photo by: Elliot Begoun
photo by: Elliot Begoun

No reservations are required, there are no blackout dates, and it’s never sold out. My head is absolutely my favorite place to go on vacation. I spend a lot of time there, maybe too much. But, it is very entertaining, I always learn something, and I can go anytime.

We live in a fast-paced, information-driven world. The boundaries between work and home have blurred, and our ability to check out and chill out has continued to diminish. We run the risk of losing ourselves, and as leaders, that’s a risk not only to our organizations but to our own happiness.

Every one of us is a great story teller. It’s just that most of us don’t realize it because we’re too busy believing our own stories. We filter everything through our own distorted realities. We make assumptions, operate out of fear, and try to perpetuate our fictionalized sense of self.

Take a trip inside your mind. Be an explorer. Act as if you’re doing an anthropological field study. If you can learn to be a student of your mind, you will become an expert in your own habits, filters, and triggers. There is power in that expertise. You can challenge your thinking, laugh at the foolishness of your internal dialogue and create space to think and act differently.

A few years ago, I went on a 7-day silent retreat. It was a stressful period in my life, and I was on a quest to better understand the inner workings of my mind. Boy, was I taught a lesson. I sat next to the same guy for 7-days, obviously, we never spoke, we just sat silently, each of us looking inward. By the third day, I hated this guy. The way he sat, the sounds he made, his breathing, even his posture drove me mad. I spent the next 4-days, building a deep loathing of this guy. He was my arch enemy.

At the conclusion of the retreat, we all gathered for coffee in the courtyard, shared our experiences and just got to know one another. That horrible person that sat to my left for the past 7-days, who breathed, moved and made sounds that just bugged the crap out me, turned out to be a really good guy.

In the absence of the normal environment that fed my stories, my mind searched to find something to adhere to and begin spinning its web of deceit. So, it glommed on to the poor guy to my left. For 7-days my mind constructed a story, one that I bought into completely. That’s what our minds do. We can’t stop them from telling stories. Plus, I don’t think we really want to. Our stories are often the start of something special. It’s the genesis of creativity and innovation. But, by going on vacation inwardly, we learn to see our stories for what they really are, fiction and fantasy, not truths.

The stories aren’t the issue, it’s our tendency to be swept away by them that’s the challenge. Stories are just thoughts. I view them like clouds in the sky, they come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are light, others dark and ominous. But, all will eventually pass.

To lead others effectively you need to truly know yourself. I encourage you to spend some time on vacation in your head. There’s always a vacancy. You don’t need to cash in your frequent flyer miles, and you never have to buy a tacky souvenir. Safe travels.