Most of us are extreme creatures of habit, and we are wedded to the rituals and practices we’ve put into place to keep us feeling safe, secure and comfortable. This is true of most of the corporate professionals I’ve ever coached and worked with, as well as many entrepreneurs and small business owners who are trying their best to be as efficient and productive as possible, who hope to run their ventures like “well-oiled machines.”
The challenge with adhering rigidly to doing what we’ve always done and what makes us feel “comfortable” and secure is that, without interrupting that and taking a good long step back to examine (and shift) our habits, we can become our own worst enemies and sabotage our growth and success.
This summer, I’ve stepped away from my own small business in different ways than I’m used to (including closing the office for 10 days and traveling across Italy with 50 people, in a 4-city performance tour with the vocal group I sing with). Soon after, I traveled to Maine on an impromptu vacation with my family. And in September, I’ll be co-hosting an international retreat for the first time, in Ireland, with the bestselling author Lorna Byrne.
Upon re-entry back to work after my Italy trip, I felt that this time away, fully unplugged, in a different country, gave me much more clarity on what has to change in my approaches to work and my business operations. And it gave me some added confidence about what I can handle well and what I’m capable of. I’m already making changes that I feel will help me and my team do things differently and better.
Here are three key ways that leaving the comfort of your daily rituals and practices at work—and stepping away for a longer period of time than usual or do something very different—will expand your opportunities for success and growth:
You see more clearly that you’re doing way too much
I’ve spoken to small business owners who’ve felt as I have that, after being away and unplugged for an extended period, they come back to their offices completely floored by how much they had been doing every day and how, in truth, it’s not sustainable to keep up this pace without extreme burnout.
They realize that they’ve been very resistant to delegating the tasks that they hate to do or shouldn’t be doing, for fear of losing control. This “perfectionistic overfunctioning” habit— of doing more than is healthy, appropriate and necessary—will flatten your ability to succeed and grow over the long haul.
Stepping away for a longer period than usual (and disconnecting) shows you in no uncertain terms where your business and work-life are NOT running like a well-oiled machine, and where you have been inundating yourself with work when you should have been training others and expanding their roles instead.
It also shows you all the aspects of your leadership and management approach that need to change so you can become less fear-driven and controlling and more flexible and creative, and so your work and your business (and your teams) can thrive.
Tip: If you come back from being away and you’re absolutely floored by the sheer volume of work you have to step back into (and feel exhausted and miserable at the thought), it’s time to figure out new ways to do less, through hiring, delegating, finding an intern who can help, shifting roles and responsibilities of your team and more.
You see exactly what tough decisions you need to make that you’ve been running from
So often, people desperately want to be “nice” in their management or leadership approach, but they habitually confuse kindness with having weak boundaries and shying away from making the tough decisions such as firing someone or having the hard conversation that a staff member isn’t pulling their own weight or succeeding in a role.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and then re-entering your work helps you see how things really are (versus how you want them to be). You’ll see clearly who hasn’t done their fair share of work, or who is not meshing well with other team members and is causing friction and chaos. And you’ll see your own practices that are hurting your teams, partners and business.
Tip: When you step away from how you’ve been approaching work and see that there are problem areas you need to address, take a brave stand this week and have that hard conversation, or make that tough decision that you’ve been avoiding for months.
You realize that there are healthier, more joyful actions you want to take but haven’t allowed yourself
As one who’s worked very hard for my entire professional life and stepped away from my 18-year corporate life for an extended period only for two maternity leaves, I know what it means to feel that you cannot justify leaving work early or taking time off to pursue what your heart desires. (Thankfully, I’m over that.)
Sadly, if you don’t feel you deserve to live a more joyful, free and exuberant life, I guarantee that both your health and career (and relationships) will suffer. I know professionals who say “I feel really guilty” when they’re having too much fun away from work, or “I don’t feel I deserve this amazing time off” when there’s so much to do back home and others are having to step in to help.
Tip: If you feel that the joyful, thrilling actions you want to take will clash with your career, you need to think again. I’ve seen over and over that when people allow themselves to infuse their life and work with joyful, rewarding and thrilling adventures and activities that take them out of their comfort zones, their creativity, energy and zest for life soar.
New ideas, innovations and approaches emerge. And that new creativity reshapes their work and makes them more productive, positive and inspiring. And when you allow yourself to experience new, joyful adventures outside of work, you’ll develop a deeper sense of confidence and self-assuredness that you’ll bring back to your work and to your leadership and managerial roles.
Don’t deny yourself joy and thrill because you think you have to. Martyrdom is not a successful business strategy, and your self-sacrifice will end up killing all the joy and energy you’ll need to sustain a great career or business that truly nourishes you.
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