The Energizing Pause: How Rest Fuels Effective Leadership

Great leaders are not only known for their hard work but also for their intentional and vigorous rest. How can rest be vigorous? Rest must not only be specific to what fills us and rests our mind, it must be, at least sometimes, invigorating, forcing our thoughts away from the stressors and whirlwind of our leadership responsibilities. It is one level of rest to come home from work and lay on the couch and watch TV, while it is another to plan a 30-mile mountain biking activity with a friend, for example.

President Franklin D Roosevelt honed this skill of intentional rest. He was the president who guided the USA during its most tumultuous years of the 20th century–namely the Depression and WWII. During the stressful days of WWII, FDR would have social gatherings in the evenings at the White House. Attendance at these gatherings meant abiding by his one rule: There was to be no talk about the war. Even with the impending doom and intensity of WWII, FDR knew that he and his close circle must rest their minds.

I have two cautions based on what I have seen in my life that prevents this kind of intentional rest. First, we do not pre-plan our rest, so when we get to the allotted time of taking a break, the only thing we have energy to do is to watch TV, look at social media, or the like. Instead, we should plan a hike, a social visit, a get-together (like FDR did), an outing with our family, or whatever you know gives you rest as well as meets a need of your family.

The second way can prevent meaningful rest is when we arrive at our time of rest but we are in a state of lifelessness, utterly worn out. When we work ourselves to oblivion, the only thing we can do to rest, especially if we did not have a previous plan, is to lay prostrate on the couch when we get home, not even able to communicate with our loved ones or be present with them or others. When we work so much that we always “run on empty,” or as Pastor Peter Rahme calls it, we “arrive beaten, battered, or bruised,” we may not have the energy to attain quality rest that truly takes our mind off our leadership work.

As you plan your day and fill up your calendar, determine which parts are dedicated to rest, then fill them with what fills you.

When we rest from our hard work, we practice the concept of being, not just doing. We practice taking a breath and enjoying what the Lord has given us in life. When we rest well, we are able to come back to work with more mental and physical vigor.

The best leaders not only know how to work, they also know how to rest.

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