The Holiday Effect

Lizz Fields-pattinson 2013

I was reading an article in The Psychologist magazine that says many people make life changing decisions after returning from being away on holiday. Things like leaving their current job to change employers or start their own business, putting their houses up for sale, leaving their partners, getting married were the sort of things mentioned.  So what is it about a holiday that has this epiphany effect for many people? From a psychological perspective one thing that happens when you have a total break and relax is a catching up in the brain of all the outstanding problems you have faced it with whilst at work.

Usually in preparation to go on holiday you have made great efforts to finish things off and sort things out so they don’t become a problem whilst you are away. This clearing the decks can in itself be a positive process that makes use deal with those outstanding issues we have left out standing for a while. Then when the brain has had time to rest from all the usual clutter suddenly you start to experience more clarity in your thinking. Looking at the future is now possible because you are not bogged down in the day to day stresses and can sort through things you have not been able to deal with.

As the time of the holiday goes on the planning side of the brain can see clearly how to work round some of the issues that have seemed insurmountable and your goals start to look more realistic and your dreams more of a possibility too.  The steps needed to reach them may not be easy to take, leaving someone after a long relationship, leave in job in the current climate, but when the problem solving brain has enough clear space to think, the practicalities starts to be more attainable and the new end state becomes very desirable and so you become highly motivated to reach it. This gives you the determination to take action on your return from holiday.

So if you are going away and you want to use this effect on some decisions, big or small, you want more clarity on allow yourself a few days to clear you work clutter from your brain, do some  activities to de-stress yourself and relax and give yourself time to reflect over the problem or decision you’ re grappling with. I use a solution focus to problem solving which is all about looking at how you would like things to be if you could wave a magic wand. If you could wake up and the problem was solved how would you know? This is not always easy to answer, and many people find themselves staring into space with no idea. I find jotting down even a couple of key words or phrases on blank page can be a great way to get going. They don’t have to make sense at this point. Over the coming days of the holiday allow yourself to think about this end goal without judgment of it or you, without looking at current practicalities like financial issues. We stop ourselves thinking about our dreams and ideas because we automatically dismiss them as unrealistic. Often the reality is that the ultimate end goal has to be modified slightly or put on hold until these can be sorted out, but the clearer the vision you have of your new life the easier our brains find it to get us there.

‘Begin with the end in mind’ is an effective principle we have probably all read from Steven Covey, but I think it’s one of the least understood for its importance in how we achieve what we want either personally or as a business. Often in the busy, busy work, work, of daily activities we simply don’t find time to think about important decisions and plan for the future. This leaves us managing things by fire fighting or headless chicken approach, with little clear direction and idea of what we need to do to move forward and hence we go round in circles with the same issues.