TGIF: Why You Need a Sabbath

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Ever notice how people love Fridays? Like, straight up, love them?

If a song and dance were to spontaneously erupt in the office on any given day of the week, it would almost certainly happen on a Friday.

People especially love Friday nights. Because on Friday night, you’ve completed your work for the week. On Friday night, you decide to quit pushing and striving and trying to be something. Instead of trying to be something, you get to be someone. (This is why there’s so many country songs about dancing on top of a bar on Friday night.) That is to say, instead of finding your sense of being in the things you do and produce, you find your sense of being in, well, being.

People love Fridays because Fridays lead to Friday nights, Friday nights lead to Saturdays, and Saturdays are a day when we can finally rest. People love Fridays because the striving and work of the week is over and Saturday is right around the corner. Saturday is a day of low obligations and little work, where the vast majority of us get to pursue time with friends and family. Because at some point we’ve got to stop working and recharge.

Our goal in recharging is not to escape from the workweek because work is bad. In fact, work and career are both privileges. We’ve previously discussed how you should adopt “TGIM” as your Monday motto and the importance of doing deep work.  Our goal is thus not to escape from work, but to instead create a rhythm of rest and work, both important in their own right and should be sought separately.

In the Bible, the Sabbath is defined as a day of rest and something we should keep holy.

If the words “Bible” and “Sabbath” and “holy” make you squirm, I’m with you—believe me. They make me squirm too. I’ve been part of religious circles and communities that completely miss the mark here, instead using these simple instructions to beat one another over the head with. Detaching toxic and spiritually manipulative connotations from these terms, the term “holy” in the Bible simply means to keep it distinct or separate.

It’s the idea that you should let your work be your work.

And let your rest be your rest.

Separating the two.

Keeping them holy.

That’s all holiness and Sabbath mean. And this is truly sound advice, apart from any religious undertones. In our world of constant and instant communication, we are always plugged in. And thus, we are always expected to be “on.” People spend their weekends responding to emails from work, when they should be watching their kid’s Little League games.

Have you ever been playing with your kids but been thinking about the office?

Have you ever been on a date and spent more time focusing on your phone?

Have you ever had your spouse get angry because you didn’t hear what they just said?

These are all examples of not keeping things holy or separate. We’ve blended rest and work so closely together, we scarcely know where one starts and the other begins. Our inability to focus and simply be present leads us directly into doing things that are neither work nor rest (such as checking Facebook for the 100th time that day, for example). And then our lives get messy when those lines get blurred.

We struggle desperately to be present.

The present is all we ever have. Anything that pulls us from the present, be it work or worry or regrets from the past, is simply keeping us from enjoying life: The life of the here and now. The entire idea and concept of Sabbath is that it pulls you fully into the here and now. Because you need a day to unplug yourself from the struggle. You need a break. You need rest.

That’s why we all need to take a Sabbath. To work is human. To rest is human. It’s when we try doing both at the same time that we have problems. The person who tries to rest when at work and work when they should be resting will not have a successful career.

You need to recognize the value of rest. Stephen Covey would call the Sabbath habit “sharpening the saw.” It’s one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He doesn’t call it Sabbath, of course, but he does get directly at the concept of Sabbath, the idea that you need to take time away from your work to refocus and recharge.

To live without resting is to be in a state of spiritual insomnia. If you’ve ever struggled with insomnia, you know the effects of not resting. Not resting does not make you better or more productive. In fact, it’s the opposite. Not being able to rest makes you be constantly awake but not actually awake. Your eyes are open, your brain is functioning, and you are processing reality. However, you are so exhausted that you feel constantly distant and sluggish and slow to respond. You don’t feel charged.

Sound familiar?

That’s why you need a Sabbath.

Nearly every Saturday, my wife, son and I go for a walk around Radnor Lake, which is a park near our home. It’s a beautiful and tranquil setting, complete with a glass-like lake, wildlife, and trails that give you fantastic views. On these walks, I have the opportunity to reconnect with my wife. The act of walking gives my body something to do and enables my conversations to flow more freely. We exchange ideas, talk about our hopes, and enjoy time giggling with our son, who inevitably finds something interesting to laugh at. In these moments, I feel more fully alive because I am choosing to step away and just be.

TGIF.

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