FC:Good Morning, Tony, your book The Power of Full Engagement has certainly caught our attention in that it not only offers a new personal management paradigm, but productive work habits that minimize bad stress and over-work are a crucial ingredient to "wellness". Interestingly, it draws from proven techniques in athletic training which our readers can relate to. How did you ever make a connection?
TS: "My partner, Jim Loehr, is a sports psychologist who 25 years ago began working with world-class athletes to help them perform better under pressure - everyone from Pete Sampras to Ernie Els to Dan Jansen to Eddie Cheever. When Jim and I began to work together, it dawned on both of us that the demands high performing executives were facing vastly exceed those of any athletes Jim had ever trained. Our clients get far less time to "practice" than athletes do, they have a much shorter off season and they have to sustain careers for many more years than athletes do. "
"Time is finite . . . Energy, on the other hand, can be expanded."
FC:Now, in a nutshell, how do you define "Full Engagement"? And even though we may think so, why are most of us not fully engaged?
TS: "Fully engagement simply means "firing on all cylinders" - being physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned. Most of us get disengaged simply because the demand in our lives begins to exceed our capacity - a function both of the growing pressures we all face and the inexorable process of aging. That's why training is so important: it's the only way to build and sustain capacity. "
FC:Can you say a little more about the four dimensions of energy?
TS: "Sure. At the physical level, which is fundamental, we're talking about the quantity of energy. At the emotional level, it's the quality of energy from negative to positive. At the mental level, it's the focus of energy. And at the spiritual level, it's the force of energy. All four forms of energy are necessary, none is sufficient by itself. "
FC:Most of us today are fairly skilled in "task management" with our day timers, Palm Pilots and checklists, some of us may even practice a Steve Covey method
of using quadrants of "importance" vis-à-vis "urgency", but your new book places the emphasis in managing "energy" and not "time". Can you enlighten us?
"Whatever you invest your energy in gets stronger. Anything you stop investing energy in atrophies and eventually dies. Energy is fundamental to everything we do."
TS: "Time is finite. We have only 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. Most of us don't have any more time left and we've done about everything we can think of to use our time more efficiently. Energy, on the other hand, can be expanded. The research is clear, for example, that you can take an 80 year old woman, expose her to resistance training 20 minutes a day three days a week, and in a matter of a few months, she'll dramatically increase her strength. The same is true about other domains of our lives. Whatever you invest your energy in gets stronger. Anything you stop investing energy in atrophies and eventually dies. Energy is fundamental to everything we do."
FC:We've all been programmed to be linear. That is, if you work an 8 hour day you'll have so much output, so therefore if you work a 9 hour day, you'll have that much more output, or if you skip that 15 minute break, you'll have 15 minutes more output, but you challenge this notion, can you please explain?
"In order to be fully engaged -- and maximally productive -- it is critical to periodically disengage. "
TS: "All great athletes understand the concept of periodization - the managing of work-rest ratios. In order to be fully engaged -- and maximally productive -- it is critical to periodically disengage. The culture we live in disparages renewal and recovery and celebrates continuous work. People use words like "crazed" and "overwhelmed" with a certain pride in describing their lives. Think about it: is being crazed or overwhelmed truly healthy? The most powerful way to sustain high energy is to take intermittent periods of rest throughout the day. That could be as little as a few minutes, so long as the disengagement is complete. Answering your email isn't a particularly good way to restore energy, for example. Getting up, taking a walk, working out, hydrating, eating something, or making a phone call to a loved one are all ways to change channels and refuel the system - not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally. "
FC:Many of our readers are sports and health club owners or fitness directors and are therefore keenly aware of interval training in fitness, but you say that the principles of interval training also have applications in the emotional, metal and spiritual realms. Can you give us examples?
"The best way to recharge mentally is simply to turn off the switch - to get off the thinking track"
TS: "The point is that we not only get depleted physically in the course of a day, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. A good friendship is a source of emotional renewal. So is listening to music. The best way to recharge mentally is simply to turn off the switch - to get off the thinking track. It's interesting that most people say they get their best ideas when they aren't consciously thinking - in the shower, or while taking a run, or while puttering in the garden. Spiritually there are many sources of renewal - prayer, meditation, journaling, time spent in nature, being of service to others. The point is that we can't simply expend energy constantly. Instead, we need to think of ourselves as sprinters rather than marathoners. Fully engage for a period of time, and then fully disengage. That's critical in every dimension of our lives. "
FC:We were particularly moved by your notion of "Realistic Optimism". It sounds like a difficult balancing act. Can you explain the notion and why it's so important?
