In January my spiritual director hosted a conversation with Alan and Gem Fadling, co-founders of Unhurried Living. They were leading a discussion about Alan’s first book called An Unhurried Life. I had a lot of takeaways from that first book. So, when I saw a call for people to join the launch team for Alan’s second book, I volunteered! As part of the launch team, I received an early PDF copy of the book, An Unhurried Leader. Soon after I got a hard copy in the mail – it was nice to finish the book with it in my hands on paper.
Once again there is a lot I learned from Alan’s writing. With the anticipation of the book release this week, Alan and Gem started a podcast earlier this spring to highlight various topics in the book. I noticed them repeatedly saying how this book isn’t just for people in “leadership” positions – it’s for anyone who has influence in the lives of other people, which is pretty much everyone. I appreciated this emphasis because I’m going from a position of great leadership in a large organization to one of less upfront leadership on a smaller team. Rather than thinking about the way I lead moving forward, this book helps me think about the way I influence others – a much better description of my upcoming work.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from the last 16 years of my career, and what was reinforced in the first chapter of this book, is the need to slow down. Not in the sense of being lazy or not getting my work done. This is more about my mind and spirit – am I living out of my anxiety or am I trusting in the abundance of a God-filled life? Living an unhurried life – a life that values time apart, time to listen, time to be still.
“When I serve and lead from a place of being relaxed instead of anxious, I serve with far more creativity, compassion, and confidence” (19).
This is so true for me. Just yesterday morning I checked my work email to see if anyone had questions about the upcoming mission trip I’m leading. Without going into the details, I received two emails that immediately sent me into anxiety/resentful mode. I hadn’t felt those feelings in weeks and in just a matter of seconds I was right back in that place of scarcity and anger. Some of this is due to excess baggage I need to let go of – and I will, when this job is officially finished. Some of this is due to my resentful feelings around other people who don’t follow the rules – I follow them, so why can’t you?? Some of this is due to the fact I’m ready for this chapter to come to a close…
Whatever the reason is, it took no time for me to fall right back into those unhealthy, unhelpful habits of martyrdom and righteousness. I felt it throughout my entire body. It took a 45-minute run for me to work out most of it. Why did I let myself fall back there so easily?
I think part of the reason is because I haven’t had enough distance yet. It’s only been 10 days since my last Sunday. I’ve still checked email occasionally. I’ve been back to church twice to get some work done for the trip next week. And, even though this will be my ninth trip with them, I’m sure there’s still some anxiety rolling around in my mind somewhere about what lies ahead.
I want to be a person that leads and influences others through my relaxed spirit, not my anxious one. At the end of each chapter, Alan offers a practice that will help guide one into unhurried leadership. After the first chapter, he asks the reader to try something:
“Give this a try: exhale, but then don’t inhale right away. After a couple of seconds, try exhaling without inhaling again. Then try exhaling once more. It just doesn’t work. Take a nice, deep, refreshing breath. Doesn’t that feel good?” (22-23)
At some point you have to inhale. You can’t exhale forever. It just doesn’t work. I’ve been inhaling a lot in the last few weeks (just air haha!). Through yoga and running and walking with Denali and sewing – I’m taking lots of deep inhales. Exhaling is natural for me – give, give, give. Eventually, I have to stop and inhale – sometimes for a long time.
I want to start my new job with the practice of inhaling. There will be lots of opportunities to exhale – to serve, to learn, to grow. Those opportunities aren’t going anywhere. Rather than exhaling everything and then gasping for breath, this time around I’m going to inhale first, then exhale…then inhale again and exhale. Both are just as important. Both are needed. And both deserve equal amounts of time.
Both are good. I just have to remember to take time to inhale a little deeper, a little more often in order to make my exhales strong and meaningful.