In the movie “Grand Hotel”, Greta Gabor famously said “I want to be alone.” I have been feeling that way for the past year, on my return from each of my extremely hectic business or vacation trips.
Last week, I spent 5 days on a solo vacation at a small eco-resort on the Belize Barrier Reef. Before leaving Belize City, I made sure that all my clients’ needs were taken care of and that they knew I would be off grid; I switched on my vacation autoresponder and took off my watch. I stayed off social media. My intention was to do nothing. What I did was to sleep, read, nap, journal, loll in hammocks, eat, swim, snorkel. And then repeat as and when I wished. My days were simple and major decisions were made in the moment of “so what’s next?” I didn’t even need to decide what to eat for each meal as the menu was fixed. To say it was bliss is a gross understatement.
On my re-entry to “reality”, I realise that between running my family’s business at the age of 23, starting and running other ventures, sitting on the boards of various entities, and in my personal life mother-henning children, puppies and parents, these 5 days were the first time in my adult life that I had absolutely no responsibility to care for anyone else. It was the first time that I was focused solely on my wellbeing. Those days were a true vacation, where I literally emptied myself of things to do, places to go, thoughts to think and decisions to be made. I was selfish. And it was great! Back home in Toronto, I feel spiritually charged, physically relaxed and energised and mentally inspired to forge new paths which became clear to me on my final morning in Belize.
And so, I muse: as a leader, you spend all your time caring for others. You care for clients, team members, suppliers. You are constantly thinking about their welfare, and wondering how you can ease their burdens and add value. And you get tired, worn down and burnt out. Then you take a vacation somewhere with your family, visit friends, or go on some whirlwind cruise or tour to foreign lands. You had a great time, but you still had to care for others, and couldn’t do ONLY what you wanted to do. You return, needing a vacation from the vacation.
I posit that every leader should carve out “selfish time” – time that you focus solely on your welfare and wellbeing, doing only what you want moment by moment.
There are many places you can go and things you can do to create this selfish time – the beach, the mountains, beside a river, an art gallery or museum. You can go for an afternoon, a weekend, a week or whatever time you feel is necessary for you to recharge. It’s your personal preference what brings you joy and solace. Whatever you choose, here are 3 things I believe are necessary to create this space to truly vacate your mind, body and spirt:
- Go alone. This is your time to do whatever you want to do, without anyone questioning or expressing concern. Leave your technology. Yes, leave the phone, the internet, the news. You do NOT want to be distracted by the outside world.
- Leave your guilt. There is no need to feel guilty about this – you will be a much better leader because of it.
- My challenge to you is to schedule do nothing, selfish time over the next month. And then just do it.