As we head into the holiday period there is much talk about rest but can we value rest for the peace, joy, and comfort it brings, or must we always link it back to productivity dividends?
Rest is a concept that we intuitively know. It’s stopping, relaxing, recharging after a period of stress and hard work. I’ve been doing a lot of research on what the social science experts have to say on the subject. It’s all very interesting, but in study after study there is a common theme - justifying rest as a means to increased productivity.
I get where they’re coming from. Productivity is good, but I’m increasingly starting to see we’re suffering under the illusion that productivity is everything.
By needing to justify the importance of rest in the language of productivity, we’re playing the same game that has led to so much burnout and suffering - one of pushing, hustling, and striving to prove our worthiness through productivity. Even when it comes to rest.
So even though we intuitively know what it is to rest, I don’t think we’re very good at it in practice.
We’ve smothered it with cultural meaning and judgement that oscillates between outright laziness and a means for increased performance.
But imagine a world where we did value rest as an end in itself.
Where you could declare, having found yourself with a spare moment, ‘I’m having a nap’ with as much virtue and swagger as one might say ‘I’m getting a jump on my taxes’. When sitting in the Sun daydreaming isn’t just the domain of whimsical poets derided by the ‘serious’ corporate types, but an activity that is valued as a joyful moment, without consideration of future potential productivity.
It is an imaginary world indeed.
Because we can learn to step back from the cultural baggage that burdens the concept of rest. We can broaden our value system beyond the myopia of productivity.
This will give us freedom to make choices that reflect who we really are and how we want to spend our ‘one wild and precious life’.
…. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life.
From Mary Oliver’s Summer’s Day