Reflecting back on my last year of work, an underlying theme through nearly everything I did, heard, encountered – just, everything – was the importance of rest.
However, it hasn’t always been in the form of “take rest, now” like you might expect. In fact, the more prominent lesson has been, “earn your rest, now“.
I’m not saying anything even close to encouraging you to become a workaholic till you’re worn out. Rather, it’s about being a hard worker, driven with purpose, until you’re genuinely in need of a rest that you take with thought-through intention.
I have learned much about the importance of intentional rest.
I haven’t posted here in two months, which is (well, at least was at one time) way out of character for me. Yet, I’m not feeling guilty about it because I’ve hustled like crazy on my “community side project” (I’ll call it that), The Majesty’s Men (TMM). It’s seen a great deal of growth and I’ve given it, literally, nearly every single free minute (and many that weren’t) for the last many months. No exaggeration at all. My wife can vouch.
Sometimes, you just have to do this blitz-work with ideas, projects, work, and even people. I don’t think going all-in and all-out should be normal, nor is it very healthy, but there can be seasons that call for this approach.
As we have built a staff there and my friends and I have begun strategizing for the year and the future ahead, my pal, Payte, has really challenged me to rest in regards to TMM. He’s encouraged me to find at least a day a week where I completely step away from working on things related to TMM.
Knowing this is wise advice, I’ve contemplated how this should happen, and realized I haven’t done this intentionally in over a year. It’s going to take some strategic effort to make this happen.
I gave it a try this last weekend, mostly, and it felt good! In fact, it lent itself to some serious dreaming about other things, and well, a bit of clarifying dreaming about TMM as well. It was great! Yet if I ever want to do that again, I’m going to need to rearrange my schedule and map out my calendar to do so. I just had a “lucky break” this last weekend.
I think this need for planning is true for most of us in most areas of our lives.
If we don’t do the hard work up front to plan out when we’ll do the hard work in our life, then we’ll do a bit of hard work every day when it comes, as it comes (which is a horrible way to work), with whatever is most pressing (which we too often get wrong), and we’ll feel frantically tossed about every day.
We then get stressed and discouraged until we flop ourselves on the couch and say, “Let’s watch a Redbox!” simply to “tune out” the world and put our minds on auto-pilot.
Yet this is a lot like getting drunk to forget your grief or having sex with a stranger to feel loved. When it’s all over, reality returns and reality is still all sorts of wrong, malfunctioning, and discouraging! Nothing is fixed!
Purposeful Hard Work Actually Gives You Good Rest
I’m convinced that a lack of vision is the underlying reason for so many people’s daily anxiety. I’m have written about that — the relationship between vision and anxiety and how to form your own vision, here. If you can’t clearly articulate your vision, you should read it and do it, but for now, let’s assume you’re simply a driven but happy and healthy person wanting to accomplish something with great motivation and intentionality. So let’s talk about “purpose” only.
The simple truth is that most of us forget, even if we ever did know, the purpose behind why we’re doing things. We just, do things; be those work, play, entertainment, rest, eating, raising kids, and so on. It can all become a mindless routine of, “This is just what people do.” So you trudge along.
Again, this is a horrible way to work.
The Bad Way: The Work/Stress-Rest Cycle
After times of taking whatever comes your way as it comes your way, and your energy runs low, you desire retreat and rest. Like you’ve learned to do, you then grab at whatever is closest and looks promising: a Redbox movie, a nice meal out, an expensive massage or spa day, an expensive shopping day, a “full day of nothing” or lots of sleep, maybe even a trip to see friends.
But, same as the work you were doing, there was very little intentionality. No thought-through answer to, “Will this actually do what I’m needing it to do when it’s all said and done? Will this truly make me feel rejuvenated? Is it really what my soul is needing at this time?”
So things start cycling. No real rest brings less purposeful work. Less purposeful work brings more mindless grabbing at unreal rest. Cycle. Spiral. Yikes.
As this cycle continues, energy levels keep depleting, resentment starts building, because, “What the heck — nothing is renewing my spirit! Everything drains me!”, maybe you even start depreciating people and opportunities you once valued and were excited about, and eventually you experience burn out.
