It is estimated that 1 in 4 Americans are not going to take a summer vacation this year, mostly because they cannot afford to (temporarily) leave their job.
Why is it so hard to take a vacation? How long can you keep on working without taking a break? Let’s talk about it.
Did you decide that you cannot afford a vacation? Or was it your boss’s idea?
I can see two different scenarios here. Are you a subordinate employee or an entrepreneur, who’s deciding about his or her own vacation?
If you are an ever-hustling entrepreneur
If you are an entrepreneur and convinced that you cannot afford to take a vacation, please consider your most valuable resource. What is it? Let’s be completely honest about it.
Most likely, your most valuable asset is YOU — it’s your health, your emotional and psychological wellbeing, your sanity, functionality and ability to make decisions. Depriving yourself of adequate rest will most definitely have a detrimental effect on your health, psyche and overall wellbeing.
Physically, it is possible to work every day, seven days a week, without holidays and vacations. Some people don’t go to work, or work from home, spending lots of time, every day, engaged in intellectual activities. Physically there’s nothing wrong with it. Well, as long as you are loving what you are doing.
The problem, however, is that most of those people who don’t take breaks or vacations, do not really enjoy every working minute of their enslaved lives. Moreover, they don’t have a choice.
When you say “No” to a holiday because you feel that everything is going to go to pieces the moment you leave the office, you are not really doing it “because you choose to”. You are enslaved by the circumstances, and in the long run, it is a recipe for serious problems.
Inability to let go of your workload creates stress, tension, hyper-responsibility — this assumed slavery to your job is what’s most dangerous to you. The compounded effect of everyday (seemingly bearable) stress will cause serious psychological issues: anxiety and depression. Little daily stressors which pile up over time don’t disappear, they become the root of the problem.
Now you have a pretty choice — on the one hand, you have your physical and mental health and overall wellbeing; on the other hand, you have a business project, a partnership or may be just a stressful presentation. What is really the value of both?
Sometimes, to maintain your own health and sanity, you have to give up something less valuable.
Let’s be honest — as long as you have your health and sanity, you can get out of any tricky situating. You can even lose it all and get it all back.
If, however, you lose your health, or worse yet, your clear mind and emotional wellbeing, you will essentially lose it all for good. There’s no such business, project, partner or job, which is worth your burnout. Because essentially, a burnout is the end of it all — your ability to function… and thus, your business.
These are not empty words. According to the American Institute of Stress, “burnout syndrome” is now an official medical condition and 70% of working Americans have experienced it at some point of their career. An estimated 1 million workers are absent from work every day due to stress and 26% of Americans reported that they are “very often or always” burned out or stressed at work.
If you are an entrepreneur who believes that holidays are a waste of time
Are you one of those ever-hustling entrepreneurs who believe that their teams need to take less time off, that summer and Christmas holidays are a terrible waste of everybody’s time and they absolutely need to keep hustling. Well, such archaic ideas do not belong in today’s world. Keeping your employees in servitude is useless — most employees, including your team, know that life is meant for living, not merely struggling through to the end.
A lot of companies realise that it is time to start working with people on their terms. An employer is not a Master and Almighty God any more. Employees do not depend on us any more. It’s an illusion. Younger generations tend to start families later, they have less ties and obligations. An increasing number of people chooses to work distantly, or freelance. They value freedom and want the privilege to decide their own working hours and manage their own time.
I feel this shift happening in my own team. (Mindvalley has been named one of the best places to work by Inc magazine). Desire to manage one’s own time and be location independent has grown tremendously over the past 15 years. I’ve realised that my job as a leader is not to force or manipulate my team into working more, but to find people whose personal mission in life corresponds with that of the company.
Such people will keep showing up and doing the best work they can deliver because it is important to them personally. They will be invested not because we pay them, but because their daily work brings them closer to their personal mission.
What really matters to me as an entrepreneur, are the values of my team members. I find that I can achieve much more, when I work with a team who is aligned with our company values. I don’t need to bother with motivation or igniting my team. I don’t believe that a leader can manipulate his or her people into passion and motivation.
If your boss doesn’t let you take a vacation
If you are an employee and your boss doesn’t let you take a break, if your boss is making you feel that taking a vacation will land you in trouble — it’s a completely different scenario.
I recognize it: when we lived in New York with my former husband Vishen, he worked in a relentless and inhumane business environment. Taking a long holiday, or any holiday for that matter, meant big trouble. When we got back from a two-week honeymoon trip after our wedding, Vishen was demoted and replaced.
I understand that this scenario is a reality for a lot of people. But you have to have the big picture in mind. If your alternative is a burnout, such job is not worth your time, your health, your life. If you are under such pressure, the only thing I can say — run fast. It’s not even a red flag — it’s a full on blaring siren. You have to be guessing by now that your career, and maybe even your financial life, need serious reconsideration.
If you are in this position and you are lucky to get a few days off, use those days to plan your escape. You need to create a healthy working life for yourself.
What is the worst case scenario in our safe modern world (and mostly rather developed countries)? Right, you might lose your ̶s̶l̶a̶v̶e̶r̶y̶ work, but you will NOT lose your life or be in danger of starvation. Most of us have a real support system — family, friends, parents, children. If you are truly honest with yourself, you probably can afford losing it all and starting from scratch.
We often forget how safe we really are and get trapped in our comfortable existence and consumerism. Most people have a tendency to live beyond their means, pushing payback day into the future. Research shows that income growth usually brings along an equal growth in spending, debt and financial obligations. As income rises, you just get nicer new toys.
And that’s the tragedy. You hope that more impressive title and higher salary will make your life better, but in essence, you just buy more expensive things and travel a bit further… if you can even afford a vacation. But your life doesn’t change in essence — most people go to jobs they don’t like and spend most of their waking hours doing work they don’t enjoy.
The point of life though, is having experiences, not hoarding things and growing numbers on bank accounts. Yet, for a higher paycheck people are often willing to pay the highest price — their health and freedom.