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Pivotal Lessons from my Vacation

This past March Break, I was blessed to spend a glorious seven days in Cuba with my hubby. It’s been a couple of years since he and I took a vacation together, just the two of us. While we treasure and relish our family vacations with the children, these times when we can venture off on our own are priceless. Couple vacations, at least for us, provide an opportunity to reconnect, and to some degree rediscover who we are individually and collectively.  

This time around, in addition to enjoying our time together, we were both determined to savour some deep rest. It’s been a very hectic few months in our family -- the start of a new year always is in our world.  We had visions of lounging on the beach or by the pool, honouring our internal clocks and forgetting about conventional time. Our visions became reality and suffice it to say, It. Was. Bliss 

As I sat on the flight home, reflecting on our time away, I realized that there were some pivotal learnings for me. Moreover, these learnings could be applied to life and leadership in general. Yay! I love when that happens. 

In no particular order, here are three key lessons from my vacay; ponder them, implement them, and let me know how it all goes: 

  1. When you create a clear picture in your mind, it becomes reality.
    I noted above that hubby and I had visions of lounging by the beach or pool. While this is true, the fact is that whenever I talked about our vacay in the days leading up to our departure, my mental picture ALWAYS had me by a pool. Even when I spoke about the beach, there was a pool, a lounge chair, an umbrella, a book, and drinks in various forms in my actual mental image. This surprised me a bit -- especially in hindsight when I realized my picture had become reality.  

    Leadership Application: when it comes to a particular challenge you are dealing with, what’s the mental image that predominates your thoughts? How is that serving you in creating what you actually want? How might you tweak that picture? Get really clear -- and then work towards creating THAT picture. 

  2. When the unexpected happens, just roll with it.
    On the second last day of our time in Cuba, the entire town of Varadero experienced a glitch that resulted in no running water. That’s right; we had No. Running. Water. As folks used to the comforts of things like indoor plumbing, this was inconvenient to say the least. It didn’t impact things like food and drink -- bottled water was used for all consumption. But taking a shower? Not happening. Toilets? Also not happening, at least not with a regular flushing mechanism.  And yet, somehow, despite the inconvenience, we all found a way to navigate things. The lack of running water lasted ALL DAY. And we coped just fine. We used pool water to fill toilet tanks as needed. We skipped showering for the day. And everywhere we went, the constant refrain from otherwise inconvenienced guests was some version of “oh, well, it’s nobody’s fault; let’s just enjoy our vacay.” Nobody got angry. Nobody huffed and puffed. We just rolled with it. 

    Leadership Application: how good are you at distinguishing between what you can control and what you can’t? When things go awry that are absolutely out of your control, how often do you launch into “fix-it” mode? Going forward, when a problem arises, ask yourself if it’s something you can control. And if you can’t, then Let. It. Go.  

  3. Learn to manage Expectations.              
    Leading up to our vacation, one of the things that we were continually “warned” about was    Cuban food. We were told repeatedly that the food was bland at best, and that we should be     prepared for tummy troubles. This concerned me a bit, because I didn’t want our vacay marred by digestive issues. And then I realized something; I wasn’t going on vacation for the gourmet food. We had chosen this destination for sun, relaxation and rest. Period.  We knew we’d be fed -- and we were staying at a 4-star all-inclusive resort; how bad could it be? Well, it wasn’t bad at all. It was actually pretty great. Lots of variety, plenty of food and it was quite delicious for the most part. Moreover, our expectation wasn’t gourmet. Our expectation was nourishment when needed, with loads of r&r in between. Our expectations were met and then some.  

    Leadership Application: how well do you clarify what expectations exist for you and your team? How often do you check in to make sure that your focus is actually on what you’re striving for, and not on some tangent that someone else has put forward because it is their priority? When working on projects objectives, always ensure that your energy is being expended on the things that actually matter to you, and not what someone else has tried to convince you is important.  

In the interest of keeping things simple, I’m going to stop there. There are more lessons I could share (asking for help, the importance of building in breaks, listening to your body/mind/spirit to name a few), but that would make this article waaay too long.  

Bottom-line: the lessons learned away from the office can be of service in the office. I’ve shared a few in this article; and my hope is that you’ll be able to apply them meaningfully. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that when we extrapolate and apply the lessons we learn from one context to another, our experience of success increases across the board.