Book Review: The Power of Full Engagement


Book Review: The Power of Full Engagement

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In ‘The Power of Full Engagement’, authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz introduce us to the essence of high performance: managing your own energy. As the authors found out, energy has a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimension. All of these dimensions are explored in this book, including ways to stimulate them and to overcome energy barriers in each dimension.

During their descriptions of these different dimensions, the authors demonstrate how people fool themselves by not facing the truth of the lives they live. Finding and renewing energy, defining purpose and the values that come with it finally become key.

The power of full engagementHow can we build the necessary capacity to sustain high performance in the face of increasing demands? According to the authors, it’s not about time management, but about managing your energy. Moreover, the capacity to expend and recover energy is crucial in meeting one’s goals. And in order to have access to the highest levels of energy, you will have to fully engage in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimension.

“To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, like athletes do,” the authors state, “and we must learn to balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.” To do so, we have to find positive energy rituals – highly specific routines for managing energy – that will be key to full engagement and sustained high performance. Are you still with us?

As said, there are four separate, but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The most fundamental source of energy is physical (nourished by breathing and eating), the most significant is spiritual (derived from a connection to deeply held values and a purpose beyond our self-interest). But to access these sources of energy one has to overcome a number of possible barriers, like negative habits. Therefore, making lasting changes requires a three-step process: you will have to define purpose, face the truth and take action.

The authors then introduce the concept of ‘oscillation’: the rhythmic movement between energy expenditure and energy recovery. It refers to the optimal cycle of work/rest intervals. Its opposite is ‘linearity’, e.g. excessive stress without recovery or excessive recovery with insufficient stress. Because of the need for oscillation, sustained high performance is best served by assuming the mentality of a sprinter not a marathoner. The authors state that over the career span of 30 to 40 years, performance can be optimized by scheduling 90 to 120 minute periods of intensive effort followed by shorter periods of recovery and energy renewal. This oscillation seems to be crucial for a long-lasting healthy ‘energy management’.

Finally the authors look at their own insights from an organizational perspective. They describe an organization, and every individual in it, as a reservoir of potential energy. Just as every cell in the human body is important to the overall health and vitality of the body, so is every individual important to the overall health and vitality of the corporate body.

They conclude that the same principles of energy management that apply individually also apply organizationally. And that a shared sense of corporate purpose, grounded in universal values, is the highest source of fuel for organizational action.

But didn’t we know that already?