The Power of Full Engagement
BY Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
“The more we take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world, the more empowered and productive we become. The more we blame others or external circumstances, the more negative and compromised our energy is likely to be.” — Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.
Can you reach your peak performance levels without the right sort of energy? Did you know that there is more than one type of energy that fuels your success?
The Power of Full Engagement emphasizes the importance of energy for both sports and professional performance. In the digital age, time management is no longer an option. We have access to the rest of the world 24/7. The Power of Full Engagement tells us how to reclaim control of our energy rather than our time.
Released in 2003, it is a New York Times bestseller and has helped many companies improve efficiency.
Jim Loehr’s Perspective
Jim Loehr is a world-renowned performance psychologist. He used his knowledge to co-find the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and often writes for the Harvard Business Review. He is the author of 17 self-help books, including his most recent, leading with Character. It is his belief that our character is our most powerful tool when it comes to optimizing performance in our home and work lives.
Tony Schwartz’s Perspective
Tony Schwartz is an American journalist and business book author. In the 1980s, he co-authored Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Tony has also co-authored a book with the then CEO of Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner. He writes a bi-weekly column for The New York Times on financial news.
TOP 20 INSIGHTS:
1. If you’re low on energy, it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of time to accomplish a task - you’ll be so exhausted that you’ll make very little progress. If you have a ton of energy, you can get many things done in very little time.
2. Energy is finite, but expandable. You only have so much energy to use each day, but our capacity for productive effort expands as we use it. As long as you take care of yourself and pay attention to how much energy you have, you can accomplish surprising amounts of work.
3. Time management proponents make the mistake of assuming all hours are fungible - equal to any other. On a calendar, there’s no visible difference between 9:00-10:00am and 12:00-1:00pm. Physically, there’s a huge difference. Our body operates in Energy Cycles in which our energy fluctuates up and down. You may be familiar with the circadian cycle, which is responsible for our waking/sleeping pattern. There are other cycles as well, which naturally oscillates every 90 minutes between high and low energy.
4. When working, think like a sprinter - you can cover a lot of ground in a quick burst, but you can’t keep up that pace all day. With a little rest between bursts, however, you can sprint over and over again. If you tax yourself too much, you’ll wear yourself out, and you’ll need a longer period of recovery before you’ll be ready to go again.
5. Humans are physical beings, and we have physical needs. Instead of viewing your body as a vehicle for your brain, it’s useful to think of your body as one integrated tool, which you use to get things done. If the tool breaks or wears down, you won’t accomplish anything. Here’s a great little story Warren Buffett often tells: if you were told that you could only have one car for the rest of your life, you would take immaculate care of it. You would polish, protect, and maintain it as best as you could. Our body serves the same purpose, so treat it the same way.
6. Food is your body’s fuel - ensure you’re getting enough (not too much), that it’s high quality, and that it contains enough of the protein and nutrients your body needs to function optimally. You also need enough water: tea is also a good option for variety. Stay away from refined sugars. When in doubt, eat like humans ate thousands of years ago.
7. Have you ever had a day where you half-worked? At the end of the day, you didn’t get much done, but you felt like you had just run a marathon? Those days are days wasted. If you’re not being productive, take a break - a real break. Pretending to work does no one any good. Recharge your batteries, and then go back to your work when you’re relaxed and refreshed.
8. When we concentrate on managing our time, many of us tend to work for hours on end without pause. But this takes a toll on our energy levels, and consequently makes us less productive.
9. To increase your physical capacity and energy, the authors recommend focusing on rhythmic activities (interval training). This can take several forms: climbing stairs, biking, doing strength training etc., but the important thing are that this activity first raises and then lowers the heart rate at regular intervals. This promotes the capacity for recovery and increases performance.
10. To achieve good performance on a daily basis, emotional energy should be enjoyable and positive. Concepts such as pleasure, the challenge, adventure and the search for opportunities are at the heart of full engagement. It is important, in addition to having good physical energy, to have good “emotional muscles”. These can be described as: self-confidence, self-control, empathy and finally the relationship skills
11. Rhythmic wave oscillation is the balancing of stress and recovery critical to high performance personally and professionally. Rhythmic wave oscillation is the fundamental pulse of life. Thus, the more power powerful our pulse, the more fully engaged we can be. As humans, we are oscillatory beings that need to spend and recover energy. We draw down our energy supply during expenditure and recharge our energy supply during recovery.
12. Physical Capacity is defined by the quantity of energy and reflected in one’s ability to expend and recover energy at the physical level. The quantity of available energy is measured in terms of volume (low to high). The goal is to achieve the greatest quantity of energy.
13. Emotional Capacity is defined by the quality of energy and reflected in one’s ability to expend and recover energy at the emotional level. The quality of available energy is measured in from unpleasant (negative) to pleasant (positive). The goal is to achieve the highest quality of energy.
14. Mental Capacity is defined by the focus of energy and reflected in one’s ability to expend and recover energy at the mental level. The focus of available energy is measured in terms of broad to narrow and external to internal. The goal is to achieve the clearest focus of energy.
