I've just come back from a two week holiday. Yes, two weeks. Extravagant. I haven't been away for two weeks since I was a kid.
Now I realise it's tough to take two weeks off - the world doesn't stop turning just because you decide to step off it for a while. I have come back to millions of emails and a backlog of "to dos". And I'm not suggesting you follow my lead. Some of my friends prefer more short breaks throughout the year. Some take off all of August. I even know of one colleague who told me he couldn't do with less that 6 weeks off over the summer. It's personal preference and practicality of course. But not only are our lives incredibly hectic, we carry with us a huge amount of responsibility all the time. Even when we are at home watching TV, we're still in work-mode, thinking about the next day or about some hairy problem or just what we will wear to a meeting. The day to day logistics take their toll. Everything can feel very important.
Holidays can be a way to re-set the brain. The feeling may not last long once you get back but the benefit to your body and soul isn't immediately undone.
This is what I realised after 2 weeks away -
1. You really get to know the person/people you are holidaying with (in my case my 6 year old daughter). It's intense. You will drive each other crazy once or twice...at least.
2. You get used to not wearing a watch or knowing exactly what time it is. Consequently you eat a lot of ice cream in the morning and go to bed after midnight.
3. You will have to focus on holidaying. Inevitably bits of information from back home will leak in to your holiday world - an email, a phone call, a news headline. Your brain will attach itself to that and you will feel the usual adrenaline rush. You actually need to work hard to block it back out and return to holiday mode (which is really all about very short time-frames and being in the moment).
4. You'll be tempted to want to change everything about your life as a result of your holiday (I'm going to read more, I'm going to stare at the stars more, I'm going to eat more watermelon etc. etc). Of course, you may realise you need to overhaul your life. But, for most of us, distilling our holiday insights down to one or two sustainable but meaningful changes is enough to be getting on with. My plan is to walk my daughter to school more frequently and pop home at lunchtime to take my dog to the park.
I know you are all on the edge of your seat wanting to know how I got on with my 30 Superheroes in 30 Days challenge. Well, I completed it. My list of films was -
- X-Man 2
- X-Men 3 - the last stand
- X-Men - First Class
- X-Men Origins - Wolverine
- Spiderman 2
- Spiderman 3
- Man of Steel
- Superman 2
- Superman 3
- The Wolverine
- Iron Man
- Iron Man 2
- Superman Returns
- Batman and Robin (which I couldn't actually get through as it was so awful)
- Batman Returns
- Batman Begins
- The Incredibles
- Kick Ass
- The Dark Knight
- Ironman 3
- Kiss Ass 2
- Avengers Ensemble
- Green Lantern
- Captain America
Fundamentally this was a massive but enjoyable waste of time that taught me absolutely nothing about leadership. However, I did pick up some great inspirational quotes and some wonderful language so, perhaps, something was gained.
Tomorrow happens to be my birthday. Like New Year, birthdays are a chance to reflect on where your life is and what you want to be different over the next year. Last year I made a personal commitment (which I haven't shared until now) to ban myself from feelings of professional jealousy. This has worked really well and over the last year I have quickly caught myself when I notice myself envious or threatened by someone else's success or luck. It's made a massive difference to my sense of well-being.
This coming year I think I will focus on anger. Anger is a much under-rated emotion, and one which we are often told is "bad". Personally I feel it is healthy to be outraged and even angry about certain issues both inside and outside of work. However, when anger becomes the default approach to anything difficult, unfair or hurtful it is rather limiting. I wouldn't say that anger is my default! But quite a lot of throwing up of arms goes on, shall we say. My intention is to introduce a little more range to my reactions including humour, acceptance and seeking understanding.
If your birthday isn't for a while but you fancy the idea of focusing on the management of a particular emotion, September always feels like a good time for a new project what with the start of the new school year. I'd love to know what you decide to focus on.