Turning 50, I decided to take a 6-week “ME-time” break in Spain last June. I would strongly advise you to do the same if you are 40+, kids and work permitting…
Why? I wanted to focus on three main goals:
1. Re-energize mentally and physically
2. Develop my “post-50” inspiring vision, goals and lifestyle
3. Kickstart a healthier, more balanced routine through new, simple habits
Here’s in 10 short points what I learned on my work-in-progress journey and what you too can easily apply in your daily life:
1. It is relatively easy and cheap to eat healthy food (even with a tiny kitchen)
As a Paleo fan for years, I find that my body does best on a mix of vegetables, fish, fruits & nuts. So, in order to make things easier, I food prepped a couple of meals at a time buying in season veg and fruit in bulk at the local supermarket. I didn’t want to spend all my time cooking so I supplemented this with a couple of convenience items for example pre-cut salad mixes and spiralised zucchini (yes, even small Spanish supermarkets carry this!). Being on a small budget, I chose to eat out occasionally, preferring small local (thus cheap) restaurants for simple meals such as salads, sardines and fish grilled on the beach BBQ. This together with limited Intermittent Fasting gave a me a constant level of high energy. Liquid-wise, I got into the habit of drinking more tea, coconut and infused water. One of my biggest habit changes was cutting alcohol, basically managing just 3-4 cocktails over 24 days. I didn’t really miss the booze, trying to cut down on coffee (with a view to sleeping better) was a lot more difficult!
What you can do: build your meals around vegetables, fish and nuts and find out any food intolerances you might have (consult a specialist e.g. Orthomolecular). Bulk cook a few vegetables in advance so it is easy to build meals around them (sort of like having your own deli counter in the fridge…). Find small restaurants that serve good quality simple food (at home, it took us 7 years after moving into the area before we realized we have a great, cheap Moroccan fish place just around the corner!)
2. More movement equals a happy body
Not spending 8+ hours a day in front of a computer has been one of the most beneficial habits. Combining morning yoga, intense workouts mixing Crossfit, walking, running and a range of fitness classes (from The Bar to Body Pump, Functional to XCycling and Body Combat/Power) has been a huge source of energy and fat burn (still my main goal). Of course cold showers remain a near-daily habit too, easier on hot summer days ;). However, recovery and getting 7 hours of sleep remains an issue for me, with still too much screen time and hyperactive brain as one of the habits to fix...
What you can do: Finding an exercise regime you enjoy (just walking is fine too) and can stick to is key, but just as important is to build in movement during the day: get up from behind your desk every hour to do a few push ups, run up and down the stairs… anything that gets your heart rate up!
3. Use technology for good … not evil
During my break, I cut down on screen time to 5-6 hours a day BUT also set up a number of new tools on my laptop/phone to make my life easier through time-saving hacks.
4. Don’t watch the news
For the whole time I was away, I lived out of a suitcase and didn’t miss any of my ‘stuff’ left at home. My aim is to live simpler and slower, ie. adopting techniques from the Minimalism and Essentialism disciplines. This includes decluttering physical and online spaces, less emails, less social media, less consumerism, more walks & nature, not watching mainstream/negative news anymore (I did this for the whole break and really don't miss any of this). This meant I had more time (especially in the evening) to do things that energize me.
What you can do: Declutter your spaces. Throw out or give away what you haven’t used these last 6 months. Find an energizing morning and evening routine, whether a walk around the block, express yoga, mindfulness or reading.
5. Talk to people
In this "disconnected online" world, social contacts are a real important part of being healthy (read more here). To be honest, this is work-in-progress for me, but I found that once you start talking to strangers, they all have an interesting story. Renting through Airbnb, I met my landlord for a coffee and found out he used to own a large business and had plenty of interesting ideas about investments and business. Through contacts I met a guy living the dual lifestyle in Belgium/Spain (something I find quite appealing…) and we had a very interesting conversation. But equally my local coffeeshop barista or deli waiter knowing what I wanted to order and finding out new ideas through his story was a fun way to connect and learn. You never know where your next opportunity might be, so talk and connect!
What you can do: Don’t pre-judge people by their look, listen and reach out more, always see people’s good intentions, have that chat, ask why and how, share and be authentic.
