The Book in Three Sentences

There are three keys to being fully charged each day: doing work that provides meaning to your life, having positive social interactions with others, and taking care of yourself so you have the energy you need to do the first two things. Trying to maximize your own happiness can actually make you feel self-absorbed and lonely, but giving more can drive meaning and happiness in your life. People who spend money on experiences are happier than those who spend on material things.

Are You Fully Charged summary

This is my book summary of Are You Fully Charged by Tom Rath. My notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.

  • Daily well being is what we should be targeting.
  • The new research on daily experiences has changed the way we think about health, happiness, and well being.
  • Scientists can now study the day to day experiences of individuals often in minimally invasive ways. (Fitbit, etc.)
  • 3 keys to bring fully charged: meaning, positive interactions, and energy.
  • “The odds of being completely engaged in your job increases by 250% it you work on meaningful projects each day.”
  • The pursuit of meaning, not happiness is what makes life better.
  • The more value you place on your own happiness, the more likely you are to feel lonely. If you spend your time seeking your own happiness then you end up feeling more shallow or self-absorbed. Meaning, however, makes you feel better by giving yourself to a cause bigger than yourself.
  • Fredrickson's research found that 70% of people had higher happiness levels vs meaningfulness levels. These people displayed a similar genetic markers as those in stressful and adverse situations.
  • Study of teenagers showed that those with a higher percentage of meaningful behaviors had lower levels of depression. 2014 study followed them for a full year and tested them in an fMRI scanner about hedonic acts vs meaningful acts.
  • Spend time listing the positive impact your work does. Attach meaning to the small things you do and “connect the dots between your efforts and a larger purpose.” It's important to understand how you contribute value.
  • The differences in how we view our work can just be a result of the stories we tell. You can tell a negative version of the story or you can tell a positive version. Which true version do you want to believe?
  • Study of hospital workers by Raznoski found that people who made connections with patients and coworkers found more meaning in their work.
  • Most people try to “squeeze meaning in around the edges” of their day rather than dedicating their work day to meaningful things. “Work for more than a living.”
  • “Work is a purpose, not a place.”
  • When figuring out what you should do each day begin by asking, “How can my time make a difference for others?”
  • According to one research study, doubling your income only increases happiness by 9 percent.
  • The game of upward comparison: “Satisfaction and income are almost entirely relative to ones comparison group.”
  • Many successful people can live stressful and miserable lives if all they do is compare upwardly.
  • Idea: compare downward to maintain perspective? Travel to poor areas? Etc.
  • Most work days consist of small wins and tiny actions, not large external bonuses or rewards. You need meaning to drive you forward on most days.
  • Spending more time working toward a shared mission will add meaning to your life.
  • One of the downfalls of the “follow your passion” advice is that it assumes that putting your own passion and happiness at the center of your world is what leads to meaning, fulfillment and joy. That is often not the case.
  • Focus on your strengths every day. People who do are 6x more likely to find meaning in their job.
  • “Cast a shadow rather than living in one.”
  • It's easy to fall into a default career path that is more about other people's expectations than your own interests.
  • View work as the original social network. Just how negative and positive emotions can spread virally online, they can do the same in the office.
  • For most of us, reactionary actions take up way more of our day than tasks we initiate. But most of the meaning we derive is from task we initiate, not reactions we fall into based on what others need.
  • One study: people unlock their phones 110 times per day.
  • “We lose 28% of our time each day.”
  • Dan Gilbert study: participants reported a wandering mind 48% of the time and “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” (Think about how different a wandering mind is from a mind in flow. And we know that flow is one of the most happy and fulfilling experiences we can have.)
  • Rest more: There is always the option to do nothing.
  • Physical mail only shows up once per day and then we process it. But email is something we check all the time. (How can you blockemail and only answer once per day?)
  • Finland's 45/15 break time … Covered by Tim Walker.
  • “What the most productive people have in common is that they treat working time like a sprint (52 minutes on average) and then pairing it with a recharge session (17 minutes on average).”
  • Idea: what if you treated work like practice? At practice each period is planned. Hell, each minute is planned. And then breaks are planned as well.
  • “We need 3 to 5 interactions to make up for each negative one.”
  • Being ignored is actually worse than hearing a negative comment. We often think that not telling someone bad news is preferable, but ignoring people is the worst possible option. We often assume the worst when we hear nothing — not to mention feeling lonely.
  • The Contagion Effect in relationships explains why the people around us influence our own behaviors. (NEJM obesity study, smoking, etc.)
  • People who spend money on experiences are happier than those who spend on material things.
  • People who spend on other people end up happier AND it makes someone else happy too.
  • Share the things you are planning with other people because anticipation increases well being. Give people the chance to anticipate great experiences. (Planning a vacation can often lead to more happiness than the vacation itself.)
  • Energy is critical. Yes, doing things for others and living a life of meaning is important. But without energy you can't do your best work. “If you want to make a difference for years to come, you have to put your health and energy first.”
  • Maintain a better balance of proteins to carbohydrates throughout the day. And reduce sugar.
  • “People now spend more time sitting than sleeping, 9.3 hours per day.”
  • “The average American spends over 15 hours per day sitting or sleeping.”
  • “After sitting for two hours your good cholesterol drops by 20 percent.”
  • 10,000 steps per day is a good baseline target of movement for most people.
  • Exercise creates a twelve hour mood boost. This is a good reason to do something physical early in the morning.
  • The 10,000 hours study by K. Anders Ericsson has a hidden finding most people ignore: the top performers slept over 8 hours on average.
  • Rhinovirus and sleep study: those not getting efficient sleep were 5.5x more likely to get sick when exposed to the Rhinovirus.
  • For better sleep avoid light, excessive heat, and noise.
  • Chopsticks study: smiling, even when you don't feel like it, you experience less stress.
  • Botox study: hindering the frowning muscles led to reduced rates of depression weeks later.
  • “Giving improves well-being in many ways.”

Reading Suggestions

This is a list of authors, books, and concepts mentioned in Are You Fully Charged, which might be useful for future reading.

  • Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Read more on logotherapy techniques pioneered by Frankl

Are You Fully Charged? by Tom Rath

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