Skip to Content

Book Summary: Are You Fully Charged? – The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

In our efforts to be happier and more successful in life, we tend to shoot for the moon. We often want to completely rethink the way we live – the problem is, that never works!

There are plenty of reasons why you don’t have to completely transform your life in order to feel more charged, to feel those bursts of energy and happiness that we all seek. For example, instead of thinking about how our lives can be happier, we should be thinking about how our lives can be more meaningful. As you’ll see, once you have found meaning, happiness will follow.

Taken together, this book summary shows you simple ways in which you can use three keys – energy, interactions and meaning – to get fully charged in your professional and personal life.

In this summary of Are You Fully Charged? by Tom Rath, you’ll learn

  • how much sleep top performers get per night;
  • what can prevent those intense cravings for sweets; and
  • why making more money won’t make you any happier.

Book Summary: Are You Fully Charged? - The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

“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” – Tom Rath

  • Meaning: making the connection between what you do and how it benefits another person
  • Interactions: creating far more positive than negative moments
  • Physical Health: making choices that improve your mental and physical health.


“Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day.” – Tom Rath

According to a 2008 study by the Radiological Society of North America, when a patient’s photo was attached to an MRI scan, the accuracy of the radiologists’ diagnosis improved by 46%! Therefore, get in the habit of making a connection between what you are working on and who it is impacting. Place a picture of who your work is impacting on your desk or on the wallpaper of your computer desktop.


“We need at least three to five positive interactions to outweigh every one negative exchange. Bad moments simply outweigh good ones. Whether you’re having a one-on-one conversation with a colleague or a group discussion, keep this simple shortcut in mind: At least 80 percent of your conversations should be focused on what’s going right.” – Tom Rath

What’s ‘right’ includes: focusing on a strength, recent accomplishment, or an experience you can look forward to. At end of each day, as you lay in bed, reflect upon the positive interactions you had during the day. Reflecting on positive interactions will focus your mind to form more positive interactions tomorrow.

Physical Health

“There is absolutely no dietary need for any added sugar – a toxin that fuels diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Eliminate as much added sugar as possible…Drink more water, tea, and coffee instead of soda or other sweetened drinks.” – Tom Rath

Look at the label of everything you are about to purchase and eat. If it contains more than 10 grams of sugar, don’t buy it. Aim for zero added sugar (naturally sweetened foods only) throughout the day to keep you blood sugar stable and remain fully charged. At a minimum, avoid these sugary foods: soda, candy, pastries, fruit juice, and most dressings.

“Being active throughout the day is the key to staying energized. Even 30–60 minutes of exercise a day will not cut it if you spend the rest of your day sitting around. Moving around and getting more activity every hour is what will keep you fully charged” – Tom Rath

A study of over 200,000 people found that even if you exercise more than 7 hours each week you still had a 50% greater risk of death if you sit the majority of the time each day.

“When you sit down, the electrical activity in your leg muscles shuts off quickly. Your rate of burning calories drops to just one per minute. The enzymes that help break down fat fall by 90 percent. After sitting for two hours, your good cholesterol drops by 20 percent.” – Tom Rath

Set hourly reminders to move around. Make standing the default position (get a stand-up desk if you work in an office).

“The best performers in these studies slept for 8 hours and 36 minutes per night on average. The average American, in contrast, gets just 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep on weeknights…One study suggests that losing 90 minutes of sleep can reduce daytime alertness by nearly one-third.” – Tom Rath

Sleep is essential to our daily performance. Here is how to get more of it:

  • Reduce your exposure to light at night (turn off electronic devices 1 hour before a scheduled bed time).
  • Lower the room temperature (reduced temperature prevents your natural body clock from waking you up in the middle of the night).
  • Reduce exposure to noise while sleeping by wearing ear plugs or playing a white-noise soundtrack while sleeping (use an app on your smartphone).

Stop pursuing happiness, start pursing meaning.

