Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Are You Fully Charged?

Tom Rath

  NEW From Tom Rath in 2015


  Fully Charged features the world’s leading experts on behavioral health (Brian Wansink), the psychology of spending (Ryan Howell), social networks (Nicholas Christakis), decision making and behavioral economics (Thomas Gilovich), willpower (Roy Baumeister), and the role of meaning in our work (Amy Wrzesniewski). The film also follows individuals and organizations who are transforming themselves and their communities. You will hear from a company where employees work on treadmill desks; a church that gave its members $500 to spend on others; a “guerilla gardener” who plants vegetables in South Central LA’s abandoned lots; the US Army Surgeon General; and the co-founder of an organization that has helped thousands of low-income students make it to college. Filled with expertise and provocative real-world stories, Fully Charged reveals some of the most practical ways we can all energize our work and life.


  From Tom Rath, the co-author of How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids, the book that started a conversation about the importance of positive interactions in schools and homes around the world, comes a timeless story about how to be healthy and create energy in our daily lives. Through a series of brief adventures, Poppy and Simon discover what it takes to recharge themselves and bring an entire village back to life.


  An updated 2015 edition of the New York Times bestseller that includes access to Welbe, a new mobile app for tracking how you eat, move, and sleep in one central place. Welbe allows you to connect with friends across platforms (e.g., Android, iOS) and wearable devices (e.g., Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin).


  Praise for Are You Fully Charged?

  “Tom Rath’s books — which include StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Eat Move Sleep — have sold 6 million copies and spent 300 weeks on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. This one is arguably Rath’s best. He has written a book that is as readable as it is rigorous and as profound as it is practical.”

  —DANIEL H. PINK, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human

  “Are You Fully Charged? is about renewing ourselves in the fullest sense. Drawing on his extensive research, Tom Rath provides us with the three key pillars that can help create a life of more meaning and perspective: being part of something larger than ourselves, valuing people and experiences over mere stuff, and understanding that looking after our own well-being is the first step to doing more for others. An essential book for anyone wanting more out of life.”

  —ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, author of Thrive and co-founder of The Huffington Post

  “Tom Rath’s brilliant new book, Are You Fully Charged?, builds on his mega best-selling StrengthsFinder series to show you can lead a more meaningful life that results in more energy and better interactions every day. If you follow Rath’s wise counsel and adopt his practical advice, your life will be more fulfilling and rewarding.”

  —BILL GEORGE, author of True North and former CEO of Medtronic

  “How to live? That is the question — and Tom Rath has the answer. In his important new book, Are You Fully Charged?, Rath draws on his decades of research — and his deep humanity — to point you in the right direction, and to instill your journey with joy and meaning.”

  —SUSAN CAIN, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

  “Are You Fully Charged? lays out a blueprint for a better life that creates more energy. Rath’s book is easy to read, research-backed, and immediately practical.”

  —CHIP AND DAN HEATH, authors of Decisive, Switch, and Made to Stick

  “Once again, the brilliant Tom Rath has written an absolutely indispensable book. Here, he reveals how meaning, interactions, and energy are the three crucial elements that allow us to live happier, healthier, more productive lives. Are You Fully Charged? will inspire people to make changes, starting tomorrow morning.”

  —GRETCHEN RUBIN, author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before

  “Tom Rath reveals that engagement depends not on happiness but on meaning, interactions, and energy. This important, lucid book is full of fresh evidence that you can put into action to shift your motivation into a higher gear.”

  —ADAM GRANT, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take

  Disclaimer: The material in this book is for informational purposes only. Every person has a unique individual situation and should use common sense in combination with advice from a healthcare professional before undertaking major changes in diet, exercise, or sleep. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from the use or application of the information contained in this book.

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2014960258

  ISBN: 978-1-939714-03-9 (hardcover edition)

  ISBN: 978-1-939714-05-3 (digital edition)

  ISBN: 978-1-939714-06-0 (international paperback edition)

  ISBN: 978-1-939714-07-7 (international digital edition)

  First Printing: 2015

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Copyright © 2015 Tom Rath.

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Silicon Guild, an imprint of Missionday. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.

  Bulk purchase discounts, special editions, and customized excerpts are available direct from the publisher. For information about books for educational, business, promotional purposes, or any other requests, please email: [email protected]

  To book this author for a speaking engagement, contact the Missionday Speakers Bureau: [email protected]

  Author’s website:

  To my mother, Connie Rath,

  who has spent a lifetime creating a positive charge

  for others


  Prologue: Are You Fully Charged?

