It’s my last full day of vacation and I am listening to the waves crash onto the shore as I write this post. For the past six days, I have played on beach with my family, gotten water up my nose in the pool, played mini golf, eaten way too much ice cream, and laughed with my family daily. I still cooked meals and occasionally answered an email or two, but somehow doing those things with the ocean right outside just didn’t feel as laborious. I smiled more, even when I did “chores.” I woke up at 6am on my own with the sun rising over the sea. This was very different from my alarm going off at home. From the emails and text messages that I answered, I found myself saying “no worries” more. I finished a book in two days (Where the Crawdads Sing) and I am halfway through another one (The Poisonwood Bible). And, I am sure that if you asked my kids about my temperament, they’d say that I was more fun. This got me wondering about something. Did this vacation make me better in some way?
Now on the surface, I can definitely see the benefits of a vacation: relaxation, not working, not stressing, focusing on the self, etc. However when I thought long-term, I had to reflect on how I worked and functioned and how my past coworkers worked and function after a vacation. That’s when it hit me. We all seemed to come back to work rejuvenated and ready to go! We were less stressed, even though our work amount didn’t change. We also seemed to be “up for anything” when it came to trying out news ways to meet benchmarks. As I thought about this more and did some investigating, I came up with a list of ways vacationing can make people better. So here are some ways in which a vacation can help us (as if anyone needed a reason):
- Creativity increases: There’s something about resting, playing, and doing non-work related things that gets us thinking differently. Maybe it’s because playing allows us to engage in scenarios that we wouldn’t do in real life. Maybe exposing ourselves to different ways of “doing life” gets us thinking differently, leading to more thoughtful and robust ideas. Either way, taking a vacation increases our ability to be creative simply by our minds being more open and relaxed.
- Awareness happens: It may be different for you, but looking at the ocean really helps me understand how small I am in this world. I am not the only person or thing on this planet, and my problems are not as huge as they seem (even the ones that are huge). Going on vacation allows us to interact with others and/or see the world differently, which can cause awareness and reflection. Talking about this with someone, journaling, or thinking out loud can lead in this reflection process.
- Minds strengthen: After a year and a half indoors, I am reminded of another benefit of vacationing that makes us better – we get stronger, mentally. There’s something about experiencing life outside of our comfort zone that is exciting and nerve-wrecking. Even if we go to the same vacation spot annually, we never know who we might meet or what we might experience. This year my family made new friends, which is difficult for introverted people who are very happy being at home. We tried new restaurants and experienced fireworks at the beach. Fun and frightening. It’s a nice reminder to occasionally step out of the comfort zone and experience new parts of life. This translates well to risk taking at work.
- Outlook enhances: During this vacation, I was also reminded to see my colleagues as multi-dimensional, which was a great lesson to learn. Let me explain: My kids are nine and seven and I am learning more and more about them each day, but this trip was different. My risk-averting son dove into large waves, while my husband and I feared for his safety. He simply had no qualms about running into the vast ocean. This is the same kid who doesn’t like to swing too high. My methodical daughter who plans and measures her next moves went from climbing on my husband’s back in the pool to swimming on her own in two days. What I was reminded of was that they knew when they were ready for new adventures, even if I wasn’t. In this, I had to learn to step back and let them do their thing with little interference from me, and guess what? They shined. This also shows how we can be better at work- by letting our colleagues shine and try new things. It may be anxiety-producing, but others trying out new strategies and methods end up strengthening departments and organizations as a whole.
From bringing new ideas to the office to learning the various dimensions of ourselves and our colleagues, vacationing can have fantastic benefits. We can create better work environments, set new and crazy goals (which can be great), and even achieve things that we may not have thought possible. Vacationing is a good way to get those accomplishments started. Now, if vacationing elsewhere is not something that can be done in the next few months, consider a staycation. Exploring your own city or town, taking day trips, and not doing any work are ways to experience the items listed above.
Keep leading, stay safe, and have fun!