Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Power of Full Engagement

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz
Read: 8/27/09-10/4/09
LibraryThing tags: Self-help, Business, Life Management

In some ways this is a very typical self-help business-y kind of book. It quotes and uses concepts from other self-help, it cites studies and confuses correlation with causation. But it does have some very good ideas. It's not as deeply lifechanging as The Pathway by Laurel Mellin, but few things are. It's value is in the tips, the little changes one can make to one's life which turn out to be extremely powerful.

I suppose the first is in the subtitle. Makes sense to me. Perhaps the second is the idea of rhythmicity, oscillation, or cyclicism versus linearity. Apparently humans have ultradian rhythms, 90- to 120-minute cycles, which cause an "ebb and flow of our energy throughout the day." Taking breaks at those intervals (or even just switching the type of task, perhaps) instead of "powering through" can be tremendously energizing, and thus actually much more productive, no matter what kind of work you're doing (i.e., even if the book mostly focuses on athletes and corporate workers, this also applies to housewives, artists, etc.).

Actually, I can see this concept of cycles and rhythms at play in much more of life than what the book discusses. It seems to me to be a reason behind the various kinds of festivals and holy days commanded in the Old Testament, at every level from the week to the month to the year even to the Year of Jubilee. We're told there's a "time for everything," we're repeatedly told to remember -- because we mortals can only do so much at once. We have to take turns focusing on different things. We think in our quest for excellence we need to be and do everything at once, but that simply isn't true. I'm not trying to take these things from the Bible as proof -- they are not the entirety of the reason I believe cycles and rhythms are so important -- I just think, if that's true and they are important, it makes sense to see that illustrated here and there in the Bible. Since it's how God designed us and all. Anyway.

The third thing I got out of it is that balancing stress (or exercise) and recovery is important in every area of life; physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual (although for the purposes of the book by "spiritual" they just meant the higher purpose kinds of questions, it seems true for the actual spiritual side of things as well). This is most easily seen in the physical -- obviously lack of exercise causes atrophy, but too much exercise can cause injury and burnout, not to mention what not eating or sleeping can do to energy levels. There aren't perfect parallels in the other dimensions, but the general principle is still there. I know someone who never faces her fears, and her emotional capacity has kept shrinking and shrinking. On the other hand, someone who never renews themself emotionally is probably going to be more irritable, etc. Good self-care is in the balance, and while you don't want to be perpetually focused on yourself, you will be better able to love others if you take care of yourself. Don't be a needless martyr.

I also enjoyed the section on values. Realizing what my most deeply held values are was rather eye-opening. Since, again, we're mortal, it may sound good to try to hold all truths equally, but it doesn't normally work out that way. There are going to be some things you value more highly than others. And to realize you're not living out even your own most deeply held values, let alone God's... well, it's rather humbling. But if you hold those things in your heart every day, keep reviewing them and checking your actions against them... well, you can begin to change for the better. Elementary self-help, I know.

Another powerful tool for change is habits, or what they call in this book "positive rituals." Because we have a limited amount of willpower, it makes sense to work on a limited amount of changes at a time, until they draw us on their own, requiring no willpower. It's very FlyLadyish. Actually, one of the reasons I wanted to read this book is because I'd heard it described as explaining why FlyLady works so well (although of course FlyLady is never mentioned in the book).

And... I think that's all I got. There was more, but those were the big points, as far as I'm concerned.

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