Take a break

Last week, while at a work dinner I got talking to one of the Managers at my new job. I was telling him about the holiday I was going on and he was lamenting the fact that he never gets to use his annual leave, and could he have it paid out, instead of using it?* This is a question I am often asked, and I really don't understand it. I love going on holidays. Are there people who don't? I generally like work too, but the thought of no routine, lazing about, going somewhere new or immersing myself in a different culture is too much of a pull for me. I tend to use all my annual leave each year and am always having to save up my leave for the next holiday.

Part of my role in companies I have worked for is to help the business manage their annual leave accrual, which has become very large, and employees need to be encouraged or forced to go on leave, usually once an employee has more than 20 days leave in their bank. This seems a shame to me. The Union movement in Australia fought long and hard for employees to have good benefits, leave being one of them. Employees accuring such large amounts of leave, in my opinion, comes about in a couple of ways:
1. The business has no 'redundancy' in their structure, for example; companies can't afford to let people take leave because they have no way of replacing the work they do when they are gone, and/or
2. There seems to be a culture in Australia of working, working, working with no break. Exhausting.

When I was talking with this manager last week I said that even if I could pay out his leave, I fundamentally disagree with doing so. My belief is that people need a break, whether your work is physical or mental, taking some leave lets the body and mind rejuvenate. You know how you often have your best ideas when you're in the shower, or driving in the car? It's because you mind has switched off and is able to freely think. Holidays do something similar and with a few weeks off imagine what you can achieve when you return to work?

I'm very lucky of course. I'm writing this post from my balcony overlooking the palm lined beach at Fiji. Not everyone gets to do this, but even just spending some time at home has great benefits. Letting your mind and body rest lets different thought patterns emerge, even if you can't get away. If I have holidays over the Christmas/New Year period or during January (I call this time "Summer in the City") then I spend time at home and do outings around Sydney.

Are you longing for a break but can't see the end in sight? Here are a few ideas to get you through until you can have a proper holiday.

Inspire me

Sometimes it is really hard to get a chunk of time off, so I've found this day of inspiration for you. And a day of inspiration is better then nothing! Pulled together by my lovely friend Amanda Webb at One Degree HR this workshop is running in Sydney on 5 September. You can find all the info here . See you there!

Develop me

Starting in May each year, my Husband Arran participates in the Global Corporate Challenge. It's basically a health and well-being oriented team activity that his workplace participates in. Well our whole family ends up participating because for 16 weeks he wears a pedometer and wants us to walk everywhere. Lucky I like walking too. I think it's a great initiative because it produces excellent benefits for the people who participate. Have a look at this link. It's not a holiday but it has lots of scientifically proven benefits. Does your workplace participate?

Just for me

Packing your back-pack and heading for the hills is not the only way to rejuvenate your mind and body. During my busy week I aim to attend a couple of Pilates classes and one Yoga class at Quro Health Studio. The parts I like best are the meditative parts, where you focus on breathing. In and out. Simple and effective. Meditation has so many benefits and can be as good as a holiday and something you can practice every day. Don't know much about meditation? Have a read here about the benefits that can be achieved in as little as 10 minutes a day.
*Most employment legislation in Australia prevents the paying out on leave, unless under termination of employment.

Is your career glass half-full?

I have some time on my hands. My role was made redundant recently. Bummer hey? But there are always positive sides to any situation. For example, I get to go to Pilates and Yoga during the day! It's nice I tell ya! I go to Quro Health Studios, which are walking distance from my house. The Yoga class last Wednesday was awesome! I can't say I have been to a bad class there, but this one was different. The instructor had prepared the room. It was warm. The lights were turned way down and candles were lit all around the perimeter. Great start. Then the instructor, who I had only known as the Receptionist until this point, conducted the most beautiful, zen and challenging class I have been to. When I complimented her at the end, she said she was leaving soon, to move back to Canada. Bugger.

This person is so lovely and so positive. She seems to get so much joy out of what she does, which is serving people and helping them to have healthier minds and bodies. She obviously loves her job and choice of career. I would say she understands her purpose.

Have you worked with anyone like this? I worked with "Joe" for around 3 years in one of my jobs. He is flat-out the nicest person I have worked for, and with. When I first met Joe I couldn't believe he was that nice. I was always looking for times when he wasn't this nice person (and I don't think that says great things about me). You know, I never saw it. He operated in a tough and political environment and managed to develop the trust and companionship of each of the Senior Executives. He is genuine, nice and optimistic. Even when I was at my most frustrated, he always took the time to listen and help.

Thinking about these two people got me thinking about positive psychology and the "happiness" movement. Have you heard these terms before? They sound a little "pop", a little naff maybe. But is it really? Don't we all want to be happy, and do things that make us happy? That's what understanding your "why" or your purpose is all about.
After one of my Pilates classes last week, I decided to go through each of the 6 or so very large bags of books, folders and papers I had packed up from my work office and do a clean-out. Cleaning out clutter is supposed to make you feel happy. It did feel good to throw away a whole lot of stuff I was keeping "in-case" I ever needed to refer back to it. I never do. Plus I don't really have anywhere to keep it all! During the clean out I found a booklet from a seminar I attended a few years ago, run by Dr Martin Seligman.  He is a Psychologist and the founder of Positive Psychology.  He is focused on building mental strength and wellness rather than just removing mental illness.

What I really like about Dr Seligman is that his theories are based on strong empirical evidence from rigorous research. He has done a lot of work around understanding and developing your signature strengths, which has excellent application when trying to work out how to be happiest in your career and life. Signature Strengths are things that are inherently part of each of us. By identifying,  developing and using these strengths, we can improve our performance and happiness. If you would like to learn a little more, this article has a good summary of Positive Psychology and Signature Strengths.

You can use Dr Seligman's Signature Strengths questionnaire to identify your inherent strengths, then ask yourself the following questions:
  • Does your current job allow you to use your signature strengths? If yes, how could you use them more? If no, are there opportunities you can identify to start to use your signature strengths?
  • Thinking back to this post on identifying your purpose....does understanding your signature strengths match with what you think your purpose might be? If you are still working out your purpose, does understanding your signature strengths help you move closer to your purpose?

Inspire me  

Want to learn a little more from Martin Seligman on positive psychology? Here is the man himself during a TED talk

Develop me

What did you just love doing as a kid? Do these activities relate to your signature strengths? I bet they do somehow. How can you start doing these again? What do you think my husband Arran loved doing when he was young? Check out his passion here

Just for me

Have you heard about The Happiness Project? Learn about Gretchen Rubin's year, where she test drove all sorts of ways to improve her happiness. You might like to get started on your own happiness project!