The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Full Engagement

RATING: 5/10…READ: October 13, 2011

A book on how to manage your energy, not time. Focus on short term sprints followed by time of recovery; not marathons. Features many case studies that seemed dull and repetitive after a while. It’s a quick read, but I felt the book could have been drastically reduced further.

Get at Amazon


The ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but rather how much energy we invest in the time that we have.

Old Paradigm: Manage Time, Avoid Stress, Life is a Marathon, Downtime is wasted time, Rewards Fuel Performance, Self-Discipline Rules, The power of positive thinking.

New Paradigm: Manage Energy, Seek Stress, Life is a Series of Sprints, Downtime is productive time, Purpose fuels performance, Rituals Rule, The Power of Full Engagement.

Professional athletes typically spend about 90 percent of their time training, in order to be able to perform 10 percent of the time.

PRINCIPLE 1: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

PRINCIPLE 2: Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

PRINCIPLE 3: To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.

We build emotional, mental and spiritual capacity in precisely the same way that we build physical capacity.

PRINCIPLE 4: Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy—are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

Making changes that endure, we have found, is a three-step process that we call Purpose-Truth-Action.

Our first challenge is to answer the question “How should I spend my energy in a way that is consistent with my deepest values?”

In the next stage of our process, Face the Truth, the first question we ask clients is “How are you spending your energy now?”

–Facing the truth requires gathering as much comprehensive and objective data as is possible.

The third step in your change process is to Take Action to close the gap between who you are and who you want to be—between how you manage your energy now and how you want to manage your energy to achieve whatever mission you are on.

Energy is simply the capacity to do work. Our most fundamental need as human beings is to spend and recover energy.

Full engagement requires cultivating a dynamic balance between the expenditure of energy (stress) and the renewal of energy (recovery) in all dimensions.

Somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes, the body begins to crave a period of rest and recovery.

Take 10 to 15 minute breaks every 90min.

We must learn to establish stopping points in our days, in- violable times when we step off the track, cease processing information and shift our attention from achievement to restoration.

In Japan, the term karoshi can be translated literally as “death from overwork”—most commonly from heart attack and stroke.

Challenging a muscle past its current limits prompts a phenomenon known as supercompensation.

We grow at all levels by expending energy beyond our normal limits, and then recovering.

Expanding capacity requires a willingness to endure short-term discomfort in the service of long-term reward.

When we feel challenged rather than threatened, we are more willing to extend ourselves, even if that means taking some risk and experiencing some discomfort along the way.

At the most basic level, physical energy is derived from the interaction between oxygen and glucose.

In practical terms, the size of our energy reservoir depends on the patterns of our breathing, the foods that we eat and when we eat them, the quantity and quality of our sleep, the degree to which we get intermittent recovery during the day, and the level of our fitness.

Breathing in to a count of three and out to a count of six, lowers arousal and quiets not just the body but also the mind and the emotions.

Dehydrate a muscle by as little as 3 percent, for example, and it will lose 10 percent of its strength and 8 percent of its speed.

The longer, more continuously, and later at night you work, the less efficient and more mistake-prone you become.

In the absence of any artificial interventions, our energy stores naturally ebb and flow at different times of the day. Somewhere around 3:00 or 4:00 P.M. we reach the lowest phase of both our ultradian and our circadian rhythms.

The growing consensus among physiologists is that muscle loss, more than any single factor, is responsible for both the frailty and the diminished vitality associated with old age.

Gallup found that the key drivers of productivity for employees include whether they feel cared for by a supervisor or some- one at work; whether they have received recognition or praise during the past seven days; and whether someone at work regularly encourages their development.

Any activity that is enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming serves as a source of emotional renewal and recovery.

Emotional muscles such as patience, empathy and confidence can be strengthened in the same way that we strengthen a bicep or a tricep: pushing past our current limits followed by recovery.

Agents who scored in the top half for optimism sold 37 percent more insurance over two years than those in the more pessimistic bottom half. More notable still, agents who scored in the top 10 percent for optimism sold 88 percent more than those ranked in the most pessimistic 10 percent. Agents who scored in the bottom 50 percent on the same test were twice as likely to leave their jobs as their more optimistic counterparts, while those in the bottom 25 percent were three times as likely to quit.

Exposing one’s self to short-term stress, for example, can stimulate a burst of adrenaline that actually improves memory.

“Every time you learn something new it builds new connections to the brain cells,”

“Mental health is based on a certain degree of tension,” he wrote, “the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should be- come. … What man actually needs is not a tensionless state, but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.” [Viktor Frankl]

We define integrity—a key ingredient in character and a primary spiritual muscle—as doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” [Viktor Frankl]

Between 1957 and 1990, per person income in the United States doubled, taking into account inflation. Not only did people’s reported levels of happiness fail to increase at all during the same period, but rates of depression grew nearly tenfold. The incidence of divorce, suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse also rose dramatically.

–Jump ahead to the end of your life. What are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical?

–Think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.

–Who are you at your best? tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

–What one-sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

A vision statement, grounded in values that are meaningful and compelling, creates a blueprint for how to invest our energy.

In Buddhism, the form of meditation known as Vipassana aims at overcoming our instinct for delusion by learning to see things exactly as they are. Whatever we fail to notice and acknowledge, we tend to act out. If expressing anger was deemed unacceptable as we grew up and doing so now violates our self-image, we may express it covertly by being critical and judgmental or stubborn or chronically resentful. When we have blind spots, we can blindside others without even being aware that we are doing so.

Trapped in a narrow vision of ourselves, we may also fail to notice and nurture our hidden strengths. Much as we suppress that which we find distasteful in ourselves, so we may fail to give ourselves credit for our best qualities. To face the truth also means acknowledging and celebrating our strengths.

If the truth is to set us free, facing it cannot be a one-time event. Rather, it must become a practice.

A growing body of research suggests that as little as 5 percent of our behaviors are consciously self-directed. We are creatures of habit and as much as 95 percent of what we do occurs automatically or in reaction to a demand or an anxiety.

Define when & wear you will do a certain behavior.