There is a lot of talk these days about engagement in the workplace. Study after study documents how engagement improves overall job satisfaction and performance. The same is true in our personal lives. Those who are truly engaged in their lives feel happier, more fulfilled, and healthier than those who disconnect during daily activities. After all, just because you can complete a task, or participate in it, doesn’t mean it brings you any satisfaction. In fact, many of us go through our days doing just that, participating without becoming engaged in our activities.
It’s easy to confuse the act of participation with engagement. Merriam-Webster defines participation as the act of taking part in an activity or an event. Engagement, however, is defined as an emotional attachment or commitment. That is the key difference. It is much easier to simply take part in an activity than it is to create an emotional attachment to the success of that activity. In other words, it’s easier to rush through your day trying to accomplish everything–especially when you are overworked and overwhelmed–than it is to be mindful and engaged with your actions throughout the day. It’s not surprising so many of us end each day exhausted and frustrated, as though our actions during the day really didn’t make much of a difference anywhere.
Lack of engagement is a reason many fail to reach goals. As a coach, I run online health and fitness workshops. Almost all of the participants are there because they want to lose weight and feel better. To be honest, some reach their goals and some don’t. The difference lies in the fact that those who were engaged in the course–those with an emotional attachment to the outcome–are much more likely to succeed than those who just participate. Although participation is important, it isn’t a magic bullet. If you want to succeed at anything, be it weight loss or a job change, you need an intrinsic motivation. You must have an emotional attachment to the outcome.
There are several ways to bring more engagement into your life. The first is to be more mindful and present in your daily life. Even the mundane chores can add meaning to your day if you are fully present. Some people hate washing the dishes after dinner. They push through the process as quickly as possible, anxious to move on and thereby dismissing part of their day as unimportant. Others see that task as a chance slow down for a moment, enjoying the feeling of warm soapy water on their hands as they reflect on the day.
Leveraging your strengths is another way to create more engagement in your life. Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to correct our weaknesses. Imagine how much more satisfying a day would be if you focused on what you were good at instead of trying to lessen your flaws. The concept of allowing employees to develop their strengths is a proven strategy used by high performing organizations. Those employees whose daily tasks are based in an area of strength are much more engaged and committed to the success of the organization than those who perform tasks not reconciled with their top characteristics. The same holds true in personal life. Utilizing your strengths is a sure way to build more engagement into your day.
If you want to be fully engaged in your own life, you can’t do it alone. Quality relationships are vital if you want to increase engagement in your personal or professional life. As a coach, I always stress the importance of a strong support network, whether it is family, friends, or a supportive partner. We all need support. It doesn’t matter if you are working a life altering goal or planning the meals for the week. Having a network to share successes and failures keeps us engaged and focused, and that leads to an attitude of overall satisfaction.
One way to reverse the disconnection so common in modern lifestyles is to challenge yourself. Learn something new. When we are cognitively stimulated, levels of engagement and satisfaction skyrocket. You can blend this challenge with a goal, say learning French for that dream vacation to Europe. Or it can be something more modest, like advancing to the New York Times crosswords. As you challenge yourself, you are also building on your natural strengths so your level of engagement becomes even greater. Accepting and mastering challenges is a fundamental tool for reconnecting with that emotional attachment that provides so much meaning in our lives.
Building levels of engagement in your personal life may not be easy, but it is definitely worth the effort. The next time you find yourself frustrated and worn out at the end of the day, ask yourself if you were engaged in the day, or simply participating. Participating is easy. Engagement takes more effort and requires personal commitment. But if you truly want to raise your overall well-being and happiness, personal engagement is the only way to go.