As much as I’d like to boast about my ability to see the big picture, day-to-day details have long prevented me from fully observing what was happening around me. I was junkie, a common day work addict that justified her addiction via excuses about doing something good.
I used to think I didn’t have the luxury of taking time off for an extended period of time. Any small business owner who does the math knows that it is costly to be absent from the company. The eye of the master fattens the cattle, as the saying goes.
And then I burnt out. I was overworked, malnourished, exhausted. I was no longer able to re-charge my batteries. I took a forced leave of absence, fearing that the next worst thing to death was the breakdown of the essence of a company I had created with my husband through blood, sweat, and tears.
A wondrous thing happens when you have time off. You see the world differently. You leave the routine behind.
During this time off, I learned these three wonderful things:
1. An all-consuming, head-down mentality does not create growth
Intellectually, I’ve always known this. But I still kept thinking, “If we can just get past this one last hurdle, I’ll be able to step back.” Truth is, there’s always going to be something that keeps you from feeling comfortable about taking that necessary step back. But like a band aid, the parasitic relationship between you and the details of your business need to be ripped off. Abruptly. This jolt of change alone will help you jumpstart your journey into becoming the leader you always wanted to be.
2. Your life is always more important than your work
I feel like a hypocrite for saying this. I kept up the nonstop 12-hour days for six years. I wasn’t living; I was merely surviving. I was obsessed. Finally I hit a wall. I was so wired up I was unable to sleep, my mind was fogged. I was a zombie. Via an intervention (I’m not kidding), I was made to realize my life was worth more than another stressful stage in the company. I hadn’t been out at 3pm on a Friday in years. I didn’t know what direct sunlight on a breezy afternoon meant! Through valuing my life, I grasped a way to make my business thrive without deteriorating my well-being.
3. Experiences make you a better leader.
Life experiences give you perspective, and most importantly, inspiration. If you come into the office inspired and upbeat you are more likely to inspire others, and to generate new ideas. If you come in as a zombie, or in a bad mood because you’re tired, you’re less likely to be productive or inspire your staff to do so as well.
I took a six week sabbatical and I’m slowly easing my way back into the rhythm of things. Put bluntly, it isn’t a cake walk. Things are dinged up, a bit messy, and the cattle isn’t as nourished. But I’m back. My mojo is back. My mindset has changed for the better. And we’re ready to move forward.