"When you are fully charged, you get more done. You have better interactions. Your mind is sharp, and your body is strong. On days when you are fully charged, you experience high levels of engagement and well-being. This charge carries forward, creating an upward cycle for those you care about."
Tom Rath, grandson of the late Don Clifton, was raised with an appreciation for using one’s natural strengths. While working for his grandfather at Gallup, he developed The StrengthFinder and also worked with him on the book How Full Is Your Bucket?
Tom suffered from health challenges when fairly young so grew to appreciate the importance of taking care of oneself and recharging. His latest book, Are You Fully Charged? The 3 Keys to Energize Your Work and Life builds on all the research he did for Gallup and since, and explains the small steps we each can take to ensure we are living life at our full potential.
Create Meaning for Yourself
"Meaning does not happen to you—you create it. One of the most important elements of building a great career and life is attaching what you do each day to a broader mission. Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day."
As per Tom, the three keys to living a life fully charged are meaning, interaction, and energy. He defines them as follows:
- Meaning: focusing on benefiting someone else rather than oneself;
- Interactions: valuing moments spent with others and focusing on the positive;
- Energy: choosing to eat, move, and sleep so that you are mentally and physically healthy.
Although all three are equally important, the one that speaks to me the most and therefore the one I’ll focus on here is meaning. Since we spend much of our waking life at work, it is crucial to find meaning there or nothing else we do will allow us to be our best.
Your (Strengths + Interests) + Others’ Needs = Meaning
"You create meaning when your strengths and interests meet the needs of the world. Knowing your talents and passions is critical, but that is only half of this supply-and-demand equation. What may be even more important is understanding what the world needs from you and how you can productively apply your strengths and interests."
Apparently pursuing meaning will make you happier than pursuing happiness: happiness is a selfish and lonely thing while meaning requires thinking of someone beyond yourself. If we focus on helping others, whether in our work or even how we create incentive programs, we’ll actually end up better off.
That said, it’s still important to do what you’re good at and enjoy since it’s really hard staying energized when you spend all your time at odds with your strengths and interests. But as Tom explains, it’s the third piece of the equation—others’ needs—that makes the difference. Not only won’t you be able to make a living without finding the intersection between these three elements, but you’ll be hard pressed to find meaning in what you do without knowing how it improves someone else’s life.
And meaning need not be reserved for those with a higher calling. If you know what purpose you and your company serve, you can figure out a way to imbue it with meaning. Tom shares the story of a man who deals with commuters on a daily basis and has made it his purpose to make someone smile every day. Can you improve someone’s life, even a little bit, on a daily basis? Is that not meaningful?
Spend Time in Your Element
"Think back through your education and career. Identify a few instances when you felt such a positive charge that you lost track of time. Make note of exactly what you were doing and who you were with at these times. Then see if you can bring that into your current work and think about one thing you can do tomorrow to spend more time in your element."
Although helping others is necessary for meaningful life and work, you’ll be able to accomplish more of this if you are in your element.
Some of us were raised believing that we can accomplish anything as long as we try hard enough. As Gallup has proven and Tom reiterates, this myth has led to many people spending years fighting an uphill battle. Why spend your life trying to be what you’re not instead of being more of who you are naturally? Why not figure out what your natural and inherent strengths are and develop those for the benefit of yourself and others? It’s the difference between going with the flow or against it: the first energizes you while the second enervates you.
If you’re not sure what those strengths are, ask yourself these questions:
- What would I be happy to keep doing even if I never got paid for it?
- What are people always asking me for help with?
- What absorbs me so completely that I always lose track of time?
Start noticing when you’re energized and when you’re exhausted. What are you doing (and/or who are you with) when you’ve got that positive charge?
Being able to find meaning in our life and work is as beneficial to those we care about as it is to ourselves since our positive energy will benefit those we spend time with. So what better reason to find meaning, try to focus on the positive, get enough sleep, etc. than to help others?
Tom gives many more helpful and easy-to-apply tips on how to find meaning, how to get more out of your interactions with others, and how to improve your mental and physical health and energy. This book is sure to provide some useful tip for anyone who wants to live a better life.
And until you read the rest of the book for yourself, think about your work. Are you lucky enough to be at the intersection of your strengths and interests plus others’ needs? Do you spend time in your element? If not, what is the one thing you can be doing now that would energize you the most?