It was the 9th of June 2013 when I came down with a really high fever that forced me to stay in bed for several days. Looking back at how I was pushing myself, it is surprising that it had not happened earlier.
In my highly demanding “day-job” I was managing the Asia Supply-Chain of Procter & Gamble’s complex skin care business whilst attending online classes for my coaching certification at odd times such as 5am or 11pm. The coaching qualification also meant substantial homework combined with the requirement to clock more than 100 coaching hours.
Trying to juggle it all, my body said: “Stop”.
As I was sharing the “breakdown” experience with my mentor coach, she listened attentively and then asked whether she could give me a challenge.
I took a deep sigh, expecting another item to be added to my lengthy To-Do-List and said, “yes”.
“Do you know the movie Forrest Gump?”
My astonished confirmation was met with her next question: “What do you recall from the movie?”
Digging deep, I remembered that Forrest Gump had been a runner, a shrimp-boat captain, a table-tennis champion and a hero of the Vietnam War. I also recalled that Forrest’s “Momma” always said: “Life is like a box of chocolate – you never know what you get”.
Whilst discussing this with my coach, I was expecting her to tell me that I fully deserved my “Health-Collapse”, as I had put far too many things into my “box-of-chocolate”.
Instead, she started to describe the beginning and the end scenes of the movie, which shows a white feather floating through the blue sky, accompanied by an inspiring piano theme.
She continued to explain: “To me the feather represents the successful mind-set of genuine acceptance and positive determination, with which Forrest Gump approached each of his highly demanding and occasionally heart-breaking circumstances.
That’s what I’d like to see you do, so I want to challenge you to schedule one Forrest-Gump-Day per week.”
I was puzzled. “What is a Forrest-Gump-Day?” I asked.
“On a Forrest Gump Day, you wake up in the morning whenever you wake up and then you “float” through the day like a feather. There are no schedules allowed, no obligations, no to-do-lists and no commitments. Try it out and we’ll see, whether your life gets back on track.”
What an awkward challenge I thought, but I started to free up the next Sunday from work emails, study homework, coaching sessions and the other normal Sunday commitments. I woke up with an initial uncomfortable feeling of not having anything to do. But I bravely began to “float” by enjoying a wonderful breakfast with my favourite football-newspaper, followed by a refreshing long walk, a nap and some reading in the afternoon. And I closed out the day by watching an inspiring movie with a very good friend.
Waking up the following Monday was different from the normal “blues,” as I felt more rested, recharged and ready to rumble. During the subsequent weeks, I religiously stuck with my “Forrest-Gump-Days” and was surprised that I was not only progressing well ahead of schedule with my coaching certification, but felt less stressed and much more positive and in control at work.
Numerous studies show that taking regular breaks helps us get more done, with higher quality output in a shorter space of time. A nice article which summarises the findings is: “Five reasons why we should all learn how to do nothing“.
Being self-employed now, every day is a potential working day for me, and it is at times unrealistic to free up a whole day, but I still take those 2-3 hours on Sunday when I leave the house early in the morning, grab a coffee and go for a long walk, making up the route as I go. It still feels as if I am “floating like the feather”, and each time I come back refreshed with new ideas.
Just as my coach challenged me 5 years ago, I want to challenge you to schedule Forrest-Gump-Time for yourself, when you float and just do the things you enjoy without any obligations or pressure on your shoulders.
Be it 10 minutes a day, several hours a week, or even a full day every month. Try this out in the coming 30 days, and maybe with that little tweak, you will become as successful as Forrest, who was invited to the White House by the president and became a millionaire through investing in a “small fruit company”.