Real Help for Real Living: Don’t call me today, I’m out on Holiday (or is it a Holy Day)?

by Rev. Tony Marciano

Don’t call my office today; I won’t be in. There are two times each year I absolutely take vacation. It’s when the Food Lion Auto Fair comes to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. I will be there. Am I on “holiday” as they say in England – or is it a “holy day” that I absolutely won’t miss?

When it comes to “holiday,” it’s been shown that Americans don’t take their full vacation days. We think we’re irreplaceable, and we move to the point where our work defines who we are.

We want to be seen as a team player, so we give up vacation days for the good of the cause. But if I don’t take care of myself, I don’t have anything left to take care of others. A minister once bragged to me he had worked six weeks without a day off. He said it as if it made him more holy, almost as if he was trying to score points with God. He had to be tired and fatigued.

I see in the life of Jesus that He often got away and spent time in prayer with His Father after miracles were performed. We do things differently and live like the book entitled, “When I Relax, I feel Guilty.” We don’t take care of ourself. We get tired, fatigued, irritable and cranky. We find ourselves being short with the people we love.

In their article, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete,” authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz state that “executives are corporate athletes. If they were to perform at high levels over the long haul… they would have to train in the same systematic, multilevel way that world class athletes do.”

They go on to say: “In the living laboratory of sports, we learned that the real enemy of high performance is not stress, which, paradoxical as it may seem, is actually the stimulus for growth. Rather, the problem is the absence of disciplined, intermittent recovery. Chronic stress without recovery depletes energy reserves, leads to burnout and breakdown, and ultimately undermines performance. Rituals that promote oscillation – rhythmic stress and recovery – are the second component of high performance. Repeated regularly, these highly precise, consciously developed routines become automatic over time. The same methods that enable world-class athletes to reach ideal performance state under pressure …would be at least equally effective for business leaders – and perhaps even more important in their lives.

“The demands on executives to sustain high performance day in and day out, year in and year out, dwarf the challenges faced by any athlete we have ever trained. The average professional athlete, for example, spends most of his time practicing and only a small percentage – several hours a day, at most – actually competing. The typical executive, by contrast, devotes almost no time to training and must perform on demand 10, 12, 14 hours a day or more. Athletes enjoy several months of off-season, while most executives are fortunate to get three or four weeks of vacation a year. The career of the average professional athlete spans seven years; the average executive can expect to work 40 to 50 years.”

During my first year in ministry, I met a coworker in our denomination who had inherited his father’s position. He was trying to prove to his dad that he could do the job as well, if not better. Work became number one in his life. He would not relax or take a day off; that was for slackers. His goal was to impress his dad with his accomplishments.

The only problem was that his dad had been dead for six years. He was trying to prove to his late father that he could handle the job. He wanted his dead father’s approval. He worked so hard without taking time off that he would retire early due to heart problems and then die prematurely.

So stop and count the number of vacation days you have this year. Decide what dates you plan to use them. Then send an e-mail to your boss requesting vacation time.

You’ll return a better employee and a better you.

Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission and a regular South Charlotte Weekly columnist. He is available to speak to your group. Call 704-334-4635, ext. 213, to schedule him.

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