Are You Restless Or Are You Restful?

Dec 04, 2015 1 Min Read
sunkissed feet in the blue waters, as it should be!

Click play to listen to the podcast:

A leader’s schedule is determined not by the amount of activities but by the clarity of priorities.

I love my Google Calendar – it organises my life and shows me what I need to be doing each day without having me to perform a series of mental gymnastics.

However, just going through the checklist of what needs to be accomplished each day still falls short of what constitutes a fulfilling day.

Being able to cram in more activities increases a sense of achievement – but not necessarily a sense of actualisation.

Nature is set up for cycles of effectiveness with seasons of work and rest. Even the land requires a period of inactivity (rest) in order for it to regain a fertile state for the next growth season.

With ever increasing expectations for higher performance, does even the concept of “restedness” make sense in today’s demanding workplace?

Could it be that we now have gotten so much into the productive mode that rightful rest is now a term of extinction while continuous work is becoming a mark of distinction?

Are you restless or are you restful?

This might interest you: Sleep Your Way To Better Leadership

Rest vs. Entertainment

The most common respond to a “How are you?” greeting usually goes like this – “I am very busy but what choice do I have?”

There is almost a certain sense of unavoidable fate when it comes to expressing the state of the workplace and the thought of planned rest is foreign to most of us – so much so that towards the end of the year, we usually face the malady of accumulated annual leave!

Some have gotten so used to working that taking a holiday is an unwelcome break and they can’t wait to get back to the workplace again.

As a quick pit stop, there are those who would resort to the world of entertainment for self-recharging, kind of like letting the hair down.

While entertainment and amusement do offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of work but it falls short of giving that internal recuperation that sends us back with increased enthusiasm and motivation.

Here are three symptoms that may indicate you are getting more entertainment than rest:

  • You go to a loud environment hoping to drown the voice of frustration within.
  • You prefer to be constantly in the company of people rather than to be aware of your own thoughts.
  • You constantly wake up on a Monday morning with a hangover! (rather than being motivated to face the adventures of the coming week).

Please don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that we should abandon all forms of entertainment. I do enjoy the fun and varied entertaining activities, which provide a refreshing break.

However, in the words of Ravi Zacharias – if we start to listen with our eyes and think with our feelings – then there is something soulful, which is missing in the way we care for ourselves when we do not embrace the basics of listening and thinking.

The danger of this visual age is that we weary ourselves with incessant entertainment while depriving ourselves from taking inspirational rest.

See also: The Importance Of Doing Nothing

Rest vs. Happiness

The pursuit of happiness can be a restless quest.

The most common response to the question – “What is your goal in life?” – is this: “I want to be happy”.

Of course, happiness is a driving emotion, which fuels much of the energy we need to go through the ordeals of the day.

If happiness is the sole element, which drives me, then there is cause for concern because emotions are designed as triggers, i.e. emotion provides an indication of where I am but it lacks the depth and stability to tell me where I should go. In other words, emotion has descriptive value but not a directional one.

So, how does the concept of rest come in? Without a sense of rest, the pursuit of happiness can actually be quite an exhausting affair – constantly looking for the next emotional high, the next adrenaline rush or the next great self-esteem project.

Without rest, our perception of what makes us happy can be misguided by the influences of popular culture and peer pressure.

Now, there is nothing wrong with desiring to be happy. However, our happiness needs to be anchored on solid principles rather than fleeting emotions.

Here are three solid principles worth anchoring on:

  • Have a life purpose – nothing energises like having a clearly defined purpose statement.
  • Leave a legacy – when you are constantly thinking about the next generation, you have very little time to complain about the current generation.
  • Be comfortable in saying “No” – not every invitation that comes your way is worth your while.

Think about it. How can these principles be internalised in someone unless there are moments of purposeful reflection and personal rest?

Your pursuit of happiness will become a journey of joy if you take time to rest along the way – taking time off to journal, to reflect and to ask the “Why am I doing what I am doing?” question every now and then.

Priorities precede rest

Restless people are constantly looking for the next big thing. Restful people have already decided what the big thing would be.

Restless people look to their emotions as their authoritative guide while restful people are guided by the strength of their convictions.

The quality of one’s rest depends not on the quality of entertainment but by the clarity of his or her priorities in life.

Once your priorities are crystal clear, you will find it easier to say “no” to the many distractions that come your way – this ability to say “no” to tempting but distracting activities is the foundation of restedness.

With hard work, you will achieve success but with the right amount of rest and reflection along the way, you will achieve significance.

With hard work, you will achieve material wealth but with intentional rest and soul-searching, you will achieve meaning.

This might interest you: Infographic: Top 10 Ways To Reflect And Renew Yourself

Concluding remarks

Nowadays, I still enjoy using my Google Calendar for the simple reason that it organises my life but does not dictate it. That which dictates my life comes from the clarity of my priorities and not the clamouring of my activities.

Joseph Tan was previously the CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. His passion is to work with performance-focused leaders to capture the hearts and minds of their employees through a strengths-based and accountability-driven approach. Much of what is shared in this article comes from his work as a Gallup-certified strengths coach. To connect with him, email us at for more details.

Share This


Tags: Self-regulation

Joseph is a Leaderonomics faculty trainer who is passionate about engaging with leaders to transform culture in organisations. Previously, he was CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. He is currently based in the United States

You May Also Like

Tiny people repairing vulnerable broken heart

Leading with Vulnerability

By Jacob Morgan. Discover the real deal about authentic leadership and how it intertwines with leading vulnerably in the workplace. Let's break it down!

Oct 12, 2023 5 Min Read


Nuggets Of Advice On Entrepreneurship And Success

“Be passionate, be proactive, never say die and never make excuses” is Bill Rancic’s advice to any aspiring entrepreneur.

May 24, 2013 16 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader