Digest The Power Of Full Engagement

December 1, 2020
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Estimated Reading Time: 15 minute(s)

The following notes/exerts are from the book “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal” by Tony Schwartz. It can be purchased here

I’ve been reading through this book and using each chapter as content for leading discussions. I’ll continue to record my favorite quotes from each chapter and provide a link to a small presentation that each quote exists on its own slide. This makes leading a discussion much easier.

Chapter 1 


Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.

Every one of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors has an energy consequence, for better or for worse.

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

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 begins with feeling eager to get to work in the morning, equally happy to return home in the evening and capable of setting clear boundaries between the two.

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.

The primary markers of physical capacity are strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience. These are precisely the same markers of capacity emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Principle 3: 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.

Principle 4: 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 becomes automatic over time—fueled by some deeply held value.

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.

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

“How are you spending your energy now?”

Chapter 2 


While I did not make a lot of highlights in this chapter, I found it incredibly interesting. Essentially the author walks through a single client, Roger, going through their entire process. We discover that he hasn’t been as honest with himself about all aspects of his life, from work to family. We uncover a few areas where he is over working himself, others where he is underworking himself and across the board he is not resting.

Energy is highly infectious, and negativity feeds on itself.

Leaders have a disproportionate impact on the energy of others.

When we asked what gave him the greatest sense of passion and meaning in his life, he came up empty.

Facing the Truth begins with our Full Engagement Inventory—a highly detailed questionnaire designed to surface people’s behavioral patterns and to measure how effectively they are spending and recovering energy in all dimensions of their lives.

Physical energy is fundamental

Cumulatively, Roger’s choices took a severe toll not only on the quantity and quality of energy available to him, but also on his focus and his motivation.

Relationships are one of the most powerful potential sources of emotional renewal.

The way that Roger managed his energy physically and emotionally helped to account for his third performance barrier: poor focus.

Chapter 3 


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

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.)

I’ve developed a regimen that allows me to move from peaks of concentration into valleys of relaxation and back again as necessary. My focus begins to sharpen as I walk onto the tee, then steadily intensifies as I complete the process of analysis and evaluation that produces a clear-cut strategy for every shot I play. It then peaks as I set up to the ball and execute the swing when, ideally, my mind picture of what I’m trying to do is both totally exclusionary and totally positive. If the tee shot finds serious trouble, when I might immediately start processing possible recoveries, I descend into a valley as I leave the tee, either through casual conversation with a fellow competitor or by letting my mind dwell on whatever happens into it.

It is in the spaces between work that love, friendship, depth and dimension are nurtured. Without time for recovery, our lives become a blur of doing unbalanced by much opportunity for being.

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.

Our capacity to be fully engaged depends on our ability to periodically disengage.

A study conducted by America Online in 2000 found that 47 percent of its subscribers took their laptops on vacation, and 26 percent continued to check their email every day.

“More and more what I find is that you don’t really live in the present anymore,” he explained. “You’re never fully engaged in what you’re doing at any given moment, because what you really want to do is finish it in order to get on to something else. You kind of skim along the surface of life. It’s very frustrating.”

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

The catch is that we instinctively resist pushing beyond our current comfort zones.

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

“The best moments in our lives usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

When there isn’t much fuel in our tanks and our inner experience is that we feel threatened, we tend to hoard the energy we have and use our limited stores in the service of self-protection. We refer to this phenomenon as defense spending. Accurately assessing the level of threat in our lives is critical if we are to continue to grow rather than forever defending what we have.

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.

Our most fundamental need as human beings is to spend and recover energy. We call this oscillation.

The opposite of oscillation is linearity: too much energy expenditure without recovery or too much recovery without sufficient energy expenditure.

Balancing stress and recovery is critical to high performance both individually and organizationally.

We must sustain healthy oscillatory rhythms at all four levels of what we term the “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 expose 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 long-term reward.

Chapter Four Physical Energy: Fueling the Fire 

physical energy is the fundamental source of fuel, even if our work is almost completely sedentary. It not only lies at the heart of alertness and vitality but also affects our ability to manage our emotions, sustain concentration, think creatively, and even maintain our commitment to whatever mission we are on.

The most important rhythms in our lives are the ones we typically take for granted—most notably breathing and eating. Few of us even think about breathing. Oxygen becomes precious only in those rare instances when we can’t get enough

In one study at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, subjects were placed in an environment with no clocks or time cues. Provided with food, they were told to eat whenever they were hungry. They did so an average of once every ninety-six minutes.

Portion control is critical both in managing weight and in regulating energy.

In one study of children ages seven to twelve, for example, subjects were classified into five weight categories, from thin to obese. On average, they all consumed about the same number of calories per day. The one variable, it turned out, was that the children in the two heaviest categories ate less at breakfast and more at dinner than their leaner counterparts.

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.

We subscribe to an 80–20 rule. If 80 percent of what you eat fuels performance and health, you can eat whatever you like for the other 20 percent—so long as you control the size of the portions.

The specific times that we sleep also affect our energy levels, health and performance. Numerous studies have shown that shift workers—meaning those who work at night—have twice the number of highway accidents as day workers and considerably more on-the-job accidents as well.

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

medical errors, many of them at least partly caused by fatigue among doctors, account for nearly 100,000 deaths a year, more than from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Interval training is a means by which to build more energy capacity and to tolerate more stress, but also to teach the body to recover more efficiently.

