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The Absolute WORST Day to Take a Vacation (It’s Not When You Think!)

The Absolute WORST Day to Take a Vacation (It’s Not When You Think!)

    I need a vacation.

    For the last couple of months, I’ve been working like crazy getting my book ready for publication, and laying all the groundwork to promote it. I coordinated with my 30 contributing authors to get their chapters polished and ready, I got the books designed, printed, and then shipped out to reviewers, and I’ve written dozens of guest posts to help spread the word.

    Not to mention producing two video trailers, putting together a sweet launch offer, coordinating with reviewers… and doing everything I have to do as part of day-to-day client work.

    All to say that I’m tired, and I could use a break.

    And the book is done, launched last week – isn’t it time for me to be able to kick back and enjoy the fruits of my labor?

    When You’re Supposed to Take a Vacation

      The prevailing wisdom states that our lives should follow a pattern that looks more or less like the one depicted to the right;

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      1. We choose a new goal – something that is important to us, that we’re willing to put time and energy into achieving.
      2. We work towards that goal. A lot. There are setbacks along the way, but we keep on trucking.
      3. We evaluate our success. As long as we haven’t achieved that goal, we buckle down and get back to work.
      4. Finally, we achieve the goal. Success! Victory! Now it’s time to reward ourselves with a vacation.

      And of course, when we get back from vacation, it’s time to set a new goal, and start the whole cycle over again.

      This is the prevailing wisdom, and according to the prevailing wisdom, I should be packing my bags right about now; after all, the book is published, the guest posts are written, the marketing is all done – in other words, the work has been completed, and the goal has been achieved.

      Except that the prevailing wisdom is wrong, wrong, wrong. To understand why it’s wrong, we have to understand where it came from…

      Vacations in a Corporate Setting

      The prevailing wisdom comes from the corporate reality, and in that setting, the prevailing wisdom makes sense.

      The job of managers in a corporate environment is to make sure that other people do theirs. To do that effectively, they have to do two things (in addition to giving clear instructions and allocating the actual work, of course):

      1. Manage employees’ motivation. If employees aren’t motivated to get the job done, then they probably won’t. It’s the manager’s job to keep employees motivated to keep on working.
      2. Manage employees’ energy level. If employees are tired or burned out, then they won’t get much work done, either. It’s the manager’s job to manage workloads, and make sure that doesn’t happen.

      Putting a vacation at the end of a project helps to achieve both of these objectives; it rewards employees for their hard work, which helps to keep them motivated, and it gives them an opportunity to recharge, so that they’re ready for more hard work when they get back.

      But that logic doesn’t work if you’re running your own business, and in charge of your own income.

      For one, you shouldn’t need a vacation to reward you for your hard work; the results of your hard work should be all the reward that you need. That’s the beauty of doing your own thing – at least part of the reason why you do it is that you love it, and find the work itself to be motivating.

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      (This intrinsic motivation is also why I believe that entrepreneurs are capable of doing so much more actual work than corporate employees; if you want to learn more about that, check out Dan Pink’s RSA Animate video about his book Drive.)

      But even more importantly, because it doesn’t factor in two very important things: momentum, and the landscape of opportunity…

      Momentum is a Real Thing

      Momentum is a funny thing. You can’t touch it, or see it, but you can definitely feel it, and it can do wonderful things for your business. It is also the first big reason why you shouldn’t take a vacation after a big win.

      Here are three basic rules for understanding momentum:

      1. Wins create momentum.
      2. Action after a win multiplies momentum.
      3. Inaction dissipates momentum.

      Simple enough, and pretty intuitive, right?

      The upshot of these rules, though, is that after your big win, you should be doing everything that you can to ride and multiply the momentum, rather than taking a break and letting it dissipate.

      There’s an even better reason to work after a big win, though: wins change everything.

      The Changing Landscape of Opportunity

      Goals, by definition, are about changing something – if everything stayed exactly the same, then you wouldn’t have to work to achieve it. We have a lot of different kind of goals, but they all boil down to making us healthier, or happier, or better off. In other words, they’re about making our worlds a little bit better.

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      Better is good, but better is also different. It’s hard to change just one thing and leave everything else the same. Changing one thing changes everything. And when everything changes, new opportunities open up.

      Now let me ask you, as an entrepreneur – when new opportunities are opening up, is it time to take a vacation, or is it time to seize those opportunities? Any entrepreneur worth his salt would say that it’s the latter – that’s just a part of the mindset that allows entrepreneurs to do what they do…

      The Red Honda Effect and the Psychology of Success

      You know how when you start thinking about something, suddenly you start seeing it everywhere, as though you were “magnetically drawing it into your life”?

