Last month, I gave myself a whole month off from work. That’s right. A whole month.
My wife and I went to Japan, my favourite country in the world. We took the picture above in one of the many beautiful Japanese gardens in the Nanzenji Temple area of Kyoto. Then, we went to Taiwan to meet some of my extended family, spend some time with my mother and 93-year old grandmother, and connect with some relatives I’d never even knew existed. The trip was really amazing, and although I was happy to get home afterwards, I was also happy to fully check out, spend some time with my wife and family, and just not think about anything other than eating amazing curry, sushi, and dumplings.
Prior to going on holiday, I found myself standing in front of a group of people facilitating a workshop. After waking up that morning around 5:30am to review some materials in the hotel where I was staying. I hadn’t slept that well the night before because I was getting over a bad cold that had left my nose pretty stuffed up. By the time I rolled into the workshop room that morning at 8:00am, I was already exhausted, and the day hadn’t even started. I found myself watching the clock, going through the motions. Physically, I was there, but mentally, I was not.
The feedback from people in the workshop was actually fairly positive, but deep down, I knew I needed a break. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Nothing was left in the tank. Running on fumes.
I was about 18 months into starting my own business, working much longer hours than I had ever in the corporate world, and not really giving myself any breaks. The business was going really well. For many weeks, I had been trying to find the energy & space to explore the next stage of my business development, already dipping my toe into the client insights work, but never really having the time, mental headspace, and even physical capacity to really dig into it. It was a real shame because figuring out where I wanted to take the business next was actually supposed to be my #1 priority in 2015.
Have you ever felt this way? Where you’re constantly spinning the plates in your life? Dedicating all your energy to existing commitments? Not really having anything left in the tank at the end of each day to go off and explore that thing that’s been nagging you for so long?
Whether it’s draining all your energy on your current corporate job even though you want to explore other career options, focusing all your efforts on just getting through your endless task lists at work, or simply being caught up in the daily grind of your business, it’s really hard to think clearly about other opportunities when you’re already feeling completely depleted.
When you’re spending all your energy treading water, swimming elsewhere can feel impossible.
If you’re like me, and you pride yourself in the concept of steady progress each & every day, taking a long break is a VERY foreign concept. If you’re like me, and you embrace the concept of the 20-Mile-March the great business leader, Jim Collins wrote about in Great by Choice, taking a long break is a very foreign concept. If you’re like me, and you don’t like to throw in the towel for a while, to quit, or to take a breather because you feel like it’s a waste of time, taking a long break is a very foreign concept.
But taking a long break is sometimes exactly what you need. For me, I made a point to give myself permission to NOT think about anything for a few weeks. To simply focus on spending time with important people in my life, to recharge, to clear my head completely, and to get myself back into better physical shape. To physically remove myself from my immediate environment, to get some distance from my everyday life so I could give myself the space to gain some new perspective on some issues I’d been wrestling with related to my business.
I’ll admit, after coming back from the vacation, it took me a few days to get myself going again. But now that I’m back into it, I feel fully revved up, physically fit, and ready to really explore some ideas I’ve been meaning to look into for so long.
If you’re feeling spent, if you’re feeling like you just can’t muster up the energy to make the pivot you’ve been trying to make, perhaps it’s time to take a breather. To regroup. To take a break. To quit for a while. To walk away so you can finally catch your breath. I’m confident that if you do, you’ll gain a newfound clarity, physical energy, and mental strength required to start making those bigger strides you know you’re capable of when you’re at your best.
Has there been a time when taking a long break helped you make a positive change in your life? I’d love to hear from you!