  The Science of Daily Experience • The Three Keys to a Full Charge


  Chapter 1: Create Meaning With Small Wins

  Abandon the Pursuit of Happiness • Swim in the Deep End of Life

  Chapter 2: Pursue Life, Liberty, and Meaningfulness

  Get a Charge From Within • Forge Meaning in the Moment

  Chapter 3: Make Work a Purpose, Not Just a Place

  Work for More Than a Living • Go Beyond Engagement

  Chapter 4: Find a Higher Calling Than Cash

  Avoid Upward Comparison • Keep Money From Killing Meaning

  Chapter 5: Ask What the World Needs

  Double Down on Your Talents • Act Now Before Today is Gone

  Chapter 6: Don’t Fall Into the Default

  Cast a Shadow Instead of Living in One • Craft Your Dream Into Your Job

  Chapter 7: Initiate to Shape the Future

  Put Purpose Before Busyness • Focus on Less to Do More • Silence Pavlov’s Bell

  Chapter 8: Focus for 45, Break for 15

  Use Purpose to Prevent Plaque • Keep Your Mission in Mind


  Chapter 9: Make Every Interaction Count

  Assume Good Intent • Focus On the Frequency

  Chapter 10: Be 80 Percent Positive

  Use Positive Words as Glue • At Least Pay Attention

  Chapter 11: Start Small and Be Clear

  Use Questions to Spark Conversation • Connect For Speed and Creativity

  Chapter 12: Take a Break for Relationships

  Want What You Already Have • Use Your Phone When You’re Alone

  Chapter 13: Put
Experiences First

  Buy Happiness (for Someone Else) • Plan Ahead for Well-Being

  Chapter 14: Avoid Flying Solo

  Win While Others Succeed • Use Pro-Social Incentives

  Chapter 15: Build a Cumulative Advantage

  Help Someone See What Could Be • Develop the Ultimate Strength


  Chapter 16: Put Your Own Health First

  Use Short-Term Thinking for Better Health

  Chapter 17: Eat Your Way to a Better Day

  Make Every Bite Count • Set Better Defaults • Find Food That Charges Your Mood

  Chapter 18: Learn to Walk Before You Run

  Keep Sitting From Sapping Your Energy • Measure to Move More • Get a 12-Hour Charge in 20 Minutes

  Chapter 19: Sleep Longer to Achieve More

  Don’t Show Up for Work After a Six-Pack • Get a Vaccine for the Common Cold • Fight Light, Heat, and Noise

  Chapter 20: Eat, Move, and Sleep to De-Stress

  Keep Stress From Snowballing • Avoid Secondhand Stress

  Chapter 21: Respond with Resiliency

  Push “Pause” Before Responding • Grin to Bear It

  Epilogue: Create a Positive Charge

  Share Your Most Precious Resources • Do Well for a Life Well Lived


  A. Chapter Recap and Discussion Questions

  B. Essential Reading

  C. References

  The People Who Made This Book Possible

  About the Author

  Are You Fully Charged?

  Prologue: Are You Fully Charged?

  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.

  I am far more effective in my work on days when I am fully charged. I am also a better husband, dad, and friend. Most notably, I can do more for others. However, until recently, it was unclear to me what specific actions create this daily charge.

  I’ve spent my entire career studying workplace engagement, health, and well-being. While I have written several books on these topics, the greatest challenge I have faced personally is how to integrate findings from my research into my own daily routine. After all, knowledge does little good unless I can change my behaviors.

  Fortunately, a new body of research has recently emerged that focuses on the topic of creating daily well-being. Historically, asking people questions and tracking their actions was time-consuming and expensive. As a result, researchers gathered broad, general information about people’s lives and work. Most research on well-being over the past century was based on asking people about their lives over the span of years or decades.

  When people are asked to reflect on an entire lifetime, the first things they think of are broad concepts like health and wealth. The problem is, these general measures are not very practical for improving people’s lives on a daily basis. Health is the sum of many years. Wealth is not created in a span of days. This is why a different way of measuring what’s important in life is crucial.

  The Science of Daily Experience

  The time and cost of tracking what people do are now remarkably low. It is much easier to measure thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on a daily, even momentary, basis. New technology enables scientists to ask people what they are doing at various times of the day, who they are with, and how much they enjoy an activity. Sensors and wearable devices can even measure how people are doing, with no input required from those wearing the devices.

  These technologies, paired with innovative research methods, have led to a rapid expansion in knowledge about the central elements of daily well-being. Researchers call this daily experience, which is the product of positive and negative experiences (or positive and negative affect) throughout the day. Daily experience is measured by asking people whether they have emotions like happiness, enjoyment, stress, and other feelings within a given day. This distinction between daily well-being and broad evaluation of life satisfaction is important because it leads to very different conclusions about the best investment of time and resources.