We all want to be happy. In fact, we want it so badly that we’re willing to chase happiness for our whole lives. But few of us realize that the pursuit of happiness is in fact our greatest obstacle to it. The truth is that happiness isn’t something you can achieve by seeking it; rather, happiness is a by-product of living a meaningful life.

So where can we find meaning? Though we’ve been taught to find fulfillment and satisfaction in our careers and wages, these don’t have the power to make you happy. US-wide surveys showed that even a sudden doubling of income produced only a nine percent increase in life satisfaction.

Money and success are external motivations, and are not sustainable sources of meaning or happiness in the long run. Internal motivations, on the other hand, give us a powerful way to experience meaning in every action we do.

Think about it: most jobs were created because they help other people, create progress, improve efficiency or produce something people need. You don’t need to be the head of an international NGO to change lives – you can find meaning and internal motivation in any situation. If you work in a call center and use your warmth and understanding to help a stranger out in even the smallest way, you’ll give both them and yourself a positive charge.

You’ll also double the charge if you can combine your strengths and interests with what others around you need. Remember: meaning does not happen to you, you create it.

Exchange passive reacting for active initiating.

Be honest: how much of your day do you spend proactively pursuing your own well-being? Probably not a lot. In fact, you’re likely spending far more time responding to external stimuli, such as your smartphone notifications and other distractions. Lapsing into this state of passive reacting can be dangerous.

A study of smartphone users has shown that phones are unlocked an average of 110 times per day, and nine times an hour during peak evening hours. But this is just a fact of modern life, right? Well, this constant activity is more damaging than you might think: a 2015 study discovered that the pressure people feel to respond immediately to a smartphone notification is associated with worse sleep quality, more sick days and a higher probability of mental and physical burnout.

If you want to manage these passive reactions, there are techniques that can help: switch off automatic notifications, and set specific times for checking your emails and social media accounts throughout the day. Not being disturbed by notification alerts, even for short periods of time, will make a massive difference for your productivity.

If you’re still having trouble overcoming distraction, try taking a minute to write down the things that seem to waste your time most often, like that new game you downloaded on your phone.

Now that you’ve eliminated your passive reactions, it’s time to start initiating! But be careful – we often tend to mistake certain activities for progress, even when they’re not productive at all. If you find yourself keeping busy all day without actually getting anything done, this applies to you!

Spending all day responding to emails might feel like you’re getting stuff done, but you’re not actually proactively initiating anything yourself! To avoid disguising passivity as productivity, the author reminds himself that instead of considering himself “busy,” he simply needs to manage his time better.

If you feel stuck and unable to begin initiating, start with simple things: try striking up a conversation with somebody new. In fact, even short interactions with those around you have great benefits for your well-being. Find out more in the next book summary!

We read dozens of other great books like Are You Fully Charged?, and summarised their ideas in this article called Happiness
Check it out here!

Keep thinking positively and spreading positive energy.

Exchanges with people around you, no matter how brief, can give your day a positive or a negative charge. So how can you keep your day on the positive side? Always assume people have positive intentions.

Let’s say somebody bumps into you and spills your coffee without apologizing. Instead of getting angry, consider whether the person has a serious problem on his mind and didn’t even notice bumping into you. It’s rare for people to actually have bad intentions!

If you assume people have negative intentions toward you, it’ll only make you angry and will give you a negative charge for the next minutes, hours or days. Instead, assume that people only mean the best, and you’ll be doing the best for your well-being too!

Another good way to boost your daily positivity levels is by paying attention to how your conversations unfold. A great rule is to keep 80 percent of your conversation positive. You can do this simply by using positive words. Did you know that every negative comment needs four positive ones to make a person feel neutral?

People are more likely to listen and be receptive when most of the conversation is positive. If you’re flooding a conversation with negative words, others will most likely shut off. You might think that yelling criticism at somebody will get his attention, but chances are he’ll just stop listening.

