Chris considers how escapism versus recovery is different in business compared to sport.
I’m a massive fan of recovery rather than escapism, however, I saw a huge difference in how it’s portrayed when I progressed from sport to business. I found that, compared to sport, there’s much less reflection in business. In sport, we reflect nearly continuously; daily, on the hour, every hour. Most of the time from a teenager onwards, as soon as you finish training you start recovery. Whereas in business as soon as you stop one project, you immediately move on to the next with no recovery time.
When I was swimming, I’d complete a training session, climb out of the water and my coach would immediately have a conversation with me about how training went, “What can we do even better? What was good about it? You need to be ready for tomorrow’s session. Go home, get some healthy food, hydration and proper rest.”
In sport dialling up the hard work is also matched with physical recovery for your body, mental rest for your mind and the need to allow your emotions to settle back down. When does this happen in business?
Last year we went on a family holiday and returned after 10 days of complete switch off. The downside was I had loads of emails and numerous people asking me to action tasks. However, I felt that I was ready, I was rested. I didn’t have that feeling of ‘I’ve never been away’ which I hear lots of people say five minutes after starting back to work. The chances are they haven’t mentally or emotionally recovered.
Recovery is about taking yourself to a place where you’re re-energising and topping your levels back up. For our holiday that meant visiting new places, meeting new people and the pure joy of watching our kids enjoy a brand-new country that they’ve never been to before. It was lovely to park everything and look through that lens.
There’s that feeling when we look back over our achievements of the past year that we just broad-brush them. Some of the achievements I’ve felt most passionate about are the ones where I’ve taken the time to press stop, pause and ask, “Is what I’m doing now helping me recover, or am I just trying to get away from something?”
What does it feel like to escape? Well, it’s that feeling of ‘I can’t wait to get away from this/here.’ It’s a mixture of feelings where emotions take over. For example, some people will reach for a glass of wine at the end of a working week, and they feel it’s their reward to themselves. However, it’s immensely easy for one drink to turn into three, and then it becomes a regular pattern of drinking as a reward. We need to be mindful of when we’re taking a step into avoidance and escape rather than recovery.
Escapism can disguise itself in many different ways… it’s anything that has the potential to be addictive. For example, going for a run can be a wonderful activity and it definitely changes the levels of chemicals in your body, releasing oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins, but we can become over-reliant on it.
Mindbodygreen has amazing articles on recovery and being over-reliant on one aspect of our recovery. If you over-rely upon running for example, at some point it becomes a stressor to the body and your running might not work out the way you want it to. So, you go longer and harder and it becomes a stressful thing. It’s pretty much the same effect as picking up a drink, or whatever it is that people can reach for to escape.
If we don’t address the thing that’s driving the stress around, then we miss the opportunity to learn and further develop ourselves.
For me, it’s understanding how to separate recovery from escapism. When we find ourselves escaping things there’s often something else that’s bubbling away that needs to be addressed. It’s about having enough self-awareness to know whether you’re trying to escape something or just recovering. Ask yourself, ‘Am I truly rewarding myself with what my body, mind and spirit need to rest and recover?’
I’m not entirely convinced that we always get that balance right, so I stick to five key areas:
1. Am I receiving sufficient nutrition?
2. Am I consuming enough hydration?
3. Am I having plenty of quality sleep/rest?
4. Am I stretching and moving to improve my fitness?
5. Is there love there? (things, people and places)
If anything’s out of balance, it’ll generally be in one of those five areas. Learning what you need to be your best involves a level of self-awareness and understanding. Each person is different; what you need may be completely different from what I need. To find out what you need, experiment, try new things and lean into new experiences while being aware of what happens next. Notice how it makes you feel.
Recovery allows us to bring our body back to its natural state, ready to take on the challenge of what’s about to happen next. Recovery is like popping a log on a fire. You’ll experience a long, slow, sustainable burn for a long time with oodles of heat and very little waste product. Escapism is like popping paper on a fire. You’ll feel a short, sharp burst of energy, a quick high and then it’s gone. There’s also lots of waste product at the end.
How do you recover rather than escape?