The Good Way: The Work/Success-Rest Cycle
Let’s quickly imagine the other, good, way now though.
Let’s say you have a desire and you know why you have it. You envision a way to get that desire to come to be. You wisely get out a calendar (or something like my simple time budget I give for free) and you map out your workload and capacity. You plan out how you’re going to intentionally work on that each day / week / month that you’ll need to bring this desire to fruition.
You can then start planning out the steps into your budgeted time to accomplish this. You know the work it’s going to take.
All good, but nothing mind-blowing yet, right? Well, finish the task…
Part of any purposefully planned work needs planned rest and rejuvenating activities away from the work. So you plan those too. Make time you’re going to spend with close friends and share your heart. Make time to eat well and sleep well. Make time for some physical activity (yes, this is actually restful if you’re not short on sleep!). Make time to entertain yourself and read/listen/watch good stories. Make time to bless others, and (I’d suggest most importantly) make time to spend with God in worship and setting your mind right.
Again, nothing too mind-blowing still, right? Well, now actually do the work…
Here’s Where People Mess Up
I’m convinced most people “feel” like they do the above mentioned stuff, but they don’t actually!
Most people plan either the work and not the rejuvenation, or they plan the rejuvenating and not the work. They don’t plan them both with the same intention though. They just tell themselves they “have it planned” in some weird way cause they feel they want it… or something… I dunno. It’s not planned!
If I had to guess, I’d guess most are naturally pretty good at seeking to rejuvenate themselves, but pretty sucky at working hard with focused intention. I know a lot of people who generally suck at both though because what most people’s problem is, is not the planning but actually the continuing to work with intention!
If at this point you’re head is starting to spin, your soul is feeling some dissonance with this, and you’re thinking thoughts like, “Why does this sound overly complex and ridiculous? Shouldn’t it just be simple!? Why am I wanting to shove away from this?” then you’re asking reasonable questions. Glad you’re so in touch with what your soul is feeling. Go you! I’d offer this suggestion:
Life wasn’t always like this, and in many (if not most) parts of the world, it still isn’t. Living hectically, fast-paced, maxed-out, always-on lives is both the blessing and curse of a #FirstWorldProblem at it’s finest. It’s not for everyone — I’d even say it eats up and numbs most people — but it’s how our society operates. If you want to reject it, you have loads of work ahead still. So, adopt this while you work on re-structuring your entire life in this society to avoid the always-on lifestyle, and you’ll be much more capable of reasonably working on that. I’d love to talk about it with ya.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Continue Working With Intention Until You Experience The Payoff Of The Good Cycle
You see, it all starts falling apart if you break this cycle now. You quickly fall back into the other (bad) cycle of work/stress-rest.
In case you haven’t clearly picked this up, I believe we have a soul. I also believe that you can’t out-smart (or out-dumb) your own soul. We know deep down when we’re cutting corners, wanting/taking shortcuts, and we’re lazily trying to skip out on doing good, hard, meaningful work. We simply, innately know our outward actions show our inner character, security, and peace.
We know when we start making excuses and then, worse, when we start doing that we don’t want to deal with it so we make more! Excuses. Discouragement. Retreat. Blame. Resentment. Cycle. Spiral. Yikes!
The good news is though that it’s really easy to go back to your plan, and just start again. Any day. Any week. Any month. Just start at it again.
Once you do stick at some good, hard work long enough to get tired over it, and you then take some intentionally planned rest and rejuvenation time, you’ll instead go into, and be in it, knowing “I’ve earned this! I’m not lazy or skipping out on anything! I’ve really moved things on what my heart is desiring. I’ve worked hard. This is planned time with plenty of planned time for my work later. So now, I can really enjoy this time as a sweet rejuvenation!”
Learn The Good Cycle And Even Be Rested By Your Work
And what you find — I promise you — is that you return back to your work eager and excited to do good, hard work, and earn your rest!
You have to learn that cycle though. You have to experience it to know it! We default to the path of least resistance (even it it’s the path of most emotional stress in the long run). So you need to experience the good way again and again to learn how to do it, and better, learn to want it.