We can see our own performance improve exponentially when our self-confidence increases, so why not give the gift of encouragement to others! Remember to praise and recognize your peers, focusing on their hard work and successes and helping build their self-confidence.

But not all compliments are made equal; the most lasting comments are sincere and specific. This will help others see what they do best and believe it. So instead of merely saying “good job” after a coworker’s presentation, tell them that they explained it in a sophisticated and engaging way. After all, that’s the kind of compliment you’d like to hear yourself!

Multiply yours and others’ well-being by investing in relationships.

Another secret to feeling fully charged is to spend time on the right experiences with the right people. Relationships are not only a key to making you happy – they can also boost your creativity and motivation.

It’s important to choose your friends wisely, but why exactly? Well, those who you spend time with will influence your habits, choices and therefore your well-being, whether you like it or not. So if you want to grow into a better person, it’s definitely worth investing your time in those who care about your development.

Often when we find ourselves swamped with work, it’s hard to even consider dedicating time to our social life without feeling guilty. But giving time to your friendships really takes no time at all! You can show your appreciation for those who support you by taking strolls together, or sharing a nice dinner. You’ll be surprised at just how much better you’ll feel afterwards, as these positive experiences have the power to put your problems into perspective.

Positive experiences also have a lasting value, and this is largely because we remember these kinds of experiences with others even better than we expect to. One study asked participants to estimate how happy they’d be after an experiential purchase, such as a concert, a trip or dinner at a restaurant. Two weeks after the purchase, they were 106 percent happier than they’d expected they would be.

As well as enjoying positive experiences long after they happen, you can also use them to lift your mood in the weeks leading up to them. When planning an activity, share it with others rather than keeping it a surprise; anticipation significantly enhances the experience. Research shows that looking forward to holidays increases well-being for weeks or even months.

Besides refocusing your life on meaning and spending time on your relationships, the keys to feeling your best are eating, moving and sleeping. The next book summary will explain this further.

Eat right to give your body the positive charge it needs.

You make a decision with every bite you eat. Food is fuel, and it’ll give you the charge you need if you eat right. But with all the bizarre fad diets out there, how can you know which one will actually lift your energy levels?

In the end, it’s not all that complicated, nor does it require a total dietary makeover. You can start by adjusting and swapping the core elements of your diet. Avoid fried food, products with processed sugar and carbohydrates. Instead, gradually start building your meals around veggies and whole fruits. Swap your sugary energy drinks for water, tea or coffee.

Large-scale studies show that even a slight increase in protein intake alongside a decrease in carbohydrates has positive effects on your health. An easy shortcut can help you with every day shopping decisions: try to avoid food that has a carbs to proteins ratio higher than five to one.

Next time you’re at the supermarket, check the nutritional values to ensure you avoid these foods.

A study done by the University of Missouri confirmed that a protein-rich breakfast increases the level of the brain chemical dopamine, which reduces cravings for sweets. So if you want to eat less sweets, start eating more protein: eggs, nuts, seeds, salmon or lean meat.

Finally, prepare healthy choices in advance to avoid any tempting last-minute decisions. Plan your shopping beforehand and avoid the sections with unhealthy food. Reorganize your kitchen so the healthy food is more visible and easily accessible, keeping it at your eye level or stored in visible places. And don’t forget to bring small bags of fruits, veggies or nuts with you when you leave home, in case you feel like snacking.

Customize your workday to get your body moving more.

Nowadays, people spend more time sitting than sleeping. In the long term, this can have damaging effects on our health. When sitting, the electrical activity in our leg muscles shuts off, calorie consumption drops to one per minute, enzymes breaking down fat decrease by 90 percent and good cholesterol drops by approximately ten percent per hour of sitting.

Sounds pretty frightening! But these negative impacts are easy to avoid. Simply stretching and standing up a few times an hour can make a huge difference. During exercise, our blood pressure and blood flow increase; this drives oxygen to our brain and allows us to think more effectively. In this way, just moving around can boost your concentration and mood for hours.

