I was recently reminded that, in work and life,by the time we reach a giant milestone or accomplish something significant, we are usually already focused on the next project, phase or event. The very next day or even the next moment we are called to start the next “big thing.” Often this next task has been waiting for our attention and demands that we move fast. This quick pivot from achievement to the next project can take a toll. Not only can we miss out on fully celebrating (and appreciating, and learning) our accomplishment, but we all too often can find ourselves not taking the time to replenish our energy before tackling what lies ahead.
While this pattern pops up frequently in my work as an executive coach, this week it was personal. As my 18-year-old daughter graduated from high school, I found myself noticing that there was no time to pause and cherish this event that marked the culmination of her childhood. The very next day there were plans and decisions to be made in preparation her next big thing – college. There were forms, deadlines and decisions, all beckoning our attention. As I drank my coffee I felt the frantic energy building; the feeling that things were moving too fast and that sense of mounting pressure. I wanted some space to celebrate her and cherish the memories of being a family for the last 18 years.
Just the day before my daughter’s actual graduation, I had a call with a leader who echoed this challenge. Funny now to think I had to fit that call in as I geared up for this special day. This leader had just completed the first phase of a business strategy change that was six months in the making but there was no time to celebrate; tomorrow she had to begin the arduous work of the next phase. This phase was going to require a new focus and a new energy. We talked about the energy and focus needed for each new phase.
While reflecting on renewing energy and focus, I was reminded of the ebb and flow of a tide. The ebb of the tide is as important to life as the flow of the water. In the ebb, life forms are given the oxygen needed to sustain life and remove harmful toxins. It is the natural balance of a system.
In our endless focus on activity, it’s easy to believe that we must quickly get to the next milestone. I began to see the beauty associated with the break and pause of activity receding ever so briefly to allow ourselves oxygen. And to allow us to let go of the emotions and potential toxins left in our systems. Our leaders, teams and families need us to create the ebb and pause. Leaning in to the beauty of the work completed to breathe its existence and give thanks for what led to now.