Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Power of Full Engagement - by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Power of Full Engagement - by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Amazon page for details and reviews.

The authors worked with the best athletes and executives for years, and found that the best ones knew how to push themselves, then recuperate, push, recuperate. Take this same approach to your emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual life, and it's a powerful metaphor. Think of sprints, not marathons. Be fully in whatever you're in, then give time to recuperate. But push futher each time, past your comfort zone, like a good exercise plan.

my notes

Every one of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors has an energy consequence.

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

To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned.

Immerse yourself in the mission you are on.

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.

Professional athletes typically spend about 90 percent of their time training, in order to be able to perform 10 percent of the time. Their entire lives are designed around expanding, sustaining and renewing the energy they need to compete for short, focused periods of time. At a practical level, they build very precise routines for managing energy in all spheres of their lives - eating and sleeping; working out and resting; summoning the appropriate emotions; mentally preparing and staying focused; and connecting regularly to the mission they have set for themselves.

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

Stretching increases flexibility.

Emotional flexibility reflects the capacity to move freely and appropriately along a wide spectrum of emotions rather than responding rigidly or defensively.
Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back from experiences of disappointment, frustration and even loss.

Mental endurance is a measure of the ability to sustain focus and concentration over time.
Mental flexibility is marked by the capacity to move between the rational and the intuitive and to embrace multiple points of view.

Spiritual strength is reflected in the commitment to one’s deepest values, regardless of circumstance and even when adhering to them involves personal sacrifice.
Spiritual flexibility reflects the tolerance for values and beliefs that are different than one’s own, so long as those values and beliefs don’t bring harm to others.

We, too, 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 build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.
Building “muscles” in every dimension of our lives - from empathy and patience to focus and creativity to integrity and commitment.

We grow at all levels by expending energy beyond our ordinary limits and then recovering. Expose a muscle to ordinary demand and it won’t grow. With age it will actually lose strength. The limiting factor in building any “muscle” is that many of us back off at the slightest hint of discomfort. To meet increased demand in our lives, we must learn to systematically build and strengthen muscles wherever our capacity is insufficient. 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.

Will and discipline require pushing yourself to a particular behavior.
A ritual PULLS at you.

The power of rituals is that they insure that we use as little conscious energy as possible.

Imagine that every time you failed to focus your attention fully on the task at hand, you put someone’s life at risk. Very quickly, you would become less negative, reckless and sloppy in the way you manage your energy. We hold ourselves accountable for the ways that we manage our time, and for that matter our money. We must learn to hold ourselves at least equally accountable for how we manage our energy.

Creating positive rituals is the most powerful means we have found to effectively manage energy in the service of full engagement.

“How should I spend my energy in a way that is consistent with my deepest values?”

It is impossible to chart a course of change until you are able to look honestly at who you are today.

Face the Truth. Denying to ourselves that the choices we are making are having a consequential impact on the quantity, quality, force and focus of our energy.

Go to PowerofFullEngagement.com website and take a brief version of our Full Engagement Inventory.

Some of our existing habits help us get through the day, but take a long-term toll on our performance, health and happiness. Examples include relying on junk food for bursts of energy.

Building rituals requires defining very precise behaviors and performing them at very specific times - motivated by deeply held values.

Great leaders are stewards of organizational energy. They begin by effectively managing their own energy. As leaders, they must mobilize, focus, invest, channel, renew and expand the energy of others.

The powerful source of energy that can be derived from connecting to a clear sense of purpose.

Unmoored from deeply held values, he didn’t have much motivation to take better care of himself physically, or to control his impatience, or even to prioritize his time and focus his attention.

An imbalance between the expenditure and the recovery of energy: they were either overtraining or undertraining.

Both overtraining and undertraining have performance consequences that include persistent injuries and sickness, anxiety, negativity and anger, difficulty concentrating, and loss of passion.

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.)

The benefits of a sustained fitness program decrease significantly after just one week of inactivity - and disappear altogether in as few as four weeks.

