Somehow, we’ve come to think that to be a leader we have to never take care of our own body and soul. Americans have fallen into the belief that going without vacations, personal retreats, and down time is the thing to do. I’ve heard hundreds of my clients proudly tell me they “give up vacation time every year” or “can’t get away from business” or “work 60 hours a week.” They puff out their chest and feel virtuous. They think “I’ll be a leader” and believe they are setting an example for others in a good way. They are hard workers and proud of it!
A recent article in Forbes states “The United States is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time. Almost 1-in-4 Americans do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays, trailing far behind most of the rest of the world’s rich nations.” According to the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) “though 23% of American workers don’t receive paid time off, that number jumps to 49% for the bottom fourth of wage earners.” In other words, the less you make, the less you even have the chance to have paid time off.
Meanwhile, the National Institute for Mental Healh (NIMH) reports that a full 26% of Americans over the age of 18 suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. That’s one in four of American adults! Something is wrong, don’t you agree?
Think there might be a connection between lack of personal time off and decreased mental health? If you’re not convinced that a lack of free time is unhealthy, consider these statements from The Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Their research shows that:
- Women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.
- Men who did not take an annual vacation were shown to have a 20% higher risk of death and about a 30% greater risk of death from heart disease.
You cannot be a leader if you run yourself into the ground. No company will pay you a higher salary for working harder and without breaks than your peers. In fact, in time you may come to resent your company’s lack of appreciation for what you have done. And meanwhile, you will have lost your sense of self and ability to truly kick back and relax, much less your ability to lead others and model good habits for your children.
Want to be a leader? Teach those around you (including your children) that hard work is great, but playing hard is a good thing, too. What will you do this year to practice self-care, leading your life with your best self rather than your stressed-out, worn self?
When I work with clients who want a happier and more satisfying life the first thing we talk about is their down time. You can’t perform in your “on” time if you don’t have “off” time. Need help with that? You can schedule a half hour chat with me and we’ll figure out the first steps in creating a life that gives you the time off your body and soul aches for. That’s true leadership in a way that will be a huge boon to others who look up to you. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up some time.