Vacation and “rest” means something different to everyone. For some, it evokes images of the fast-paced, crowded thrills of Disneyland. For others, it’s a week in Hawaii with nothing to do but get a tan and watch the waves. What most of us have in common is how we arrive at rest: dangerously stressed out and so close to the brink of crazy that we are forced to take a break.
Most leaders don’t consider rest a natural life rhythm. We are so hyped up on Starbucks that we’re running frantic to get things done. Rest is something we believe we can earn, when our stress levels have reached an acceptable peak. This type of thinking is dangerous and actually undermines our health and productivity.
Rest is not something we earn. It’s something we need as humans.
I was wondering recently why it is so hard for many leaders to take a break and give ourselves permission to play once in awhile. The first thing that comes to my mind is – “there are just too many critical tasks to get done, I can’t take some time off”. The second false thinking I hear myself at times and from my Clients is: “this is just a season and when this passes I can take that break”. Really? The problem is the “seasons” turn into a lifestyle and we find ourselves washed up on the shore of exhaustion and burn-out wondering how we got there.
And all the while, we complain about how overworked, tired, and busy we are because it’s easier to complain than to change. Are we being duped by the Atlas Mentality, carrying around a self-inflicted weight on our shoulders? Have we said “yes” to too many things because we’re afraid to say “no” or not specialized and giving more to our team? We probably have not recognized that rest is very critical to sustainability, health and maintaining our productivity.
We need to give ourselves permission to experience rest.
The imperative to rest is more practical and powerful than we even realize. We need to face to the inner voice that plagues us, that suggests we must complete all our work before we can rest. It’s easy to feel guilty about not being at work. Because for most leaders, work is a heroic act. Working long hours, burning the midnight oil, and even verbalizing and displaying one’s exhaustion becomes a badge of honor. It shows that we’ve earned something, that we’re resilient and hardworking. It’s time to break this habit. No more flirting with the edge of burnout. Check out The Enemies of Excellence to read more on this topic.
To cure our “Atlas Mentality”, we need to schedule rest at regular intervals during the year.
Plan a getaway. It might be brief, two to three days, but it must be scheduled blocks of time when we are intentionally saying “no” to earning our identity from what we can produce. Yes, this means it’s not really possible to rest on a work trip.
Rest operates the same as any other principle: it’s a scheduled, deliberate action. I have an easier time breaking my focus away from work when engaging in a physical activity. I think it has something to do with my need to feel productive. Maybe I plan a weekend getaway with my wife, go to the beach for a hike or check out listings on Airbnb. Breathe the outside air, enjoy some adventure and rest! Try to schedule a break once a quarter.
We need to change our physical location.
It’s amazing the fresh perspective we get on life when we are exploring a new place! It’s not a coincidence either, it’s part of how we are made. When we change our location, our curiosity is ignited, we use new parts of our brain and escape the to-do list side of life.
It’s not about dreaming up a whimsical, extravagant vacation, it’s about making rest happen on a regular schedule.
If you can’t afford an extravagant jet-setting destination, how about a long weekend at the mountains, or a spontaneous road trip? We make time for what we believe is important. If we are giving a crammed schedule the top spot in our lives, we will reap a consistently stressful existence.
Stop making excuses and depriving yourself of the rest you need. There’s a beach, a quiet mountain cabin, or a trail in the woods with your name on it. Get going! You now have informed permission.
To leading with greater vitality,