15. Spiritual Capacity is defined as the force of energy and reflected in one’s ability to expend and recover energy at the spiritual level. The force of available energy is measured in terms of self to others, external to internal, and negative to positive. Our goal is to achieve the maximum force of energy.
16. The Change Process is a three-step process for making significant long-lasting changes (Purpose, Truth, and Action). If growth and development take place from the bottom up (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually), change occurs from the top down.
17. Purpose comes from spiritual energy, which provides us with a set of deeply held values and a higher purpose. It powers full engagement by igniting our desire to invest our precious resources, especially energy, toward specific tasks, goals, or vision. When we lack meaning, the chaos of life will take over and prevent us from reaching our goals.
18. Facing the truth allows us to recognize and address negative feelings instead of acting on impulse. We should be open to the possibility that we do not see ourselves or others accurately. Additionally, we need to accept our weaknesses to reduce our defensiveness and improve the amount of positive energy available.
19. “To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.” You must stress yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually beyond your limits to grow and then give yourself time for recovery.
20. Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy—are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.” A positive ritual is a behavior that is automatically adapted over time and motivated by a deeply-held value.
Lesson #1: Energy, Not Time, Is Our Most Precious Resource
“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 and Tony Schwartz.
Our performance runs on the currency of energy. The best energy state for improving performance is full engagement. The time we spend on something is not what makes our life work. Instead, the energy we bring to that time is important.
Four principles underpin full engagement. The first type of energy is physical. We all understand physical energy. It is the type that helps us move. As with all energy, physical energy depends on flexibility, endurance, and strength.
The second type of energy is emotional. Emotional flexibility allows us to express a vast range of feelings. We experience different emotions in different situations. We can also experience several emotions during one experience. For example, a scary experience might include fear, curiosity, and perseverance.
Mental energy is integral to focus. It is necessary for resilience. We draw on this when we feel like giving up, but we know we cannot. An example of this would be completing mundane work tasks, as you would lose your job if you did not do them.
The final type is spiritual energy. Spiritual energy is about keeping in touch with our core values. We use our spiritual energy to help us make the right decisions. Our morals help dictate our decision-making. An example of this would be rejecting a well-paid job at an unethical company.
To reach our peak performance, we must ensure that all four energy levels are as full as possible. Our physical and emotional energy levels are the most important. But all energy types contribute to our performance.
Lesson #2: We Must Balance Energy Expenditure with Energy Renewal
Energy expenditure is vital for peak performance. But, we need to learn how to replenish our energy reserves after expenditure. Here are five ways you can encourage energy replenishment:
1. Oscillation: Every biological process in the human body oscillates. Nothing is continually working in your body. Even your heart takes breaks between beats. If all you do is work and push yourself, you will struggle. So, you need to take time off to renew your energy. We have to be more like sprinters with our work. Work very hard when doing essential tasks or during important meetings. Then, we must relax.
2. Rituals: Athletes can manage extraordinary demands by building powerful rituals. Rituals improve our resilience. We should build rituals around eating, exercising, and activities with friends and family.
3. Awareness of your energy levels: You have to be aware of your energy levels to respond appropriately. One way to do this is by using a timer that prompts you to take breaks. But this is not always dependent on your energy levels at that point. Therefore, you need to learn when your energy levels are low and you need a break. For example, if you have to read an email 3 or 4 times, you will likely need a break. We must pay attention to the ‘window of circadian uncertainty.’ This low-energy time is often between 2 and 4 pm.
4. A positive mind-set: If you feel stressed or something terrible has happened, it is easy to be negative. Do something positive to reset your mood. Enjoy your favourite food or watch your favourite comedian. To recover mentally, you have to turn off the negative response neurons. Do something that uses a different part of your brain. The brain works best when it is entirely on, and then turned fully off.
5. Reconnect to your purpose: Your experience should align with your values. You should engage in purposeful activities to refill your spiritual energy reserves. You could spend time with loved ones or read literature that has meaning to you.
Lesson #3: We Need to Train like Athletes
Our energy reserves are not infinite. Thus, we cannot continually work. If we did this, it would lead to burnout. We need to train our four energy types like muscles.
Taking small steps outside our comfort zone increases our energy reserves. With the analogy of muscles, we tear muscle fibres, so they can grow. In the same way, we sometimes have to push ourselves harder than the average person to build up our reserves. Like athletes, we have to let ourselves recover after depleting our energy reserves.
Imagine having constant negative thoughts due to a build-up of negative emotional energy. Instead of ignoring them, you should write these thoughts on paper. This forces you to re-read these thoughts. It might be uncomfortable, but it prompts you to track your feelings. Thus, strengthening your emotional energy the next time you have negative thoughts.
These key muscles fuel positive emotional energy: self-confidence, self-control, interpersonal effectiveness, and empathy. Negative emotions are essential for survival, but they are not crucial for performance. To make our emotional muscles accessible, we have to balance exercise and recovery.
A great leader can foster positive emotions in colleagues in times of stress. Do this by encouraging them with enjoyable, fulfilling, and affirming activities.
