“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” – Earl Nightingale

At the age of 16, if you were told you had 12 months to live – I think you too would be rather motivated to scientifically unwrap how we can derive the most meaningful life. 23 years later, author Tom Rath explored the key elements of energizing our work through deep research, interviews, and stories from leading scientists in his book Fully Charged.

His research conclusion: “The odds of being completely engaged in your job increase by more than 250% if you spend a lot time doing meaningful work throughout the day”

Harvard Business School’s conclusion:  “After 12,000 diary entries, 64,000 workday events and 238 workers across 7 companies” – “of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important – by far- is simply making progress in meaningful work”

Here are the top 5 ways to be Fully Charged according to Rath and health research:

1. “Every day you let something keep you from following a dream, you lose an opportunity to create meaning” – Interests + Strengths = Meaning

A 2013 study of over 12,000 workers around the world found that those who derived meaning from their work were three times more likely to stay. Meaning has the highest single impact of any variable, and the strongest source of motivation is meaningful work…particularly doing things that contribute to a collective good. This can be any involvement – your job, your fitness, your family – any activity you engage in should be more than a note on your ‘to-do list’ but a have purpose.

2.  “If you want to make a difference – not just today, but for many years to come – you need to put your health and energy ahead of all else” – Eat/Move/Sleep

Personal well-being is as important as your work engagement. If you are neglecting to fuel your body with nutritious foods, lacking exercise, and are burning yourself out from work – how do you expect to have a meaningful contribution to the lives of others? Good news is that this doesn’t have to be some grand, difficult plan. Make one step in the right direction toward either your sleep, eating, or exercise and it will lead you to an upward spiral in the other two areas. These small lifestyle choices influence each other every day.

3. “People who have very high energy levels in a given day are more than 3x more likely to be completely engaged in their work that same day” – Work with purpose! 45+15!

“There is a great deal of support for the general notion of working  in intense bursts paid with a period of time to recharge”. The top 10% treat the period of working time like a sprint – a highly focused burst of ∼45 minutes –  making the most of the working time with intense purpose. This if followed by a ∼15 break to rest up, walk around, move, and have the freedom from structured work to renew. This schedule followed in the Finland education system has been found to not only be effective in school but also in business.  Rath suggest adjusting up/down from there to determine what ratio allows you to remain fully charged.

4. “Small wins generate meaningful progress” – Small wins everyday

“Chipping away at a dream in small steps is deeply motivating” and “even in the worst situations, you can find opportunities for growth”. Seek out the small things that engage you to make daily forward progress.

5. “The actions you take throughout every single day accumulate to shape your years, decades and overall life. However, when you think about a typical day, it’s easy to take these moments for granted” – Choose Positivity 

Rath’s research found that people who reported having great interactions through the day were nearly FOUR times as likely to have a very high well-being. No doubt, life throws curve balls which we can’t control…but we can always control our next interaction and choose to put a positive spin to that conversation.
What are your strongest internal motivators? What are those reminders that give meaning to why you do what you do?

Written by Amanda Presgraves. Amanda is a senior Kinesiology major, Division I student-athlete and entrepreneur at James Madison University. As an advocate of health and personal growth, she’s on a constant pursuit to optimize life and inspire others through her commitment to healthy living. If you can’t find Amanda bouncing between the classroom, pool, kitchen, or volunteering, you can find her online as she continues to lead and motivate others towards a happier and improved life at COR through her article contributions, newsletters and community motivation. (@amandapgraves, linkedin).