Emotional depth and resilience depend on active engagement with others and with our own feelings. Mental acuity diminishes in the absence of ongoing intellectual challenge. Spiritual energy capacity depends on regularly revisiting our deepest values and holding ourselves accountable in our behavior.

We assume that we can spend energy indefinitely in some dimensions - often the mental and emotional - and that we can perform effectively without investing much energy at all in others - most commonly the physical and the spiritual.

In the sixteen to twenty seconds between points in a match, the heart rates of top competitors dropped as much as twenty beats per minute. By building highly efficient and focused recovery routines, these players had found a way to derive extraordinary energy renewal in a very short period of time.

Many of us treat life as a marathon that doesn’t end until it finally ends for good.

We must learn to establish stopping points in our days, inviolable times when we step off the track, cease processing information and shift our attention from achievement to restoration.

To build capacity, we must systematically expose ourselves to more stress - followed by adequate recovery.

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.

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.

The deepest satisfaction comes from our willingness to expose ourselves to new challenges and engage in novel experiences.

The willingness to challenge our comfort zones depends partly on our degree of underlying security. To whatever degree we are consumed by anxious concerns, we are less willing to expose ourselves to any discomfort.

Gradual and incremental exposure to increasing doses of stress.

The size of our energy reservoir depends on the patterns of our breathing, the foods that we eat and when we eat them, the quantity and quality of our sleep, the degree to which we get intermittent recovery during the day, and the level of our fitness.

Breathing in to a count of three and out to a count of six, lowers arousal and quiets not just the body but also the mind and the emotions.

Even if you don’t feel consciously hungry, eating breakfast is critically important. It not only increases blood glucose levels, but also jump-starts metabolism.

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.

Snacks 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.

The shifts of energy that we experience are tied to the ultradian rhythms that regulate physiological markers of alertness at 90-to 120-minute intervals.

It took him four weeks to lock in these new rituals so that they began to exert a noticeable pull on him.

Recommended exercise protocol is twenty to thirty minutes of continuous exercise, three to five days a week, at 60 to 85 percent of maximum heart rate.

Sprinting, walking up stairs and down, bicycling and even weight lifting, so long as the effect is to rhythmically raise and lower heart rate.

Stress inoculation occurs only when the stress intensity is at the optimal level - high enough to activate a person’s psychological and biological systems, but low enough so as not to overwhelm them. If the stress level is not high enough, inoculation will not occur; if the stress level is too high, stress sensitization will occur, and the individual will probably perform less effectively when he is stressed again. In short, minimizing or avoiding stress is just as destructive to capacity as excessive stress without recovery.

Researchers looked at the effects of bed rest on some 16,000 patients with fifteen different medical problems. It turned out that patients got no significant beneficial effect from prolonged bed rest, regardless of their medical condition. To the contrary, bed rest tended to delay recovery and in some cases cause further damage to the patient. These conclusions even applied to conditions for which bed rest has long been recommended, including low back pain, recovery after a heart attack.

He had never stuck with an exercise program long enough to derive any benefits.

Committed to an exercise program for sixty days - the outer limit of what it typically takes to put a new ritual into place.

The key to any new fitness regimen is to start slowly and build incrementally.

Heart-rate monitor. Target heart rate. he could reach that rate simply by walking fast. He maintained it for sixty seconds and then slowed down until his heart rate dropped to 90.

Repeated the same up-and-down sequence for the next twenty minutes. Rather than pushing himself continuously for twenty or twenty-five minutes, he was teaching his body both to tolerate stress and to recover efficiently.

Emotional intelligence is simply the capacity to manage emotions skillfully in the service of high positive energy and full engagement. In practical terms, the key “muscles” or competencies that fuel positive emotion are self-confidence, self-control (self-regulation), social skills (interpersonal effectiveness) and empathy. Smaller, supportive “muscles” include patience, openness, trust and enjoyment.

When our emotional muscles are weak or insufficient to meet demand - if we have a lack of confidence or too little patience, for example - we must systematically build capacity by devising rituals to push past our current capacity and then recover.