6. Listen and you will hear yourself
Sometimes we are so busy running around, keeping clients happy, meeting people, going to the gym... that it takes a while to realize that the goals you’ve been chasing happily your whole life just aren’t what you want anymore. I had been thinking about this for a while but just couldn’t put my finger on what a new exciting goal could be for me. Stepping out of the rat race for a couple of weeks, the realisation gradually grew that I want to apply all my learnings to benefit 1000 people and businesses by age 60 by boosting their energy and results. That’s the sort of goal energising me and focusing my talents in a structured way to benefit society further.
What you can do: maybe you can’t take off weeks but go away for a weekend somewhere alone where you can think and reflect. Go into the nature more often. Meditate. Connect and go for coffee with people you admire. Ask many questions. Listen more. Are your vision and goals still exciting? Is there something else that does excite you? What is the meaning of life for you?
7. Find what is important to you and work back from that
My new vision and the 25 underlying goals represent quite a challenge. During my break, I kept up my weekly sessions with my coach. Starting from my new focus, he helped me to reverse engineering from the "big purpose" into sub-goals, habits, tasks and a more disciplined execution. Changing your way of living and working does not happen overnight though, so remember to be gentle on yourself and manage your own expectations first. With all this done, I find it easier to give my attention to one single task, trusting all the rest will follow.
What you can do: find a good coach or soundboard to help you. Make a list of your projects and tasks supporting your vision. Estimate time needed for each and your weekly time available. Keep your execution expectations manageable. Under-promise (to yourself) and over-deliver. Stay focused on 3 tasks per day and 15 per week, the rest is bonus!
8. Experiment with mindfulness
This is pretty important especially for Type A personalities like me: FEELING and BEING more instead of DOING and THINKING. Enjoying truly the present and life in general ain't always a smooth ride for many planners. Well, being aware of the issue is a first step. Then developing simple habits such as watching the ocean for a few minutes, or sitting quietly at a coffee shop doing nothing. Using techniques like Wim Hof, breathing exercises, more mindfulness, Yoga, reading is part of one’s growth journey.
What you can do: experiment with different techniques to find one that you like and can stick to on a regular basis. Practice 10-min yoga and 5-min meditation sessions each day. Get up 30 mins earlier. Observe more what is happening around you. Take more pauses. Breathe slowly, deeply.
9. Develop small habits for change
We all have habits we would like to change, but sometimes it might feel overwhelming to get started. A big goal such as getting fit or eating healthy is a lot easier to stick to if you break it up into small, progressive actions. These will become effortless habits you do automatically (sort of like brushing your teeth at night). Some examples of ‘habits’ I have been working on: drink more water (before I sit at my desk, I fill a big jug with coconut water, water or ice tea and I sip this through the day), be more active (every hour I stop whatever I am doing to do some push ups), be more grateful (I list my gratitudes with my wife every evening)…
What you can do: if you want to make a big change, ask yourself: what is the smallest thing I could do right now? Tying it into an existing healthy habit gives you a higher success rate (ex: when you get into the kitchen in the morning, make the first thing you do drink a glass of water) than trying to get rid of a negative one (like eating sweets). Move on after 3-4 weeks to another habit and keep practicing even on bad days.
10. Read and learn
I have always hated reading but finally got into the habit using the Blinkist app. I have mainly been reading e-books with a self development focus but combined with lighter Sci-Fi stuff. Some good ones I read so far: Brand You, Essentialism, Affluenza, The Influential Mind.
What you can do: check out the Blinkist app or another time-saving one. Choose topics that energise you, mixing self-growth, business and fun categories. Take notes of what is key for you. Read inspiring quotes on Pinterest.
Welcome to your growth journey!
Overall, I am amazed at how quickly the human body and mind can adapt to new environments, whether positive or negatives ones, as well as the mighty power of thoughts and routines to change one’s life experiences. Life is certainly a journey. With ups and downs. Growth and self-development is the ultimate goal (meaning of life, anyone?) and a long-term, everyday process too, but such an exciting one...
I feel grateful to come back refreshed, with a new vision, full of energy, tanned, fit, mentally focused, in spiritual & emotional development, learning every step of the way and soon benefiting 1000 people & businesses by age 60.
I hope you enjoyed my rather long blog post and got at least a couple of ideas and inspiration for your own lifestyle...Don't hesitate to contact me for any questions on how I could help you, friends, colleagues, teams, companies on firstname.lastname@example.org and again make sure to SUBSCRIBE to our news and launch later this summer.
LOVE, ENERGY, FOCUS, HEALTH AND HAPPINESS TO ALL !