Jim Loehr, Tony Schwartz
Rating: 7.5/10
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Reading Ease: Reading Time:7 hours

The Power of Full Engagement emphasizes the importance of energy management over time management to be truly effective. There are four key sources of energy you can mobilize: Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual. Loehr and Schwartz provide the right balance between anecdotes and science-based research to form the basis of their arguments. I found myself nodding in agreement a lot when reading, but also felt unsatisfied in some ways, where they only just scratched the surface. It doesn't go as deep as it could, and some parts feel shallow, but the message is still very powerful.

Notetable Quotes

Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.Jim Loehr
We live in a world that celebrates work and activity, ignores renewal and recovery, and fails to recognize that both are necessary for sustained high performance.Jim Loehr
To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.Jim Loehr

Motivations to Read

It took me a while to start taking energy management more seriously. I was too preoccupied with time. After going through burnout I knew I needed a change. I wanted to work smarter, not just harder. Rest would be a key factor in enabled me to do more good. Rest and managing my energy better is also an act of being more compassionate towards myself.

3 Reasons to Read

  • Mobilize you for key sources of energy: physical, spiritual, emotional and mental
  • Create highly specific, positive energy management rituals to make lasting changes
  • A roadmap to becoming more fully engaged in many aspects of your life

The Power of Full Engagement
Summary & Notes

THE POWER OF FULL ENGAGEMENT

Energy, not time, is our most precious resource.

“We survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast foods on the run, fuel up with coffee and cool down with alcohol and sleeping pills. Faced with relentless demands at work, we become short-tempered and easily distracted. We return home from long days at work feeling exhausted and often experience our families not as a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an already overburdened life.”

A side effect of feeling like we have no time is trying to cram even more into the day, putting even more burden on ourselves.

“Performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy.”

“To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”

The Power of Full Engagement

Old Paradigm

New Paradigm

Manage time

Manage energy

Avoid stress

Seek stress

Life is a marathon

Life is a series of sprints

Downtime is wasted time

Downtime is productive time

Rewards fuel performance

Purpose fuels performance

Self-discipline rules

Rituals rules

The power of positive thinking

The power of full engagement

Four Key Energy Management Principles

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

Humans are complex and multi-layered, and so is the types of energy we require to be fully engaged.

The most fundamental forms of energy are physical, which is measured in terms of quantity (low to high) and emotional which is measured in terms of quality (negative to positive).

All 4 areas require strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience.

“Mental endurance is a measure of the ability to sustain focus and concentration over time, while mental flexibility is marked by the capacity to move between the rational and the intuitive and to embrace multiple points of view.”

“Spiritual strength is reflected in the commitment to one’s deepest values, regardless of circumstance and even when adhering to them involves personal sacrifice. Spiritual flexibility, by contrast reflects the tolerance for values and beliefs that are different than one’s own, so long as those values and beliefs don’t bring harm to others.”

Principle 2: Because energy capacity dimities both wish overuse with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

“To maintain a powerful pulse in our lives, we must learn how to rhythmically spend and renew energy.”

If we don’t use our different energies they can weakness, if we overuse them they will empty out. We need to learn how to engage as well as disengage.

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

Intelligently applied stress is crucial to growth.

The example used in this section is our muscles, which go through microscopic tears and with rest and nutrients, repair themselves to become bigger and stronger.

I also think of bones, and astronauts. There is no gravity in space, which means very little stress and pressure on the bones. After long durations in space, the bones weaken and astronauts have to be very careful returning back to earth, as they could damage their bones from simply walking.

“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.

“We use the word ‘ritual’ purposefully to emphasize the notion of a carefully defined, highly structured behavior. In contrast to will and discipline, which require pushing yourself to a particular behavior, a ritual pulls at you.”

Brushing your teeth would be closer to a ritual than a disciplined act.

I like how the author uses ritual here, I more closely align it with “habit”. Build positive habits.

Creating enduring change requires: Purpose, Truth, Action.

“We are oscillatory beings in an oscillatory universe. Rhythmicity is our inheritance.”