      Some people call it “the secret” or the “law of attraction”, but I call it the “red Honda effect”. Thinking about something doesn’t magically draw it towards you, but it does focus your attention, so that you start noticing it around you (just like when you’re thinking about buying a red Honda, you start seeing them everywhere).

      The same effect is at play when it comes to looking for opportunity. Just developing the mindset that opportunity is there, just waiting for you to find and seize it, will expand your frame of reference and allow you to see more possibilities.

      (Want to read more about this? Check out Mindset by Carol Dweck, or Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson.)

      Long story short? When things are going well, there’s always the opportunity to make them even better! :D Now, just to be clear, I’m not advocating the stereotype of the workaholic entrepreneur who never takes a break or vacation.

      What Vacations Are For, and When They’re Okay

      Entrepreneurs don’t need vacations to stay motivated, but we do need to manage our energy level, and vacations are a big part of that; it’s important for us to take breaks, breath some fresh air, and get some perspective on what we’re doing. In other words, even though we don’t need vacations as rewards, they’re great for resting and recharging – just so long as we don’t take one at a time that will take away our momentum, or kill an opportunity.

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      For an entrepreneur (or anyone who is in charge of their own income), vacations don’t come when projects are complete. On the contrary – they should come when the projects are still in progress, but you’re tired, and need to recharge to carry the ball the rest of the way:

        Celebrate, then Get Back to Work!

        Make sure not to skip the celebration box, because it’s important!

        As the diagram indicates, our projects aren’t as nice and neat as the projects of a corporate employee, with a start, middle, end, and vacation before the next one. Our projects are messy, and blend into each other in a continuum of work and the pursuit of opportunity.

        That’s great, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s also important to pause and celebrate the wins.

        After the launch, my wife and I went out to a nice restaurant, and raised our glasses to toast my book finally being done and launched to the world.

        But then the next day, I got back to work… ;)

        What about you? Do you believe in a vacation after a big win, or do you agree that this is the time to look for new opportunities, and build on your momentum?

        (Photo credit: Beach chair and umbrella from Shutterstock

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        Last Updated on October 29, 2020

        How to Develop Mental Toughness and Stay Strong

        How to Develop Mental Toughness and Stay Strong

        Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

        I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

        Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

        How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

        Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

        At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success, while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

        The good news is that no matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

        1. Develop a Positive Mindset

        If you’re going to increase your mental toughness and manage stress, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset in everyday life.

        According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

        That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

        Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

        Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

        Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

        It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

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        “I’m not smart enough to…”

        “I don’t have enough experience to…”

        “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

        When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively.

        When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true, and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

        • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
        • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
        • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

        Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

        Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

        All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was great or awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

        But this isn’t true!

        If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

        If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often.

        When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

        Ditch the Dwelling

        Self-limiting beliefs and all-or-nothing thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative, which is bad news for mental health. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

        When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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        That doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

        The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

        If you struggle with this, you can try the following:

        1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
        2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
        3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
        4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

        The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

        2. Connect With Your Purpose

        One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong “why” for all of your short and long-term goals.

        If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a “why” for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

        Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution, and things weren’t going well. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower or discipline.

        It’s more likely that you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

        Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

        “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

        One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a why for. Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

        You can learn more on identifying your purpose in this video:

        Find Intrinsic Motivation

        Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something, and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers[3].

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        Develop mental toughness with intrinsic motivation

          Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

          However, if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that “why” is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

          If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things.

          3. Find Strength in Unity

          The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone.

          Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

          Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

          If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

          Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

          The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success, discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

          If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

          Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

          Recruit Some Cheerleaders

          If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders to help you successfully complete your goals. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

          Even if you have a strong why and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

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          As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. When they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs.

          Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

          Form an Accountability Group

          Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong why for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

          Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

          Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

          4. Learn to Pick Yourself up After Setbacks

          Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

          As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

          When you find yourself in a low spot, instead of giving up right away, ask yourself these questions:

          • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
          • “Are negative thoughts distorting my view?”
          • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
          • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
          • “Is this goal still important to me?”
          • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or hold me accountable?”

          Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged.

          This article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

          Tying It All Together

          A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize negative tendencies and taking action to correct them early on with healthy habits. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

          No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

          More on Developing Mental Strength

          Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

          Reference

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