leadership incorporated blog

December 27, 2010

Are you taking the right kind of break to turbocharge your growth?

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop. — Ovid (43 B.C. – 17/18 A.D.)

Taking a break isn’t easy for me. (Can you relate?) But I know how important rest is for being on my game upon my return.

So, this past week in Mexico, I resisted the urge to work (with 2 quite minor exceptions) and instead read books that had no redeeming value and walked on the beach without trying to solve any problems whatsoever. I breathed dust at 25 km/h and learned to shift gears on an ATV and ziplined through the canopy. I practiced my Spanish with total strangers and ate more shrimp in a week than I have in the past 5 years combined!

And I came back full of ideas, even though I hadn’t been thinking about work at all.

If you want to create growth for yourself this year, breaks are essential for nurturing and encouraging the creativity and leadership you’ll need. Of course, you already know this, right? Right.

But did you know that not all breaks are created equal? YOU need a particular kind of break to act as muse to bring out your creative and productive best upon your return. And that may be a very different kind of break than I need. Or, more important, it may be a very different kind of break than your spouse or significant other needs!

I notice a lot of people (clients and friends) who take breaks that aren’t their most nourishing choice. Sometimes we have a particular kind of break forced upon us (family trip!). Or our situation may demand a particular kind of respite: for example after a period of intense activity, you might need a chill-out week, regardless of your style. But more often we don’t even think in these terms. And when we don’t proactively plan our breaks with the intention to nourish our own unique constitutions upon our return, we are missing an invaluable opportunity to turbocharge our growth.

So how can you know if you’re taking the right kind of break to bring out the best in your leadership style?

To find the ideal way for you to get the stress relief and creative inspiration you need, base your vacation plans on your personal professional style and what motivates you.

Take this quick self-assessment for a broad brush idea:

If you are ambitious, direct, decisive, driven, competitive and independent: you need physical activity. You’ll want to find ways to sweat out the stress and distract your active mind. Take a break that gives you a fun challenge, that lets you get your competitive ya-yas out. Treat yourself physically, as well: massage, yoga, steams, ocean water. Make sure that you can set a pace that’s as fast as you want. Bring reading that you can absorb in small bites.

If you are a people-person, highly expressive, enthusiastic, friendly, demonstrative, and talkative: your vacation should be all about the experience. Build in fun, new people and things. Make sure your vacation has a social component. You thrive on connections — and the space for long conversations — but take care that it’s with people who are compatible with you and each other or you’ll find yourself very drained on the other side. You need a “safe” environment to be yourself. And you need to set your own pace. Make sure you have lots of unstructured time so you can choose to spend time with others or dive into some great fiction or a book that allows you to reflect on who you are and how you can improve.

If you are highly organized, methodical, reliable, steady, and loyal: make sure your time off includes lots of rest. Indulge in massage, hot baths, lying under a warm sun. Get rid of any hurry and keep your pace slow and relaxed. You can get a lot out of a break with others, but make sure you get your alone time, too. Nothing will rejuvenate you as much as reading a great story (or even some nonfiction) and dozing, reading and dozing.

If you are highly analytical, contemplative, careful, a perfectionist: You need time alone to fully recharge your batteries. You also need a structured break. You need to know where you are going and what you are doing, even if it’s nothing at all. You need to be someplace where things run well and you don’t have to deal with any irritations at all. Bring some meaty nonfiction to nourish your active mind. Solve a puzzle or two.

With all this in mind, depending on what motivates you, you might pair the above with:

  • An educational vacation
  • A focused break with a clear purpose
  • Beauty and aesthetics – art, theater, nature
  • Doing-good – about helping others
  • A leadership vacation — you’re the guide providing a great experience for others (family, friends)
  • A highly structured vacation – a yoga retreat or a biking tour in which every day has specific planned activities and all you have to do is show up

Of course, your style may be a complex brew of types and your best growth nourishing break may include aspects from more than one of the above broad categories.

If you’d like to get a deeper understanding of your personal professional style and motivations, email me at sr@leadershipincorporated.com

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