June 2016

The summer holidays are just around the corner – the perfect timing to have a closer look at this concept. Did you know that the idea and system of paid holidays in the affluent West only started in the beginning of the previous century? And that it was only extended to the whole working population in the 1930s? Gradually the number of leave days was increased to what we know now. We have come to consider this as a normal and given right, to the point that whenever changes are proposed, (un)announced strikes are organised.

We don’t know any better and for most of us it has become the highlight of the year, the well-deserved rest we all look forward to, the escape from… from what exactly? The rat race, the routine, daily life, … it’s as if we cannot do without holidays, the notion has become simply inconceivable. But the larger part of the world population does not even know this luxury! Gradually and for most of us holidays have become synonymous with travelling, ever further away, taking distance in a real physical sense. This is now slowly turning into the norm, to the joy of the travel industry, who specifically create this kind of need.

The other day I was struck by the following quote: “Stop creating a life that you need a vacation from.” Of course it is wonderful and fascinating to explore other countries and cultures (I would be the last person to deny this) and it certainly contributes to broadening our view on the world and people, but you could wonder whether your motivation to do so cannot be changed.

During our holidays we ‘recharge our batteries’, we come back ‘reborn’, we are ready to go full steam ahead again,… It all suggests that the rest of our year is very exhausting and drains our energy, that we need to fight our way through it, as if our work and daily life are some kind of necessary evil and all we do is count down to the next holiday.

I now wonder whether this has not developed into one big limiting conviction that we all share and assume to be true? What if we could let go of it and take a different approach? That every day can be wonderful and revitalising, that every day is what you make of it and how you look at it.  After all, you only have one life and with each day that passes, the rest of it becomes a bit shorter. So why not make every day a small holiday, if only in your mind? The Roman poet Horace already figured it out 2000 years ago: ‘Seize the day!’

On a final note, did you know that the word ‘vacation’ originates from the Latin ‘vacatio’ which means ‘free of duty’? So it all comes down to considering what you do as something you want to do and not as something you have to do. Changing your perspective can work miracles.

You know by now that I have a weakness for parables and fables. I came across the following one recently and it kept running through my mind. Here goes:

A successful businessman on vacation was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman proudly replied, “Every morning, I go out in my boat for 30 minutes to fish. I’m the best fisherman in the village”.

The businessman, perplexed, then asks the fisherman “If you’re the best, why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish? What do you do the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, spend quality time with my wife, and every evening we stroll into the village to drink wine and play guitar with our friends. I have a full and happy life.”

The businessman scoffed, “I am successful CEO and have a talent for spotting business opportunities. I can help you be more successful. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats with many fishermen. Instead of selling your catch to just your friends, you can scale to sell fish to thousands. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the big city, where you can oversee your growing empire.”

The fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the businessman replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the fisherman.

The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The businessman said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, spend time with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends.”

You may wonder what I think the moral of the story is. What is it to you?

It has different layers, there’s something for everybody. What speaks to me are two insights: one is to live more in the actual moment, to be very conscious of the beauty surrounding us in the present. Analysing or brooding over things past or focusing on making plans for tomorrow – like the businessman – imply that you do not experience the present. And ultimately what is NOW is the only thing that is real. Thinking about what happpened or will happen often creates negative thoughts, leading to negative feelings about yourself, others, circumstances, etc.. resulting in the big S word: STRESS.

 

This brings me to a second insight: it often seems as if these stressing and limiting thoughts and emotions are a part of us, that they make us who we are. In fact, we are often convinced that they serve us, that they are qualities. The businessman is certainly convinced of this. After all, his relentless urge to perform and do better and get richer have advanced him materially and financially – and isn’t that the best proof? But such convictions are also a trap if you let them take you too far. Then they sabotage instead of help you, as this parable illustrates wonderfully. We always have a choice: do we listen to our sabotaging inner voices or do we opt for what we really want, like the fisherman?

If you want to gain better insight in what you really want in life and which sabotaging or limiting thoughts prevent you from really feeling happy, consider coaching. The first session is always free of charge.

Your job is a big part of who you are and what you want to achieve in life. Do you have a gnawing feeling that you are not in the right place and that your job does not give you the fulfilment you are looking for? Saboteurs can be at work there as well. As of now I also work with VDAB career vouchers, making it financially interesting for you. Contact me for more information.