Why it’s terrifying to rest

Ever catch yourself thinking I’m not sure I want to do this anymore?

When everything feels uphill, or humdrum. When the work has lost its colour, or you’ve lost your mojo. And you find yourself thinking what the heck am I doing here?

When it happens in small doses we call it a blip. When it hits hard and doesn’t shift we call it burnout.

I’ve known people get floored by this.

But what if the answer isn’t to avoid it, but to embrace it regularly?

You see, when things get hard, our instinct is to hold on tighter – make it work, make the ideas come, push through the fog.

But what if the reverse is actually what we need?

Let go. Drop it. Walk away.

I’ve been listening to one of Rob Bell’s podcast episodes this week on What Happens Every Six Months – thanks to Ben who replied to one of my emails and suggested it (thanks Ben!)

It’s rare that I listen to a podcast twice, but this had so much good stuff that I wanted to make notes on. I’d highly recommend you listen to it in full when you get the chance, but here’s what particularly grabbed me that I wanted to share with you.

It happens regularly

Every six months, Rob got to a point where he wanted to drop it all and walk away from his work.

“I would get so uninterested in what I do. Zero mojo. Zero energy. All of my ideas would just shrivel up… I don’t really feel like talking, I don’t have anything to say, maybe it’s all over?”

Instead of ignoring that feeling or trying to push it away, he decided to follow it to see where it would lead.

He let himself drift. To stop creating. Stop producing. And walk away from it all.

Anybody else find this terrifying?

I think this is why we find it so hard to rest, to switch off completely. We’re terrified that if we let go, we’ll lose it all – or lose ourselves.

What if it all falls apart? Or worse, doesn’t fall apart and it becomes blindingly obvious that I’m not needed at all?!

What if I lose it all because I took my eye off the ball? The opportunities, the credibility, the community, the momentum – everything I’ve worked so hard to build?

What if I don’t want to come back at all? What if I lose my edge, my mojo, my spark? What if I drift away forever?

Except we don’t.

We discover perspective

I love the way he described how he would look at his work and go “wait, that’s what I do? That is a strange way to work!”

Sometimes we can take ourselves and our work far too seriously. To be able to step back, to look at our work with marvel, wonder or just plain ‘what the heck?!’ gives us a chance to reset and see things from a new perspective.

We make peace with what we can’t control

“When you take your hand off the wheel, you are forced to come to terms with all the ways you’ve been trying to control things that aren’t allowing you to control them.”

I see this happen sometimes with a workshop delegate who is so stressed by someone else’s behaviour that it dominates their attention. To the point where they refuse to use the workshop to focus on their own workload, habits and decisions – things that would actually help and that they do have control over – because they’re holding so tightly onto the thing that somebody else has or hasn’t done.

He calls this grasping energy. A toxic, frustrating loop that builds up when we keep trying to control, manipulate or force things into place and it’s just not working.

And it’s not always because we explicitly want to control others. It can happen when we care too much, and grasp too tightly. The problem is we can’t care all the time. “The heart can only care so much, then it needs a break. It needs a release valve.”

We find our way back

After a while, there would come a day when he’d stumble on an idea and think, “oh that’s interesting!” which would remind him of something, and connect with something else. One idea leads to another.

“All of a sudden I’d find myself making things and getting back into the groove.”

We don’t drift forever. We find our way back, with more energy and more vitality.

Rest has a funny way of stripping off the ego, and reinvigorating the soul

When your work starts to lose its edge or its colour, maybe the answer is to walk away.

Trust that it’s ok to be lost for a while, and know that you won’t be lost forever.

Perhaps because wherever you walk to – there you are. What changes is the baggage you strip off along the way. The control, the ego, the proving. The obligations and expectations of what success should look like. The stuff that doesn’t belong to you. The stuff you’ve been clinging on too tightly to.

You find yourself again.

Your mojo. Your spark. Your edge. Your imagination. Your compassion.

And let’s face it, when we hold on too tightly for too long, we lose the things we’re desperately trying to hold onto anyway. We have less and less imagination. Less and less compassion. Less and less energy.

Sometimes you have to walk away to find out just which bits you’d really miss.

Sometimes you have to release control to realise how much power you really have.

What do you think? Is letting go terrifying or liberating? Let me know below…

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