Having time to contemplate – and the contradictions that arise

Research and practice on energy, resilience or well-being tell us that stepping away from the treadmill of work for a distinct period helps us recharge our batteries. And this is crucial in order for us to thrive, enjoy, find purpose and perform well in the long run.

All fine, but what to do if you actually have such an opportunity? This is exactly what I faced when on a research visit last month at the department of Managing People in Organizations of IESE Business School.  I have two practical points to share and consider.

Disciplined contemplation

It is wonderful to have three weeks in front of you where the diary is more or less empty, with complete control over your own time, and where the purpose is to get inspired and refocus. Obviously it is a privilege, so it comes with responsibility.

Shifting away from high, if not over- energetic phases, and away from the tipping point of resilience or well-being, towards a phase of generative floating, is an interesting experience.

Managers know that all too well. It takes time to change gear and go into a mode of contemplation. There is a voice in your head asking ‘What immediate output do I create from this?’ But what I am actually seeking is a transition from day-to-day output to creating appetite, looking for ideas and accidental collusions that can flourish longer term. I figured discipline is required to stay the course of musing, thinking, and not falling back into production mode too early.

Landing in supportive conditions

In my leadership development practice I build on reflexion and identity work when revisiting managers’ purpose and life agendas. However, it is not all in our own hands.

Conducive conditions are crucial for people – me included – to flourish. And on my research visit I identified two layers of supportive context that have elevated my endeavour.

Think macro context – the city I visited, Barcelona, is a very accessible, visually stimulating city. It was also unusually cold which challenged my framing of the place. But even at 15 degrees Celcius a long stretch of seaside in the sunshine still opens the mind.

Think micro context: I visited the department of Managing People in Organizations and its members. How wonderful to find an open and inviting space when doing a short visit for inspiration.

If you want to replicate the setting, focus on the following attributes I found in my hosts:

  • Genuine openness for me to join in activities and to listen in;
  • Mutual receptiveness of ideas in conversation;
  • An immediate sense of acceptance towards a guest while curiosity about the otherness that a guest provides remains.

These aspects helped to nurture, replenish, inspire and refocus my academic thinking.

Try this

This is not a challenge of knowing, it is challenge of doing.

You may not have the opportunity to step out of your job big time. So while you work, where can you find, prioritise, and protect pockets of time that allow you to drive thinking and refocusing – instead of doing and perpetuating?

If you find that you are ploughing on alone, perhaps that is not helpful. So who in your network is supporting you and how can you influence your macro and micro conditions that help you to replenish, get inspired and refocus?

Happy engaging – stay tuned

by Prof Bernd Vogelpexels-photo-415380.jpeg

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