It is summer, and that means vacation time. Unlike my friends in Europe, who seem to be “on holiday” every couple months, Americans are notorious for not taking full advantage of their vacation. A recent poll by NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health reported that half of Americans who work over 50 hours a week do not take all or most of the vacation time. Of those who do take vacation, 30% say that they do a significant amount of work while on vacation.
I believe it. I have been known to tuck my laptop into my travel bags. We are planning a trip to Ireland this summer, and I have been planning my schedule so that this time, I don’t have to work while I’m gone. I find that traveling not only refreshes me, but inspires me. Just planning a trip gives me energy.
That started me thinking about what it is that I do that fills me up. I love the feeling when I am enthused and motivated, seeing potential and possibility everywhere and anxious to work on a project that excites me.
The opposite is not such a great feeling. No one likes to be tired, drained, overwhelmed and exhausted. Life stops being fun. We are more pessimistic, less social, and less able to deal with the demands of our busy lives. When you are stressed and feel apathy, it is hard to get up off the couch. It’s no way to live.
It’s pretty clear that we need to fill up our physical, emotional and spiritual cup if we want to live the life of our dreams. Here are my suggestions for how to fill up your cup:
Spend time with your allies.
Some people understand us in a way that others don’t. They make us laugh, or are great listeners. They might help us see our potential, or encourage our big ideas. Whoever they are, our allies encourage and inspire us to be out best.
This week I got to spend some time with several colleagues who are also good friends. These are people who believe in me and know what I am capable of. They have high standards of excellence, and inspire me to excellence as well. I left our time together inspired and energized to complete some projects. If you are dragging your feet, a visit with your allies might be just what you need.
Visit places that inspire you.
I haven’t been to Ireland yet, but I have places where I feel relaxed that are close to home. We regularly walk a couple of blocks to the beach to drink our morning coffee or watch the sunset. I always feel inspired around water, whether it is laps in the pool, visiting a lake or my favorite little ocean side towns in Maine. Harbors make me happy, but for you it might be a walk around the block, hiking in the mountains or a vibrant weekend in a city. As they say, find your happy place.
Make time for experiences that you enjoy.
When I am tired and feeling drained, I like nothing better than a couple of quiet hours with a mug of tea and a book. Sometimes the introvert in me just needs to shut myself away from the world. When I need to change my mood, listening to music is the quickest way to calm down or rev up. I love to attend a play or visit a museum to be inspired or challenged by new ideas. For many people, spending time in nature is the best way to recharge. Maybe you like yoga, or baking or singing karaoke. I think it doesn’t matter what you do as long as it is something that you love.
Learn something new.
I love conferences. I am one of those geeky people who actually attend all the sessions. I’ve gotten some of the best ideas of my life while at a conference, surrounded by people sharing ideas. When I can’t go to a conference, I can listen to a podcast, read a book or take a class. Trying something new ignites the fuses in my brain.
Learning does expand our brains, adding new neural pathways and making old ones more efficient. You can never get stale when you are experiencing something new. Learn to use a camera. Try windsurfing. Explore your ancestry. Learning will enrich your life, and open you up to new possibilities.
Get involved with something bigger than yourself.
Research shows that people who find purpose in their lives are happier and healthier. A passion for helping people through teaching and writing connects me to a higher power. You may connect to spiritual teachings or get involved with a humanitarian effort. I have friends who are working on political campaigns because they want to make the world a better place by electing better leaders. Knowing that we are involved in something bigger than ourselves gives us a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to be hopeful for the future. Knowing that we are creating a legacy is a powerful incentive to take action.
I hope that you are able to fill your cup this summer. I’d love to know what you do to feed your soul and get inspired and energized. The world needs more people who are excited about their lives!