The Challenges of Slowing Down
Imagine you’re climbing up a mountain - your pack tight against your back, your head down, your feet moving forward to the summit. You’ve been climbing for a while, and your mind wanders to the beginning of the day when you were never more sure of yourself or your path forward. Now you stop and glance around at the unfamiliar terrain, and realize that you’ve been so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that you’re not exactly sure where you are or how long you’ve been climbing. You find that you’re exhausted, nearly dehydrated, and your feet are wracked with blisters. As you look up at the distant summit and down at the other climbers close on your trail, you worry that you may lose momentum, or be passed by stronger climbers. But you also know you’re not doing yourself any favors by continuing on in this way. It’s time to unshoulder your pack, sit down, and take a break.
You all know that summit. It’s a job, a degree, a relationship, a creative accomplishment. It’s any goal you’ve ever set for yourself. You also know that climb. It’s the step by step path that is unique to you. And you all know that moment when you realize persevering is no longer an option. Taking breaks is essential not only to rest your tired muscles but also to appreciate how far you’ve come, to take stock of where you are, and to decide the best way to keep moving forward.
Our rational side can easily recognize the importance of taking a break, but our emotional side can put up quite the fight. There’s a reason and a purpose for that. A break is a transition. Transitions are famously tricky because they’re marked by uncertainty and change. This is the perfect setting for your fears and anxieties to march to the forefront. Only you know the unique reality of what’s brewing inside of you, but facing our fears is not an easy task for any of us humans.
There’s also a purpose for the discomfort of transitions. They offer the advantage of a different perspective and an opportunity for self-reflection that you can’t get otherwise. Only by stopping and turning around can you take a good honest look at your last steps. While you’ve had your head down, the challenges might’ve changed, the best approach to your goal altered, the object of your determination disappeared. And in the company of your fears and anxieties is actually a great place to ask these questions: Am I being good to myself? Do I still want the same things for myself and the world? Am I going about this the best way? Honest answers to these questions are invaluable. Moving forward is a good thing, but so is the insight, flexibility, and perspective you get from stopping to take stock.
I’ll admit that this is all a veiled confession. Once our Nepal relief work was well along, it came time to take a breath and take stock, to think about lessons learned, and look ahead to a future armed with the knowledge (and hopefully wisdom) gained from this experience. But it hasn’t always been easy, taking this break. I’ve battled with my demons. But I will say this – taking it has not only allowed me to feel normal again, but also given me the confidence to dream even bigger than I had before the earthquake. Stay tuned for the launch of the new non-profit organization I’m establishing –
My team and I will be taking the lessons learned in Nepal and sharing them around the world. I had a great break, and I hope you do too!