On a recent Friday morning, I was finishing up my gym routine when my phone buzzed. “I know this is a long shot,” read the text, “but any chance you could join me for golf this a.m.?” It was from one of my high school golf teammates from over twenty years ago.
I looked at my calendar. I had my regular Friday meetings locked into place, but two of those meetings were with direct reports who were on vacation. So I momentarily considered my friend’s offer before planning to decline — as I do for almost all impromptu opportunities that fall on work days.
Then something dawned on me that might sound crazy. Two nights previously, I talked with my wife about how I was in a rut — how I needed time away from the office and how I needed to be with a friend. I even prayed that an opportunity with a friend would come.
Looking one more time at my calendar, I said to myself, “What the heck.”
“I’m in,” I texted back.
Letting Go and Leaning In
Two hours later, I hit a crisp 2-iron down the middle of the first fairway, and we were off.
When I hit a bad shot, I was kind to myself rather than crushing myself. Because of this, I even made three birdies over eighteen holes.
More importantly, I rediscovered a friendship that goes back to the early 1980s. And for the first time in several weeks, I spent an extended period of time NOT thinking about work, my stress, and all the challenges that have increased my stress.
Interrupting my typical “Friday plan” for fun literally reduced my cortisol. By the back nine, I could feel the difference in my body. My steps were lighter. The consistent headache that often plagues me was even gone. I went home in a state of mind that blessed my family upon arrival rather than aggravating them.
Why I don’t do this more often, I wondered?
My wife likes to call me “Type A-plus,” given how disciplined and even programmatic I am. I have a plan, and I work that plan. At its best, it helps propel me to positive results. But at its worst, it can feel like a self-induced joyless prison.
And getting back to the question of why I do not do this more often? Because fun — especially spontaneous fun — is usually not part of the plan.
This is wrong.
Hear my confession in that last statement. I need to put fun back into my plan — especially the kind of fun that involves personal relationships. After all, nobody wants to follow a joyless, stressed-out leader sitting in the confines of a prison cell of their own creation.
Golfing with my buddy was one of the best, and yet, most humbling, experiences in quite some time. I discovered that I need to do a better job of leading someone very important: myself.
I share this experience because I know there’s someone else out there who also needs permission to have fun.
To some, that might sound crazy. But I’m willing to bet that to others, it’s exactly what they need to hear.
It was just what I needed.