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Building The Time Off Muscle

Most of us know how to work hard but few of us know how to take true time off simply because we have not trained what I call the time off muscle. The theory of change is that you will be able to give much more of you on an organizational, societal, and sectoral level when your wellbeing is strong. Building your time off muscle is a good place to start.

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How many of you have said you need a vacation after a vacation? I know I certainly did, and I never understood why until recently.

In my coaching with high achieving Founders, I have been working on getting them to take care of their wellbeing. However, all of them found it difficult in varying degrees to turn off even when on vacation in the Bahamas. On one level, it did not make sense, but as I observed it more, it is quite simple – they have not been taught how to take time off. Now it is a simple matter of building what I call the time off muscle. 

Like a marathon, you need to train the muscles in your body to be able to run the 42 kilometers (26 miles) distance. Successfully running a marathon often takes months, if not a full year, to be able to do so. An amateur runner depending on his/her fitness level starts with fast walking, then upgrades to jogging. Only after that does running come in, and it comes in phased out distances such as 1 k, 5 k then with time the full 42 k distance of a marathon. The same goes for learning how to take time off. 

We, as leaders, especially changemakers, need to start taking time off, and I mean true time off where one can fully unplug, silence one’s mind, and perhaps enjoy the subtle art of doing nothing for once. In the latest report by the Wellbeing Project titled Wellbeing Inspires WellDoing, it states that our global changemakers’ wellbeing needs more attention as an increased number of individuals are suffering from burnout, stress, and mental health issues. This report, which has been co-created with Ashoka, Esalen, Impact Hub, Skoll Foundation, Porticus and Synergos Institute, outlines the case for why we all have a stake in wellbeing whether we are a founder, employee, part of a start-up or a large organization.

The Wellbeing Project’s theory of change is that inner wellbeing leads to a deeper systems change orientation, creating sustainable systems change from the inside out. They show how after changemakers receive deep and continuous wellbeing support, there are positive shifts on not only the individual level but on the organizational, societal, and sectoral levels. 

Image from The Wellbeing Project Report

You are the foundation of your life, and if you are not taken care of, how long do you think you will last in

your giving,

your building,

and your service?

.

It is said that only when you have the internal revolution can you have the external one. This is why I recommend one starts scheduling daily time off and begin building this crucial and often overlooked muscle of taking time off. Build it slowly just as you would again approach training for the marathon. Do small things such as blocking 10 minutes on your daily calendar for time off (that means no work during those 10 minutes). Then upgrade to an hour a week, and before you know it by the time you have that vacation by the beach you worked so hard to get, you will be able to fully and genuinely enjoy it since you trained that time off muscle. With that trained time off muscle, you will be able to give much more of you on an organizational, societal, and sectoral level because your individual cup is full. 

I wish to all the people giving, building and serving that you give this gift to yourself. Most of us know how to work hard and now we need to balance the equation. Let’s begin the training of our individual time off muscles so we can bring our fuller and whole selves to our life’s work. Hopefully, we will be running into each other on some beach with glowing and relaxed faces. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Let’s make it happen.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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