Jun 30, 2023

 Rested Leaders Change the World

Laughing, giggling, “Over here!”

“No! I’m over here!”

Watching an ancient game of Marco Polo (centuries before the explorer or the app), a man scoffed at the storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some neighborhood kids. 

“Why?” the man jeered, “Why are you wasting your time?”

Picking up a bow, Aesop loosened its string and placed it on the ground. He turned to the man and asked, “What does the unstrung bow teach us?”

The man pondered for several moments but finally gave up.

The old storyteller replied, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually. But if you care for it by allowing it to go slack at times, it will be even more fit for use.”

Here’s what I’m saying: Rest is not a reward for good behavior.

In the U.S., in particular, we live in a work culture that makes overwork the norm and rest a guilt-ridden activity for the weak and the lazy. It’s the hustle that holds it all together, right? How you earn your worth.

Don’t you feel that? That constant pressure to do, perform, produce?

The problem is nothing about humans works that way. We are not designed to go 110% 24/7. Multiple research studies on sleep and productivity prove what Aesop said more than 2,500 years ago. If you do not rest, you will break.

Rest not only keeps us from falling apart, but it’s how we actually transform and grow.

Rest is not a reward for good behavior.

Rest is a weapon against life collapsing around us.

Rest is part of the human condition. And when you embrace rest, you find the paradox of more freedom.

The last two weeks of May, I rested hard. My out-of-office was on. I read all the books. I took all the naps. I walked in new places. My husband and I had all the talks and dreamed the big dreams.

What emerged…fresh energy. New ideas. Connections and stories to make my work stronger to help leaders and their teams create flourishing workplaces that are productive, profitable, and joyful.

If rest transforms individuals, rested individuals transform teams, families, organizations, and communities.

Rested humans change the world.

That requires a leader who values, models, and prioritizes rest.

Here are three ways to start resting well:

  1. Daily

    Start small, but take at least 5-10 minutes a day to step away from work and your phone. Go outside. Find a secluded chair. Lock the bathroom door.
    Breath. Walk. Have a beverage (you know there are always at least three on my desk!)

  2. Weekly

    Again start small, but take a couple of hours away from tasks, preferably away from a screen. Play a game. Do a puzzle. Read an actual paper book. Sit in a garden. A good rule of thumb I’ve learned from experts on rest: If you work with your mind, rest by using your hands and body. If you work with your body, rest by using your mind.

  3. Annually

    Take time away. If you can get to a different environment (not your house or office), do that. And don’t take your phone, computer, iPad, etc. Research varies, but the average person takes at least 72 hours away from technology connection (email, texts, social) to start to relax. This means the first three days don’t yet feel like rest. But past that point, you will begin to feel a different type of rest in your mind, body, and soul.

There is a mounting movement around even longer periods of times of rest and reflection in sabbatical. A recent NYT opinion piece by Tish Harrison Warren gives great insight on people researching and finding more success in life through rest and how we can improve the US workforce with the promotion of rest.

I often wonder if this legend of Aesop made its way into his fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” It’s almost as if the human condition has always been to fight against rest. I know in my own life, when I prioritize and schedule rest, I am more creative, more productive, and more wholehearted.

How doable are these three ideas for you? What are the immediate reasons that come up to resist this idea? What are you already doing for rest that feels good to you?

Reply to this email. I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions.



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