Rest in This: It’s Okay to Rest


Oil well? Rig? Pump? Big machine that goes up and down?!?

Whatever it’s called, this thing has sat on the Colorado prairie a third of a mile east of that blue house off in the distance—aka the Miller home—since we moved here over 16 years ago.

Watching it from our back porch for a decade and a half, here’s what I’ve observed:

Some days it pumps away, working super hard to do whatever it’s designed to do.

Other days it’s in motion just for a short while.

Once in a while—nothing. It just sits.

When it does nothing, I ponder, Is it resting? Thinking? Waiting for instruction. Lacking motivation? Does it need clearer purpose?

I’m just not sure, but I am pretty certain that its on-again, off-again productivity causes it very little guilt.

I need to be a bit more like that.

The truth is, some days I get a whole lot done, while other days … not so much. But that’s okay.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be a “hard charger” with big dreams and goals. But it’s also good to just … rest. Letting myself have an off day—a less productive time—is something I’ve needed to learn, right along with healthy self-talk like …

 Don’t be too hard on yourself. Nobody can run at full speed everyday. 

Our 23-year-old daughter, Molly, ran 12 miles the other morn in preparation for a half-marathon. Twelve miles! When teased by her brother, Michael, on Facebook about whether she really ran it nonstop, she finally responded with a touch of chagrin, “Well, I did take one two-minute breather.”

Um, wow, Mol—nothing wrong with that! I thought.

After posting my congratulations on her timeline, I realized what I should’ve said was this:

“Mol, remember that lonely oil pumping apparatus standing in the field east of our house that we’ve watched for years and years, wondering what it does and who owns it? Well, it takes lots of breathers and is probably unashamed of every one of them!”

Few machines and no person that I know can run non-stop day in and day out.

It’s okay to rest. In fact, it’s good to rest. Can you rest in that truth? I hope so.

How do you treat yourself when you “take a breather”?

How do you rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and reignite?

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22 Responses

  1. This is so important to avoid burnout. Here are two things I’ve done.

    1. Plan a week off. Do it well in advance. The reason for this is you will get a double benefit. Just looking forward to the time off is as effective, or even more effective, than the time off itself. So, plan it for 2-4 weeks in the future. That also increases the chances that you can get the time off from work.

    2. Create a daily ritual with your family.

    Find something to do with your family that you:
    A. Rarely miss
    B. Look forward to

    Those are two suggestions I wrote about in 7 Ways to Overcome Burnout and Truly Live. I hope they help!

  2. good word John…we all know the temptation to be that ‘hard charger’, justifiably thinking things like, “there’s always work to do”. A couple years ago I began taking a day a week off…where I spend the first half just reading, meditating, and really not doing much at all. The second half of the day I usually work around the house, keeping things looking good, cleaning the garage…basic ‘brainless’ tasks-I prefer to call it ‘think time’. Our business is 6 days a week, with Saturday being the most demanding, so I can’t just take off every Saturday like normal people.
    I can’t tell you how this has benefited both me personally, our family, and the business. I see rest as important as breathing. Much of our growth as a business, new products, new departments, new additions…a lot of ideas and strategies come from revelations I get on my day off. I believe rest is what keeps us alive, active, and healthy…both as people and as businesses. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. I think a lot of people are always looking forward to finishing something, thinking that when they get it done they can relax. I’ve begun to believe that the better attitude is to realize you are never done and that it’s alright to take a break every now and then. I’ve actually observed people not start to work on something because they know thay can’t finish in the time they have. Wouldn’t it be better to do what you can and pick it up again later?

  4. John,

    This showed up in my inbox at the right time. I have been feeling very unproductive this week, feeling as if I was falling behind in some duties. But I read this and remembered that the work I do is not on a timeline, it needs done but there is not a deadline. I usually get a lot of work done with my day job, my high school baseball coaching job, and my hustle job that I work on when I have time.

    Thank you for reminding me that sometimes we have those days or weeks that we rest.


  5. When I need to give my mind a rest from thinking about work, I go shopping. But–you need to go to the right store that leaves you alone and lets you take your time looking. If I need help I will find you. That’s just me, some folks might like being approached by the sales team but not me. There is one store I go to that will greet you then leave you to look. I like that. The peace and quiet of being alone and unrushed to get something done is nice. I also have a spot down by the river where I take my lawn chair, a Pepsi, sit and relax while watching the river flowing by. Sounds like I need a rest…now…

  6. Just had a wonderful massage. Treat before a moderately busy day. Already booked the next one in two weeks!

  7. I agree totally. In fact, after a very busy & tiring day, I simply lay down for a nice little nap and just awoke to find your email. Thank you for blessing my lovely little respite!

  8. Hi John:
    This is great and I love the image of the guilt free oil pump. I’m technically on vacation in Branson but doing some writing and catching up on business. Thanks for reminding me what I’m here for. I needed this just now. Love your updates! Jeanne

  9. Hi John,
    Thank you for this article. I have been in medical sales for 19 years, however, on Feb. 20th, for the first time in my life, at age 55, was laid off. Fortunately, I am married, debt-free, am able to collect unemployment (for the time being) and have some savings. That said, I have struggled with this layoff with fears and worries about tomorrow but am seeing it as a blessing as my life was out of balance: all work, little rest. Why? Accountability! To my wife, children and the needy. God has blessed us through my work and is now giving me “guilt free oil pump rest” for the next step of my life. Hallelujah, and thank you. John

  10. It’s important to have boundaries. It is important to define who you are as a person and what is important in life. As a wise person once told me “life is not a dress rehearsal.” There will always something to do and its a matter of pacing, prioritizing and perspective. My rule is to stay fully engaged with what I am doing but understand that there is a time for work, a time for play and a time for family.

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