Summary of The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

This summary of The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, draws heavily on the “Bear in mind” subsections at the end of each chapter.

Part one – The dynamics of full engagement

Chapter one – Fully engaged: energy, not time, is our most precious resource

  • Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.
  • Full engagement is the energy state that best serves performance.
  • Principle 1: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
  • Principle 2: Because energy diminishes with both overuse and underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with energy renewal.
  • Principle 3: To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.
  • Principle 4: Positive energy rituals–highly specific routines for managing energy–are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.
  • Making change that lasts requires following a three-step process: Define Purpose, Face the Truth and Take Action.

Chapter two

This chapter is entirely devoted to describing the life of Roger B., an imaginary character who lives a disengaged life, and can be safely ignored.

Chapter three – The pulse of high performance: balancing stress and recovery

  • Our most fundamental need as human beings is to spend and recover energy.  This process is called “oscillation”.
  • The opposite of oscillation is linearity: to much energy expenditure without recovery or too much recovery without sufficient energy expenditure.
  • Balancing stress and recovery is critical to high performance.
  • We must sustain healthy oscillatory rhythms at all four levels of a “performance pyramid”: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
  • We build emotional, mental and spiritual capacity in precisely the same way that we build physical capacity. We must systematically exposes ourselves to stress beyond our normal limits, followed by adequate recovery.
  • Expanding capacity requires a willingness to endure short-term discomfort in the service of lon-term reward.

Chapter four – Physical energy: fueling the fire

  • Physical energy is the fundamental source of fuel in life.
  • Physical energy is derived from the interaction between oxygen and glucose.
  • The two most important regulators of physical energy are breathing and eating.
  • Eating five to six low-calorie, nutritious meals a day ensures a steady supply of glucose and essential nutrients.
  • Drinking sixty-four ounces of water daily is a key factor in the effective management of physical energy.
  • Most human beings require seven to eight hours of sleep per night to function optimally.
  • Going to bed early and waking up early help to optimize performance.
  • Interval training is more effective than steady-state exercise in building physical capacity and in teaching people how to recover more efficiently.
  • To sustain full engagement, we must take a recovery break every 90 to 120 minutes.

Chapter five – Emotional energy: transforming threat into challenge

  • 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.
  • Access to the emotional muscles that serve performance depends on creating a balance between exercising them regularly and intermittently seeking recovery.
  • 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.

Chapter six – Mental energy: appropriate focus and realistic optimism

  • Mental capacity is what we use to organize our lives and focus our attention.
  • The mental energy that best serves full engagement is realistic optimism–seeing the world as it is, but always working positively towards a desired outcome or solution.
  • The key supportive mental muscles include mental preparation, visualization, positive self-talk, effective time management and creativity.
  • Changing channels mentally permits different parts of the brain to be activated and facilitates creativity.
  • Physical exercise stimulates cognitive capacity.
  • Maximum mental capacity is derived from a balance between expending and recovering mental energy.
  • When we lack the mental muscles we need to perform at our best, we must systematically build capacity by pushing past our comfort zone and then recovering.
  • Continuing to challenge the brain serves as a protection against age-related mental decline.

Chapter seven – Spiritual energy: he who has a why to live

  • 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.
  • Spiritual energy expenditure and energy renewal are deeply interconnected.
  • Spiritual energy is sustained by balancing a commitment to a purpose beyond ourselves with adequate self-care.
  • Spiritual work can be demanding and renewing at the same time.
  • Expanding spiritual capacity involves pushing past our comfort zone in precisely the same way that expanding physical capacity does.
  • The energy of the human spirit can override even severe limitations of physical energy.

Part two – The training system

Chapter eight – Defining purpose: the rules of engagement

  • 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.
  • Purpose becomes a more powerful and enduring source of energy when its source moves from negative to positive, external to internal, and self to others.
  • 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.
  • A virtue is a value in action.
  • A vision statement, grounded in values that are meaningful and compelling, creates a blueprint for how to invest our energy.

Chapter nine – Face the truth: how are you managing your energy now?

  • Facing the truth frees up energy and is the second stage, after defining purpose, in becoming more fully engaged.
  • Avoiding the truth consumes great effort and energy.
  • At the most basic level, we deceive ourselves in order to protect our self-esteem.
  • Some truths are too unbearable to be absorbed all at once. Emotions such as grief are best metabolized in waves.
  • Truth without compassion is cruelty–to others and to ourselves.
  • What we fail to acknowledge about ourselves we often continue to act out unconsiously.
  • A common form of self-deception is assuming that our view represents the truth, when it is really just a lens through which we choose to view the world.
  • Facing the truth requires that we retain an ongoing openess to the possibility that we may not be seeing ourselves–or others–accurately.
  • It is both a danger and a delusion when we become too identified with any singular view of ourselves. We are all a blend of light and shadow, virtues and vices.
  • Accepting our limitations reduces our defensiveness and increases the amount of positive energy available to us.

Chapter ten – Taking action: the power of positive rituals

  • Rituals serve as tools through which we effectively manage energy in the service of whatever mission we are on.
  • Rituals create a means by which to translate our values and priorities into action in all dimensions of our life.
  • All great performers rely on positive rituals to manage their energy and regulate their behavior.
  • The limitations of conscious will and discipline are rooted in the fact that every demand on our self-control draws on the same limited resource.
  • We can offset our limited will and discipline by building rituals that become automatic as quickly as possible, fueled by our deepest values.
  • The most important role of rituals is to insure effective balance between energy expenditure and energy renewal in the service of full engagement.
  • The more exacting the challenge and the greater the pressure, the more rigorous our rituals need to be.
  • Precision and specificity are critical dimensions of building rituals during the thirty- to sixty-day acquisition period.
  • Trying not to do something rapidly depletes our limited stores of will and discipline.
  • To make lasting change ,we must build serial rituals, focusing on one significant change at a time.

Chapter eleven – The reengaged life of Roger B.

This chapter is entirely devoted to describing the new, reengaged life of Roger B. and can, again, be safely ignored.

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