How a "Life Break" Can Get You Unstuck
Feeling stuck. At a deadlock. In a rut.
We have all at, one point or another, felt like we were running in a predictable, endless circle to nowhere. This is not to be confused with how we go about following our day-to-day routines and obligations, and even, in how we combat our minor daily frustrations.
It is one giant step further than that: we get this deep sense of unshakable malaise. It stunts our growth. It zaps our desire for discovery.
The good news is that there is no need to fear any of this. It’s perfectly normal.
“This feeling of being stuck in one place, while troubling, is part of a necessary crisis leading to personal growth, says Dr. Timothy Butler, Senior Fellow and Director of Career Development Programs at Harvard Business School. ‘Without it we cannot grow, change, and – eventually – live more fully in a larger world,’ Butler writes in his book, Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths (Harvard Business School Press).”
And this “stuck” place is exactly where I found myself. I was feeling impossibly restless and unable to move forward over the last three years. I had experienced heartbreak and had battled some health issues. I had attempted to rebuild: I did cleanses, read voraciously, took an assortment of classes, threw myself into work and traveled as much as possible. Yet, I found myself with this mental and heart block that just wouldn’t relent, especially in the last six months.
So, I did what any person with their head in the clouds – and feet firmly planted in the ground – would do.
I decided to take a monthlong life break in Berlin.
Looking back now, taking this step was years in the making. As a recent university graduate, I had vehemently declined my friend’s request to back pack through Europe as I needed to find a job and had no time or money to “just take a break.” Now, fifteen years later, I resigned from a great job to find myself taking up that offer to rest and take stock.
I found myself with this mental and heart block that just wouldn’t relent
For any modern person who is overextended, too connected and feeling stuck, this could be just the right way to get refreshed, find a new perspective and even get off the grid for a while.
So, a few practical steps to explore before you decide to press pause can include:
ALERT-ALERT-ALERT - THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP
Think through why this life break will be useful for you. Are you too comfortable in your current situation? Are you burned out from work and life? Is there a passion project you’ve been wanting to focus on? Is there a fun skill you’ve been wanting to develop? Is there a life experience you’ve always wanted to have?
Make sure you have some financial cushion.
Save up to three times of what you’ll think you’ll need for your break. This will provide some runway as you decide to either extend your stay and/or start job searching for the right new opportunity.
Decide where you want to stay for your break.
Find connections in your network to help ease the transition into the new town or city you will be residing in. This can also be helpful in securing a home to rent!
Figure out logistics for this new town/city.
Do you need to get a visa sorted out? How about insurance, including travel and health? Do you need to add an international data plan to your mobile device services? Make sure you have a universal outlet adaptor when abroad!
Figure out logistics for back home.
Do you plan to keep your current home? Do you want to rent it out? Make sure to notify all banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions about your travel plans. Do you have anyone that can keep watch of your pets, plants and mail?
Control is limited in the best of circumstances
Nail down a loose objective for your break to create some structure to your time.
What do you want from it? Time to travel and experience new cultures? A detox from a harried and tech-addicted lifestyle? Or a start to what you think could be your next chapter in life?
It can be downright terrifying to take a life break and walk into the unknown, the undefined. This can especially be the case for those of us who have an M.O. of planning things out and even pride ourselves on exerting control over our lives at all times (FYI: control is limited in the best of circumstances!).
But it is for these exact reasons that we need to be open to the learned and necessary art of letting go. Take it from me – it’s been uncomfortable as anything! But, much to my surprise, it has been the most life-affirming experience too.