A surprising research study discovered that just a 20-minute, moderate intensity workout can improve your mood for up to 12 hours after the exercise. Even walking increases energy levels by 150 percent. The benefits of moving around are clear, so how can you start making it a bigger part of your day?

Study your surroundings for ways to increase your activity. One easy way to do this is by rearranging your home and office to encourage movement instead of convenience. Let’s say you often print documents in your office – make sure the printer is not within your reach so you need to stand up every time you fetch your printed papers.

Measuring your activity also motivates you to move more. During one experiment, people who were assigned to track their activity moved 27 percent more, simply as a by-product of measuring their movement. Use a health-tracking device – like an app or a pedometer – to track and set your activity levels.

According to the author’s research, 10,000 steps per day is a good target to set. So, for those of you who say you’ve got no time to exercise, no more excuses! If you want to be more efficient, add exercise to your schedule and start saving time in the long run.

If you want to get more things done in less time, invest in your sleep.

In today’s business world, we perceive a proper eight-hour sleep as an unnecessary luxury or a sign of laziness. But don’t be fooled! One less hour of sleep doesn’t equal one extra hour of achievement or experience.

Insufficient sleep decreases your well-being, ability to think and your productivity, and also harms your health.

Research show that elite professionals sleep an average of eight hours and 36 minutes per night. The same study also indicates that frequent resting improves performance, as it helps prevent exhaustion and promotes full recovery. Harvard Medical School even found that sleep insufficiencies cost the American economy $63 billion a year due to lost productivity.

Your sleep quality is itself influenced by your activity during the 90 minutes before you go to sleep. A 2014 study found that late-night smartphone usage has a significant impact on sleep quality. That’s right, your pre-sleep scroll of social media feeds is enough to make you fatigued and less engaged at your workplace the next day.

To ensure stress-free and quality sleep, avoid using electronic devices at least an hour before going to bed – being exposed to bright lights before bedtime also decreases your sleep quality.

Sacrificing sleep has diminishing returns, and won’t give you the charge you deserve. So, if you have a lot of work to do, sleep more, sleep well and take regular breaks to keep your performance and efficiency at their highest levels.


The key message in this book:

Despite what you’ve been told, prioritizing your well-being and relationships won’t take a toll on your work performance. Instead, you’ll become more effective, organized and productive. Learning to start living meaningfully and actively is what will help you live happily in the long run.

Actionable advice:

Hide your phone during conversations.

Having your phone visible when you are around others will immediately decrease the quality of your interactions. This is the so-called iPhone effect, and a 2014 study confirmed that the mere presence of a mobile device (even if switched off) made conversations less fulfilling. Another study found that a visible cell phone had negative effects on attention and on people’s ability to perform complex tasks. So, leave your phone in your bag and encourage your relationships to flourish.

About the author

Tom Rath is an author and researcher who has spent the past two decades studying how work can improve human health and well-being.

He has two books slated for publication in 2020, Life’s Great Question: Discover How You Best Contribute to the World and It’s Not About You: A Brief Guide to a Meaningful Life, published in partnership with Amazon Original Stories.

In total, Tom’s 10 books have sold more than 10 million copies and made hundreds of appearances on global bestseller lists. His first book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller and led to a series of books that are used in classrooms around the world. His book StrengthsFinder 2.0 is Amazon’s top selling non-fiction book of all time. Tom’s other bestsellers include Strengths Based Leadership, Wellbeing, Eat Move Sleep, and Are You Fully Charged?. He has also co-authored two illustrated books for children, How Full Is Your Bucket? for Kids and The Rechargeables.

During his 13 years at Gallup, Tom led the organization’s strengths, employee engagement, wellbeing, and leadership consulting worldwide. Tom has served for the past five years as an external advisor and Gallup Senior Scientist. He also served as Vice-Chair of the VHL cancer research organization and has been a regular lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, Tom co-founded a publishing company; he is also an advisor, investor, and partner in several startups. Tom holds degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife, Ashley, and their two children.