Epidemiologist David Snowdon, study of 678 aging nuns who had been required to write a personal essay when they came into the order in their early twenties. Those nuns whose writing expressed a preponderance of positive emotions (happiness, love, hope, gratitude and contentment) tended to live longer and more productive lives. Nuns with the highest number of positive-emotion sentences had half the risk of death at any age as those with the lowest number of such sentences.

Undertake activities simply because they are enjoyable and emotionally nourishing.

Keeping this physical routine helped anchor him to a sense of normalcy and provided a source of emotional recovery each day.

Talking freely with her new friends. She became as invested in their lives as they did in hers.

True empathy requires letting go of our own agendas, at least temporarily.

All virtues are entailed. Honesty without compassion, for example, becomes cruelty.

To perform at our best we must be able to sustain concentration, and to move flexibly between broad and narrow, as well as internal and external focus.

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

Agents who scored in the top 10 percent for optimism sold 88 percent more than those ranked in the most pessimistic 10 percent.

Da Vinci wrote, “It is a very good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation…. When you come back to the work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment.”

Sequential steps of the creative process. Five stages are now widely recognized: first insight, saturation, incubation, illumination and verification.

The highest form of creativity depends on a rhythmic movement between engagement and disengagement, thinking and letting go, activity and rest.

Exposing one’s self to short-term stress, for example, can stimulate a burst of adrenaline that actually improves memory.

A Japanese neuroscientist put a group of young people on a jogging program of thirty minutes, two to three times a week. When he tested them at the end of twelve weeks on a series of memory skills, their scores significantly increased, and so did the speed with which they completed the tests. Of equal note, their gains disappeared almost immediately when they stopped jogging.

The key muscle that fuels spiritual energy is character - the courage and conviction to live by our values, even when doing so requires personal sacrifice and hardship. Supportive spiritual muscles include passion, commitment, integrity and honesty. Spiritual energy is sustained by balancing a commitment to others with adequate self-care.

The disconnection from a compelling sense of purpose had robbed him of passion and of any clear sense of direction.

Expanding spiritual capacity requires subordinating our own needs to something beyond our self-interest. Because we often perceive our own needs as urgent, shifting attention away from them can prompt very primitive survival fears. If I truly focus my attention on others, we worry, who is going to look out for me? It is a mark of courage to set aside self-interest in order to be of service to others or to a cause.

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

"We are much better than we know. We have unrealized capacities that sometimes only emerge in crisis. So if there is a purpose to the suffering that is cancer, I think it must be this: it’s meant to improve us." - Lance Armstrong

We become fully engaged only when we feel that what we are doing really matters.

Purpose creates a destination.

Look at someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.

Create a vision for how we intend to invest our energy.

To provide inspiration it needs to be lofty, ambitious and even a bit overreaching. It needs to be realistic, specific and personal.

“Every form of addiction is bad,” wrote Carl Jung, “no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”

We deceive ourselves in order to protect our self-esteem - our image of who we are or wish to be.

Intellectualizing is a means of acknowledging a truth cognitively without experiencing its impact emotionally.

But why were the most successful leaders also so consistently self-effacing, modest and eager to share credit? In part, it was that their humility gave others room to flourish.

The success of any large venture depends on giving people a sense of ownership and a feeling of being valued and valuable. Genuine humility also meant that these leaders were open to opinions contrary to their own and to the possibility that their views weren’t always necessarily right. They were confident enough to be wrong without feeling diminished.

“Ask someone to give a description of the personality type which he finds most despicable, most unbearable and hateful, and most impossible to get along with,” writes Edward Whitmont, “and he will produce a description of his own repressed characteristics….These very qualities are so unacceptable to him precisely because they represent his own repressed side; only that which we cannot accept within ourselves do we find impossible to live with in others.”

Like all of our “muscles,” self-awareness withers from disuse and deepens when we push past our resistance to see more of the truth. We fall asleep to aspects of ourselves each and every day. Much as we must keep returning to the gym and pushing weight against resistance in order to sustain or increase our physical strength, so we must persistently shed light on those aspects of ourselves that we prefer not to see in order to build our mental, emotional and spiritual capacity.