“In the early 1950s, researches Eugene Aserinsky and Nathan Kleitman discovered that sleep occurs in smaller cycles of 90 to 120 minute segments.[..] This rhythm is called the ‘basic rest activity cycle’ (BRAC). In the 1970s, further research showed that a version of the same 90 to 120 minute cycles — ultradian rhythms (ultra dies, ”many times a day“) — operates in our waking lives.”

Somewhere within that 90 to 120 minute frame our body begins to crave rest, as show other systems like yawning, bouts of hunger, difficulty concentrating and higher incidences of mistakes.

“To build capacity, we must systematically expose ourselves to more stress — followed by adequate recovery. Challenging a muscle past its current limits prompts a phenomenon known as supercompensation. Faced with a demand that exceeds the muscle’s current capacity, the body responds by building more muscle fibers in anticipation of the next stimulus.”

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

Our Physical Energy Reserves Depend on

  • Proper Breathing
  • The Foods that we eat
  • When we eat
  • The quantity and quality of our sleep
  • The amount of rest we get in between the day
  • The level of Fitness

Few of us really think about breathing deeply, and realize it’s importance. I’ve personally started paying more attention to it from my meditation practice.

“Deep, smooth and rhythmic breathing is simultaneously a source of energy, alertness and focus as well as of relaxation, stillness and quiet — the ultimate healthy pulse.”

Having an empty stomach is distracting.

Eat foods lower in glycemic index, food that have a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream.

“Eating five to six low calorie, highly nutritious ‘meals’ a day insures a steady resupply of energy.”

“In a second study at the University of Minnesota, researchers compared groups of people on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Those who ate the largest percentage of their food earlier in the day felt less tired and lost 2.3 pounds a week more than those who ate the most later in the day.”

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

“A study in the journal Ergonomics concluded that Mental performance was significantly better in physically fit than in the un-fit. Fit workers committed 27% fewer errors on tasks involving concentration and short-term memory as compared to un-fit workers.”

Physical exercise can increase cognitive capacity by driving more blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

Minimizing or avoiding stress is just as destructive to capacity as excessive stress without recovery.

“The deepest expression of emotional capacity is the ability to experience a full range of feelings.”

“In order to perform at our best, we must access pleasant and positive emotions: the experience of enjoyment, challenge, adventure and opportunity.”

“The key muscles fueling positive emotional energy are self-confidence, self-control, interpersonal effectiveness and empathy.”

“Negative emotions serve survival but they are very costly and energy inefficient in the context of performance.”

“The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the heart of effective leadership.”

Five Stages of the Creative Process by Hermann Helmholtz

  • Insight
  • Saturation
  • Incubation
  • Illumination
  • Verification

Create a mental ritual in which you think about the day ahead, what are your priorities and how to want to handle challenges you may face.

“Mental energy that best serves full engagement is realistic optimism — seeing the world as it is, but always working positively towards a desired outcome.”

“Continuing to challenge the brain serves as a protection against age-related mental decline.”

[Snippet from Man’s Search for meaning referenced in the book that really stood out to me]

“Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. What was needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — hourly and daily. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

We make our own meaning.

Spiritual Energy

“Spiritual energy provides the force for action in all dimensions of our lives. It fuels passion, perseverance, and commitment.”

“Spiritual energy is derived from a connection to deeply held values and a purpose beyond our self-interest.”

“Character — the courage and conviction to live by our deepest values — is the key muscle that serves spiritual energy.”

“The key supportive spiritual muscles are passion, commitment, integrity and honesty.”

“The energy of the human spirit can override even severe limitations of physical energy.”

We demand more of each other, to become better people. Yet we feel too busy to search for the meaning and motivation to be more than we are now.

“The things that keep us from finding meaning are failure to actively engage in life and a certain laziness or lack of caring that allows us to let others make our decisions and tell us what things mean.” — Joanne Ciulla, author of The Working Life

Measuring The Power of Purpose

Answer on a scale of 1–10

  • How excited are you to get to work in the morning?
  • How much do you enjoy what you do for its own sake rather than for what it gets you?
  • How accountable do you hold yourself to a deeply help set of values?

