Summer Thinking

Last week, I offered some summer reading to catch up on my most popular blog posts of the first half of 2024.

This week, I offer some suggestions for summer thinking. Vacations allow us to float above the day-to-day details and get a big-picture perspective. Here are some ways to embrace that opportunity.

Learning, Growth, and Evolution

I confess I am mystified by people who don’t value learning. Learning, growing, and evolving feel so fundamental to my existence that I struggle to understand why it isn’t this way for everyone. I believe it’s cultural. I haven’t looked at the research, but I think we’d be hard-pressed to find children who aren’t naturally learners. I suspect that for many, their educational experiences hamper their innate love of learning.

If you don’t feel an innate urge to learn and grow, I encourage you to reconnect with your childlike wonder and love of learning. Find an area of your life where you’d like to see growth.

Pace Yourself

I am addicted to learning. I often sign up for more courses than I should and have too many books going in parallel. I came to grips with this not long ago as I felt burnt out with all the learning underway.

I used a simple tool to get things under control. I made a list. I started a learning backlog where I captured everything I wanted to learn. If I stumble across a new course, I’ll add it to the backlog. If someone suggests a great book, I’ll add it to the backlog.

Eventually, my current learning projects wound down, and I had the mental energy and capacity to start something new. I resumed a course on quantum mechanics. When I paused the course, I was not enjoying it. It just felt like work. Now, it was enjoyable again. I knew I’d reached a place of balance with my learning.

Don’t be afraid to generate a lengthy list of learning topics. But pace yourself. Make sure you’re learning for the sake of learning, not to check something off your list. If the learning feels like work, put it on pause for a bit if you can. If you can’t, find something else to pause instead.

Connect With Your Vision

There are times when I’m not sure where I’m headed. Now is one of those times. It is a period of significant change, with many opportunities ahead of me. There are so many opportunities that it can be paralyzing at times. Where should I focus my learning energy? How do I want to evolve?

These are the kinds of questions that are tailor-made for vacation. We have the space to reflect from a different perspective. We aren’t overwhelmed by the day-to-day obligations.

A future self meditation is one of my favorite techniques for connecting with my vision.* Imagine you travel to the future and encounter a version of yourself living your best life. Connect with this future version of you to see what wisdom they offer. This meditation often gives me clarity about where I should focus next.

Connect With Your Values

Are you in touch with your values? Do you have a core set of values that guide your decisions? Vacation time is an excellent opportunity to connect with and embody your values. If you don’t have a clear sense of your values, consider Brené Brown’s list. I encourage you to select your top five (Brené suggests you get it down to two).

Understanding your values gives clarity about where your path leads next. It can illuminate a value that conflicts with your current situation, indicating a need to shift your approach or perspective.

I remember standing before my division for the first time after becoming VP of Software Development for Datatel. As I shared my values, I felt a disconnect. One of my values at the time was Health, and I didn’t feel like I was honoring that value. I was not unhealthy, but I also wasn’t particularly healthy. It was at that moment that I committed to improving my health. I started running and unexpectedly fell in love with it. Over 21,000 miles later, running has become a way of life, and I feel deeply connected to my value of Health (which has since evolved into Well-Being).

Take some time to connect with your values. Have they changed? Are any in conflict with your current way of being?

Connect With Your Life

One final technique I’ll offer for your summer thinking is to connect with your life accounts. What is important to you in life? How are you honoring them? I use life accounts as a simple method to raise my awareness of the areas of life that matter to me. Here are some possible life accounts:

  • Personal relationships (partner, children, parents, siblings, friends)
  • Professional relationships (boss, direct reports, clients, colleagues)
  • Values
  • Hobbies
  • Health
  • Finances
  • Career
  • Spirituality

Identify the life accounts that matter to you. Rate the quality of that life account on a scale of 1-5. For those accounts where the score is lower than you’d like, consider ways to shift that area of life to improve it.

Putting It Into Practice

Take advantage of the summer season to get a big-picture view of your life and think strategically about how you want to learn, grow, and evolve.

  • Build a learning backlog.
  • Pace yourself with your learning.
  • Connect with your vision by connecting with your future self.
  • Connect with your values and identify areas of life that conflict with your values.
  • Connect with your life accounts. What key areas of life need a shift?

I am an executive coach and life coach with software executive roots in higher education and EdTech. I coach because I love to help others accelerate their growth as leaders and humans. I frequently write about #management, #leadership, #coaching, #neuroscience, and #arete.

If you would like to learn more, schedule time with me.

Want to comment? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.

* You can access my future self meditation on InsightTimer.

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