Ask any athlete and they will tell you that rest is essential for maximum performance. Ask any physician and they will tell you rest is the prerequisite for physical health. Study yesteryear’s philosophers and they will tell you rest is essential for the mind. Probe most religious leaders and they will tell you that rest is essential for the soul.
Work/life effectiveness is a prevailing table topic across the corporate leaders we serve, with rest as the centerpiece of challenge. To a person, these leaders call out the linkage between rest and success. With the same level of consistency, these leaders regularly abandon their shrouded hopes for balance due to busy schedules, competing priorities, increasingly complex demands, and responsibilities. Most leaders characterize their lives as dimming under the fluorescent bulb of the office by the hour.
Regrettably, this hectic pace is gradually stealing the quality of life most have neglected across their circles of influence (self, family, team/organization, and community). The laws of physics are at play here. There is a reason we sprint from task to task, while only falling further behind. Entropy is the term used to describe the worsening of results within closed and unhealthy systems. By and large, our lives have become too occupied and out of rhythm to the natural order of health and well-being. Somewhere along the way, we lost the essential practice of intentional rest. As Leadership Freak author, Dan Rockwell states, “Choose the white room over the padded room.” Or said another way, avoid burnout by creating a regular rest routine.
Leaders from all sectors would be wise to reclaim the age-old practice of resting one day each week. Consider the payback of concentrated rest for your body, mind, and soul…and performance: Like the air we breathe and the water we drink, rest is as essential to our physical health. We only have one life and one body to transport us through it. Most of us eat healthy, exercise, and watch our bad habits, but unconsciously allow for neurotic schedules that leave little to no margin for anything but managing the urgent and pressing. In addition to physical health, here are other benefits that come with rest:
Rest as an Antidote
Stress is the equalization of our current challenges butted against existing resources (time, energy, ability, and support from others). Intentional rest is the general antiseptic to unhealthy stress.
A day set aside for rest allows for opportunities to strengthen and deepen your key relationships. When we stay “in the moment” and enjoying each other’s company it proves to be far more effective in building community, lasting bonds, and human capital.
Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees. It is even more difficult to see the forest when we are running into the trees. Intentional rest allows us to take a step back, to evaluate our tendencies against our values and goals and the energy to recalibrate when out of alignment.
Know anyone with an identity crisis? You know, that leader whose image falls too pathetically close to their profession? We are what we do and for many of us, this is taken to the unhealthy extreme. Taking one day of your week to dedicated rest might force us to actually have a personality outside of the work world and broaden relationships outside of your familiar employees. Rather than defining your life by what you DO for a living, you can begin to define your purpose introspectively by who you are.
More work is not better work. Smarter work is better work. Just like resting physical muscles allows them opportunity to rejuvenate which leads to greater physical success, providing our minds with rest provides the opportunity to mindfully refocus and rejuvenate.
Crisis is a household name to all who lead. Nobody is immune from the trials of the unexpected. Starting the discipline of intentional rest today will give access to needed reserves for staying physically propped up during the expected and unforeseen realities ahead.
Properly developing a discipline of intentional rest requires both inward and outward change. Consider these steps to reclaiming the lost practice of weekly respite in your life:
- Center Your Contentment – Many of us are unable to find adequate rest because we are under the constant impression that our lives can and should be better than they are today. This constant drive for more (money, power, or influence) can actually rob us of contentment and joy. Ultimately, rest is a multiplier of our contentment and security. Challenge yourself to focus on the sensory joys of “what is” and staying present to the midst of your satisfaction.
- Ink It – Rest will come only from intentional planning and only if it is truly pursued and placed in your calendar. A client of mine recently crafted two organizational systems to improve the mash-up of the life and leadership conundrum. He created differentiated structures to intentionally buffer the two dynamics of work and play through a “workbook” and a “playbook.” Learn to say no to any intrusion that attempts to take you off mark of your intention in both play and work. Plan out your time of rest by choosing creative activities that are both refreshing and centered in relationship.
- Own It – Time demands are real, however you are not held completely hostage to them. Consider the fact that you have the power to create and are empowered to choose.
- Keep to Simple – Embrace a lifestyle that focuses on your values, not your possessions. It is difficult to find rest when constantly managing your “stuff.”
- Family Practice – It is much easier to practice the discipline of intentional rest if your family is practicing it too. The fact that this gets more difficult as your kids get older should motivate you to start as soon as possible.
- Stay Afloat – It is difficult to find rest for your mind when you are deep in debt. A debtor is a slave to his creditor. The constant distress of your responsibility to another may preclude you from truly enjoying your time off. It is possible; it’s just more difficult. Consider living within your means.
- Beware of Results Without Relationship – If you live in a results-oriented culture where productivity alone is championed, rest is countercultural. And thus, the saying goes, “If you rest, you rust.” Others may even see rest as a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, that view of humanity’s role in this world is shallow. It is true that many of the benefits from concentrated rest are not tangible; but then again, only a fool believes all good things can be counted.
“He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.” – Benjamin Franklin
The implications are clear. Do you want to capture the lost investment of rest while maximizing your performance? Are you looking for a professional circle of leaders who are striving for the same? Visit giantworldwide.com for more information.
About the Author
Joseph is a Creative/Connector with zeal to “Encourage, Equip, and Empower Significance for Those Who Lead.” Dr. Hill has a wealth of experience in organizational leadership, human development, and teaching as a practitioner, educational leader, executive coach, author, and blogger. Joseph holds a post-graduate degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Servant Leadership and is a Licensed Executive Coach through the International Coach Federation. Learn more about Dr. Hill at www.giantworldwide.com/dr-joseph-hill/ or follow him on Twitter @liveleadserve.