Anything below 27* and you may be feeling uncertain if what you’re doing is the best use of your time.

*I think 27 may be a bit strict.

Powerful motions of purpose

  1. When the source of energy moves from negative to positive
  2. ..moves from external to internal
  3. ..moves from self to others

Questions To Unearth Deep Values:

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

A value is a roadmap for action.

“To be meaningful, a value must influence the choices that we make in our everyday lives.”

A value in action is a virtue.

“We may hold generosity as a value, but the virtue is behaving generously.

The book listed a ‘Deepest Values Checklist’, with over 30 values.

Here are 5 values that I hold deeply: Excellence, Freedom, Knowledge, Empathy, Responsibility

“The search for meaning is among the most powerful and enduring themes in every culture since the origin of recorded history.”

“The ‘hero’s journey’ is grounded in mobilizing, nurturing and regularly renewing our most precious resource — energy — in the service of what matters most.”

“When we lack a strong sense of purpose we are easily buffeted by life’s inevitable storms.”

“A negative source of purpose is defensive and deficit-based.”

“Intrinsic motivation grows out of the desire to engage in an activity because we value it for the inherent satisfaction it provides.”

“Values fuel the energy on which purpose is built. They hold us to a different standard for managing our energy.”

“Each of us has an infinite capacity for self-deception.”

So sure!

A short poem by R.D Laing

The range of what we think and do
Is limited by what we fail to notice
And because we fail to notice
That we fail to notice
There is little we can do
To change
Until we notice
How failing to notice
Shapes our thoughts and deeds

Facing the truth to better understand and correct negative feelings rather than ignorantly acting them out.

“Buddhist sages saw the ultimate spiritual challenge is to ‘wake up.’”

“Greeks knew great wisdom was to ‘Know Thyself’”

Common Performance Barriers

  • Low energy
  • Impatience
  • Defensiveness
  • Negative attitude
  • Critical of others
  • Low-stress tolerance
  • Moody/irritable
  • Poor team player
  • Inflexible/rigid
  • Unfocused
  • High anxiety
  • Poor time management
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Lack of integrity
  • Indecisive
  • Poor Communication skills
  • Poor listening skills
  • Lack of passion
  • Low self-confidence
  • Lack of empathy
  • Overly dependent
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Negative/pessimistic thinking

“The practice of Vipassana meditation is sometimes referred to as ”witnessing“ — observing our thoughts, feelings and sensations without getting caught up in them.”

“At the most basic level, we deceive ourselves in order to protect our self-esteem.”

“What we fail to acknowledge about ourselves we often continue to act out unconsciously.”

“The bigger the storm the more inclined we are to revert to our survival habits, and the more important positive rituals become.”

“The sustaining power of rituals comes from the fact that they conserve energy.”

This is key!

“‘We should not cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are going,’ wrote philosopher A.N Whitehead, back in 1911. ‘The price opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of operations which we can perform without thinking about them.’”

“In contrast to will and discipline, which imply pushing ourselves to action, a well-defined ritual pulls us.”

We need to hold strong to our rituals during difficult times, and reinvest in them overtime so that they can remain fresh and not confine us to outdated ways.

Great mindset the coach of the San Francisco 49ers Bill Walsh on his approach to football, but this can be applied in many areas of your life: “At all times the focus must be on doing things properly. Every play. Every practice. Every meeting. Every situation. Every time.”

Practice makes perfect only if the practice is perfect — or at least aims for perfection.

“If nothing success like success, it is equally true that nothing fails like excess. Because change requires moving beyond our comfort zone, it is best initiated in small and manageable increments.”

“The most important role of rituals is to ensure effective balance between energy expenditure and energy renewal in the service of full engagement.”

“Precision and specificity are critical dimensions of building rituals during the thirty-to-sixty-day acquisition period.”

Central conclusion: Energy is the fundamental currency of high performance.

  • Capacity is a function of one’s ability to expend and recover energy.
  • Every thought, feeling and action has an energy consequence.
  • Energy is the most important individual and organizational resource.
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