Thursday, April 5, 2018

If Broken, Break

A couple of weeks ago, I was broken. I had zero creativity left in the tank. All of the projects that I wanted to move forward on felt like unscalable mountains. If I had to compare my mental state to anything at that time, it would be like experiencing a dream in which you really need to read something for information, but you aren't able to. As a result, my productivity tanked, and the noise that can fill my head with negativity and hopelessness crept in.

I was BURNT OUT.

I know that we can all feel that way from time to time. No matter how passionately we love our work, believe in our cause, or care about those we serve, we only have so much fuel to keep our machine running. I call it passion fatigue.

Once I am in that mode, no amount of inspiration is going to fix me. I've hit a wall, the airbags have deployed, and the windshield is a spiderweb through which I can no longer see. My foot might be on the gas, but I'm not going anywhere.

I have broken when I should have breaked.

Fortunately, last week was our Spring Break, and we had booked a fun-filled week at Walt Disney World for the family. I turned off my notifications, set my out-of-office email, and completely disengaged from all priorities other than family fun.

It worked. As busy as we were (6 days of crowded parks and 2 days of hectic travel), my brain came back rested and ready to climb every mountain. This kind of active distraction is really effective for me. I'm not the meditative sort (though I totally buy the argument for mindfulness). And passive distraction like television, my newsfeed, video games, and even reading, fail to recharge my batteries. In fact, that kind of distraction tends to deplete me more by adding to my head chatter.

The best thing for me seems to be play. Active, creative exploration with people I care about.

Ideally, I would learn from this experience to hit the breaks before the crash, to allow myself smaller, more frequent brain breaks. I should forgive a bit of playful distraction to fuel my passion. In my best moments, I do. More often, I do not.

It seems like we have devalued active play in our world. Imagine what it would look like to put "Play" as an item on your To Do list, or to include it as part of your lesson plan, or to block out space for it in your calendar. Imagine if our students' days prioritized undirected and active play. What would people think? How can that be justified? What does that say about you?

It might say something positive.

You are the ultimate boss of you. You could decide to reframe that. I am trying to.

So here is my challenge for myself, and if it works for you, feel free to share my challenge. Find a way to play every day. Tap the breaks on your passion machine, and maybe put it in park for the time it takes you to just have some fun with the people who make you happy. It won't be wasted time, unless you tell yourself it is.

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