23 Aug The holiday effect
What is it about holidays having an epiphany effect? People seem to make life-changing decisions after being away, like leaving their current job to change employers or start their own business, putting their houses up for sale, leaving their partners and getting married.
From a psychological perspective one thing that happens when you have a break and relax is a catching up in the brain of all the outstanding problems you’ve faced whilst at work.
Why does it happen?
Usually in preparation to go on holiday you’ve made great efforts to finish things off and sort things out so they don’t become a problem whilst you’re away. This clearing of the decks can in itself be a positive process that makes us deal with those outstanding issues. Then when the brain has had time to rest from all the usual clutter, suddenly you start to experience more clarity in your thinking. Looking at the future is now possible because you’re not bogged down in the day to day stresses and can sort through things you’ve not been able to deal with.
As the time of the holiday goes on, the planning side of the brain can see clearly how to work round some of the issues that have seemed insurmountable and your goals start to look more realistic. The steps needed to reach them may not be easy to take, like leaving someone after a long relationship or leaving a job in the current climate, but when the problem-solving brain has enough clear processing space the practicalities starts to be more attainable and the new end state becomes very desirable and you become highly motivated to reach it. This gives you the determination to take action on your return from holiday.
So if you’re going away and you want to use this effect on some decisions, big or small, allow yourself a few days to clear your work clutter from your brain, do some activities to de-stress yourself, relax and give yourself time to reflect over the problem or decision you’re grappling with.
Solution focus to problem-solving
I use a technique that looks at how you’d like things to be if you could wave a magic wand. If you could wake up and the problem was solved how would you know? This isn’t always easy to answer and many people find themselves staring into space with no idea. I find jotting down even a couple of keywords or phrases on a blank page can be a great way to get going. They don’t have to make sense at this point.
Over the coming days of the holiday allow yourself to think about this end goal without judgment of it or you, without looking at current practicalities like financial issues. We stop ourselves thinking about our dreams and ideas because we automatically dismiss them as impracticable. Often the reality is that the ultimate end goal has to be modified slightly or put on hold until these can be sorted out, but the clearer the vision you have of your new target the easier our brains find it to get us there.
“Begin with the end in mind”
That’s an effective principle we’ve probably all read from Steven Covey, but I think it’s one of the least understood for its importance in how we achieve what we want either personally or as a business.
Often in the busy work of daily activities we simply don’t find time to think about important decisions and plan for the future. This leaves us managing things by fire fighting or reacting in a knee-jerk fashion, with little clear direction and hence we go nowhere fast.