Having time to contemplate, to replenish and refocus – working with the contradictions of disciplined musing

IMG_5776Research and practice on energy, resilience or well-being tell us that stepping away from the so-called treadmill of work for a distinct period helps to recharge batteries. And this is crucial to thrive, enjoy, find purpose and perform in the long run. Business leaders also share their techniques around thinking weeks or retreats.

All fine, but what to do if you actually have such an opportunity? This is exactly what I faced with the privilege of having a sabbatical and being on a research visit for a few weeks in February at the department of Managing People in Organizations of IESE Business School. Two practical learnings to share and consider.

Starting in personal acceleration as a hurdle and disciplined contemplating

It is wonderful to have three weeks in front of you where the diary is more or less empty, autonomy and own discretion is high, so the purpose is really to replenish, get inspired and refocus. Obviously it is a privilege, so it comes with responsibility.

Shifting away from high, if not over-energy phases, and away from beyond 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 contemplating. And because such a phase is a privilege, responsibility plays a role in those mind-games. There is a voice in your head asking ‘What immediate output do I create from this?’ While I actually looked for a transition from day-to day output orientation to creating appetite, looking for ideas and accidental collusions that flourish longer term. I figured there is something about discipline in staying course for musing, thinking, and not falling back into production mode too early.

Landing in supportive conditions

No surprise 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 your own hands.

Conducive conditions are crucial for people to flourish. Same for me. I landed in two layers of supportive context that elevated my endeavour.

Think macro context – the city I visited, Barcelona. A very accessible, visually stimulating place. It was also unusually cold which challenges your framing of a place. Well, I obviously also found the long stretch of seaside which even with 15 degrees Celsius, the sun still opens the mind.

Think micro context: I visited the department of Managing People in Organizations and it members. What a difference it makes 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 into 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, this 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?

You do need to go this alone. Probably also 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.


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