“I want my staff to work hard. But I also want them to play hard!”
This was what an awesome businessman once told me when he was discussing how he runs his clinic. He’s an Occupational Therapist – like me – and he employs about a dozen other OTs. He wants them to work hard, but he sets shorter working hours and is super-strict on his employees taking leave. Because he also wants them to have balance. Time for family. For rest. For recreation. For adventure. Time for life.
I like his thinking, because I know that far too often those of us who have families and mortgages can repeatedly put off doing those very things that can bring us balance.
To succeed in life we have to work hard. To make more money we have to work longer hours. More hard work equals more money and more reward. That’s how the story goes.
And it’s true. To a point.
But what’s also true is that we frequently fall into the old trap of working more, doing more, trying to be more. We drown out the little voice in our head that starts telling us to pull back, that we’re taking on too much, that we can’t possibly maintain the pace we’re setting for ourselves. That we haven’t taken a break in nearly two years. That we’re working such long hours some days that we barely get home in time to tuck the kids into bed.
But it’s okay, we counter – it’s just for now, just until the end of the financial year, just until we get through this round of bills, just until the kids go back to school. I’ll put in the hard yards now, and I’ll take a little break sometime soon.
It’s easy to understand why we do this. We all have goals, we want our careers and businesses to prosper, to create an ideal future for ourselves and our families. So we convince ourselves that the sacrifices we make now will pay dividends in due time. It’s the rule we’ve always been taught – delayed gratification at its darndest.
But the problem arises when that planned break gets continually pushed back. And back, and back. When we live our life constantly forging ahead, but never retreating.
Retreat is all about giving yourself space. Emotional, physical and social space. It’s important because space is where we bloom – both personally and professionally. It’s where and when we develop amazing experiences and memories with our partners and children. And experiences are more valuable to them than any gadget you’re planning to buy with your next paycheque.
I know it seems counter-intuitive. That to push your life forward you should step back for a bit. But it’s absolutely the truth. The challenge is knowing how and when to make that retreat – how to balance your work and personal commitments. This takes practice, and the ability to read your own personal signals as to your stress and energy levels. For some, it may mean enlisting a health or business mentor to help you learn how to do this.
My advice to my clients is to schedule your retreats. Plan your calendar well ahead of time and build space into your life on a daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly basis.
It doesn’t have to be oodles of space. Just enough to make sure that you (and your family) get the best version of you in the present, without sacrificing your future wellbeing.
So embrace your space. Value the importance of retreat. By allowing yourself the space to breathe deeply, you’ll breathe more life into your life.