Brené Brown’s Guidepost #7:  Work, Rest, and Play

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Why is it important to balance work, rest, and play? How can you overcome the pressure to be productive?

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown explains that embracing rest and play is a crucial part of living Wholeheartedly. Refusing to engage in play and rest can lead to depression and has been linked to serious health conditions.

Learn why you should leave “hustle culture” behind and learn to balance work, rest, and play.

Balance Work, Rest, and Play

The seventh guidepost for living Wholeheartedly is to balance work, rest, and play. Before we discuss why these two factors are so important, we need to define them.

When defining play, Brown follows the lead of psychologist Dr. Stuart Brown. Dr. Brown believes play is doing things that have no real purpose. We do these things simply because we enjoy them, not because we’re hoping to achieve something. What constitutes “play” is unique to the individual. It could be reading for pleasure, playing sports, playing video games, painting, or watching a movie.

When Brown refers to rest, she means getting enough sleep to feel refreshed. She argues that to live Wholeheartedly, you must respect your body’s need to regenerate. 

Why Are Play and Rest Important?

Embracing play is important for several reasons. Research has shown that it increases your creativity, empathy, ability to navigate social situations, and general happiness. Likewise, refusing to engage in play can lead to depression.

Meanwhile, rest is important because sleep deprivation can have serious health effects. Research has linked lack of sleep to conditions such as depression, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Furthermore, the drowsiness that comes from getting too little sleep can have severe consequences. For example, you may fall asleep at the wheel of your car and cause a crash. Less extremely, you may lack the energy to complete your work tasks to a high standard, causing your job performance to suffer. 

The Pressure to Be Productive

Despite the clear benefits of embracing play and rest, many of us still fail to do so. This is because we live in a “hustle culture”: a culture where work is important above all else. Society teaches us that we need to be purposeful and productive at all times. 

If you adopt this “hustle culture” mindset, the idea of doing something that is unproductive and lacks purpose—in other words, engaging in play—is terrifying. So you avoid play as much as possible, or perhaps even reject it completely. Likewise, taking the time to rest seems unimportant—a mere distraction from productivity. You may pressure yourself to keep working and push through tiredness, rather than listening to your body and getting some rest.

Bowing to societal pressure to be purposeful and productive all the time not only prevents you from enjoying play and rest but also impacts your worthiness. If you devote all of your energy to chasing achievements and accomplishments, you run the risk of your self-worth becoming tied to your productivity. You’ll start to think that you’re only “good enough” if you’ve spent all of your time working. This ties your self-worth to what you’ve done, not who you are. As you learned in Chapter One, this attitude prevents true worthiness from flourishing.

Overcoming This Pressure

To overcome the pressure to be productive and embrace play and rest, you need to have the courage to reject societal expectations and develop a new, healthier attitude towards work. You should prioritize your mental and physical wellbeing above “getting stuff done,” and make time for rest and play so that you stay healthy and happy. Likewise, you should recognize that playing and resting will probably improve your productivity in the long run. You’re more likely to focus and produce high-quality work if you’re feeling happy, refreshed, and relaxed. 

Finally, you should remind yourself that you don’t need to burn yourself out in an attempt to gain worthiness. You’re worthy no matter what you do or don’t achieve. 

Brené Brown’s Guidepost #7: Work, Rest, and Play

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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