One of the most important things I have ever learned about life, leadership and mental health came from my two Border Collies, Oreo & Reeses.

I had taken them both to a trick training class. Border Collies are notoriously smart, energetic and empathetic. Our two are no exception. I was talking wit the instructor afterwards, complaining about how hard it was to tire our dogs out. The instructor gave me a lesson in Border Collies that would lead to further insight about life and leadership.

That day, the dog trainer told me that the easiest way to drain my Border Collies of energy was to give them mental or intellectual work. She noted that 10 minutes of trick training would tire them out more quickly than hours of playing ball in the field.  

As I pondered this thought in the days I discovered a deeper truth for life and leadership.

If Border Collies are exhausted most by using intellectual energy, human beings are exhausted by using emotional energy. 

As a leader, a pastor, a human being I get far more exhausted by using emotional energy than I ever do using intellectual or physical energy. Walking with someone in their grief for an hour will  trie me out as much as five hours of physical labor. 

We are in a unique season in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time of this blog, many are starting to emerge from quarantine as we develop a new normal after months of seclusion. 

Crisis is exhausting. The uncertainty, the fear, the pain all drain us emotionally. Chances are you have found yourself more exhausted the last several months than usual all the while feeling like you are doing far less. Chances are you have found many more moments lacking in motivation than you are used to.

It turns out that the things that require emotional energy: crisis, caring for others, pain, suffering, uncertainty, broken relationships and so much more. It turns out that using emotional energy is far more exhausting then stretching our mind or pushing our body.

Each day as I encounter my Border Collies I am reminded of what can be the most draining in life. It helps me to recognize the significance of my work. It helps me to go easier on myself, to give myself permission to rest, especially in the midst of the most challenging and meaningful work that I get to do.

Rev. Dr. Marcus J. Carlson

Executive Director, Preparing for Amazement Ministries


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