Recently, one of our team members at the John Maxwell Company shared an interesting struggle in his life: he’s forgotten how to rest. Some of the team was gathered for lunch and he volunteered his thoughts as everyone was talking.

“I just feel like, when I’m resting, that there’s something else I should be doing,” he said. “I feel like my time would be more productive if I were reading, or making something, or working towards a specific goal.”

Now, this is a highly productive team member who loves his work and enjoys making a difference through what he does. He’s a disciplined person with clear boundary lines for work, family, and community.

It was surprising for him to share this struggle, and especially ironic considering we’ve just celebrated Labor Day, a holiday designed to honor the working people of America by giving them a day to rest. But what he shared isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s something many leaders struggle with.

Do you ever feel that way?

Do you ever struggle with investing your time to increase your energy?

Because that’s what resting is: an investment. It’s easy for leaders to think that time spent actively doing something with an immediately measurable outcome is an investment; it’s difficult for them to think of time spent resting in the same way.

In a fast-forward culture, rest seems like a luxury we can’t afford.

I keep a busy schedule, but I understand that rest is an essential investment for my leadership. I can’t push myself beyond my limits every day; I must have time to rest. Granted, I may not rest too long, but that doesn’t change the fact that I need to pause every now and then!

Here’s why rest is such an important investment for leaders:

  1. It allows you to recover — your body needs recovery time. If you’ve ever been to a gym, even as a failed New Year’s Resolution, you’ve learned that every person’s body needs time to recover because that’s where the growth happens. When you work out, you break down your muscles; when you rest, those muscles recover and add strength that helps you push even farther next time. The same is true with our leadership muscles. If we want to grow, we must rest and recover.
  2. It allows you to reflect — you need time to look back in order to learn. Moving from challenge to challenge, or from opportunity to opportunity, might sound and seem exciting, but reflection is how we learn the lessons that help us get better. Since leaders separate themselves from the pack by seeing more and before others do, it’s a smart idea to set aside time to reflect because looking back helps us gain clarity for looking ahead.
  3. It allows you to rekindle — this is idea comes from Mark Cole, CEO of all my companies. Mark teaches our team that within the business cycle is a time for rekindling your passion for what you do. Resting allows you to rediscover the enthusiasm and energy you have for the work you do and the purpose you fulfill. If recovery is for the body and reflection is for the mind, then rekindling is for the heart. A leader needs all three to be effective.

Believe it or not, resting is a discipline like anything else. The team member I mentioned earlier is learning how to discipline himself in this way, and he’s learning (like I did) that it takes time and intentionality to find the right rhythm that works for you and your leadership. But make no mistake — it’s an essential part of your work as a leader. Taking time to invest in our physical, mental, and emotional health as leaders is just good business.

A burned-out leader reproduces burned-out people because we reproduce what we are, not what we want. Learning to rest is one of the best investments a leader can make.