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Where is your ‘third place?’

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Barry Little
  • 90th Operations Support Squadron commander
Sometimes, being at our best means taking down time.

Many of us consider ourselves high-performers at work and at home. We get up every day and charge on, without taking the time to truly be at our best.

In today's Air Force, we can not afford to keep up that pattern. We are not machines -- we are people -- and people are at their best when they are rested, centered and thinking creatively.

Most of us build our identities around two places: home and work. However, I believe we are at our best when we have a "third place" that enriches the other two and allows us to recharge our batteries. I am talking about a place where you can set your own expectations, where you can lose yourself without trying and you can find a new perspective on everyday thinking. Do you know where your third place is?

I used to have one, and I realized recently that when I came to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., from my last duty station, I left it behind and had not replaced it. At my last assignment, my third place was rowing on the Potomac River with a diverse group of athletes.

In the early morning or early evening you could find us on the river alternately dodging tour boats, chasing birds, or enjoying the absolute silence you only find on the water. None of us were very good, but for all of us, rowing was a third place. Some nights, weather would keep us from rowing and our third place was a pub in downtown Alexandria, Va. Everyone was welcome, and the conversation was never about work, but it was always worth having.

A third place does not have to be social or some place you can find on a map. It might be half-way up a rock face somewhere in Medicine Bow National Forest or chasing your old skiing form in Colorado. My grandfather used to hang around the barber shop after work; my son's generation meets online to conquer unseen worlds. The key is your third place should enrich your life, recharge your batteries and bring a fresh perspective that helps you to be your best.

Life in the Air Force is not getting any easier, and the world is not getting any less dangerous. That means your country needs you at your best, and you have to take the time to be your best.

We have all powered on before, and when the mission requires it, we will power on again. The key is we can not let that become the only pattern in our lives. Everyone needs down time; you are not only allowed to take it: you need to. If you do not know where your third place is, you probably do not have one.

Consider whether you think that makes you more or less effective -- at home and work. Take the time to be your best.