Take Monday morning off. It will feel very odd. Usually on a Monday morning, most driven people are raring to go with a long list of to-dos at work, ignored emails from the weekend to address and a full schedule. While many of us may sleep well on Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday night's sleep is often interrupted with busy thoughts. By Monday morning, the natural adrenaline is circulating, only amped further by the coffee.
When you take Monday morning off, remarkable things happen. You realize that the world can wait. You recognize that your own hyper drive won't evaporate if it is not fed for a few hours. You treat yourself to the fun stuff: sports, reading, sex and other things that usually get deferred. You finally get to work smiling.
So why don't we literally or figuratively push in the clutch more often? Taking unexpected moments off, interrupting the pressure cooker of our lives, pausing, thinking and breathing during the times we are usually driven has phenomenal rewards. You don't have to be a yogi or seasoned mediator to reap the benefits of a timeout. You just have to take the timeout. But we don't.
Unfortunately when we need to get control of our frenzy, we often don't have the tools to do so. For me, the mental tool kit starts with being able to close drawers. Putting one set of anxieties and issues in a mental drawer that opens when needed and shuts when not productive is a basic starting tool. Parking multiple competing stresses simultaneously is another level of mental control. Thinking before speaking, and holding your tongue at all the right times, is another great control tool. All of these can be improved by taking a little time away from the action, especially when you are supposed to be there.
This is especially true for patients after surgery. The usual workday expectations are forcibly stalled. While the mind still wants to go to work, the body needs to recover. Pausing, thinking and feeling what the body needs to not just fully recover but to heal in a way that is better than it was before it was injured, is the key to a supersuccessful outcome from a repaired injury or indeed from all the physical abuses of daily life.
I find the analogy of the flowing river useful. Usually, we are trying to make things happen — pushing forward new ideas, mobilizing people to accomplish goals and taking action. But if the waterfall of your life is already so full, by just pausing and letting the river of ideas and actions flow by your thoughtful eyes, you can become more effective at choosing your interventions. It is simply too hard to see the opportune moments when you are driving the boat.
While we have taught our kids that 90 percent of success is determined by showing up, it turns out that at certain stages of life, leadership occurs by inspiring others and staying out of the way. Meanwhile recovery happens when we give our bodies a chance to heal and rebuild. Try pushing in the clutch, taking the Monday morning of life off, and thinking more than doing. It is fun too.
Dr. Kevin R. Stone is an orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and chairman of the Stone Research Foundation in San Francisco. He pioneers advanced orthopedic surgical and rehabilitation techniques to repair, regenerate and replace damaged cartilage and ligaments. For more info, visit www.stoneclinic.com.