It’s exciting! I’d even go so far as to say this:
In the same way that those in the bad work/stress-rest cycle tend to feel discouraged before work even begins and during rest happening, those who get familiar and consistent with this good cycle, actually tend to start feeling rested before rest even begins and even while work is happening! It’s like they’re rested by doing the work, in the same way that others are sadly discouraged even by doing the rest activities!
They realize that work is not the enemy. We’re made to work. We even enjoy it when we do it well!
Aah… Cycle. Spiral. Shalom (fancy word for peace).
A Humorous GIF Illustration To Bring It Home
I’ve saved these gifs for a long time, wondering how to use them, and this is the perfect use case! Ha! Let’s illustrate what I’ve just said in a simple and sorta humorous real life gif fueled example…
Billy Boy #1 – The Worst Petting Zoo Ever!
This kid in gif #1 is having a bad moment. Maybe a bad day. Maybe it’s just another event in a cycle of bad, or maybe he’s been rocking along pretty great and, man, the world just does this to you sometimes!
It’s like, “Whaaat the heck!” “Why do you get pleasure outta ramming me you sadistic little goat! You looked so sweet and cute and cuddly!”
Life is just like this sometimes. You get surprised by some hits. But, when you have no pre-planned clue as to why you’re doing and how you’re doing — how you’re going to handle things — you sit there discouraged and you don’t just get knocked down, you get rolled! You feel trapped and beaten up on.
Obviously the poor kid doesn’t know better. But, we do! We have no excuse for going about life aimlessly and thinking, “Oh I’ll just pet this cute animal I think; I feel that’ll be nice right now!” only to be surprised when things start spiraling down and not going as “planned” when, in reality, there was no plan at all!
Work, and then, stress-rest.
Billy Boy #2 – Ice Pack’s On Me, Tonight!
I’m going to say this is an older Billy who learned a few lessons a year or two ago from a cute, demented, little goat. It’s a rough day – no doubt, it’s not exactly what he had planned for his day. Yet, it’s not unfathomable in his intentions. He knew this could be a part of it, and he was ready to do the good, hard work.
You take a hit. You say, “Yea, that can happen; I knew that. It hurts but I’m doing hard work for a known purpose; it’s part of it! I have rest coming later; so I’m gonna get some more of this! I’m eager for some more!”
It doesn’t matter whether Billy wins or loses the overall desire, he can be proud of the work he did in the moment. Billy even blessed that goalie by keeping his face outta it! Ha! They’ll probably laugh about it later and it will continue to bring good feelings even into his rest. His coaches and teammate will trust and value him and his hustle more.
And if Billy’s coach is anything like my dad, they probably joked and said, “Way to use your head out there, kid!” (If only kids could understand puns…).
One of these Billy Boys probably laid there and cried, though he likely wasn’t hurt that bad. Maybe he felt mad, sad, ashamed, or even convinced himself he was victimized and spent the day moping.
Work, and then, stress-rest.
One of these kids probably went home and happily laughed about it though he likely did have some serious pain. He probably felt accomplished, content, and perhaps joyful and all even in spite of his face being blasted, twice! He did exactly what he was there for and could know it.
Work, and then, success-rest.
Which kid are you today?
So I discussed knowing and working with “purpose”, which is more like the “why“, and mapping out the “mission” or plan for doing it which is usually more of the “how”. But, I’ve left out a crucial aspect of living a healthy life: which is knowing your vision.
“Vision” is a sort of buzz-word for more of the “what” you’re looking to do exactly. It’s how you know you’re actually on track in your work. This is a crucial part of what I wrote about here, but yet has a distinct difference than anything we covered in this post.
I’m convinced this is even more discouraging and disabling for people than malfunctioning work/rest cycles because, if you don’t know your vision, you’ll never be able to get your work/rest cycles staying right anyway.
All that to say, I’d highly recommend you read “7 Steps To Forming Your Personal Vision And Why You Must” if you haven’t already. Do it asap so you can get your work/rest cycles going with sustainable clarity.
Until next time… Go do good, hard work… and enjoy it!