I’m currently sitting on the bank of the Big South Fork River, enjoying a quick weekend getaway with just my husband. As I take in the beauty around me (notice my picture), I immediately flashed back to 10 years ago, when my children were in elementary school. I was trying to “balance” running my business, being actively present in my kids’ lives, making my marriage a priority, and all the other “busyness” I believed was required of me. I ended up injuring my back in a way that made movement extremely uncomfortable. I truly believe this is the only way I could have gained any insight into the craziness my life had become. I had to be immobile in order to carve out time to re-evaluate the direction I was going.
During this injured downtime, I was able to recognize:
- I was confusing my identity with the activities I was doing rather than who I am as a person of worth.
- My injury was directly related to not having rhythms of rest. I was in a lot of pain and knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life like this.
- My relationships were suffering. It’s just not possible to do it all – no matter what the commercials– or experts– try to sell us.
- I needed to identify what was most important to me and find a way to let the other stuff go, or ask for help.
My natural default to any situation is to DO something, so it’s still really hard for me to relax, rest, and be in the moment. I hear a similar story from many of the leaders I work with. Our culture tends to encourage this hard driving, crazy hours “busy” like a badge of honor.
If we ever hope to break free from these patterns we need to stop, and evaluate where they’re actually getting us. Yes, there are seasons where we’ll have to work hard, but we need down time as well. Numerous studies cite the importance of rest and its impact on productivity, creativity, and overall health. While I think those are important, as leaders I think the more important question to ask is, “Why?”
- Why am I pushing those around me and myself so hard?
- Why am I not willing to take a break or a season of rest?
- Why will I lose my edge or not get a promotion or (fill in the blank with whatever your fear is) if I slow down?
- Why do I believe I won’t be respected if I don’t work hard enough?
- Why have I chosen to wear “busy” as a badge of honor?
Others look to us to get cues as to how to live, work, and play. If we aren’t building regular rhythms of rest into our lives, what message are we sending – regardless of the words we use? If you’re like me, this will be an ongoing journey in self-awareness and course correcting as you go. Having trusted advisors around you, questioning, supporting and pointing out when you’ve gone astray will be invaluable.
Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t struggle with this. If so, bravo to you!! If that’s the case, I beg you to look around for those of us who do, share your perspective and positively influence us to stay on track. As for me – I gotta go! It’s time to take a break and enjoy that river with my husband!