I was lucky enough recently to be able to spend some time working in China over the last few weeks and had some time to visit some incredible places. I spent one afternoon exploring the Forbidden City in Beijing where the buildings and palaces all have the most wonderful names:
The Hall of Supreme Harmony
The Gate of Correct Conduct
The Belvedere of Literary Depth
The Hall of Military Prowess
The Hall of Respectful Thoughts
The Palace of Prolonged Happiness
The Palace of Compassion and Tranquillity
The Palace of Gathered Elegance
The Palace of Great Brilliance
I found myself linking theses very beautifully named buildings and areas of this ancient city to the different parts of ourselves. For me they seem to connect either to my head or my heart in some way. For instance my head sometimes houses literary depth and respectful thoughts while I can imagine correct conduct, prolonged happiness, compassion and tranquillity sitting in my heart. And the Hall of Supreme Harmony would probably be a fantastic link between the two. It seems to me that some of these places within me have solid foundations and have been well maintained over the years whilst others are perhaps in need of a little sprucing up. I fear that my palaces of great brilliance and gathered elegance might be really rather small areas and in need of some serious attention!
Then I came across this sign
And of course this got me thinking. When was the last time I closed my Hall of Mental Cultivation for any length of time for renovation? When was the last time you closed yours? On holiday? At the weekend? In the evening after work? And what do you do that allows your brain to re-energise and renew? And would it actually cause anyone inconvenience if I did close it for a bit?
In the work that I do around mental toughness it seems to me that we find it increasingly difficult to switch off – we are connected all the time, available all the time. Even on holiday many managers are allowing themselves to be still ‘at work’ these days checking email and phone messages from the beach. Even when we say we’re giving ourselves some time off we don’t really do it. And this has a detrimental effect on our relationships, our health and ultimately our productivity.
The Chinese, as well as naming their buildings rather splendidly, have a saying ‘You cannot serve from an empty bowl’ So I challenge you this week to work out how you top your bowl up, to close your Hall of Mental Cultivation for a period of time in whatever way suits you best. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy closure simply a conscious one.