Regular readers will have noticed that I’ve been on a wheeling and spieling break. Breaks, I’ve realised(after a ridiculously long time), are absolute necessities in balancing stress and achieving some sort of clarity.
A good night’s sleep, half an hour of meditation, cross training in between race seasons, a weekend away, or even just freewheeling after reaching the top of a hill, there’s no doubt that breaks, well, break things up and give us the opportunity to regroup, re-assess and smell the goanna oil.
Not to be confused with having a rest, taking a break is often characterised by taking the opportunity to stop what you are busy doing, breathe for a minute and make a change that can then get you busy doing something else that will guide you on towards a new or revised goal.
Of course this is the irony of the break, a period of inactivity and the resulting presence of space between activities, regardless of length, can lead to doing more activity. To paraphrase a quote from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”
Space, it seems has long been acknowledged by the enlightened as an opportunity and not just pockets of nothing because after all, nothing is a kind of something.
When I first started training and racing in the early eighties the racing calendar consisted of two distinct seasons – the summer track season from November to March and the winter road season from May to September. October and April were natural break months, time used by some to take time off the bike and revisit your extended or close family, others took the opportunity to do all the things that you stopped yourself from doing during the racing season, skydive, surf or ride a skateboard; things that you wouldn’t dare risk in race season for fear of a non race related injury and too many questions from coaches and sponsors on why you would risk your career over a half pipe at the skate park. It was also a time to give your race brain a rest and time to like to regauge your thinking from track tactics to road and vice verse.
When I was racing I learned fairly early on that after hard training sessions it was how I spent the break between training that would determine what kind of benefits the training had produced. But as with anything that you first start doing and find that not only do you enjoy doing it but that you are good at it too, you tend to do it all of the time so that you can get even better and enjoy it even more. Eventually the much needed breaks get smaller and smaller until they stop altogether and in a moment of self preservation your body throws up an injury to give you a bit of space, take a break and recuperate.
Well at least that’s what would happen in my racing world. In the working world I’ve noticed that overuse or lack of breaks manifests as stress.
Recently I swapped one kind of work stress for another. Not unlike good and bad cholesterol, where one will help your body function and the other may eventually kill you; good stress can drive you on to achieve goals that may seem impossible and bad stress can drive you to breaking point. The trick of course is to determine what kind of stress you are under and if it is working for you or working towards your demise.
It would seem an easy enough thing to recognise – good or bad stress, but as usual, money tends to confuse the issue and step in the way of making decisions that would otherwise be easy to make if we didn’t have to consider whether our choice would severely impact on our lifestyle.
I’ve never really been into money. I’ve had it at various times in my life- won it, earned it, lost it, have been given it, found it and have given it away but I have never really concentrated on it. That is until recently when I found myself in a new job that revolves around it. We speak of KPI’s and Gross Profit and margins and profit and loss statements and other fiscal measurements that cripple my creative mind. For three months I’ve been working non stop and focussing daily on the numbers while my words have sat patiently in a recess of my brain waiting for a break and today that is just what I am taking- a break.
So what have I realised so far in these early hours of space?
Well one thing is blindingly obvious; numbers hold no power in my world. They neither motivate or inspire nor disgust or retard me, they just exist, and concentrating on them will never transform them into words that will inspire me. I can rearrange numbers until I create a knot or a wave but they do not change my world.
Recently we celebrated my cousin’s 60th birthday and to all of us who know and love her 60 is really just a number. Much like our Grandmother did, my cousin carries on through the age numbers as just that- numbers; a couple of arbitrary symbols that have little impact on her lifestyle. Accordingly my cousin has no interest in the digital world unless the device brings her conversation. Sure she operates in the modern world but she plays to her strengths in the analogue world of words; a timely example for me to follow.
There it is, the ‘uh-huh’ moment, and all from taking a break! A much-needed regroup, re-assess and if I close my eyes and sniff at my legs I swear I can smell the goanna oil.
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