Stress plus rest equals growth: Why I’m taking a year of rest

Last week, I was having a conversation with a colleague about my lack of motivation for blogging, writing, and side-hustling in general.

“It’s not that I don’t like doing it, and it’s not like my life has gotten exponentially more stressful or busy that I don’t have time to sit down and write,” I explained. “It’s just that when I get home I’d rather chill out with my fiancée and watch Netflix, or relax in the hot tub with a glass of wine instead of sit at my desk on my laptop. And now on the weekend, I’d rather peruse wedding and home furnishing boards on Pinterest instead of writing a blog and posting comments for an hour or two after breakfast like I used to do.”

Am I losing my motivation? Am I becoming one of those boring people who waste time instead of putting every extra second into trying to find a way to either make more money, serve others, or have a higher purpose?

My colleague offered some suggestions to help get me back on track, such as reaching out to do more coaching or teaching. They were good suggestions, but none of them felt right to me.

When I think about where I was a year and a bit ago, I know I had more free time and a desire to fill it with as much stuff as possible than I do now. Back then, I lived alone in a 450 square-foot apartment, had one small dog and didn’t have cable or Netflix to distract me. At the time, my now-fiancée but then-boyfriend was doing his master’s degree, so I felt the need to pursue something as well. I started studying for my strength and conditioning certification and put more time into my blog (which I’ve actually had since 2009). By 2015, Matt had graduated from university and I was a strength coach with my own business, a published fitness writer, and prolific blogger.

I stayed fairly busy with writing, coaching and blogging throughout 2015 and into 2016, even after I moved in with Matt and had a 5,000 square-foot house to clean and another dog to walk and clean up after. I kept it up for a while, but then I started to feel like I was missing out on something when I’d go to grab my laptop out to write or blog instead of spending time with Matt and the dogs at the end of the day. I craved more “real world” time. I craved more family time. I craved more time for doing things because I felt like it, not because I was looking for x-outcome.

Have I lost my passion for health and fitness and helping others? No. But I feel like I’m redirecting my energy, or something.

Time to recover!

I’ve been grappling with my seemingly lost motivation and what “Bri’s side-hustle 2.0” might look like for a few months now (as you may have noticed thanks to scarcer and scarcer blog and social media posts) until last week, when I listened to this episode of the Rich Roll podcast featuring Brad Stulberg, a columnist for Outside Magazine and former consultant for McKinsey and Company, and Steve Magness, a cross country coach at the University of Houston and a personal coach to several professional and Olympic athletes.

Rich was interviewing them about their new book, Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout and Thrive with the New Science of Success. Hello, did you write this for me??

I’m only about half way through the podcast (and plan to pick up the book for my summer reading list), but have already gleaned a few nuggets of wisdom about why I might have naturally backed off on blogging and marketing my personal training business, even though I still have the desire to keep it growing (albeit down a new or slightly altered route).

Stress + rest = growth

As you fitness-types will know, any good training program uses periodization, where you gradually build up speed, strength, and stamina for a period of time with short rest periods in between, then build on the previous phases to work up to your peak (usually a race or event) before backing off and taking a break before you start building again.

“The process of progress in any endeavor is optimized when a stressor challenges the body or mind and is then followed by adequate recovery,” writes Magness and Stulberg. “This pattern of effort yields physical, cognitive, and emotional breakthroughs. The hard part is striking the right balance. [<- Yes!] But when we hit the sweet spot, this ebb-and-flow is far superior to more common approaches to work in which we get stuck either in an ‘in-between’ zone of moderate intensity (leading to under-performance) or working non-stop at the utmost intensity (leading to fatigue and burnout).”

I think this is what was happening to me. An intense build for two years, but not enough rest in between. I think I’ve been stuck in the in-between zone for the past year where I’ve been running at a moderate intensity but not really going anywhere or furthering any of my careers. I made a push to go full-out again when I planned to go to graduate school this fall to get an MBA, but that kind of fell through for financial reasons. And to be honest, I was kind of relieved.

I feel like I’ve been in a build for too long, so 2017 will be my year of rest and recovery.

So what will that look like? I’d like to give it a bit more structure than just “only blogging when I want and making a wedding board on Pinterest”. Magness and Stulberg suggest “developing and harnessing your purpose”, which would be a great thing for me to go back and reflect on. Why did I start blogging in the first place? What are my core values? What kind of mark do I want to leave on the world? What do I want to be remembered for? What world problems do I think I can contribute to fixing? What gets me out of bed each day?

I might just the recover and “re-find” myself for the rest this year, or maybe more. I think when I’m ready to build again, I will know.

So that’s where I’m at right now. If you have any other great book suggestions or other activities for my “year of rest”, let me know.