Last month, I spent six memorable days in the Columbia River Gorge, near Portland. I was attending an alumni conference for Pepperdine University where I did my master’s, but I ended up going four days early to take advantage of the gorgeous nature in the area.
When I realized nobody else was arriving until Thursday, I immediately felt guilty. I wondered if I’d made a mistake and should be working instead (thanks Trash Talkers). However, after dumping my stuff in my hotel room Monday night and rushing out to get a hike in before sunset, I knew I’d made the right choice!
I went on some truly EPIC hikes! Eight of them in six days, to be precise. It was my first week of solo vacation that involved hikes in the mountains. I was worried I’d feel lonely, or get bored, or be scared hiking alone. However, the exact opposite turned out to be true.
I cherished the quiet time for reflection. I loved being able to go as fast or slow as I wanted, being able to go an extra six miles to see one more waterfall without having to negotiate with anyone. I didn’t once get bored or lonely. As a matter of fact, I felt inspired and at peace.
Is Stillness a luxury?
As leaders, there’s sometimes a tendency to think that time away from your laptop is a luxury we can’t afford. That we need to be on call all the time, or else our business will fall apart.
It turns out this is a fallacy. When we’re so focused on the urgent, we can sometimes lose sight of what’s most important. I fall into this trap all too often.
I got so much value that week from taking time to get out of the daily grind to reflect. Our business has been growing and doing gangbusters. As a result, my days have been filled with client meetings, team retreats, keynotes, and coaching sessions – not to mention all the emails, masterminds, and marketing. I found myself a few weeks ago saying in one of our leadership team meetings, “I just need time to think.” I was going so hard that I could literally feel my urge to have downtime simply to think.
When I returned home from the conference, I had so much more clarity about the direction of my business. I felt rejuvenated and energized. Taking time away from the day-to-day had brought more focus and inspiration. And you’re probably not surprised to find out that my business didn’t implode with me unplugging for a week. As a matter of fact, my team had done an amazing job handling all my emails and tasks while I was gone.
Stillness is essential for peak performance
There’s some interesting research explaining why taking a break is so important. It appears that the brain can only take so much stimulation in one area before it starts to feel fatigued or even burned out. By doing activities that stimulate different areas of the brain, we give the parts of our brain needed to do daily work time to regenerate. And that’s exactly what happened for me!
Turns out, whether you’re looking for peak performance at work, in sports, or in another domain of life, you need that time to quiet your mind. Practicing Stillness allows leaders to make sure they’re working effectively on what’s most important.
Do you want to bring more Stillness to your life? I promise you: it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity! I encourage you to start today with this simple core workout:
- Pause: The next time you catch yourself functioning on autopilot and feeling a bit scattered, take a moment to pause.
- Think: Can you schedule some time for Stillness, to give you a moment to reflect? 5 minutes is a great start.
- Act: Take that time to quiet your mind, and enjoy the clarity that comes as a result.
And if you fancy a trip to the Columbia River Gorge, I can assure you: you won’t be disappointed!