"We need to think of ourselves as sprinters rather than marathoners."
TS: "We believe deeply in the value of holding opposites. Optimism is an expression of positive energy, which all kinds of evidence suggests is critical to high performance. Having said that, unfettered optimism may simply be a form of stupidity. You don't want to be driving towards a brick wall at 60 miles an hour and feeling optimistic that you won't hit it. That's where realism plays a critical role. Realistic optimism means recognizing the facts in any given situation and then focusing on the most hopeful and empowering potential outcome. "
Realistic optimism means recognizing the facts in any given situation and then focusing on the most hopeful and empowering potential outcome.
FC:A lot of our readers have to deal with behavior change with their clients, albeit in the diet and exercise arena. But you harp upon the power of rituals and its impact on behavior change. Can you explain its importance?
TS: "We are creatures of habit and we tend to resist change. Will and discipline turn out to be wildly overrated. Only 5% of our behaviors are consciously self-directed. The rest we do automatically or in reactively in the face of a demand. If you have to think about something for very long you won't do it for very long. Rituals are highly precise behaviors that become automatic over time. When it comes to fitness, for example, it is critical to have fixed times and days for working out, and a clearly defined routine. You don't want to waste precious energy getting yourself to a task that is already difficult or deciding what exactly you are going to do. Rather it should become as automatic as brushing your teeth, just as sacrosanct as a key business meeting. You know a ritual is in place when you no longer push yourself to a particular behavior and instead feel pulled by it. "
FC:These are new and unfamiliar notions you put forth in your book. How have you measured success as to whether these techniques actually work?
TS: With athletes, we measure by the numbers. They aren't interested in anything but results. With executives and other professionals, we measure success by helping them to define very clearly the outcomes they are seeking, and then return to them periodically to see how exactly how they are doing and how others perceive they are doing. Our most powerful evidence is the incredibly high percentage of people we see who swear by our work and keep coming back to work with us. What we're offering is a training system for life. No athlete would expect to be able to compete at the highest levels without training regularly. Why should an executive or a teacher or a lawyer expect to excel over time without working the muscles that serve their professions - not just biceps and triceps, but also muscles such as patience, compassion, integrity, commitment and confidence. "
FC:Tony, where can this go? Are there any new ideas incubating in your mind to evolve this approach going forward?
"You know a ritual is in place when you no longer push yourself to a particular behavior and instead feel pulled by it."
TS: Over time, my dream is to deepen and extend this process - to build a cadre of people who are committed to lifetime training in all dimensions, and who are willing to invest time and energy in that pursuit year in and year out. Ultimately this means focusing not just on changing specific behaviors, but on understanding and overcoming the resistance that inevitably arises along the way. It also means beginning to think of ourselves as whole human beings - recognizing that the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of ourselves all influence one another, and must all simultaneously be cultivated to live rich, complete lives. "
Thank you, Tony.
About Tony Swartz
Tony Schwartz is a best selling author and a nationally recognized authority on performance, change and growth. He co-created LGE Performance Systems' Corporate Athlete® Training System. He is also co-author with Jim Loehr, Ed.D., The Power of Full Engagement
Tony has been a reporter for the New York Times, an Associate Editor at Newsweek, a staff writer for New York and Esquire Magazines and a columnist for Fast Company. In 1988, Tony co-authored The Art of the Dealwith Donald Trump, which became an international bestseller. In 1995, Tony wrote What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America and in 1998, co-authored Work in Progress with Michael Eisner, chairman of the Walt Disney Company.
Tony has lectured widely, leading keynotes and workshops for senior executives at companies including AT&T, Salomon Smith Barney, The Estée Lauder Companies, McDonald's, CSFB/First Boston and the Thomson Corporation, as well as for organizations including the Harvard Business School, the Weatherhead School of Management and the Episcopal Church Pension Fund. Tony has appeared on many radio and television programs including Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, CBS News and National Public Radio.
Tony is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Michigan. He is married to Deborah Pines, a psychotherapist and they have two children.
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