Book Review: The Power of Full Engagement

This is a great book on personal performance management. I channel a lot of these concepts in my discussion of a daily practice and the importance of taking care of your health. Jim Loehr is like a personal trainer for life. In this book he shares his research and techniques he uses to help people in all walks of life to find more energy, purpose and satisfaction.

He argues that energy, not time, is the finite resource we must manage if we want to effect change in the world. He has taken some great learnings and parallels from the athletic world and applied them to professionals in all walks of life. One of my favorite concepts is the idea of exertion and recovery – arguing that you only expand your capacity by first over-exerting yourself, and then providing sufficient time for recovery. Much like weight lifting.

Another great concept is the characterization of the different types of energy:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

Each being critical to living a healthy, sustainable life with energy and passion.

Great read! Below are a few of my favorite excerpts.



On exertion and recovery:

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.

On the importance of eating right:

It is equally important to eat foods that are low on the glycemic index, which measures the speed with which sugar from specific foods is released into the bloodstream. (See Glycemic Index Examples in Resources.) A slower release provides a steadier source of energy. The low glycemic breakfast foods that provide the highest octane and longest lasting source of energy, for example, include whole grains, proteins and low-glycemic fruits such as strawberries, pears, grapefruit and apples. By contrast, high-glycemic foods such as muffins or sugary cereals spike energy for short periods but prompt a crash in as few as thirty minutes. Even a breakfast traditionally viewed as healthy—an unbuttered bagel and a glass of orange juice—is very high on the glycemic index and therefore a poor source of sustaining energy

The frequency with which we eat also influences our capacity to stay fully engaged and to sustain high performance. Eating five to six low calorie, highly nutritious “meals” a day insures a steady resupply of energy. Even the most energy rich foods won’t fuel high performance for the four to eight hours that many of us frequently permit to pass between meals. 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.

Sustained performance depends not just on eating at regular intervals but also on eating only as much as you need to drive your energy for the next two to three hours. Portion control is critical both in managing weight and in regulating energy. It is just as problematic to eat too much, too often, as it is to eat too little, too infrequently. Snacks The Dynamics of Full Engagement 51 between meals should typically be between 100 and 150 calories and once again should focus on low-glycemic foods such as nuts and sunflower seeds, fruits, or half of a typical-size 200 calorie energy bar.

On the importance of sleep:

Other than eating and breathing, sleeping is the most important source of recovery in our lives. It is also the most powerful of the circadian rhythms that include body temperature, hormone levels and heart rates. The vast majority of our clients report that they are significantly sleep deprived. Few of them recognize just how dramatically insufficient sleep affects their performance and their level of engagement both at work and at home

For years, medical school and hospital administrators have argued that compelling residents to work long hours makes them better able to handle the pressures that they will have to face as doctors. But try asking a hospital administrator whether he is comfortable driving on a highway at night alongside truck drivers who haven’t slept for twenty four hours; or flying on a plane in which a young pilot in training hasn’t slept for thirty hours; or living in the vicinity of a nuclear plant in which new operators work in isolation for twelve-hour shifts through the night. The real reason that young physicians-in-training work such long shifts is economic. The cost of implementing the new post-Libby Zion regulations in New York state alone—mostly related to replacing lost hours of labor by residents—has been estimated to be in excess of $225 million a year.

On making time for the things that matter:

Doug L. is an executive who spent nearly a decade overseeing several thousand financial advisers at a large financial services company. From early on, he instinctively understood the role of rituals. To assure that he embodied the values he had defined as important and the goals he had set for himself, he developed a series of what he called “key behaviors.” In his personal life these included a weekly date night with his wife and a commitment to attend all of his daughters’ athletic events. One of the more unusual rituals, for an executive at his level, was that on Wednesdays at 1:00 P.M., he left his office to play tennis for an hour, and on Fridays at 1:00 P.M. he played basketball for ninety minutes at a nearby YMCA. His secretary put these two dates in his weekly calendar and protected them the way she would any other high priority appointment. For Doug, these two activities were critical sources of renewal in the course of his very demanding days. If he had been more casual about trying to find the time to exercise in the middle of workdays, he told us, it never would have happened. The same was true of the date night with his wife and the time he committed to his daughters

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