It’s nearly the end of the month again, and I’ve not written about Engagement, my May word (see 12 Words).
The month has been full-on, a good month for exploring and practicing Engagement. I’ve been too busy living Engagement to write about it. 🙂
I started, as I always do, with the dictionary definition of Engagement. That didn’t inspire me to any particularly useful insights.
Then, I googled it, and most of the hits led me to a 2003 book by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, called The Power of Full Engagement.
That was productive but distracting, because it is a very good book (ground-breaking at the time of its release), full of strategies and rituals about how managing energy, rather than time, is the key to full engagement. There are lots of practical and creative ideas about how to manage energy at all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I did a quick read/scan of the book and picked up all kinds of useful strategies for myself and my clients, as I work with them on a foundation of super self-care.
But I still didn’t have a sense of what Engagement really means to me.
So I did a lot of journaling about it, and I set the intention to live my life engaged.
Then I went into my life with the commitment to live it “fully engaged.”
That’s when I bumped into a couple of significant differences in the way that I think about Engagement, and the way Loehr and Schwartz describe it.
The central premise of the book is its subtitle: “Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.” I fundamentally agree with this premise, except, for me, it is more about “cultivating” energy (on all levels), not so much about managing it.
Another premise of the book is that you either fully engage or strategically disengage.
In practicing Engagement, I came to the understanding that, for me, Engagement is a state of being that transcends what is going on with me. So, I am “being engaged” fully with life, whether I am in action or at rest. There is a way to be in “downtime” fully engaged.
Engagement is a full “Yes!” to life.
It’s easy to say a full “Yes!” to the aspects of life that I love: relationships, nature, my art, learning, my work, and many other aspects of my life. And, that is really useful to realize, because being deliberately intentional about coming to those cherished things fully present and engaged yields even more richness and depth than if I am just going through the motions. There is something about showing up fully engaged that has my intuition and inner connection tuned in, accessible, and flowing.
In being fully engaged, I am open, aware, and receptive to the fullness of the experience. I’m available to the gifts and the learning, and the creativity that is inspired from within.
But what is Engagement with things that we don’t love so much?
I had some health challenges this month, and that turned out to be a blessing. It gave me an opportunity to explore what it is to be fully engaged with that reality and those challenges, vs being detached or just tolerating the conditions, wishing I could get to the other side of them more quickly.
I discovered that, for me, Engagement in the stuff I don’t love so much is exactly the same as it is with the stuff that I do love.
The first step to being able to be fully engaged is to be present in what is, and I dare say, accepting of what is, rather than fighting it or wishing it were different. When I do the latter, I’m not available to the whole experience. A part of me is walled off when I’m using energy to wish things were different, or fighting reality.
It’s a challenge, and a commitment, to learn how to embrace what is, without judgement. Let’s just say it doesn’t yet come naturally to me!
But that is what allows me to come to life with awareness, openness, and receptivity, which is essential to Engagement.
Then, next, I consciously choose to be all in, fully engaged, with whatever is my life in the moment, and to trust that what is emerging from that is my right path. It’s kind of an “OK, here I am, and I’m going to fully embrace this experience, say ‘Yes!’ to this, and see what is here for me”.
When I practiced that, as best I could, with the health challenges, I discovered all kinds of layers to the experience that I might have missed otherwise: the deepened ability to tune into my body and receive its wisdom, the love of people who cared about me, the sensitivity and caring of my health care professionals. If I had been detached rather than engaged in that experience, I might have skated right over the fullness of those dimensions of the experience.
I decided that I want to say a whole-hearted “Yes!” to all of my life, like I am a willing and eager dance partner with whatever is showing up for me in my life. This is full Engagement, for me.
What is Engagement for you?