Lesson #4: Build Positive Energy Rituals
The most important rituals are those associated with positive energy. One of the benefits of rituals is that they become habits. Habits use less brain activity, saving us time and energy. Only 5 percent of our actions are conscious. So, 95 percent of our actions are rituals.
Complete self-control requires too much energy. Thus, rituals are fundamental to balancing our energy expenditure and renewal.
As well as saving energy, rituals create positive patterns that help us live by our values. Living by our values helps us develop our spiritual energy.
You should develop rituals through substitution. This involves training yourself to do something good every time you are tempted to do something bad. For example, every time you want a packet of potato chips, you would instead have a handful of nuts. Eventually, eating nuts will become a ritual. If you can continue to introduce new rituals, you can align your life with your values.
Lesson #5: Accepting Your Limitations Encourages Positive Energy
“Because the rest of us are evaluated more by what we do with our minds than with our bodies, we tend to discount the role that physical energy plays in performance. In most jobs, the physical body has been completely cut off from the performance equation. In reality, physical energy is the fundamental source of fuel, even if our work is almost completely sedentary.” – Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.
Many of us avoid reality so we can suppress our negative feelings. Eventually, this approach can deplete our energy levels. Instead, we should accept our limitations so we can manage them. An example of this is constructive criticism. It is common for people to take constructive criticism as a personal attack. Instead, we should understand the message and use it to improve our performance.
It depletes more energy and involves more mental effort to avoid the truth than accept it. Ignoring constructive criticism may improve your self-esteem in the short term. However, you will continue to make these mistakes and have the same criticism if you do not accept it the first time. A willingness to create positive energy increases positive energy levels.
Lesson #6: Maintenance of All Energy Types Relies Upon Our Physical Energy
“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.” — Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.
Our physical energy is the fundamental source of all other energies. Our physical energy comes from an interaction between oxygen and glucose. Oxygen and glucose depend on our sleep and breathing patterns and what and how we eat.
You should aim to eat foods known to increase energy levels. For example, nuts and green leafy vegetables are crucial. These foods provide a gradual energy source that lasts for a long time. Additionally, you should eat more meals that consist of fewer calories. Five to six low-calories, nutritious meals per day is ideal.
On top of this, we must ensure we are drinking enough water. Muscles dehydrated by just 3% lose approximately 10% of their strength. You should drink sixty-four ounces of water daily. This act is vital for effectively maintaining physical energy.
Finally, our sleep patterns are significant for maintaining our physical energy levels. You should aim for between seven and eight hours per night. This might differ depending on your personal needs. Additionally, going to bed earlier and waking up earlier will optimize your performance.
Maintaining a high level of physical energy should also improve our mental energy. Studies suggest that regularly playing sports makes us around 70% more productive. This does not mean you have to start running for an hour every day. Instead, try to make small changes in your life. For example, take the stairs rather than the elevator at work. Plus, build your physical capacity by engaging with interval training. This type of training boosts recovery and increases your physical energy reserves.
This can also strengthen our emotional energy. When our bodies are low on physical energy reserves, we stress more. Low physical energy levels make us irritable. To maintain positive emotional energy, we need to focus on our physical energy.
Lesson #7: Training Your Mental Energy Can Encourage Creativity and Focus
Creativity is one of the most important skills in the modern world. Combining creativity with efficiency and concentration helps us reach peak performance. Yet, over-focusing on each of these factors can limit the effectiveness of the others. This is where mental energy is crucial. We have to adopt realistic optimism. We must accept how things are while working towards a desired goal with a positive attitude. As soon as you find a way to maintain this attitude and focus, you can start to incorporate creativity.
One way to build your mental energy is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Try new activities and new ways of doing things. Being adventurous will help your ‘muscles’ of mental energy grow. With enough mental energy, you can manage creativity, efficiency, and focus effectively.
Lesson #8: Spiritual Energy Combines with Motivation
Although we aren’t all spiritual, we all have spiritual energy. This energy is associated with our morals and purposes and motivates us in everything we do. A source of motivation outside our interests moves us in the right direction.
For example, smokers generally only think about their immediate gains when smoking. Yet, women often give up smoking if they become pregnant. They give up because they now have a source of motivation: their child’s health. We must constantly search for these types of motivation in our lives. These motivations will guide us no matter the circumstances.
Lesson #9: An Overarching Positive Goal Is Vital for Motivation
An overarching goal is vital for our daily motivation and commitment to tasks. We must understand how to identify the right goal for us. As long as the goal you choose is right for you, it will provide a reliable energy source. These goals must be long-term. They have to apply to various circumstances, not just your immediate goals. Hence, you have to try to identify a moral standpoint that applies to all that you do. Once you have this goal, you must use it in all circumstances. You will then have the energy for even the most tedious tasks.
Final Summary and Review of the Power of Full Engagement
By noticing and fuelling our different types of energy, we can best utilize our minds and bodies for efficiency. This works in all settings, from sporting situations to the office and beyond. The Power of Full Engagement enables us to make the most of our energy types so that we can be fully engaged for peak performance.