Tom Rath’s inspirational documentary Fully Charged uses social scientists’ latest research and powerful, real-life stories to show us practical ways to energize and find meaning and purpose in work and life. We caught up with him to ask him about his purpose in making the film.
Live Happy: What inspired you to create the film Fully Charged, and what do you want it to accomplish?
Tom Rath: I want to help people see how small adjustments in their daily routines can lead to substantive improvements to their well-being. There is an abundance of quality research on these topics, yet it often ends up hidden in books or academic articles. We need the great research from people like Brian Wansink or Amy Wrzesniewski to reach more people. This is what led us to not only spend time interviewing some of the world’s leading experts on well-being, but also to film some of the best individual stories of how this research can be applied to both work and life.
LH: How have your own health challenges since you were a teenager contributed to your life’s work, including this film as well as your best-selling books?
TR: My lifelong battle with cancer is what motivates me to make those small adjustments and be fully charged, which in turn impacts my long-term health and well-being. It also keeps me focused on how I can contribute to projects like Fully Charged, which will hopefully continue to influence and grow when I am gone.
LH: In the film you list the three key elements to a life considered to be fully charged. What are those three things and why is it important for all of us to start to take better control of them?
TR: The three elements of being fully charged on a day-to-day basis are having meaningful moments, positive interactions and the physical energy you need to be your best. What I have learned from a lot of research is that well-being is created in the moment. So these are three practical things that need to be present to have a day where you are truly thriving.
LH: What top five takeaways or tips do the sources in your film offer viewers to get started in building more energy at work and at home?
- Eat more greens and less sugar.
- Move throughout the day.
- Sleep longer.
- Make every interaction a net gain.
- Do something meaningful for another person.
LH: Why are interactions so critical? How do those we spend the most time with influence our health and happiness, and what are most of us doing wrong in this area?
TR: These little interactions accumulate more rapidly than we realize. We tend to focus on big or grand actions, yet simply asking a brief question and genuinely listening for a moment can often turn someone’s day in the right direction. To a degree, our lives are the sum of all these little interactions…so we have to make them count.
LH: If we aren’t lucky enough to pursue our life’s passions for a paycheck, how do we begin to build purpose and meaning into our work?
TR: If you narrowed down to the core of almost any job, there should be an intent to do something that adds value to the world, for another human being. Even if your job isn’t anywhere close to “ideal” right now, if you can remind yourself of the person you are serving in a very simple way, it should help to build more meaning into your routine. This can be as easy as seeing someone eat a meal you prepared or noticing the smile on the face of a customer you helped.
LH: What surprised you about the process of making this film or from the personal journeys of those interviewed?
TR: The commonality of human goals and aspirations is pretty remarkable. We all want our lives and the lives of people we care for to be a bit better tomorrow than they are today. When we interviewed people in very different jobs, situations, ages and so forth, it turns out there is a lot we can learn from almost anyone about creating better days.
LH: How can readers view the full film or learn more?
Listen to our Live Happy Now podcast with Tom for more: 3 Ways to Get More Out of Life With Tom Rath
Donna Stokes is the Executive Editor of Live Happy magazine.