As a nice treat to myself for the summer, I decided to spend two months of it away from my business—complete downtime (other than one of my coaching groups that met once a week for a pilot course). This week was my first week back to business; however, I am writing this article from the absolutely stunning Ojai Valley. I have done my very best to hit pause on the various projects I have up in the air right now and just take in this sweet downtime.
But it is not always easy, is it? Taking that time to relax and get truly rejuvenating rest. (Despite what my track record might indicate, I don’t think spending your Saturdays in your pajamas binge-watching Netflix every weekend actually counts as rejuvenating rest.) For example, every time I looked at my empty calendar during my downtime, I started to feel my anxiety rising. But, why? I have a business that I can run from anywhere in the world, on whatever schedule I like. That business provides me with a comfortable living that allows me to cover the bills and treat myself to joyful things such as travel. I spend my days doing work I truly love — no conference calls I loathe, no boss breathing down my neck, no deadlines to dread — just creating, writing and teaching. And above all that, I get to feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives.
My life and business right now are exactly as I intended them to be. So, what is the problem, then? I should be more than happy to take two months off and enjoy the fruits of my labor, right? Well, one would think so. But, the funny thing about us humans is this: as soon as we finally get what we want, we are absolutely terrified that it will be taken away. Think about that. We love to squash our own joy with the fear it will suddenly be gone.
One of my favorite videos on this topic is when Brene Brown explains to Oprah that joy is one of the most terrifying emotions we can experience. Give the clip a quick watch here:
When it comes to growing a business (or working toward any kind of goal or desire that we have), that fear sits in the back of our heads whispering: This could all disappear at any moment. I know that is why I have a tough time enjoying vacation. I have this irrational fear that if I don’t continue to work on my business, it will slowly begin to evaporate. I fear if I don’t keep moving forward, it’s only a matter of time before I start sliding backward. But that is no way to live.
We cannot allow our fear of the future rob us of the joy of the present. Not to mention we act as though rest is the opposite of productivity, when it most certainly is not. Rest is actually just a much more subtle and invisible kind of productivity. Rest allows us to connect with ourselves, to allow ideas to marinate, and to see things with fresh eyes.
Just as I was mulling all of this over in my head this morning, giving my Inbox a once over before sitting down to type this, one subject line caught my eye: How leisure helps us reclaim our human dignity in a workaholic culture. And wouldn’t you know it, as though the universe were sending me a gentle nudge of validation, here is what it said:
Today, in our culture of productivity-fetishism, we have succumbed to the tyrannical notion of work/life balance and have come to see the very notion of ‘leisure’ not as essential to the human spirit but as self-indulgent luxury reserved for the privileged or deplorable idleness reserved for the lazy. And yet the most significant human achievements between Aristotle’s time and our own our greatest art, the most enduring ideas of philosophy, the spark for every technological breakthrough originated in leisure, in moments of unburdened contemplation, of absolute presence with the universe within one’s own mind and absolute attentiveness to life without, be it Galileo inventing modern timekeeping after watching a pendulum swing in a cathedral or Oliver Sacks illuminating music’s incredible effects on the mind while hiking in a Norwegian fjord.
This passage says it all, doesn’t it? In today’s culture, we equate leisure with laziness. With self-indulgence. As though it is the enemy of producing, of creating. In truth, rest and leisure are the nourishment of production. Investing time in these activities is not only good for our wellness and our stamina, but it can actually aid in accelerating our businesses, not stalling them.
This article is not just one long-winded way of rationalizing my long vacation (though, I admit, that’s certainly part of it.) What I am hoping you’ll remember this week is this:
- We cannot live our lives out of fear that our joy and hard work will disappear any instant. We have to relish the goodness, to actively practice gratitude for it, and to soften into it the way Brene Brown mentions. (This includes spending a guilt-free summer by the ocean, in the pool, in the forest and not in front of a computer.)
- We have to re-think the value of rest and realize that it is actually an integral part of the creative process. Rest is not self-indulgent or lazy—it is necessary.
I know that you may not be in a position to run off on a spur of the moment vacation this week, so that is not my challenge to you. Instead, next time you sense yourself in need of a break and you hear that fear whispering that it could all fall apart, take that break anyway.
Give yourself the permission.
Enjoy the life you have worked so hard to create.
Wishing you all a restful and productive weekend (which, as we now know, is not an oxymoron.)