Know your rhythm

A recent conversation with one of my coachees sparked a memory that I had tucked away for no other reason than, I guess, it had served its purpose. I had learned the lesson and did not have to keep on remembering the actual moment the lesson presented itself. I was in my mid-thirties, slaving away at my doctoral thesis when it dawned on me that I have a rhythm, but that I was constantly working against it. In the process, I just made matters worse for myself. I started to notice that I had moments when I would be filled with energy, curiosity, and bright ideas. In those moments, I would even go as far as slapping myself on the back, feeling like a genius, as I added new (profound, in my opinion) ideas to the thesis. But, I would also have moments when I would feel lethargic and battled to get myself to string two sentences together that could add any value to the thesis. In those moments, I would hit myself over the head, chastising myself for being lazy and losing valuable time. I of course just made it worse because it would become a vicious cycle that could bring me to the brink of feeling depressed and convinced that I would never complete that thesis.


I would seesaw like that, moving from feeling brilliant and energised to feeling dull and tired. All while thinking that there must be something wrong with me. Until the penny dropped. My system needed downtime to rest. You can’t stay in a manic phase indefinitely. Your batteries will run out. My system was telling me that I needed to rest, and that my brain needed silence to process. I wasn’t going into a lazy phase, I was going into a rest cycle. When the penny dropped and I started to understand my rhythm, I learned to flow with it. In the downtime, I would focus on routine cleaning up, or what I referred to as ‘mindless work’ that did not need my brain to go into overdrive. I therefore still made progress on the thesis during the downtime, just not on the profound stuff. Once I made peace with my cycle and flowed with it, I felt less pressure and started to notice that I would come out of the rest period faster because I wasn’t locked in there by negative thoughts. By accepting and embracing the rest, I could achieve more in uptime. This is not dissimilar to athletes working in cycles that allow for rest periods.


It is important that we work with our rhythm instead of against it. That is a sure way to increase our productivity. In the last number of months, I have started to notice that the number one issue I am dealing with among my coachees is burnout. Often that is because of a lack of understanding of what their rhythm is. We look after ourselves as leaders because we need to give those we lead the best version of ourselves. Selfcare is part of our leadership responsibility.

More to explore

Outsourced morality

It is incumbent on each of us to constantly evaluate whether our moral compass is still pointing to our true north. We need to continually ask ourselves whether our actions are informed by our own beliefs that we carefully considered, before we concluded that they are fit to be used in our moral compass. How certain are we that we are not just believing what we are because those around us believe it? Or, that we are believing what we are because those who we have crowned with a halo believe it? Applying one’s own mind is paramount if we were to avoid the temptation of outsourcing our morality to others.

Fear can be your friend or your enemy

Whether we like it or not, we were not designed to be fearless. Fear is an emotional response connected to a basic need we all have – to feel safe. In the evolution of the human brain, this had been encoded for a very good reason. Our fear response is designed to trigger an action from us. If it’s a lion, we run. If we were to convince ourselves that we should not show fear and stand our ground, the stand we take is probably going to be immaterial to a starving lion. His fear that you may also be a threat, would most certainly be overridden by his fear of starving to death. Human beings are in any event rather defenceless without our modern weapons.

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