Taking a break to rest. This week we booked a vacation. I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan which explains the need to rest to continue our journeys. And it struck a chord in me. We cannot keep pursuing our goals doggedly, or even reach our destinations if we do not stop for water. It’s like expecting a marathoner to make the journey without gel packs or hydration. It simply cannot be done. And so often when we want something very much – a dream, goal, or hope – we believe that the only way to reach that goal or achieve that accomplishment is by sacrificing our wellbeing. Well, I am here to tell you that simply is not true. In fact I am going to tell you the opposite is in fact true. Rest and recovery is the key to success.
To reach any destination or goal we need gas in the tank. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can continue. The strength that separates those that achieve their goals from those that just talk about them is not endurance, instead it is recovery. It is taking the time to rest, to recalibrate, revive and keep going. It is not pushing harder, faster, longer. Even the research shows that we are only capable of pushing through pain and journeying on at greater risk to ourselves and others. I watched an episode of the greatest race recently. The show followed several groups as they collaborated and worked together to reach a goal. It was powerful to watch, and moved me to tears at various points.
There was a group of ex-military and special ops athletes who were working to finish the race. They clearly believed that they were not worthy of rest as they pushed themselves to injury rather than taking a break. To the point where one of their team members was rendered completely unable to stand. Even then he was unable to quit himself. And had to have his team lead both call for medical evacuation and decide that they would not go on. Even the language this team used afterward blamed the man who was injured. Had he stopped to properly tend to his wounds they all likely could have carried on and finished the race. But their shared belief that he must push through pain likely cost them all the joy they were seeking by participating.
On the opposite end of the spectrum there was another team simply there to do something fun as a group. They also did not finish the race but their take aways were totally different. It was a team of friends who just wanted to make memories together. On a particularly difficult stretch of mountain biking one of their members went over the handlebars of his bike – likely traveling at more than 20 or 30 miles per hour. His helmet was cracked but when the call came from the medical team, his first complaint was of some missing fingernails. He was tender and in pain but sustained only topical injuries. His team refused to go on. They were simply grateful that he was not hurt more seriously. Health, rest and recovery were their priorities.
What stood out to me was that the first man faced his challenge alone. How might his story be different if his relationships with his teammates were based on more than shared ambition and intensity? Whereas the second group both made it further and left with an even deeper satisfaction – lifelong mutually supportive friendships. They chose not to go on because it was not in the best interest for the team. Their injured teammate did not suffer alone. Furthermore, they walked away more deeply connected.
That feeling of being unable to stop for proper care, kept the first contender from accomplishing his goal. His perspective also cost him his health. What is most relevant here is that he may have done irreparable damage to his body by not pausing to rest. That refusal of rest and recovery cost him his dream of finishing the race.
Taking care of ourselves and addressing our needs is not frivolous or wasteful. In fact, it is the difference between being able to recover and continue the journey and burning ourselves out. This week we planned a vacation and even as we planned it I was envisioning photos I could share here on the blog, outfit changes, food posts, and more. But I will use this time to rest and refresh. I will use this time to recharge and unwind. This has not been an easy year. I am grateful for the reprieve and the opportunity to refill my cup and nourish myself before the next leg of my journey.
As you now know, I highly recommend rest and recovery. Also, I cannot more highly recommend twice annual vacations and intermittent trips in between for your own sanity and recovery. Give yourself the gift of fresh water. Fill the well. Let yourself be supported and nurtured so that you may continue. You may even accomplish those incredible and ambitious goals you have set for yourself.