I’m sure you know the incredible release that happens when you are nearing a vacation you’ve been planning, especially if it’s one you’ve been thinking of for a long time. For those of us in the daily grind of a traditional work/life relationship, this may be a vacation we’ve planned for and worked an entire year or even years toward. Maybe you relish the moments that lead up to that one- or two-week paradise, perhaps even adopting an “I don’t care so much” attitude to normal stressors as you get closer to the moment in which you know you will leave it all behind.
Suddenly, maybe that co-worker’s complaint isn’t such a bother in your mind. Maybe that dog next door who barks too early in the morning or too late into the night doesn’t seem to set you off as much.
I remember that in my last few months as a public school teacher I was a better teacher than in all the months of my career before that. I was relaxed, found more joy, had more patience, and connected more personally with the children.
Why? Because I saw a light at the end of the tunnel that shifted the present moment into a different perspective. I was navigating the present moment differently, which gave me a sense of freedom and empowerment.
Suddenly, as in my vision, I didn’t feel stuck in the old story of who I was. My mind happily engaged in the full potential of what life could be. I had access to more of me.
Your Best Vacation Self
Remember yourself on your favorite vacation. Did you feel that sense of openness and potential? Did you feel like a freer version of yourself when the routine of your day no longer mattered?
Sometimes after a vacation, we carry that relaxed mentality back with us for a short time after we return. Or sometimes we might feel sadness the day our vacation ends, as though that experience is now on a shelf, unable to bleed into our mundane experiences of the “real world.”
Vacation has shown me how large an influence my mindset is on how my body chooses to experience and express itself in the world. I smile more on vacation; my muscles relax; and my aches and pains recede. In fact, I wear different clothes and adopt a different posture when I’m on vacation. I wear my body differently, and it experiences the world differently based on some minor circumstantial changes like location and schedule.
What makes our vacation self so expansive, joyful, and full of permission? What strips us of that when a random day printed on the calendar notes the end of the vacation? What invisible constraints do we shed and then put back on during that whole process? What underlying processes or behavior scripts shift our body relationships in the world from one context to the next?
It is clear to me when I think about this scenario that my mind, body, and spirit are in one sort of communication before vacation and in a different type of communication during vacation. The catalyst for this changing communication might just be our beliefs, illusions, and expectations.
As we prepare for that long-awaited vacation we take the set of beliefs we call “day-to-day” and store them away, reaching for a special set of beliefs we call “time off.” Our daily beliefs and stories might prime us to be burdened with deadlines and relentless to-do lists. These beliefs might limit what we think we are allowed to do in an eight-hour chunk of our day. They can define our responsibilities, permissions for leisure, and forgiveness for indulgence.
These daily beliefs also carry with them judgments around what type of vehicle we drive, where we live, and even what sort of recreation we are allowed to have. Maybe in our day-to-day lives, we don’t allow ourselves to eat dessert for breakfast or have a glass of wine with lunch.
Maybe there is a type of protocol in our brain that says that sort of thing is not appropriate unless we have a valid excuse. Does your set of day-to-day scripts give you permission to nap during the day when you want? These daily beliefs dictate where we go, when we go, how we get there, what we wear when we’re there, and how we feel about ourselves.
How much more could you learn about yourself if you were aware of these subtle scripts? What freedoms might you experience if you could adapt the stories of who you are and release the version of yourself your ego had created? Who could you be without those scripts? What might be possible?
As we shift from the set of daily underlying beliefs to our special-edition vacation beliefs, we might change how we prioritize our time and what activities we choose to engage in.
What special permissions do you give yourself when you are on vacation? You may find yourself interacting with people differently. Perhaps you engage in activities you’d never dreamed of except during vacation. You may no longer become annoyed at things that typically bother you. You may not feel compelled to answer the phone to take a certain call that might normally make you interrupt the important thing you’re doing.
I always wanted to know why people were more likeable, gregarious, funny, happy, and even radiant during vacation. It couldn’t be just the destination; it had to be a shift inside.
Daily & Vacation Permission Scripts Exercise
Make two columns down a page in your journal, naming one “Daily Permission Scripts” and the other “Vacation” or “Weekend Permission Scripts.” Note in your journal some of your daily permission scripts around food, sleep patterns, and recreation during your work week.
For example: “I don’t eat breakfast during the work week because it doesn’t fit into my commute schedule,” or “I don’t go out dancing or to the movies during the week because....”
Next, note some of your permission scripts around these same topics as they relate to your weekends or even vacation time. Observe some of your own sets of permission scripts. Note the differences that you slip in and out of with very little effort or consciousness.
Excerpted from Neurosculpting: A Whole-Brain Approach to Heal Trauma, Rewrite Limiting Beliefs, and Find Wholeness, Lisa Wimberger, Sounds True, © 2015.