Why Ambitious Leaders Need Time Away From Work (To Avoid Emotional Disconnection And Build Healthier Relationships)
Ambitious leaders often get caught in a vicious daily routine.
Each exhausting day is full of engagements and decisions that demand immense focus and attention. And no matter how well conditioned their minds, it always leads to the same place — energetic depletion.
When each day is a sprint and each quarter is a marathon, passionate individuals are trapped in an unsustainable race against time. They fight with their own finite resources on a journey that often takes more than it returns.
It’s kind of like drinking from a hose.
Have you ever chugged water — often starting off warm with a hint of rubber — straight from a garden hose?
After you’ve passed the warm, gag-worthy taste that you somehow forgot happens each time you sip from a hose, the smooth cool water is refreshing. At this point, you’re likely gulping, dehydrated from your fun in the sun and needing nurturance. There are few other reasons to drink out of a hose in the first place.
But as you continue drinking, if you’re not already gasping for air, you will quickly drop the green hose because you’ve had enough — the water pressure and volume informs your body that it’s time to pause.
The problem with achieving success, is that even when your body tells you to stop — that you’ve had enough water or need to take a breath — you feel the need to continue drinking.
When that fresh air doesn’t come, interesting things start to happen in your personal life.
The needs of loved ones become an annoyance, obligation, or inconvenience. Requests from your friends become one more thing on your to-do list. And your personal down time is transformed into brief moments of excess to distract yourself from the pain and suffering of living an over-stimulated life.
That’s not healthy.
Not only does that path of over-stimulation and momentary escapes contribute to toxicity in your mind, body, and spirit, it removes you from what matters most: Valuable connections with friends and family members that aren’t built on monetary transactions, favors, or future returns.
If you view every relationship through the lens of a transactional analysis, like cost/benefit, you are over thinking and under feeling.
This over-reliance on rational thought — despite being aligned with dominant cultural values in scientific communities — is often related to an absence of emotional consideration.
In fact, the overuse of intellect at the expense of feeling and intuition is often a compensation or avoidance tactic due to emotional discomfort.
For example, I once had a roommate who loved watching brilliant scientists (B) debate ignorant religious figures (A).
Each debate followed a similar course:
- Person A makes an assertion
- Person B points out the logical fallacies of their position
- Person A makes an irrelevant counterpoint
- Person B refutes their counter and asserts their logical view
- Neither individual appears to have a desire to listen, each appear content in debating within the realm of current scientific knowledge
- Person A loses the debate and looks foolish, but does not change their beliefs
- Person B wins the debate, feels admired, and also remains unchanged
Without going into the psychological and philosophical issues inherent in such a contest, it’s important to note my roommate’s background.
He had an absent father.
This absent fathers was, by all accounts, an abusive alcoholic.
His mother, also an alcoholic, struggled with significant depression and anxiety. She also had a dependent personality in which she found difficulty making decisions herself and tended to rely on my roommate and her friend for that function.
In this brief background, it should be clear that my roommate has ample motivation to avoid entering his feeling-intuition function:
He has unaddressed childhood trauma related to abuse he experienced and witnessed, and an irrational, dependent mother.
By relying on his thinking function and avoiding his feelings, my roommate was able to feel more connected to a triumphant attitude of intellectual superiority. He was not like his mother or father, he was smart and rational. He could, through the use of the scientific method, stand up to their ignorance and emerge victorious.
The cost of this pursuit of intellect over feeling was my roommate’s continual dissatisfaction with his own life, as tends to be the case when there is a profound disconnection from one’s feelings.
The problem with an over-reliance on thinking and intellect is that it reduces experiences.
Rather than maintaining an ability to perceive your spouse’s request for attention as that — a desire for greater connection — you reduce it to an ask, a favor, another item on your to-do list.
As you begin this way of being, of avoiding emotions and over-emphasizing intellect, an inner divide grows.
This separation between feeling and thinking generates unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
Staying in that mental state too long removes you from yourself — your thoughts are always calculated, your emotions are always “fine,” and you rarely notice the immense stress you carry.
It’s only through stepping away from work and into a new way of being that you re-discover what it’s like to release your emotional baggage.
So, what can you do?
You don’t want to quit — there’s something about this immense challenge that keeps your blood pumping. And taking breaks is difficult because it means saying no to additional opportunities and, again, feels like a waste of your time.
But that’s where you’re wrong.
When your mind is disconnected from the rest of your being, you minimize your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Contrary to what you think, the best thing you can do is take a break.
And taking a real break, away from the chaos of modern living, in nature, is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Nature is sacred.
When you are surrounded by nature, something amazing happens: you discover something larger than yourself — something more profound than your problems, something more significant than your schedule, and something that can teach you how to relax.
Have you ever spent a few days laying on sand, looking at the ocean, and hearing the sound of crashing waves?
Have you ever spent a few days in the crisp, clean mountain air looking at magnificent pine trees and calm mirror-like lakes?
When you spend time away from humanity and in relationship with that which is beyond human suffering, your problems seem much smaller.
You stop perceiving the requests of friends and family members as items on your to-do list and start understanding what they really are — a desire for connection.
You stop looking at trees and start seeing the forest — understanding that no matter how demanding your daily life is, it is nothing short of a blessing for which you should be profoundly grateful.
You stop feeling the chaos of a leaf encountering a constant, thrashing breeze and start feeling the calm, grounded support of deep, nurturing roots.
You remember to breathe with relaxed shoulders. And you remember what it’s like to simply be in the present moment, free of the demand to do anything.
Over time, nature teaches you that there are more important things in life than work — that even your lifetime is but one wave emerging from the deep, moving towards and finally crashing into the shore, before returning to its Source.
When you encounter that kind of wisdom, serenity, and peacefulness it grounds you and helps you reconnect with parts of yourself that have been left behind in your pursuit of success.
You re-discover your creativity. Effortlessly find your flow. And reconnect with the love and happiness that connects all things.
Paradoxically, it is this disconnection from work that leads to the re-generation of your passion, which dramatically improves your performance and mental clarity.
As with most things in life, the key is to hold the tension between opposites and discover a greater sense of balance that will fuel a meaningful existence.
Nature helps you do that.
So do yourself a favor and schedule time to disconnect from work.
Reconnecting with yourself through nature will make you a better professional, and most importantly, a more loving and compassionate person.