Business Culture, Business Motivation, Self-Improvement, Motivational Management, Leadership, Success Self-Help, Personal Development, Psychology, Health, Productivity, Inspirational, Self-Esteem

Table of Contents

Prologue: Are You Fully Charged? 3
The Science of Daily Experience
The Three Keys to a Full Charge

Part I Meaning
Chapter 1 Create Meaning With Small Wins 11
Abandon the Pursuit of Happiness
Swim in the Deep End of Life
Chapter 2 Pursue Life, Liberty, and Meaningfulness 17
Get a Charge From Within
Forge Meaning in the Moment
Chapter 3 Make Work a Purpose, Not Just a Place 25
Work for More Than a Living
Go Beyond Engagement
Chapter 4 Find a Higher Calling Than Cash 31
Avoid Upward Comparison
Keep Money From Killing Meaning
Chapter 5 Ask What the World Needs 37
Double Down on Your Talents
Act Now Before Today is Gone
Chapter 6 Don’t Fall Into the Default 45
Cast a Shadow Instead of Living in One
Craft Your Dream Into Your Job
Chapter 7 Initiate to Shape the Future 51
Put Purpose Before Busyness
Focus on Less to Do More
Silence Pavlov’s Bell
Chapter 8 Focus for 45, Break for 15 61
Use Purpose to Prevent Plaque
Keep Your Mission in Mind

Part II Interactions
Chapter 9 Make Every Interaction Count 71
Assume Good Intent
Focus On the Frequency
Chapter 10 Be 80 Percent Positive 79
Use Positive Words as Glue
At Least Pay Attention
Chapter 11 Start Small and Be Clear 85
Use Questions to Spark Conversation
Connect For Speed and Creativity
Chapter 12 Take a Break for Relationships 93
Want What You Already Have
Use Your Phone When You’re Alone
Chapter 13 Put Experiences First 99
Buy Happiness (for Someone Else)
Plan Ahead for Weil-Being
Chapter 14 Avoid Flying Solo 105
Win While Others Succeed
Use Pro-Social Incentives
Chapter 15 Build a Cumulative Advantage 111
Help Someone See What Could Be
Develop the Ultimate Strength

Part III Energy
Chapter 16 Put Your Own Health First 119
Use Short-Term Thinking for Better Health
Chapter 17 Eat Your Way to a Better Day 125
Make Every Bite Count
Set Better Defaults
Find Food That Charges Your Mood
Chapter 18 Learn to Walk Before You Run 133
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 139
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 145
Keep Stress From Snowballing
Avoid Secondhand Stress
Chapter 21 Respond with Resiliency 151
Push “Pause” Before Responding
Grin to Bear It

Epilogue: Create a Positive Charge 157
Share Your Most Precious Resources
Do Well for a Life Well Lived
Creating a Positive Charge: Tools and Resources 163
A Chapter Recap and Discussion Questions 165
B Essential Reading 213
C References 217
The People Who Made This Book Possible 241
About the Author 243


Tom Rath’s latest international bestseller reveals the three keys that matter most for our daily well-being, as well as our engagement in our work.

Drawing on the latest and most practical research from business, psychology, and economics, this book focuses on changes we can make to create better days for ourselves and others. Are You Fully Charged? will challenge you to stop pursuing happiness and start creating meaning instead, lead you to rethink your daily interactions with the people who matter most, and show you how to put your own health first in order to be your best every day.


“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. Rath’s best book yet.”―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 to 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

Video and Podcast

    Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

    Your Support Matters...

    We run an independent site that\'s committed to delivering valuable content, but it comes with its challenges. Many of our readers use ad blockers, causing our advertising revenue to decline. Unlike some websites, we haven\'t implemented paywalls to restrict access. Your support can make a significant difference. If you find this website useful and choose to support us, it would greatly secure our future. We appreciate your help. If you\'re currently using an ad blocker, please consider disabling it for our site. Thank you for your understanding and support.