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Coaching Corner: Renewal and Rest

  • Michael D. Warden Life Coach & Author
  • 2007 11 Apr
Coaching Corner:  Renewal and Rest

Recently someone asked me how I did it.

You know that question, right? It comes right after you tell someone about all the dozens of duties and projects and errands and whatnot you have to hustle to get done in your typical week. As soon as you run out of breath from running down the list, their eyes get big and you hear them ask it, right on cue. "Wow! How do you do it?"

My honest answer is: I don't. I never get it all done. Ever. Do you? Does anybody? As far as I can tell, lists never end. We all have too much to do, and too little time to do it. And yet, we are convinced that getting it all done really matters, even though we know we probably can't get it all done because there's so much of it, but we try, we have to try, right? So we shorten our sleep, eat on the run, avoid "nonessential" conversations, and live with our Blackberries holstered at the hip like it was the only thing keeping our crazy lives moving.

If we could only stop long enough to look, I'm sure we'd notice that something is out of balance in this approach to life. We're rushing forward, running as if in a race. But there's no finish line in sight. There's no opportunity to stop, rest, celebrate our achievements and enjoy a genuine time of refreshing and renewal.

In Ecclesiastes 3, the writer wisely observed a simple reality of life: "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3).Certainly, there is a time for engaging with life like a runner in a heated race. But no athlete, not even the best athlete, runs without stopping at regular intervals to withdraw, rest and replenish themselves.

Life at its best is built around rhythms – like breathing, like sleeping. We are biologically wired to move from periods of engagement to periods of withdrawal and rest, and back again. Anytime we don't honor those natural rhythms, our health suffers, and our lives fall out of balance.

Unfortunately, the world we live in doesn't come with built in rest stops. Finish lines are a rare commodity in our non-stop culture. How can you build regular periods of withdrawal, rest and personal renewal into the race of your life? Here are some ideas that have worked well for many of my clients:

  • Begin by honestly exploring the question: "What does rest look like for you?" For some, rest and renewal means curling up with a book for an entire day; for others, it's hiking the toughest trail your can find or wandering the halls of a local museum. Before making any plans, make a clear, concise list of activities that genuinely lead you to rest & renewal.

  • Design a Rule of Life for rest & renewal. A Rule of Life is a regular spiritual practice that a person adopts as sacred and nonnegotiable. For example, spending time meditating on Scripture each morning could be part of a person's Rule of Life, or taking Sunday as a nonnegotiable day of rest of and renewal. Based on your list of genuinely restful activities, design a Rule of Life for rest and renewal that sounds inviting to you, and try it out for a few weeks. Take a playful approach with this. If something doesn't work the way you'd hoped, don't get frustrated about it. Instead, just drop it and try something else. This is a process of discovery. In time, you will find a Rule of Life that works best for you.

  • Tell your family and close friends about your Rule of Life for rest and renewal. Explain that the Rule is nonnegotiable, and invite them to help you stay committed to your practice of regular withdrawal and rest.

And here's one additional tip:  During the busy seasons when times of rest are especially hard to come by, learn to cultivate what I call "timeless moments." Take a three minute break, step outside and watch the wind in the trees. Take a 10-minute walk in a nearby park, and think of nothing but what you're thankful for in life. Go to lunch with a friend, and leave your Blackberry behind. Make a practice of reminding yourself in little ways each day that to be alive is a glorious thing – a gift from God of the highest order. Your life is worth celebrating, even in the busiest of times.

Michael D. Warden is a Professional Co-Active Coach, nationally certified through the Coaches Training Institute, and a member of the International Coach Federation. Michael’s clients’ one common trait is their passion to live a bigger life – to discover what they're here for, and boldly go after that vision with confidence and authenticity. Find more on his life and work at