Last month I went to Hawaii for the first time. It was an incredible trip. I loved swimming with sea turtles, hanging out on the beach, exploring in the mountains, and eating the best food on the planet. But it sure challenged what I thought I knew about how to relax on vacation and taught me a lot, too.
As the end of our trip got nearer, I started to get excited to come home. Not because I wasn’t having fun, although I was excited to not be in a sand-covered hotel room anymore.
The real reason was that I love the new perspective that traveling gives me. The world feels bigger when you go new places, and the renewed perspective is exciting. It breathes new life into everything you do. It’s easier to enjoy even the most mundane daily routine when you get home.
I could go on, but in short, taking time off is really good for you. But as someone with big aspirations, while I was packing my bags I got to thinking and wondered what I should do about my goals while I was gone.
I didn’t work on my goals throughout the trip other than maintenance, which was one of the best decisions. It let me enjoy that time with my family, explore, and much more.
But sometimes, big goals can get in the way of taking full advantage of a nice relaxing vacation.
You have big ambitions, and that’s good. You know how good it feels to aspire to great things and achieve them. But sometimes you underestimate the pitfalls along the way.
One of the worst of those is that it’s hard to take time off. When you work toward your goals, you gain momentum, which doesn’t magically leave when you go on vacation.
By the time you get to your destination, you’re still trying to apply the brakes so you can take a break. Sometimes that takes a few days. Which usually means you’re just starting to relax when it’s time to come home and get back to the grind.
If you want to get to a relaxed state and enjoy your time off, you have to be intentional about changing your mindset before you leave.
Here are three mindset shifts that I used to enjoy my vacation more that can help you take full advantage of your next break.
1. A week or two off isn’t going to set you back that far, especially if you’ve already got momentum.
I recently wrote about how to stop wasting time. As part of that article, I explored the following idea:
One or two hours of wasted time does not mean the day is wasted.
An unproductive day doesn’t mean your week is over.
A week of distraction isn’t a signal that your whole month will suck.
Taking a month off won’t make you inefficient for a whole year.
And even when you struggle for a whole year, it’s not a sign that you’re permanently destined to failure.
I wrote this in the context of wasting time. But the same applies when you intentionally take time away from work.
This year I’m trying to publish 150 blog posts on this website. I’m a numbers guy, so I’m constantly calculating how much I need to write to get there. Last month I was having an off week and didn’t write much. So I recalculated my trajectory and quickly realized that taking that week off wasn’t going to set me back at all.
That was the perfect preparation for this trip to Hawaii because recognizing this allowed me to plan ahead to take that break. I knew the numbers before I was in the middle of a week off, so I could let my mind focus on the fun I was having.
Before you leave for your next vacation, you need to recognize that the time off isn’t going to set you back. The reality is, it has the potential to boost your productivity when you return, which is all the more reason to relax.
2. If you take time off you will have a competitive edge against those who don’t.
Relax: make or become less tense or anxious.
Work is stressful. Some of that stress can be good for you, but a lot of the time you don’t know how to keep it from getting out of hand. Too often, the pressures of work get to be so intense that they boil over into unhealthy levels.
You then begin a downward spiral because too much stress can deplete your energy, kill your focus, make you worry, destroy your creativity, and more. This leads to poor performance, which adds even more stress.
Most people don’t know how to stop the cycle. And even when they do get on vacation, it’s hard to fully decompress from it all.
I’m getting stressed out just thinking about all of that. Here’s a picture from my vacation to help us relax for a second:
I share that not only because it’s awesome, but also because research shows that spending just 10 minutes in nature can help you feel happier and decrease stress.
And as Shawn Achor identified in The Happiness Advantage, when you’re happier, you’re also more successful. This means that going on vacation and actually pausing your goals for that time can reverse the downward spiral of stress we just talked about.
So while most people continue that negative spiral, you can get on an upward trajectory that will set you apart in the workplace and in all aspects of life.
3. You need the perspective you get on vacation to find new ways to accomplish your goals, get to know yourself better, and see what you really want out of life.
“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”
— Stephen R. Covey
While I was in Hawaii I learned a lot about myself. While returning home from vacations I often wonder “how do I want to change from what I’ve learned on this trip?”
This time I learned that taking our three kids out to do fun things isn’t that hard. I want to do that more often and especially go camping with them more.
I’ve had similar life-changing realizations each time I’ve taken time off. Sometimes the change in perspective is small. But the little things usually make the most difference if you’re consistent with them.
Regardless of how big or small my vacation or paradigm shift was, each time I’ve taken time off it’s let me reassess my life and goals. I’ve been able to recognize how I want to change my trajectory. My self-awareness has grown, which makes it a lot easier for me to be consistently productive and happy.
Most of all I understand better the truths of life that seem obvious but that are difficult to practice. Like the truth that family is more important than anything else.
You’ll have similar realizations on vacation too. Sometimes you can’t learn that you’re climbing the wrong ladder until you take a step back from the ladder by taking time off.
That means that when you consistently take breaks, you’re going to be happier because you’ll be able to course-correct when your life isn’t heading where you want it to.
You have big goals, and that’s great. You get working on them and gain momentum and things seem awesome. But that forward motion makes it hard to relax on vacation.
Instead of trying to worry about your goals while on vacation, you should forget about them. Remember that you’re not going to get as behind as you think. Instead, time off will give you a competitive edge because of how it helps you manage stress.
And most of all, remember that your renewed perspective on life will make you happier and more productive as you work on improving your life in all the ways that you really want to.