  Traditional measures of life satisfaction, for example, might suggest putting a great deal of energy into increasing your income. Yet, although life satisfaction scores continue to increase (almost indefinitely) with income, making more money does not actually change daily experience once people reach an income threshold.

  In the United States, for example, daily well-being does not show any statistically significant increases after someone reaches $75,000 of annual household income. While this figure has received a good deal of attention, people tend to miss the fact that almost all of the gains in daily well-being associated with increases in income occur below the $40,000 level. Essentially, a certain income level is necessary for food, shelter, and preventing daily worries, but once you have reached that basic level of financial security, making more money is unlikely to lead to better days.

  The study of daily well-being is also upending the conventional wisdom that wealthier countries have happier citizens. In the past, when scientists looked at life satisfaction, the wealthiest countries were consistently at the top of the national well-being rankings. But when Gallup asked people in 138 countries about their daily experience, the results told a very different story. The country with the highest “positive experience” score was Paraguay, a nation that ranks 105th in terms of its wealth (measured by GDP per capita). Among the top five countries on this daily well-being index, four were in the bottom half of the wealthiest countries list.

  This research is encouraging to me because it suggests that daily well-being does not depend on accumulating riches or living in a wealthy country. The more I’ve learned about the difference between long-term evaluation and daily experience, the more I’ve grown to understand the importance of the latter. Personally, I care a lot more about laughing, smiling, and enjoying moments with my wife and kids today than how I might rate my overall life satisfaction 10 years from now. And trying to help people improve their day-to-day experiences is more practical than trying to improve their life satisfaction over time.

  Your overall satisfaction with life certainly matters. But you create meaningful change in moments and days, not years and decades. It is easier to improve your own happiness — and the well-being of others — when you focus on doing it right now. Taking small, meaningful actions today is the best way to make changes. And eventually, these small changes will lead to important long-term outcomes.

  The Three Keys to a Full Charge

  To discover what creates a full charge, my team and I reviewed countless articles and academic studies, and interviewed some of the world’s leading social scientists (video from these interviews and direct links to all references are avialable at We identified and catalogued more than 2,600 ideas for improving daily experience. As we narrowed down the concepts to the most proven and practical strategies, underlying patterns continued to surface. Three key conditions differentiate days when you have a full charge from typical days:

  Meaning: doing something that benefits another person

  Interactions: creating far more positive than negative moments

  Energy: making choices that improve your mental and physical health

  When we surveyed more than 10,000 people to see how they were doing across these three areas, we found that most people struggle on a daily basis. For example, when we asked them to think about their entire day yesterday, a mere 11 percent reported having a great deal of energy. Clearly, most people are operating well below their capacity.

  As a result, they are less effective in their work. Their interactions with friends and family are nowhere near as good as they could be. And their physical health worsens as days with too much stress and too little activity accumulate
. It is time for this to change.

  The good news is that you don’t have to go on a retreat in the woods to find meaning, you don’t need to find new friends at a cocktail party to have better interactions, and you certainly don’t need to run a marathon or embark on a fad diet to create physical energy. The biggest changes for your daily well-being start with a few small steps.

  Create Meaning with Small Wins

  What will you do today that makes a difference?

  I started asking myself this question, rather intensively, when I was a teenager. Not because I was ahead of my time or enlightened, but as a result of my cancer diagnosis at age 16. After I lost sight in my left eye to a large tumor, my doctors suspected I had a rare genetic condition that shuts off a powerful tumor suppressor. The results of a blood test confirmed I had this VHL gene mutation, which leads to cancerous growth throughout the body. I essentially lost the genetic lottery.

  My doctors told me I would need to spend a week in the hospital for scans and testing every year for the rest of my life. This allows my physicians to keep track of cancers — currently growing in my eye, kidneys, pancreas, adrenal glands, and spine — and to operate or try chemotherapy as needed. But if everything goes well, as it has most of the time, I leave the hospital at the end of that week with a fresh 12-month lease on life.

  Having this extension — with terms that are renewed annually — energizes me to try to make a difference every single day. Thinking back to when I first received my diagnosis, what’s most fascinating to me is how there was almost no negative effect on my daily well-being. If anything, having this constant threat has caused me to focus even more of my time on the little things that matter most in a given day.

  It has now been 23 years since my diagnosis. And while I continue to live on somewhat borrowed time, I have spent most of my life working on what will outlast it. From research and writing to building relationships and playing with my kids, I see all of this time I spend as an investment in the future that can grow when I’m gone. Trying to create a little meaning each day has also kept me from dwelling on a genetic condition beyond my control. In the process, I have learned far more about living than I have worried about dying. The reality is, nobody knows if their lease on life will last for days, years, or decades.