Dapeng Li

Hungry, foolish and passionate – yet another software developer.

Book Notes: The Power of Full Engagement


Recently I’ve read a book named The Power of Full Engagement.

This book is about getting the best of you in your life, “full engagement” simply means managing your energies effectively, and use them when you need the most.

To me, the ideas in this book can be summarized in three words: balance, super-compensation and ritual.


Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

  • Physical capacity includes strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience; the other three sources have those attributes as well.
  • Emotional flexibility means your capacity to move between different emotions; emotional resilience shows how well you can bounce back from negative emotions.
  • Mental endurance is reflected by your focus and concentration; mental flexibility is your ability to move between the rational and the intuitive.
  • Spiritual strength is your commitment to your deepest values; spiritual flexibility is marked by the tolerance for values and beliefs that are different than your own.

“Balance” means you need to pay attention to all four resources, they’re not isolated but interacts with each other. You need all four of them to be fully engaged.

Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

“Balance” also means within each source of energy, you need to find that sweet spot between usage and renewal. In short, it’s “use it or lose it” vs. “overuse it and lose it” situation.

Some sees life as a marathon, the authors suggests that life is a series of sprints – no matter how intense the demand you face, the finish line is clearly visible 100 or 200 meters down the track. Sprint – rest – sprint – rest – … that’s your rhythm.


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

Balancing can keep your capacity, but to increase it you should push yourself out of your comfort zone and also give it enough time to rest.

For example: when training for muscle strengths, if you push hard enough you will feel sore and uncomfortable; but given your muscles enough time to rest, they will be back and stronger. The same applies to your “muscles” of the other three sources of energies.


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

The power of rituals (or habits) is: once established, they require very little energy to “pull” you to the actions you really want. Comparing to relying on your will and discipline – which “push” you and require much more power – rituals are very energy-efficient. The rationale behind this, in the words of the authors:

If you have to think about something each time you do it, the likelihood is that you won’t keep doing it for very long.

There are tons of examples demonstrating the power of rituals. Look at yourself, if you’re good at something, you should be able to find some rituals/habits supporting it. No matter it’s healthy diet, effective relationships, or productivity… you name it.

This book helps me facing the truth: the decreasing capacities of many facets in my life. It also encourages me to get back on track with strategies (read rituals).

I apologize for the delay of writing this post and the shameless rehashing many of the ideas in the book. I wanted and promised to finish this post about a month ago, but found myself becoming unreasonably lazier the longer I missed the deadline. If you’re confused by some contents of this post, it’s most likely because of my poor interpretation of the ideas of the authors; I hope you go give a try on their book.

Additional resources: I found a video review of this book by Brian Johnson, you can watch the video here (or here). Brian also has a more detailed review in PDF and MP3 format, you can find them here.

Written by Dapeng

July 31st, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Life

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