“On the edge”. That’s how I would describe my mental state at my previous employer. Although the outside was green like a watermelon, inside was vividly red. What happened afterwards? A career break to pursue volunteering in rural Uganda. Was it easy and socially accepted? No, not really. And this is what surprises me the most.
When we talk about employee engagement and satisfaction with their work, I think we have a “big elephant” in the room. According to a recent study, around 60% of employees are considering to leave their job or have recently left. This means that so many people are “on the edge”, but not necessarily doing something about it.
While leaving your job is not always the best option in every case, let’s focus on the benefits a career or any type of break can bring you.
Time for self-reflection
Picture yourself in a big city such as London or Amsterdam, waiting for a train at the city’s station during peak hours. What do you see? Definitely lots of people. All rushing to catch the next train to head to work. Most of the commuters holding and focused onto their smart phone.
I am wondering how much time those people have to reflect on their day, actions or behaviour? I likely cannot answer for all of them, but I know from my own experience – not much. Yes, of course you reflect with your boss at least twice per year, but honestly: How often do you get valuable feedback on which you can act upon?
A career break or any kind of break naturally gives you more free TIME. Now you can raise more questions and get the right answers.
These are my tips which can help you to foster a good self-reflection:
- Get out of your daily routine to get a different perspective. For me it was about living for over two months in rural Uganda with a local family. The new environment, culture and surroundings was a great way to shake my values and beliefs. For you it might be travelling to a new place, country or simply trying a new activity. Sometimes it is good to leave your comfort zone for a while and try new things.
- Read, listen or watch something that interests you. Reading books, various articles and listening to podcasts or inspiring talks, always triggers your mind. It helps you to relate yourself with the story characters who inspire new actions, ideas and sometimes even provide the answers you were searching for.
- Travel alone. It’s a tricky one, I know. I agree that it’s more fun to be with someone else, especially with your beloved ones. However, while travelling alone you naturally create more space in your head for reflection because you don’t have someone close by to talk to each time. You are also more alert to your surroundings and since they are new, it fosters different thoughts.
What is also beautiful about solo travellers is that they automatically attract other people. You can meet so many inspiring people while travelling and that number always increases when you are solo.
At some point you will be full of various thoughts and many questions. You want to understand the reasons behind and simple answers of why, how, what, where, when etc.
It can be intimidating but usually you need to dig deep inside yourself to find the real answers. It can be early childhood days remembering the environment in which you grew up or your family surroundings. In many cases it is a hard mental process, but truly necessary to understand why you are whom you are today and what can you do to become the person you want to be tomorrow.
Time to learn or upgrade your skills or capabilities
All companies say that they have many cool trainings, online courses and that its leaders are great coaches. While true in many cases, unfortunately we are often operating as “busy bees”. As Spanish would say “Manana” (i.e. Tomorrow) I will…
It is true that you learn every day from the work you do and the people you interact with. However, if you are interested to learn something new which is less related to your job, this becomes truly difficult. Simple things such as reading books or listening to podcasts are so easily de-prioritized due to urgent stuff at work. And who doesn’t have things to do?
While I was on my career break, I felt like I finished a MBA, as I read and heard so many cool stuff now that I had the time to read, listen and watch a wide selection of books, podcasts and talks. It is also important that your head is empty. You are not reading or listening with a tired mind which is still unconsciously thinking of what you need to do tomorrow.
Humans are not machines and there is a limit of how much information we can take per day so we need to be realistic about it. Taking a break and dedicating time to your personal development and education should be a way more accepted practice.
Time to recharge
And finally you have time to recharge your energy reserves. Unfortunately we are not like those Duracell bunnies who can run all the time, tirelessly smiling. Unfortunately still not many employers are serious about work and life balance and its importance on health.
It is always in your hands what choices you make in your life. Should I go to a company where they pay higher salaries but demand long working hours or should I sacrifice a part of my salary and enjoy more free time?
Sometimes it is okay to go slower to run faster later. We are not sprinting here to be the fastest in the short term, it’s rather a marathon. You need to plan well and start slow to be able to reach the finish line. So rest if you feel like it.
And please don’t be bothered by those who don’t understand you. Remember those statistics in the beginning of the article? Most likely they are feeling similar to you, but they just don’t dare. So let’s help each other to find inner peace and happiness.