Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recharging Your Emotional Batteries

I'm writing this from the oceanfront (literally) in Virgina Beach; it's early enough that there aren't too many people around. Just the wind and the waves: ocean as far and wide as I can see.

Something about sitting by the ocean on an empty beach is quieting. There are few distractions; eventually, it's as if you adopt the rhythm of the waves and are just left at peace with yourself. It's at those times that I often have my best and biggest thoughts: fresh inspirations and insights.

Following my sophomore year at Duke, I sat on a Florida beach early in the morning reading a book called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Looking over the water, I was suddenly seized with the recognition that this was what I was meant to do with my life: use psychology to help people find their greatness--not to fight mental illness.

That was almost a quarter century ago. The memory of that morning on the beach--and the mission I felt at that occasion--is as strong today as it was when I returned to school and reorganized my life.

We could not survive without life's routines. Routine helps us perform repetitive tasks automatically, so that we can direct our attention elsewhere. As Colin Wilson emphasized, however, we become so caught in routine that there is no "elsewhere". Life becomes a series of routines, our work and relationships become stale, and suddenly we find ourselves growing old before our time.

Not everyone will find their break from routines in travel and the ocean. Some find it in spiritual pursuits; others in the adventure of hiking or sports. Sitting with the ocean reminds me of the need to escape the mundane and recharge mind and body. At those moments, our most productive times--those that can shape a lifetime--can be our moments away from work.