The Importance of Restoring

Early this month I had the pleasure of staying in the newly refurbished Westin Book Cadillac hotel in downtown Detroit (yes, Detroit does still exist).

The theme of the décor and atmosphere at this hotel is “restore”. The rooms, lobby, restaurant all played on this theme with quiet spaciousness, muted color, and healthy food. In spite of the raging winter storm outside and my daily full schedule of coaching clients it was pleasure to feel a sense of calm in those surroundings.

The “restore” theme reminded me of the early awareness and importance of restoring in 2001 by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz The Making of a Corporate Athlete . It made perfect sense to compare an executive’s energy expenditure to that of world-class athletes. The authors explain that professional athletes spend a small percentage of their time competing – much of their days are spent in practice. Most executives spend their entire day (12, 14 hours or more) performing, have no off-season, and have a longer career than athletes. Yet we seldom consider the implications of this kind of stressful “performance” on our ability to be world class leaders.

Ten years after publication of that article, the need for you to expend energy has increased. The amount of information you must process and the number of new technologies you need to learn have amplified. Your organizations are flatter and the expectations are even greater for you to perform at an optimal level. You weren’t meant for this kind of stress without periods of recovery.

Taking care of all aspects of your life will provide you with the energy you need to sustain your leadership, and you should be modeling it for those in your organization. What are you doing to restore yourself? Some suggestions:

Recovery for your body: As hard as it may seem to fit into your schedule, a regular exercise program is one of the most important things you can do to recover the energy needed to deal with stress over the long haul. Throw in some extra sleep, healthy food, and plenty of water to stay hydrated and I guarantee it’ll pay off in higher performance for you.

Refreshment for your mind: How about a few minutes a day reading something fun (fiction or poetry perhaps?) that has nothing to do with work? You might also consider a reflective practice to help you organize your thoughts, your work, your play and fun. You can do this in 15 minutes a day and stay intentional with it by blocking out the time on your schedule.

Renewal for your spirit: Spiritual renewal provides you with “will” – the will to engage and get through tough times. I use the term “spirit” in the broadest sense, meant to include connection with your deepest values, purpose, and the things that provide meaning to you. Consider attending a retreat or just getting away on your own (I spend several days each year in solitude at a retreat center). Meditate, pray, journal, or do whatever it takes to reconnect with yourself on a regular basis.

You can no longer expend energy in these stressful times without engaging in practices that will restore you. Trust me, the time you spend will help you restore, improve, and sustain your leadership.


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I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

13 comments on “The Importance of Restoring

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your blog. The weak economy has meant more work and “performing” for longer periods of time as remaining employees absorb the increased work-load of their laid-off counterparts. It is important that employee and employer alike make rest and restoration a priority if they are to weather this economic slump.

  2. Robyn, I like knowing this! It’s also a good reason to breathe well and often :).

    Mike, while the weak economy has certainly had an effect on work loads, I can’t help but wonder if, with other factors such as globalization, this is the way it is for the foreseeable future?

  3. Even in the most cushy of office careers, I see this all the time. People have so much on their plate, they are constantly complaining about how much they have to do, and have little time to do it in. Their responsibilities seem to continue to stack up, and the are always moving, always going. As much as society plays a role in this scenario, with our “go, go, go” culture, it seems that some people just need to learn to say “no”. I’ve found myself in a much better mood and work ethic after I’ve had a few minutes every once in a while to re-center myself and get my bearings. Sometimes I just want to force people to sit down and breathe for a moment. Maybe then, we would have better morale and attitudes in the workplace.

  4. Mary Jo,

    This was a good post. I think as a society we’ve grown accustomed to LONG periods of work, with little to no actual recovery time. We work the hours you describe, take work with us on vacations, leave early, get home late, and work through the evenings. I’m not sure I agree with the athlete analogy entirely, but there is certainly a measure of validity to the whole renewal theme. The idea, of reading something unrelated to work is something I’m going to try out a little more often. The exercise idea is something we all need to prioritize better as well. But inputting something that has nothing to do with work is a great idea. Thanks much for your insight.

    Ray Harnes

  5. Sometimes people feel being driven near crazy because of the depressing economy, increasing rate of laid-off and stress from both work and life. But I still think whether to be stressed out is totally dependent on the individuals. Just as you mentioned, restoring is good way to release oneself. Another factor that determines one’s feeling is whether he enjoys his job. If he really enjoy what he is doing, he will feel much better. Thank you for your post.

  6. William, “cushy” office careers with 12-14 days and lots of stress still require periods of recovery. Wouldn’t it be great if our organizations encouraged recovery? 15 minutes a day to breathe, meditate, or just “be”? The thing is, you don’t have to wait for your organization to sanction it. Just do it.

    Ray, I include one novel in my reading per year. It forces me to be choosy about which one I’ll read, but it is also a creative endeavor that helps me to think outside the box. For the same reason, I try to take a creative class of some sort every year – art, dance. This year I’m taking a creative writing class. Its hard yet gives my brain a rest from the stuff I think about every day (and gives me new ideas I can use at work!).

    Meng, enjoying your job is wonderful. I believed at one time that simply enjoying what you do would “give permission” to work long hours. Wrong. I firmly believe that we all need to restore regularly to be at our best as leaders!

  7. Mary Jo,

    You may be right – globalization is changing our workplace and our lives in many ways. If increased hours and work-load is the reality for the foreseeable future I am worried! People have a finite amount of output and if employees are always running on “low batteries” output quality will suffer…not to mention the quality of one’s personal life and relationships.


  8. Mike, I agree – and given the “law of diminishing returns”, how productive can most of us be after 10 hours of work in a stressful environment? It seems to me that restoring could be part of the answer to stress and long work days.

  9. Dear Mary Jo, I was waiting for the “music” thing as I was reading through your post, but it never came along! Of course, I did see the spot where you wrote something like “…or whatever that would work for restoring your mind/soul”. I think when I listen to music -preferably classical- it does two things to me and I’m pretty sure it should be the same for other people: not only it detaches my mind from different stressful things I deal with during the day, but also I figured that it engages my brain -later on- in a different way with the things I do. I’d say it can hyper-activate my brain so I always perform more efficiently afterward. It just sounds like a great refreshment to your body. Thank you for the practical items you referred in you post.

  10. Important post. It’s amazing to me that in this era of emerging globalization we’re not making restoration of our minds and bodies a priority. There’s really no where to hide anymore. A competitive environment calls upon us to be always on in some way. It’s our responsibility to take charge of our time and make the white space a priority.


  11. Fabulous reminder Mary Jo! I went on a much needed mini-vacation this weekend and didn’t even realize how vital that break was until I was removed from my day to day life. As a result I was able to recover, refresh, & renew, and was reminded that I need to set aside time for each everyday! Thank you for the reminder and the perfect timing!

  12. Kia, of course! For many people, it is important and restorative to listen to music (I also love classical music for this reason). Thanks for thinking of it.

    Judy, I do think that many more leaders are at least conscious of the fact that restoring is important, and they realize how good they feel when they engage in it. These days, I strongly encourage most of my clients to have a restoring goal for our work together. Some refuse, but many engage.

    Mackenzie, its nice that you could experience in a visceral way the power of the break you took. Best wishes incorporating some kind of renewal into your every day!

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