Over the years, I've become increasingly convinced that the sign of a life well lived is an abundance of energy. Tony Robbins and Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame), both men much wiser than I, have both expressed the same idea throughout the years.
If a well-lived life is characterized by energy, then we should do everything we can to increase it. Which leads us to the question: What gives us energy? I believe that energy-producing activities can be broken down into two categories.
Biological activities are fairly self explanatory. Certain foods and substances (drugs, etc.) support our ability to produce energy at the biological level, while others dampen and constrain that process. We should therefore do everything we can to eat, sleep, etc.--to optimize energy production at the biological level.
Psychological energy-production is a more subtle and confusing, but equally important, topic. The thoughts we have, the company we keep, and our vision of the future all impact how much joie de vive and oomph are in our lives. We've all had the experience of getting a good bit of news (a raise, acceptance into a college/program of choice, our favorite sports team winning) and instantly perking up. In those instances, a psychological change induces a biological change in us--leading to a state of increased energy.
How do you get more energy?
So, armed with this simple model, what is one to do? The short answer is: experiment. First focus on the biological side of things and tweak one variable at a time. Devote at least two weeks (preferably a month) to each test you run. Track your sleep and try and get it up to 8 hours a night. Then, try to keep a consistent sleep schedule. Focus on each of these things alone for a month. Track your energy the whole time. When do you get tired each night? How much mental fogginess do you have? On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your energy? Ask yourself that question 2-3 times each day. Put it all in a spreadsheet.
After you finish tweaking and optimizing your sleep, move on to food. Try different things out. Cut out starches and see how it impacts you. Up the protein. Try starting off the morning with a fresh fruit smoothie and some yogurt. Do your own research. Figure out what works for you. I happen to be a high-carb, high protein, moderate fat guy. Some of my friends work best on a low (or no) carb diet. Track everything and be brutally honest with yourself. Don't let yourself get taken in by any one diet and exercise cult or another.
Then, after you've built a solid foundation of biological energy, move on up into the psychological realm. Analyze your life. Who do you feel good, and empowered, around? Spend more time around them. How often do you really get some good time in with family? Do you like your job? Do you really find meaning and a sense of accomplishment in it, or are you just in it for the money? Work hard to gain true expertise and craftsmanship in an area. Take pride in what you do. If you aren't yet proud of what you can give the world, start deliberately practicing each and every day. See the world as your dojo.
All along your journey, keep track of how energetic you feel. Be sure to ask yourself how energetic you feel multiple times a day. Write it down. If you're on a slow, yet steady, upward path--keep going. If you aren't, it's no problem. It just means you need to try something new. It means you need to experiment more. After all, that's what life is: one big experiment. But, in the end, while you may pass on, your creations and the energy you created will continue to vibrate through the ether, imparting their impact one jostle at a time.