The one common denominator among successful people is that vacations matter. They take breaks.
Granted, there are other workaholics who work like dogs and never seem to take a day off, but these are the outliers. I’m thinking the Donald Trumps of the world (pre-presidency).
But by in large, the most successful people at life – whether financially, physically, or spiritually – all take vacations.
To the outsider, it may seem like successful people have more time off available or more money, but this is hardly the case.
Part of what makes successful people tick, at their core, is the foreknowledge of taking breaks.
Vacations Matter – Lessons from Navy SEAL
I heard from a Navy SEAL the way to conquer the incredibly grueling SEAL training is to look forward to breaks. While performing backbreaking training and doing push-ups in the mud (or whatever SEALs do, I can only imagine), they have the knowledge the pain will not last forever.
If there’s one thing the military is good at, it’s providing meals. They understand the benefits of refueling their depleted units with nourishing energy, and the only way to do that is to feed them. The miliary’s going to give you breakfast, lunch, and dinner like clockwork – and that’s something to look forward to.
Even though you’re miserable, the pain will stop. There will be a break, and you can relax.
While SEAL training hardly makes an adequate example to corporate America jobs, the essence holds true – you can work much harder if you have a break to look forward too.
Vacations Matter – Something to look forward too
I do this with my personal work. I have something like “ants in my pants” and I can’t sit at a desk for longer than an hour. If it’s been an hour, it’s like a buzzer goes off in my head and I have to go do something else. I have to get away. Go to the bathroom, a drink of water, eat some almonds. Whatever. Just something different.
On days when I am chained to my desk – with projects or responsibilities – I inevitably feel miserable. And that’s not to say I have ADD or any other disorder. Far from it. I probably have reverse-ADD. Anti-ADD. Sometimes I’m so focused on a project that I forget to move. I’ll have jammed my foot in an awkward position like a flamingo, and an hour later it’s killing me, but I never notice until it’s too late. I’m like that focused, dude.
But what makes my focus function, is very similar to the SEALs. I don’t necessarily “like work.” Work sucks, in general. But I can commit to focusing on a sucky project, just for an hour, knowing that I’ll be able to screw around and go eat an orange, get away from my desk, and do something different.
I reward myself. If I want to stare at a ceiling fan for the rest of the day, I can, because I already accomplished a solid hour of work. If I want to mess around on Facebook, I can – but I never do (who likes Facebook?).
In reality, I almost inevitably get back to work and plug in another hour, then another, and another. It adds up, every day.
But some days life is hard, difficult things sneak up on you, and that’s ok. Even on those days I do one hour of work, then do nothing, or relax, or go on a bike ride. This is my reward, the carrot at the end of the stick.
And it always works.
Mark Twain was coined with saying, “If your job is to eat a bullfrog, it’s best to eat it first thing in the morning.” Meaning – get that hard stuff out of the way, then go fishing the rest of the day. The saying continues, “But if you have to eat two frogs, eat the larger one first.” I love that quote. It inspires my productivity daily.
Why Vacations Matter
If you’re able to appreciate taking hourly breaks on a daily-micro level, then vacations become the penultimate reward during the year.
You always need a break to look forward too. There are breaks every hour, lunch at the middle of the day, and dinner at the end – when all work stops. Then after a full Monday to Friday workweek, you have a two-day weekend to look forward too, when all work stops. Then once every few months, do yourself a favor and schedule a vacation. Your habits and success will thank you.
I’m lucky, and thankful, that I grew up in an entrepreneurial home where vacations were a priority. And that’s not to say we spent a lot of money on vacations – we spent nearly nothing.
My dad needed breaks from work and we’d go camping – practically zero dollars.
We’d go to Disney once a year and my friends thought we were rich – we’d drive, stay in budget hotels, get free kids breakfast (and our parents would steal food eat off our plates), pack peanut butter and fluff sandwiches for the parks, drink fountain water (which is gross in Florida), and cook dinner at the hotel at night. We also wouldn’t do a full five days in the parks. We’d spend the other days at the hotel pool or a beach. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have a great vacation. And kids never know the difference anyway. They think everything is awesome. Total budget = not a lot.
Once you start scheduling regular vacations and have something to look forward too, your entire outlook changes. Half the benefit of vacations is looking forward to them. You get to daydream and plan how fun they’ll be. And most of all you’re suddenly incredibly grateful you have a break from the stress of work.
Something happens in your brain when you’re on vacation. Your mind is released from the vice-like grip that work provides. Your body and soul really needs to be let go from that trap. You’re guaranteed to make yourself miserable, or sick, or suicidal. I’ve seen it, and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about too.
And the best part is, it really doesn’t matter what you do for a vacation. You could literally sit around all week and do nothing or run yourself ragged into the ground. Do whatever interests you. The only rule is you have to stop thinking about work.
It also doesn’t matter if your vacation is fun or not. Getting tortured on vacation is half the fun – it makes for some good stories too.
As kids we went camping in a hurricane. That sucked, but the memory will always stay with us.
And recently I went on a Carnival cruise. They found interesting ways to torture me, but in the end I was grateful for the break from work.
What matters most is to stop thinking about work, duties, and responsibilities.
Rule number two, is to actually get out of the house and go somewhere different. Taking a vacation in your own home is not a vacation. That’s just added torture and stress.
Just go somewhere and do something within your budget. If you have no money, find a way to stretch your funds and make it happen. Vacations are almost more important than the money itself – but don’t spend money you don’t have, you’ll just create more problems for yourself when you return.
Vacations Matter – How to plan
If you’re a vacationing rookie, here’s some advice. Most Americans have 2-3 weeks of vacation days. It’s sad that most of this goes unused throughout the year. Use your vacation days with purpose.
Having a weeklong vacation is a must. Add on the two weekends on either end and you’re looking at a 9 day vacation, which is perfect. Experts say a 10 day vacation is ideal – too little is not enough and too long and you go stir-crazy.
So have two long vacations a year, ideally six months a part, splitting up the year in half. These will be major vacations for you and fun things to look forward too.
With your other vacation days, go on some long weekend trips. Take a Friday off and just go somewhere. Driving anywhere is ideal. It’s enough of a break to give you something fun to do, while still looking forward to those major events.
Vacations Matter – Action Plan:
- Take Breaks
- Every hour
- At lunch time
- At dinner
- On weekends
- Take Vacations
- 2 different week-long vacations, 6 months apart
- 2 long weekends, spread in the middle of the long vacations
How do you like to vacation? Do you feel relaxed and rejuvenated when you return? Why don’t you take breaks, or do you eat lunch at your desk?