A Case for Downshifting

chair

I have an amazing job, which I love.

I have some really great clients who are passionate about what they do and some amazingly talented colleagues who are some of the most professional and fun people I’ve ever worked with in my life. I work hard, and I have fun working. Over the past 4 weeks I’ve been gone from home 12 nights and kicked off 5 new projects. But I’ve also had the opportunity to attend 2 Division 1 college basketball games, 2 MLS Soccer games, a NHL hockey game, and an NBA game during that same stretch that were all ‘work related.’ It has been a blast, and I have been running at high speed for a month straight.

This morning, as I was sitting in my chair in my office (pictured above), enjoying a cup of coffee, reading, and reflecting I came across a quote from John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping that really spoke to me:

“The main thing you bring home from work is not a paycheck. The main thing you bring home from work is a soul.”

Now, more than ever in my life, I feel like I’m bringing home soul from work. I am energized and inspired by the work I do and while the travel can be tiring, it is exciting and fun for me most of the time. I am engaged on some fun projects that stimulate my creativity. If I’m not careful, I can find myself WANTING to work so much that I can wear down and start to miss out on bringing home a healthy soul from work.

So I am going to downshift to a period of rest. This rest is not particularly because I’m exhausted or run down right now, but because it is the right and healthy thing to do. I’m not intending to lay around in my pajamas until noon for the next two weeks or sit cross legged in a dark room chanting “ohm.” Instead, I’m going to downshift. My motor has been revving pretty high for the past 4 weeks and serving me well. For the next two weeks, I’m going to slow down the engine and be more deliberate about both work and life. I’ll be in the office for the next 4 week days and I intend to be productive. I have things to do. But I’m not going to worrying about starting or ending at a certain time, I’m just going to do what I need to do and be done.

Then, next week, I’ll shift down again. At the end of the week, I’m taking the last two days off and taking the family camping with some good friends for a long weekend. For four days there will be no agendas, no meal times, no to do lists, and most importantly no cell phones with texts, emails, tweets, or Facebook posts to interrupt. We’ll enjoy the company of people we love and our kids will play with friends they’ve known their whole lives.

By the end of this stretch of down shifting, not only will I look forward to jumping back into work, but I will have relaxed my engine without strain. When most people take vacation, they spend the 2-3 days before the vacation trying to work like crazy and jam in 5 days of work into 3 so that they can feel better about taking the time off. They run their engine at its hottest, forcing their mind, body, and soul to work overtime in order to earn a cool down. The problem with this thinking is that much like an engine or our bodies after exercise, we need a cool down period or a downshift for the lowest gear to be effective. If you are racing down the interstate in fifth gear going 80 miles an hour, you can’t all of a sudden hit the clutch, shift down to first gear, and then release the clutch to go back to driving. If you’ve ever done this, you know that the screaming and grinding sounds your transmission makes are hideous and terrifying. So it is with you soul and your mind. You can’t expect to actually relax, slow down, and refresh your soul on vacation if you are working overtime and scrambling all over the place the night before you leave. You need a downshift period to truly see the benefit of the rest.

So if you need me for the next 5-6 days, I’ll probably be in my chair in the office catching up on reading my trade magazines or maybe responding to a few emails or sitting on a conference call or two. I may lounge around the house all weekend or go for a lazy bike ride with the kids for ice cream. In any case, I’ll be downshifting so that this time next week my soul will be fully present with family and friends and reaping the benefits of a truly re-charging time.

And So It Goes

There is a song by Billy Joel called “And So It Goes” that came on the radio this morning while I was getting ready for the day. It particularly stood out to me this morning because right before it there was a rocking song with guitar licks and drum solos…and right after it there was a melancholy love song with harmonies and orchestra (I was listening to Pandora).

If you’ve never heard the song, click on the link above and have a listen. It is Billy Joel and his piano. Just a voice and the piano telling a story of a man and his partner, their life together, their moments of silence and a recognition that they are the only ones that truly understand each other simply because of their time together. It isn’t the words so much that resonated with me today, but the tone of the song; particularly in contrast to the songs before and after it.

Life seems to me to be mostly simple songs with our voice and a piano. We all have rocking guitar song moments when we go on vacation or our kids do something fantastic or we have that great night out with friends. We always make sure to get those rocking moments out on social media! We also all have melancholy love song moments when important people in our lives go through pain or life deals us a tough circumstance. We might tell a few close friends about these and trooper on. However, most of our lives are spent in our mundane daily tasks, going through life with our partners, family, and friends who understand us simply because of our time together.

Today I’m trying to relish these “And So It Goes” moments more. I’m staring out the window of my office this morning at a grey sky, thankful for a routine morning run after getting the kids off to school. I’m looking at my to do list for the day knowing that there is work to be done and that it is meaningful and enjoyable. I’m thinking about basketball practice tonight and smiling about the fact that I still get to engage with kids in a game I love. It is just a quiet piano solo day, but it can be a beautiful day.

My life will soon have some rocking guitar songs and I’ll be sure to post those to social media for all to see. Life will probably have some melancholy songs in the near future too and I’ll need my friends and family most during those times. But today, life just has a routine Wednesday for me. And So It Goes…