The Power Of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

the power of full engagement“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”

In The Power of Full Engagement, authors Jim Loehr (world-renowned performance psychologist, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute), and Tony Schwartz (journalist, founder of The Energy Project) defend the thesis that “Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”

Energy vs. Time

According to the authors, we often underestimate the fundamental role that energy plays in our personal and professional lives.

Obvious as this seems, we often fail to take into account the importance of energy at work and in our personal lives. Without the right quantity, quality, focus and force of energy, we are compromised in any activity we undertake.

Energy is the fundamental driver of productivity. We cannot change the number of hours in a day, but we can influence the amount and quality of energy available to us.

There are undeniable bad bosses, toxic work environments, difficult relationships and real life crisis. Nonetheless, we have far more control over our energy than we ordinarily realize. The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not. It is our most precious resource. 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.

Full Engagement

After working for thirty years with world-class athletes and defining precisely what it takes to maintain the highest levels of performance under intense competitive pressures, Loehr and Schwartz have identified the keys to managing energy.

The skillful management of energy, individually and organizationally, makes possible something that we call full engagement.

To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest. To maintain a powerful pulse in our lives, we must learn how to rhythmically spend and renew energy.

Many of us confuse investment of energy with relentless hard work, which often results in loss of motivation and inspiration. More than the amount of energy we invest, HOW we invest it is important. At the most practical level, our capacity to be fully engaged depends on our ability to periodically disengage.

The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal. Instead, many of us live our lives as if we are running in an endless marathon, pushing ourselves far beyond healthy levels of exertion. We become flat liners mentally and emotionally by relentlessly spending energy without sufficient recovery. We become flat liners physically and spiritually by not expending enough energy. Either way, we slowly but inexorably wear down.

(…) (We) must learn to live our own lives as a series of sprints -fully engaging for periods of time, and then fully disengaging and seeking renewal before jumping back into the fray to face whatever challenges confront us.

Loehr and Schwartz further explain how we can apply athletic principles in the management of stress and how to work it to our advantage in enhancing our performance. 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.

Stress And Recovery

The key to expanding capacity is both to push beyond one ́s ordinary limits and to regularly seek recovery, which is when growth actually occurs.

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

Stress is not the enemy in our lives. Paradoxically, it is the key to growth. In order to build strength in a muscle we must systematically stress it, expending energy beyond normal levels. Doing so literally causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. At the end of a training session, functional capacity is diminished. But give the muscle twenty-four or forty-eight hours to recover and it grows stronger and better able to handle the next stimulus. While this training phenomenon has been applied largely to building physical strength, it is just as relevant to building “muscles” in every dimension of our lives -from empathy and patience to focus and creativity to integrity and commitment. What applies to the body applies equally to the other dimensions of our lives. This insight both simplifies and revolutionizes the way we approach the barriers that stand our way.

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

Any form of stress that prompts discomfort has the potential to expand our capacity -physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually- so long as it is followed by adequate recovery.

Positive Energy Rituals

The key here is to maintain that level of commitment over a long period of time, which is where positive energy rituals come into play.

Positive energy rituals -highly specific routines for managing energy- are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

The problem with most efforts at change is that conscious effort can ́t be sustained over the long haul. Will and discipline are far more limited resources than most of us realize. If you have to think about something each time you do it, the likelihood is that you won ́t keep doing it for very long. The status quo has a magnetic pull on us.

A positive ritual is a behavior that becomes automatic over time -fueled by some deeply held value.

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. Think of something as simple as brushing your teeth. It is not something that you ordinarily have to remind yourself to do. Brushing your teeth is something to which you feel consistently drawn, compelled by its clear health value. You do it largely on automatic pilot, without much conscious effort or intention. The power of rituals is that they insure that we use as Little conscious energy as possible where it is not absolutely necessary, leaving us free to strategically focus the energy available to us in creative, enriching ways.

Balancing stress and recovery is critical not just in competitive sports, but also in managing energy in all facets of our lives. When we expend energy, we draw down our reservoir. When we recover energy, we fill it back up. Too much energy expenditure without sufficient recovery eventually leads to burnout and breakdown. (Overuse it and lose it). Too much recovery without sufficient stress leads to atrophy and weakness. (Use it or lose it)

We call this rhythmic wave oscillation, and it represents the fundamental pulse of life.

Do you feel that you could do with some more balance between your physical and emotional development? If your answer is yes, we highly recommend that you get yourself a copy of The Power of Full Engagement.

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