Books, Leadership, Personal Development

Book: The Power of Full Engagement

Time management is important. But don’t ignore energy management. This is the premise of The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. Feeling flat at work? Tired all the time? Unfocused or down? You might want to check under the hood of your life to see what – if anything – is fuelling your engine.

As human beings, we are continually expending and replenishing our energy. What is energy? It’s your capacity to do life. You might be stellar at checking boxes on your task list, but if you aren’t managing your energy, you’ll tether your performance and may even set yourself up for a break down.

If you want to step up your game or pursue mastery, you need to keep your eye on your energy levels. “Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance….Performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy” (4-5).

Success in life means becoming fully engaged. Full engagement requires managing your energy. I appreciate the author’s four energy-management principles:

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.

Principle 3: To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.

Principle 4: Positive energy rituals – highly specific routines for managing energy – are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

Here’s the bottom line. When you frequently lack energy, it can probably be traced to one of four diminishing sources: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Think of these as four large batteries. These batteries are special – they can be continually developed over time to hold a stronger charge, and last longer. You draw from these four batteries (sources), but you also need to build capacity in each. The more you do this, the more overall energy you will have. For example, if you develop your physical battery (diet, sleep, exercise), by applying stress and recovery (working out, hiding the Twinkies), you will increase your physical capacity. Over time, this will give you more physical energy to draw on. To increase any capacity, you must be willing to endure short-term discomfort for the sake of long-term reward. A large part of the book is focused on how to increase your capacity for each source.

From a faith perspective, energy management is not at odds with a Christian worldview. You were uniquely created by God – the pinnacle of his creation. You were made to bear his image in the world. You were fearfully and wonderfully made, with physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual capacities. God’s care for you is wholistic – he cares for every part of you. He wants you to take care of yourself more than you do.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this book. So to get to the good stuff, you’ll have to dig deeper yourself.

Listen, engaging in life requires more than efficiently managing tasks. You need to manage your energy. And in case you’re wondering…no amount of excessive caffeine consumption, binge-watching, hurry, or self-obsession will build your energy capacity.

Books, Personal Development

Book: You Are What You Love

Are you looking for a biblical understanding of how people change? I recently re-explored James K.A. Smith’s bookYou Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. It might be what you’re looking for. But a forewarning: it’s not a quick-and-dirty self-help book, full of quippy mottos or chicken-soup anecdotes. It’s accessible to most readers, but it’s more a steak than a shake – you’ll have to chew a bit. The book is brilliantly written, and I appreciate Smith’s compelling logic and exegesis.

Smith’s key premise is simple: you are what you love. This differs from the more Cartesian assumption we’ve absorbed from the modern era: you are what you think. Smith argues that people are far more than thinking things – they are first, and foremost, lovers. You cannot, therefore, think your way toward becoming a more virtuous person. You need to train your loves. Ultimately, these are developed through habits: “Good moral habits are like internal dispositions to the good – they are character traits that become woven into who you are so that you are the kind of person who is inclined to be compassionate, forgiving, and so forth” (16). In essence, the book is about how to train your loves and develop your virtues, by establishing habits, or what Smith refers to as liturgies.

Depending on your theological tradition, you might hit a few speed bumps across the book’s pages, particularly if you have an aversion to liturgy, or would prefer a greater emphasis on Spirit-empowered transformation. These shouldn’t deter you from taking Smith out for a spin!

I’m a firm believer in self-reflection. Stepping back from the book, I’ve come up with a few diagnostic questions: What kind a person do I want to become? What do my virtues and habits reveal about my loves? How might I train my loves by creating life-giving liturgies (rhythms and habits) and abandoning rival liturgies?

Get the book. Reflect deeply about it. Train your loves. Share the book.