Perfect the art of meaningful rest



    Dec 08, 2015

    Perfect the art of meaningful rest

    I LOVE my Google Calendar - it organises my life and shows me what I need to be doing each day without having me to perform a series of mental gymnastics.

    However, just going through the checklist of what needs to be accomplished each day still falls short of what constitutes a fulfilling day.

    Being able to cram in more activities increases a sense of achievement - but not necessarily a sense of actualisation.

    Nature is set up for cycles of effectiveness with seasons of work and rest. Even the land requires a period of inactivity (rest) in order for it to regain a fertile state for the next growth season.

    With ever increasing expectations for higher performance, does the concept of "restedness" even make sense in today's demanding workplace?

    Could it be that we now have got so much into the productive mode that rightful rest is now a term of extinction while continuous work is becoming a mark of distinction?

    Are you restless or are you restful?


    A common response to a "How are you?" greeting usually goes like this - "I am very busy but what choice do I have?"

    There is almost a certain sense of unavoidable fate when it comes to expressing the state of the workplace and the thought of planned rest is foreign to most of us - so much so that towards the end of the year, we usually face the malady of accumulated annual leave.

    Some are so used to working that taking a holiday is an unwelcome break and they can't wait to get back to the workplace again.

    As a quick pit stop, there are those who would resort to the world of entertainment for self-recharging, kind of like letting their hair down.

    While entertainment and amusement do offer respite from the hustle and bustle of work, it falls short of giving that internal recuperation that sends us back with increased enthusiasm and motivation.

    Here are three symptoms that may indicate you are getting more entertainment than rest:

    You go to a loud environment hoping to drown the voice of frustration within.

    You prefer to be constantly in the company of people rather than to be aware of your own thoughts.

    You constantly wake up on a Monday morning with a hangover rather than being motivated to face the adventures of the coming week.

    Don't get me wrong - I am not saying that we should abandon all forms of entertainment. I do enjoy fun and varied activities that are entertaining, and which provide a refreshing break.

    The danger of this visual age is that we weary ourselves with incessant entertainment while depriving ourselves from taking inspirational rest.


    The pursuit of happiness can be a restless quest.

    A common reply to the question "What is your goal in life?" is this: "I want to be happy."

    Of course, happiness is a driving emotion, which fuels much of the energy we need to get through the ordeals of the day.

    If happiness is the sole element which drives me, then there is cause for concern because emotions are designed as triggers - emotion provides an indication of where I am but it lacks the depth and stability to tell me where I should go. In other words, emotion has descriptive value but not a directional one.

    So, how does the concept of rest come in? Without a sense of rest, the pursuit of happiness can actually be quite an exhausting affair - constantly looking for the next emotional high, the next adrenaline rush or the next great self-esteem project.

    Without rest, our perception of what makes us happy can be misguided by the influences of popular culture and peer pressure.

    Now, there is nothing wrong with desiring to be happy. However, our happiness needs to be anchored on solid principles rather than fleeting emotions.

    Here are three solid principles worth anchoring on:

    Have a life purpose. Nothing energises like having a clearly defined purpose statement.

    Leave a legacy. When you are constantly thinking about the next generation, you have very little time to complain about the current generation.

    Be comfortable in saying no. Not every invitation that comes your way is worth your while.

    Think about it. How can these principles be internalised in someone unless there are moments of purposeful reflection and personal rest? Your pursuit of happiness will become a journey of joy if you take time to rest along the way - taking time off to journal, to reflect and to ask the "Why am I doing what I am doing?" question every now and then.


    Restless people are constantly looking for the next big thing. Restful people have already decided what the big thing is. Restless people look to their emotions as their authoritative guide while restful people are guided by the strength of their convictions.

    The quality of one's rest depends not on the quality of entertainment but on the clarity of his priorities in life.

    Once your priorities are crystal clear, you will find it easier to say no to the many distractions that come your way - this ability to say no to tempting but distracting activities is the foundation of restedness.

    With hard work, you will achieve success but with the right amount of rest and reflection along the way, you will achieve significance. With hard work, you will achieve material wealth but with intentional rest and soul-searching, you will achieve meaning.


    The writer is the chief executive of Leaderonomics Good Monday.