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

Chapter Five: Emotional Energy: Transforming Threat into Challenge 

When demand begins to deplete our physical energy reserves, one of the consequences is that we begin to feel a sense of emergency.

Stop for a moment and think about someone who has been a mentor in your life. Was his or her energy positive or negative? Have you been more motivated and inspired in your life when you were encouraged, supported and challenged or when you were criticized, judged and threatened?

How many hours a week do you devote to activities purely for the pleasure and renewal they provide? What percentage of the time would you describe yourself as feeling deeply relaxed? When was the last time you truly let go and felt fully disconnected?

It is hard to imagine a more severe test of emotional capacity than to have been working at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. Jeffrey S. is a longtime client of ours and a managing director at a financial services firm headquartered directly across the street from the Twin Towers. When the first plane hit, Jeffrey watched in horror from his forty-sixth-floor window.

A relationship in which you do most of the giving and receive very little in return ultimately prompts a sense of deficit and emptiness. A self-absorbed relationship isn’t really much of a relationship at all.

he determined to say to himself “Kindness matters.” This simple mantra made him instantly aware of how he wanted to behave under pressure.

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

To be fully engaged emotionally requires celebrating what the Stoic philosophers called anacoluthia—the mutual entailment of the virtues. By this notion, no virtue is a virtue by itself. Rather, all virtues are entailed.

Chapter Six: Mental Energy: Appropriate Focus and Realistic Optimism 

Jim received a call from middleweight boxing champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, with whom he was then working. “I’m really concerned,” Mancini said. “I had a negative thought in the ring today.” “Just one negative thought?” Jim answered, a little incredulous. “You don’t understand, Doc,” Mancini said. “A single negative thought is what gets you hit in the face.”

The brain represents just 2 percent of the body’s weight, but requires almost 25 percent of its oxygen.

“Where are you when you get your best ideas?” Gelb has asked this question to thousands of people over the years, and the most common answers he gets include “in the shower,” “resting in bed,” “walking in nature” and “listening to music.”

He also found that he was looser and more imaginative during the first several morning hours at work.

Because the mind and body are so inextricably connected, even moderate physical exercise can increase cognitive capacity. It does so most simply by driving more blood and oxygen to the brain.

“What is the worst-case scenario here? If everything that could go wrong did go wrong, could I live with the consequences?”

Time management, we tell our clients, is not an end in itself. Rather it serves the higher goal of effective energy management.

Because we have a limited number of hours in a day, we must not only make intelligent choices about how to use them but must also insure that we have the energy available to invest in our highest priorities. Too often, we devote our time to activities that don’t advance our mission, depleting our energy reserves in the process.

what seems most demanding in the moment—crowds out the important—priorities that are ultimately more consequential, but don’t necessarily require immediate attention.

The same is true of many corporate cultures, where a constant sense of emergency makes it difficult for anyone to step back and make more thoughtful choices.

The key supportive mental muscles include mental preparation, visualization, positive self-talk, effective time management and creativity.

Physical exercise stimulates cognitive capacity.

Chapter Seven: Spiritual Energy: He Who Has a Why to Live 

We define “spiritual” not in the religious sense, but rather in more simple and elemental terms: the connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our self-interest.

Spiritual energy is sustained by balancing a commitment to others with adequate self-care.

It is often around tragedy that people discover the importance of spiritual energy.

The employees of the bond trading company Cantor Fitzgerald collectively drew upon a deep reservoir of spiritual energy in the face of a very different tragedy. The company’s headquarters was on four of the top floors of One World Trade Center, and more than two-thirds of the one thousand employees in Cantor’s New York offices died on September 11, 2001. The company’s computer systems and massive amounts of data were also destroyed, and it was unclear whether Cantor itself could survive. The remaining employees were understandably shocked, grief-stricken and in many cases traumatized.

Ann learned she was pregnant for the first time, she decided to quit smoking right then and there. Until the day that her child was born, she never picked up another cigarette. She resumed smoking before she had left the hospital.

When Ann was able to connect the impact of smoking to a deeper purpose—the health of her unborn child—she gained access to a wellspring of focused purpose. Quitting was easy. Once her child was born and she no longer had such a clear sense of purpose, the lure of smoking became compelling again.

Some activities generate considerable spiritual renewal without demanding significant energy expenditure. These include walking in nature, reading an inspirational book, listening to music, or hearing a great speaker.

Spiritual practices, by contrast, can be renewing and demanding at the same time. Meditation, for example, requires mobilizing highly focused attention to quiet the mind, but may also prompt a rejuvenating experience of expansive openness, connectedness and even joy. Like

The more preoccupied we are with our own fears and concerns, the less energy we have available to take positive action.

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—

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state, but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”

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.

Linda overestimated her capacity to efficiently meet the demands that she took on. That was what kept her at work late, left her feeling exhausted, and undermined her sense of connection with her family.

it stemmed from a strong need for control and an unwillingness to trust others and to delegate.

When any new challenge arose, she paused and asked herself two key questions. The first was “Is this something I need to do myself?” If her answer was yes, the second question was: “When does it need to be finished, and can I reasonably get it done by then?” If she had any doubt, she checked her calendar, and if she decided to take it on, she made an immediate addition to her to-do list, including a promised completion date.

honesty is about telling the truth, to ourselves and to others.

Chapter Eight: Defining Purpose: The Rules of Engagement 


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