When it comes to absorbing the truth, too big a dose can be overwhelming, and even self-defeating. Some truths are too unbearable to be absorbed all at once.

Ivan Lendl was far from the most physically gifted tennis player of his era, but for five years he was the number-one-ranked player in the world. His edge was in the routines that he built. He followed similar routines in every dimension of his life. He developed a rigorous fitness regimen off the court, which included sprints, middle-distance runs, long bicycle rides and strength training. He did regular ballet bar exercises to increase his balance and grace. He adhered to a low-fat, high complex-carbohydrate diet and ate at very specific times. Lendl also practiced a series of daily mental-focus exercises to improve his concentration - and regularly introduced new ones to assure that they remained challenging. At tournaments, he gave clear instructions to friends and family not to burden him with issues that might distract him from his mission. Whatever he did, he was either fully engaged or strategically disengaged. He even meticulously scheduled his time for relaxation and recovery, which included recreational golf, daily afternoon naps and regularly scheduled massages. On the court, during matches, he relied on another set of rituals to keep himself centered and focused, including visualizing entire points before playing them and following the same multiple-step ritual each time he stepped up to the line to serve.

It is perfectly logical to assume that Lendl excelled in part because he had extraordinary will and discipline. That probably isn’t so. A growing body of research suggests that as little as 5 percent of our behaviors are consciously self-directed. We are creatures of habit and as much as 95 percent of what we do occurs automatically or in reaction to a demand or an anxiety. What Lendl understood brilliantly and instinctively was the power of positive rituals - precise, consciously acquired behaviors that become automatic in our lives, fueled by a deep sense of purpose.

Positive energy rituals are powerful on three levels. They help us to insure that we effectively manage energy in the service of whatever mission we are on. They reduce the need to rely on our limited conscious will and discipline to take action. Finally, rituals are a powerful means by which to translate our values and priorities into action - to embody what matters most to us in our everyday behaviors.

Rituals serve as anchors, insuring that even in the most difficult circumstances we will continue to use our energy in service of the values that we hold most dear.

Every time we participate in a ritual, we are expressing our beliefs, either verbally or more implicitly.

The sustaining power of rituals comes from the fact that they conserve energy. “We should not cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing,”

Civilization advances by extending the number of operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

Discipline, which imply PUSHING ourselves to action, a well-defined ritual PULLS us. We feel somehow worse if we don’t do it.

It is possible to strategically build the muscle of self-control. The same training regimen applies. Exercise self-control or empathy or patience past normal limits, and then allow time for rest and these muscles become progressively stronger.

Shift from the mentality of a marathoner to that of a sprinter.

Because Peter told us that he felt freshest early in the morning, we had him begin his workdays at 6:30 A.M. and write for ninety minutes before he did anything else. At 8:00 A.M., Peter stopped to have breakfast with his wife Peter returned to work at 8:30 A.M. and wrote without interruption until 10:00. At that point, he took a twenty-minute recovery break - ten minutes of training with light weights followed by ten minutes of meditation. He also ate a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts before heading back to his desk. Peter’s third writing session went from 10:30 until 12:00 NOON, at which point he went jogging and then ate lunch. During those 41/2 hours of focused morning work, Peter was able to write nearly twice as much as had sitting at his desk for up to ten hours a day in previous years.

If our rituals become too rigid, unvarying and linear, the eventual consequence is boredom, disengagement and even diminished passion and productivity.

Hold fast to our rituals when the pressures in our lives threaten to throw us off track, and to periodically revisit and change them so that they remain fresh.

There are several key elements in building effective energy-management rituals but none so important as specificity of timing and the precision of behavior during the thirty-to sixty-day acquisition period.

Specificity of timing and precision of behavior dramatically increase the likelihood of success.

By determining when, where and how a behavior will occur, we no longer have to think much about getting it done.

The less thinking people have to do under adverse circumstances, the better.

Build rituals in increments - focusing on one significant change at a time, and setting reachable goals at each step of the process.

Create a daily accountability log. This exercise can be as simple as a yes or no check on a sheet kept by the side of your bed.