FOCUS: Take a Break

DISCIPLINE: Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Systems Thinking

“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.”
—Earl Wilson

Here we are in the middle of summer – have you taken a vacation? If not, do you have one planned? The best practice is to book your next vacation the minute you get home from one. It lets you plan, get input from others, fantasize and savor the idea of getting away.

Why Do You Need A Break?

In order to be creative and productive over time, you need to interrupt all the systems in your life periodically. This means your body needs a change of pace; you need a change of scenery, a break in your usual rhythm, your daily routines. Ironically, you need a change of perspective to come back to yourself. A vacation helps you remember that you and your family and your work are small, important parts of something bigger; there is a whole, interesting world out there. Often even a short break brings clarity to some issue you’ve been struggling with, without your working on it consciously. It’s as if your subconscious mind needs your conscious mind to stop chattering so it can see its way to clarity. This time-out-from-the-usual is also physically restorative. Hopefully, a break allows you to rest, often making up for a lack of sleep.

The Power of the Short Break

Sometimes it’s impossible to take a long break. Here’s the good news. Short breaks can work miracles. Here are some ideas for short breaks:

  1. Spend one or two nights at a Bed and Breakfast a short distance from home. Don’t plan much.
  2. Find a retreat house near your home and go by yourself for a couple of days.
  3. Meet a friend from another city at a motel or B&B midway between your homes.
  4. Rent a cabin at a State Park near you for a couple of days.
  5. Ride the train to another city. Take in a ballgame or a show, stay overnight or not, and head back home.
  6. Find a festival or a summer theater less than two hours away. Spend the night near there.
  7. Check out last minute plane or cruise sales on the internet, or call a travel agent and ask about these. Unfilled plane, ship and hotel slots are often 50-75% off. The companies are happy to get something instead of nothing for an available spot.
  8. Leave your kids with a relative or friend and go somewhere you’d enjoy just overnight. Return the favor for the friend.

If You Just Can’t Get Away

If you truly can’t get away, for whatever reason, there are still ways you can take a break that interrupts your systems. Change your routine drastically. You’ll be amazed how doing this refreshes you and increases your creativity. Try one of these or make up your own:

  1. Outside of required reading at work, don’t read anything at all for a week (this idea called reading deprivation is from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way). I once did this, found it very difficult, but began dancing all over the house before the week was out!
  2. Take a break from the news for a full week. Don’t watch TV news or listen to radio news or read the newspaper. (I promise you, nothing much will change.)
  3. Take a break from TV for a week. Put tape over the power on/off button on the remote.
  4. Change the radio station settings on your car radio. Listen to something totally new.

Become a Skilled Vacationer

Without breaks, the fast lives many people lead are not sustainable. For your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, become skilled at taking regular breaks. You’ll be glad you did.

Coaching Questions

  1. If you don’t have a break planned, what can you start planning right now?

  2. If you do have a break planned, enjoy. What can you plan for your next break?


Join me for a 45 minute telegathering to explore the ins and outs of taking a break in more depth. Call Tuesday, August 23, at noon Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific. Call 218-862-1300, PIN 276583. No need to register…just call at that time!

Read an excerpt from Liberating Greatness, the Whole Brain Guide to an Extraordinary Life, the book Hal and I wrote, at

Reach me: 1-888-907-HOPE (4673)or e-mail I am a personal and executive coach and would be happy to offer you a complimentary coaching session by phone. Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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