You’ll be doing some people-watching and self-reflection anyway while you kick back. Why not make it count?
BY HARVEY DEUTSCHENDORF
Packing your beach bags? Firing up a grill? Now’s the time for leaving work concerns at work and skipping off someplace where you can relax, regenerate, let loose, and just have fun. The idea of doing anything that even remotely reminds you of your job probably doesn’t seem too appealing—and that’s fine. But even so, your vacation doesn’t have to be dead time when it comes to self-improvement.
Before you roll your eyes and click or swipe out, there’s good news: You can boost your skills while relaxing and de-stressing. In other words, your vacation can be a great time to improve your emotional intelligence—and still thoroughly remain in vacation mode. Since that’s one of the most important job skills on the market right now, it’s worth taking a page or two from the most emotionally intelligent vacationers’ play books.
1. THEY USE THE TIME TO SELF-REFLECT
On vacation, we tend to unwind and let our minds wander away from the pressures of daily life—or at least that’s what we hope for while booking trips to foreign climes. The key is actually make that happen. Since self-awareness is the basis of emotional intelligence, it’s worth planning a vacation that gives you a chance to notice things about yourself that you might not in an ordinary workweek.
People with high emotional intelligence understand how important this can be. As the pace of things slackens, ask yourself:
What kind of people irritate me?
What kind of people am I drawn to?
Who do these people remind me of?
Being in a laid back, relaxed state is an excellent time to do some self-reflection. So sure, have a cocktail or dive into a book, but carve out some time just to be alone with your thoughts.
2. THEY LOOK FOR WAYS TO EMPATHIZE (FOR ITS OWN SAKE)
Holidays are a great time to people-watch. When you’re in a laid-back mood, you’re more receptive to other people. So why not make a game out of noticing things about people? Involve your friends or family, too, and trade observations about each other as well as the strangers who surround you.
Most people do this in their own heads anyway when they’re traveling overseas or someplace unfamiliar. Notice people and their facial expressions, their posture, dress, and manner of walking—these are all great ways to gather clues about what’s going on with them. In fact, you can assume this mind-set even when you’re going to a movie, out to eat, or to a live performance.
Emotionally intelligent people take advantage of opportunities to empathize, and vacationing presents more of those chances than a typical day in the office does.
3. THEY PRACTICE POLITE ASSERTIVENESS
Many people struggle with asking for what they want. That’s why so many work culture are tense with passive aggression and rife with politics. Emotionally intelligent people realize that the worst that can happen is getting a no, in which case they’re no worse off than before asking for something they want.
You might think of the boardroom as the real place to be more assertive, but vacation is actually just as good a time to stretch your “asking muscles.” When you check into your accommodation, try asking for an upgrade. If there’s a problem with your meal, tell the server. Just be polite. Because you often won’t see the people you’re dealing with again, it may be easier to ask for what you want.
It’s great practice for moving out of your comfort zone and might make it easier to do it next time. People are more willing to accommodate simple requests than you might think—or at least entertain them. And when it goes your way, you’ll get a nice boost of satisfaction and self-esteem.
4. THEY RECONSIDER THEIR GOALS
Vacations are a great time to revisit past goals or even set new ones. When you’re away from your everyday routine, you’re better positioned to take a look at where you are in life and contemplate where you’d like to be. Those who get high scores for emotional intelligence are usually pretty good at getting away from their daily habits now and then in order to refocus and take an inventory of their lives.
You should do the same. The stimulation and new experiences that come with vacations can give you a chance to turn some new thoughts over in your mind. You might not come back home with a new strategy already hammered out, but you’ll have started the wheels turning on some fresh ideas and aspirations.
Personally, I tend to be more creative and insightful when vacationing in the mountains or by the ocean. If you know there are certain environments that make you more reflective, that let steer your plans. If you’ll have to go back to a job or career that isn’t satisfying once your vacation is over, this could give you the chance to take some first mental steps toward changing course
5. THEY IMPROVE THEIR RESILIENCE HABITS
While you might like to tell yourself that next month you’ll finally start meditating daily or picking up a journaling routine, life often gets in the way. Emotionally intelligent people aren’t immune to this, but they’re good at using vacation time to retool those resilience strategies.
Vacations give us a chance to return to what we know we should be doing for ourselves but don’t often make time for. They can also be the time to try new things and stretch yourself. You might come across rewarding or relaxing activities you hadn’t considered and find ways to work them into your daily life after coming back home.
What you do on vacation might not change your life or career, but it’s possible to arrive back home just a little more emotionally intelligent than when you left—without feeling like that took any work at all.