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Work hard, play harder is generally my motto. But last week was quite a different experience. With minimal access to internet and nothing to do other than chill out on the deck of a cruise ship, I reluctantly learnt how to relax.

I reluctantly learnt how to relax.

On the first few days at sea I felt the familiar agitation and anxiety creeping in accompanied by thoughts of “I should be doing something” and “where’s my laptop”. I’m lucky because I work for myself so I can work anytime and from anywhere. I always have my laptop with me in case of unexpected downtime between meetings, kids or clients. I love my work which can be a bit of a curse because it means my office is always with me and I happily get lost in my work.

I’m also a writer so any spare moment I have I want to be writing or editing my books. There were plenty of spare moments on board so I did manage to finalise the first draft of my second book (yay!). This however is pleasure for me, not work, but it was a distraction from the relaxation I was supposed to be having.

It distracted me from the relaxation I was supposed to be having.

A quick side note for those of you also have a type-A personality and just read “supposed to be having” and said to yourself – “do what you like and if thats working all the time then do it!”

I couldn’t agree more, except that I’ve recently been researching wellbeing, and the impact of work burnout and stress for a new book I’m about to start. I now understand that relaxing, ie: real downtime, must be added to a busy leader’s life or productivity and creativity decreases. This decrease is a consequence that I’m not willing to accept. The research is telling me that I must add relaxation to my schedule, so I can add value to my life.

But as we know, change in behaviour and mindset takes time.

The time to relax gave me the opportunity to explore why I feel the need to stay busy. To explore why guilt is the feeling that creeps in when I allow myself to pause and take a breath. The cruise was a change from the usual crazy activity of my life and my normal travel adventures so it forced me to examine my feelings about stopping.

I’m guessing many of you feel this same sense of “I should be… fill in the blank”. We fill our lives with busy activity. Some activity is beneficial and much of it is just taking up space in the day.

For many years I’ve struggled with this concept and therefore pack my life full. The down time was much needed, but difficult to accept.

Having this forced downtime was a good learning opportunity for me to practice some of what the research is showing me. To let go of my manic need to achieve and just enjoy being with myself, and my partner, was extraordinarily rejuvenating.

After spending 9 nights on the cruise I can honestly say I’m relaxed. It’s a good mini break if you want to relax and don’t want to spend the time on an airplane for hours heading O/S. Essentially it’s a floating resort and your holiday starts immediately. The food is plentiful and the facilities are great. There is a lot of entertainment, some great others really cheesy, which I think is on purpose. I read a lot. Ate a lot. I spoke to a lot of people. And I sat looking at water… a lot. As I said it was a relaxing break.

Saying that, I’ve done it now and I probably won’t cruise again for a while. Although I enjoyed the break from life, I’m a traveler at heart and I felt like I missed out on experiencing New Caledonia. I saw enough to wet my appetite but not enough to satisfy it. I’d like to return one day to see it properly. I’ve never felt this way after a trip before. I prefer to do a place and do it properly and not feel the need to return unless I love it.

Remember I said change in behaviour is hard đŸ™‚

The first half of the cruise I could feel a sense of disappointment setting in. This was a classic example of misplaced expectations causing this feeling for me. I had my focus set on the “New Caledonia part” of the cruise. I failed to recognise that a cruise is about the cruising, it’s about the onboard not the on shore experiences. Once I reset my expectations I really enjoyed the cruise.

Resetting expectations rather than changing the circumstances is sometimes all you need to make an improvement in your life.

I can definitely see the appeal of the cruise for many people. If you love cocktails, food, and relaxing at resorts, then cruising is a cost effective alternative to Fiji. If you are looking at dropping off the planet for a bit – tune out and relax then it’s great. With all day pizza and ice cream, and of course the swimming pools, it’s also a great option for families.

I enjoyed my time to relax and had fun meeting lovely people in the cruise. When I determine that I need to take some much needed down time, I’ll be ready for another laid back cruise.

In case you are interested, here are the top 5 things I enjoyed about my cruise experience to New Caledonia:

  1. Exploring the Isle of Pines on foot – seriously the place looks like its been photoshopped its that beautiful.
  2. Snorkelling at MarĂ© and Lifou – imagine snorkelling in a swimming pool with fish and coral…OMG.
  3. Spending time with my partner without internet distraction – no Facebook, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Instagram, or emails for a week…bliss.
  4. Getting to the gym everyday – investing the time in my wellbeing during my break has kick started a new way of prioritising my busy life.
  5. Time to read and write – bliss.

Oh…and not sleeping with a face full of golden retriever hair. Love you Sam đŸ˜‰

So although I have learned the art of relaxation I can’t say that I will trade in my need for adventure for it. I’m too curious by nature to let ‘relax’ become the main part of my travels.

However, this experience has taught me to add a little extra sprinkle of relax into my holidays and most importantly into my day-to-day.

I hope you can schedule time in your life to relax. The benefits far outweigh the consequences of delaying that email by a day.

Time to plan your next holiday?

About the Author: Michelle is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and coach and one of Australia’s most engaging and thought provoking experts on creativity, culture and leadership. She helps business leaders to get real results from culture and leadership that effect the bottom line.

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