I took a long road trip this past weekend. I was alone and navigating Fourth of July traffic out of Atlanta when I suddenly found myself jammed into a convoy of cars and trucks that seemed determined to kill themselves while jockeying for position. I tried to keep my distance and alter my speed so as not to endanger myself, but there was no avoiding their pace and antics while I remained among them. Finally, I decided to pull off at an exit.
It was a smart decision. I got some gas, stretched, bought some nuts and a coke, breathed deep, and then re-entered the highway among different drivers, in a different frame of mind, in a more relaxed state. I realized that by just pulling off for ten minutes, I had repositioned myself. I had been packed in among angry, threatening drivers before, but now I had almost a hundred yards between my vehicle and the nearest car in either direction. I was more peaceful and thus had the mental bandwidth to ponder important things.
That 10-minute reset made all the difference.
If you’ve been reading Leading Thoughts for a while, you probably know where I’m going with this story. I believe in resets. I believe in gaining perspective. I believe in looking at life and work from varying viewpoints. This discipline has made all the difference in my life.
We are at our most foolish when we work hard without knowing why. We are at our least productive when we keep pace with the maddening crowd without knowing where it is going or why it is so manic in getting there. We lead poorly when we lead where we’ve always led because we were mindlessly led to lead there.
Learn the art of the reset. This is not an argument for vacations and sabbaticals, though I’m a fierce believer in both. It is an argument for one of what I call the “micro-disciplines.”
I work with a CEO who has agreed to walk out into the yard of his corporation’s headquarters twice a day for ten minutes. He stands in a grove of trees, breathes deep and ponders from that vantage point what he has done all day, what he is about to do, and what any of it has to do with his vision for himself and his company. It would take a book to detail the upgrade this has meant for him personally and for all he leads. He just needed to reset, like I did on that highway.
I know a female team leader who decided to go to the roof of her office tower once a day for 15 minutes. She, too, breathes deep. She gains both physical and emotional perspective on that 56th floor platform. She ponders problems, she stretches, she gains the broader view. Then, she walks down 21 of those floors—yes, walks—and returns to her team to lead them well. According to that team, she was always a great leader, but now they are all producing more and they are happier. This team leader just needed to reset.
I can name an entrepreneur who resets an afternoon a week, a coach who resets an hour a day, and a pastor who lets his Apple watch prompt him to reset every two hours.
Everyone needs to find their own pace, but everyone also needs a reset. The reset is a combination of breaking from the pace, changing environment, stretching and reinvigorating the body, and pondering in an unchallenged moment and from an alternative perspective. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Nothing overly mystical. Nothing hard.
Find the reset. Make it happen as often as you need it. Journal the changes.
Lead well. And have a great weekend.