March 2007 e-Newsletter
Self Renewal: A Farce?
American people have and take less vacation days than other countries, we work long hours, struggle to balance family and work, many care for aging parents, and we are plugged into electronic leashes. Each hour is packed full of activity! Rarely do we allow our minds to get quiet and to relax. Are we burning ourselves out? Is Self-Renewal possible or is it a farce?
The short version is my husband and I went on vacation in early February and I just didn't get it done before I left. I anticipated writing it upon my return. After sailing, snorkeling, sunning, and scuba diving in the gorgeous British Virgin Islands, I anticipated feeling renewed and rejuvenated when I returned. And since that was the topic I had chosen for the newsletter, I assumed the words would flow from my fingertips.
It was the vacation of a lifetime! We rented a sailboat and sailed the islands with our best friends. There were the four of us, the captain and the first mate; six of us on a 56-foot sailboat for ten relaxing days! The sights were breathtaking – crystal clear blue water, beautiful coral reefs, skies dotted with white, puffy clouds, and brilliantly colored fish and sea turtles swimming about. Each night, the sky sparkled with stars like diamonds glittering in the night. It was like a dream come true!
So, what happened?
Well, I failed to mention this was the first real vacation my husband and I have taken since 1998. Yes, it had been nearly nine years since we had gotten away from the farm and gone any place together! For us, a farm with horses, cats and a dog isn't the easiest place to get away from. It takes lots of planning to make even an overnight trip happen.
On top of that, when we finally left, we did the unthinkable in this technological society of ours… we unplugged. Yes, we did! No computers, no e-mail, no voice mail, no cell phones, no blackberries. We completely cut the cord to our electronic leashes for ten full days.
And it was wonderful!
But by Valentine’s Day, I was back to the real world and struggling to remember the feel of the sun on my face and the gentle tropical breeze rustling through my hair as I shoveled away the two feet of snow that hammered Northeast Ohio. I struggled with low energy and a feeling of mild depression. I kept wondering why I felt so down, why I didn't feel renewed after this wonderful vacation?
Is self-renewal a farce? Why didn't I feel rejuvenated?
Well, one vacation in ten years, three horses, cats and a dog to distribute to various caregivers prior to leaving, gather them all upon returning, two feet of snow to shovel away, 950 e-mails to sort through, clients to catch up with, countless phone calls to return, family to check in with, and heaps of vacation laundry quickly sucked any feelings of rejuvenation right out of me.
Taking a ten day vacation after nine years isn't much renewal time! Studies show that the U.S. takes the least amount of vacation time compared to other countries around the world. We average 13 vacation days a year, which is 12 days less than Japan and Canada, 24 days less than Germany and France, and a whopping 29 days less than Italy!
Even with an average of 13 vacation days, I wonder how many business owners, managers and leaders actually use all of their vacation time? And how often do they check e-mail, voice mail and put out fires while they’re away? Are we ever really on vacation?
In their book, “Resonant Leadership” (Harvard Business School Press, 2005), Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee discuss The Sacrifice Syndrome and the fact that leaders experience 8 to 12 stress episodes a day. These episodes arouse the sympathetic nervous system, creating a reaction in the body that reduces our immune system, inhibits neuron creation, over-stimulates existing neurons, raises blood pressure, puts our large muscles into fight-or-flight mode, and shuts down the less essential neural circuits. When we’re under this stress we have less access to our brain power, we cannot learn deeply, we're less open, less flexible, less creative, and our heath suffers.
When we don't renew ourselves on a regular basis, and we continue to be bombarded with stress episodes, we risk burning out and opening ourselves to disease. If this is all true, I should be dead!
Is self-renewal a farce? Is it possible? Or is renewal as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
How do you renew yourself? What do you do? How often? What makes the most difference in your energy level? Reply to this e-mail and tell me how you re-energize. Next month, I'll share these ideas and dig into the whole idea of renewal and rejuvenation.
Until then, remember to breathe. Inhale slowly and deeply… and exhale slowly and deeply. It’s one way to know we’re still alive and kicking!
MARCH 2007 ISSUE
"Unharness Your Leader-Self" 2-day workshop
An interactive workshop with our herd that increases your awareness of strengths, challenges, and interactions with others as a leader.
April 26-27, 2007
"Increasing Human Effectiveness"
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