Today is June 18 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you leverage rest?” Leveraging your mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos and translate one dream after another into reality is a marathon. You need to prepare yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally to handle the daily grind required over an extended period of time. As other Navigate the Chaos posts have discussed, grit, discipline, and effort are just a few of the necessary ingredients to succeed. So too, however, is rest. Taking it easy might seem contrary to the effort required to translate one dream after another into reality but the research is overwhelmingly clear; rest is indeed a critical component to navigate the chaos.
In their 2017 book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, authors Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness emphasized the need for rest, especially for athletes and devised the equation
Stress + Rest = Growth.
Stulberg and Magness acknowledged it is “as simple and as hard as that. As an athlete, if you want to improve something—your 100-meter time, say, or your deadlift PR—you’ve got to apply a challenge, some sort of stressor and then follow it with a period of rest and recovery. Too much stress without enough rest and you get injury, illness, and burnout. Not enough stress plus too much rest and you get complacency, boredom, and stagnation.” They based their equation off research conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, the country’s premier body on the application of fitness science, that officially endorsed training in this manner to increase size and strength. Meanwhile, a 2015 study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology found that best endurance athletes in the world all have one thing in common: they oscillate between periods of stress and rest.
This equation of Stress + Rest = Growth can be found elsewhere and applied to other aspects of life, notably work.
Researcher Alex Soojung-Kim Pang published his results in a March 2017 article entitled “Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too” in which he declares “Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours. In fact, some of the greatest geniuses ‘worked’ only four hours a day.” How is that possible? How can the world’s greatest minds only work a few hours each day? Well, the short answer is they rested. Specifically, the scientists rested in-between bouts of creative transformation, generally operating in bursts of productivity lasting between 90 to 120 minutes. Implicitly they recognized what science now demonstrates—that the body as information system always rebuilds and renews.
As you travel down the path of navigating the chaos, remember, human ‘downtime’ is not like the ‘rest’ of a car or a computer. In human downtime, the body is continually learning, especially when asleep. Rest is not only necessary for life and survival, but for the creative capacities that will power knowledge industries of the future. Biological intelligence can do more than make individuals smarter; it can enhance the performance of communities and societies. Here are just a few examples. Charles Darwin split his day into morning and evening work, doing about four hours total. G.H. Hardy, one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century and author of a celebrated autobiography worked in a four-hour stint in the morning, but with breaks. The great novelist Anthony Trollope wrote his 2500 words a day between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. before rushing off to help run the British Postal Service; to him we also owe a version of the post box.
According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang “scientists who spent 25 hours in the workplace were no more productive than those who spent five. The 60-plus-hour-a-week researchers were the least productive of all. The best students generally followed a pattern of practicing hardest and longest in the morning, taking a nap in the afternoon, and then having a second practice.” In other words, Stress + Rest = Growth.
Poet Maya Angelou wrote: “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
How often do you use rest as a catalyst in the pursuit of your dreams?
How often do you push yourself even though you know physical or mental rest is exactly what you need?
When is last time ‘you took one day away?’
Are you so obsessed with translating your dreams into reality that you never stop to rest? If so, why do you think that is?
Do you find it acceptable that those who navigate the chaos actually include rest as part of their routine?
Do you feel a need to deny yourself rest because you want to, either consciously, or subconsciously, punish yourself?