On finding shade: the importance of vacations, coaching and taking breaks.


A few weeks ago I took a 3 mile hike alone on a trail in the middle of Tilden Park in Berkeley. You can see by the photo above that we’re in a pretty severe drought in California these days; instead of lots of greenery, much of the surrounding scenery was a dull yellow.

I was in heaven for the first ten minutes. I started out under the leafy trees near the parking lot and there was an easy feeling to the morning. But then I got to a part of the path that was uphill. And then I started to sweat… and pretty soon, those parking lot trees were far behind me. I was wearing a hat and I’d put on sunscreen, but the sun beat down on me and I really started to hate my hike. I wished it was over.

I often meet people when they are at a professional low-point. They willingly accepted their role and responsibilities, but somewhere along the way they burned out. While I was walking under the hot sun, I thought of them. I thought about how my hike had been my choice, how I’d chosen the time of day to come out, but also how it was no longer a good time. And then I thought more about some of my clients.

I was 30 minutes in and pretty cranky. Up ahead I saw that the path led into a patch of woods. The reprieve from the sun was so sweet that I stopped to savor it for a few minutes. I checked out the trees and the funny bark that grows on them; I noticed birds. I started to like my hike again.

This same pattern continued for the entire 3 miles. I’d get worn down by the uncovered parts of the path and then I’d get rejuvenated by a chunk of shade.

One of the hardest things in life is identifying when you need some shade. You think everything is conspiring against you until you realize that you’re just missing cover. You need a break from the hot sun, or whatever is causing you to feel parched. It might not be your job or your coworkers or your desk chair.

You might just need some shade.

How do you find shade, in a professional sense? Sometimes shade comes in the form of an unplugged vacation. Other times you might hire a coach; a 30 minute conversation each week can feel like a much-needed cool glass of water. Some of us are runners and some of us meditate and some of us need 9 hours of sleep per night. It’s worth asking yourself what shade looks like in your life.

Because there are certainly times in our lives when we do need to upend it all: quit our jobs, change cities, flee what feels too stressful. But sometimes I think we mix up what invites fleeing and what could be solved by a restful break.

Here’s wishing you a summer of cool, leafy moments.