rather a consistent connection to our greatest energy sources?  We struggle to adapt to markets, but we're never likely to succeed if our struggles drain us of the vital resources that make us who we are.

Further Reading:  The Devon Priniciple