Experience: Invest in Rest
Hikers learn lessons directly in the body. It’s not a theoretical thing. We’d stayed overnight at Muir Trail Ranch, backpacker haven, after 10 days and 100 miles of wilderness through-hiking. Strapping on our backpacks, full of water, food, and rest, we climbed a steeply pitched trail to the ridge above. We resumed the everyday life of the trail step by step. However, my body felt different. Each step had a spring in it and my legs bounced forward with renewed strength. The warm soaking baths and cushioned mattress the night before did the trick. My physical and psychic batteries felt recharged. Clearly, we had needed to rest. Until then the relentless pursuit of miles numbed the signals to slow down and take a break. We had neglected this lesson from our bodies as well as more experienced souls on the trail.
Some of the most interesting and wise people we met were called “PCTers.” PCT stood for the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,600-mile route from the Washington Cascades to the Mexican border. PCT hikers stood out from the other folks on the trail. Unlike weekend hikers or us John Muir Trail (JMT) adventurers, PCTers traveled extremely light; masters of bare essentials. Normally they carried what amounted to a fully equipped day-pack, instead of the expedition sized monstrosity others used. Somehow, they managed to put everything they needed into it, including food, a sleeping bag, tent, cooking supplies, and clothes. Their reduced weight allowed them to hike long distances, sometimes twice that of JMT hikers. With the increased miles though came an emphasis on rest. Most PCT hikers we met took one or more days every week on the trail to refresh themselves. Their example lived in our bodies now that we’d felt the benefits of rest first-hand. Our experience improved dramatically and we enjoyed almost everything more: from the food to the scenery. The newest lesson: when taking on something big, you must invest in rest.
Relevance: Task and Affordance
Groups can get very task-oriented. It’s easy to do when you have an agenda to get through and limited time. To keep moving when people are tired, bored, frustrated or worse, however, offers diminishing returns. Pushing for things to get done in the face of these warning signs usually leads to below average results. Groups will “satisfice” by deferring to people in power, delivering the least common denominator answers, or falling into dysfunctional patterns. Deciding that it is time to regroup means that you give an affordance for balancing task with the capacity to accomplish it.
Practice: Breaking into Rest
You can break into rest in a number of ways. Try getting up out of your seats and moving. Standing instead of being seated can switch the verbal channel enough to renew a tired group. You may also experiment with a reflection break. Give participants time to wander the halls, building or going outside with a question to reflect on. Manage the process by giving them a specific return time. Finally, cancel your standing meeting. Yes, that’s right! Give people a break from the normal routine and invite them to rest. Encourage them to NOT do something related to work in the time they’ve earned by renewing themselves with a hobby, going to coffee with a friend, or exercising. Emphasize that this is a time for renewing and refreshing. It’s a time for breaking into rest.