130 Days Off Per Year

December 11th, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

Can you summon the self-awareness to recognize when you’re putting in 8+ hours at your desk, but you only get 1-2 hours of REAL, meaningful, focused work done? How many days do you need to have like that before accepting that it’s time for a serious reset of your motivation, drive, and focus?

What’s the solution? In many cases a great solution is to take more time off. It’s often counter-intuitive, but it works.

One simple reason is that when work time feels overly abundant, it’s very easy to waste it. Unproductive pseudo-work creeps into each day… until most of each day has drifted away from our core value-generating activities.

130 Days Off Per Year

In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield recommends taking 130-150 free days each year. A free day means that from midnight to midnight (a full 24 hours), you do no work whatsoever. No work-related email. No social media. No dwelling on work-related problems. You don’t touch any work-related activities unless you’re dealt an absolute emergency.

When you’ve found work that engages you, it’s so easy to allow work-related activities to bleed over into every single day, including so-called off days. I’m as guilty of this as any entrepreneur. I find it especially difficult not to work since my field is personal development. My work and personal life are already intertwined, and I can work from anywhere.

You may be wondering: What would you actually do with 130-150 days off each year? Without work to fill the time, what are you supposed to do instead? Watch TV? Play video games? Go hiking?

If you find it difficult to imagine how to invest that much time, you’re not alone. Taking that many off-days requires exploring and expressing completely different parts of yourself, parts of you that aren’t being expressed as vividly through your existing career path. This isn’t just a break from work — this is a real investment in having a life.

In order to take more time off, I’ve had to open whole new threads of exploration for myself. Some of these threads include traveling, relationships, and new hobbies.

With my first business that I started in my early 20s, I figured that working hard was the key to success. I’d often go to my office on weekends. Sometimes I’d work until the cleaning crew showed up. I’d tell them to skip my office suite, and I’d keep working till I couldn’t concentrate anymore, then sleep for a few hours on the floor under a desk, and go back to work when I woke up. I thought that was being productive, but in the back of my mind, I knew that if I was more focused, I could have gotten the same real work done in much less time.

Back then a vacation was an infrequent three-day trip, maybe four days at best, and somewhere within driving distance. These were nice breaks, but they weren’t long enough to allow me to step back from my business, have a life, and gain a fresh perspective. These vacations made me feel like I was vacating my work, but I wasn’t filling that void with anything truly restorative. I was just pressing pause. If I’d taken more time off, like a few weeks in a row, I likely would have avoided many setbacks that I endured.

I’m not at the level of Jack’s 130-150 free days recommendation, but I’m gradually getting closer. I can see the wisdom of it. I see how much more productive I am when I stop trying to work all the time. I see how important it is to completely let go of work for a while.

This year I did less writing and speaking than usual. I did fewer business deals. Instead I invested hundreds of hours into my own personal projects. I gained some new skills. I read more books than usual. But financially my business didn’t suffer. In fact, this was my highest grossing year of the past four. I took on fewer projects, but the ones I did were more successful. I earned more by working less.

Investing in Your Life

I recently reviewed several years of financial records to see how much I’ve spent on travel. I saw that I typically spend 1% to 3% of my income on travel expenses each year, not counting food. I recalled that the year when I spent 3% was a lot more fun and motivating than the year when I spent only 1.1%.

My own data tells me I’m still being stingy with travel. I travel a lot more than I have before, but I haven’t been investing in it as much as I could. Partly this is because many of my travel expenses are paid for by others, such as when I speak at other people’s events. But I could certainly invest more into it, especially since it’s such a high-value, growth-producing activity for me.

I encourage you to take a look at your own financial records and see where you’re investing your money. How much are you actually investing in having a life?

Obviously money isn’t the only form of investment, but it’s good piece of data to look at.

I found that I spend a lot more of my income on expenses that don’t feel particularly exciting to me. If I get more joy and growth from being on the road than I do at home, why do I spend so much more on home-related expenses? I inherited this kind of prioritization from my parents and have been maintaining it for many years, but when I look at it consciously, I can readily admit that I don’t actually need a house, a car, or many of the other trappings of that inherited lifestyle.

What would happen if you took your uninspired expenses and transferred them to more inspiring activities? What if you questioned the way you define your life’s necessities? Is rent or a mortgage a true necessity?

What if you applied Jack’s recommendation to money instead of time? That would be equivalent to saying: Spend at least 35% of your income on having a life.

Try calculating 35% of your gross income, and come up with a figure. Now imagine being required to spend at least that much every year on items and activities that add real value and meaning to your life. Imagine having to spend this much on fun, adventure, and growth experiences — not on survival needs, security, work, etc.

How would you spend that much money? Where would you invest it?

Challenge Your Spending Priorities

Perhaps an even more interesting question to ask yourself is this: Why aren’t you already investing more money in life-enhancing fun and growth?

A common answer is: I can’t afford it. I’m too broke (or too much in debt). I’d love to spend more on having a life, but I just don’t have the funds to do that right now. Poor me!

This sounds a lot like the entrepreneur lamenting the inability to take time off from work. Perhaps this whole line of thinking is the real issue. Once you give yourself permission to have a life no matter what — and to back it up with a meaningful investment of your time and money — then you may find (as people often do) that your drive and motivation increases significantly. This improved focus makes it easier to earn more money and to save time in ways that more than compensate for your investment.

If you spend all your money to cover your basic needs, isn’t that going to be financially demotivating in the long run? If your money is mainly going to living expenses, how will you ever feel inspired to earn more? It seems more likely that you’ll adopt the association that money is a necessary evil or an obligation as opposed to a potential source of life-enhancing fun and growth. Why would you want to earn more if you connect money only with survival and necessities?

Take a look at your data. Where is your money actually going? Is ALL of it really being spent on survival essentials? Are you spending any of it in ways that don’t inspire you? What if you dropped some of those expenses? I suspect that most of the time, if you look closely enough, you’ll find that even when you’re barely making ends meet, many of your expenses are of questionable value to you.

Ask yourself which expenses a person who earns $2 per day would consider essential. Is paying rent truly essential? Buying gasoline? Do you only spend money on essential nutrition in the most economical way? Just like the overworked person who wastes time due to lack of focus, is it possible you’re wasting money due to lack of focus? Are you spending because you think you have to? Would anyone on this planet consider your necessities to be luxuries?

I’ve been asking myself these questions for a while, wondering how it would affect my lifestyle to make serious changes in how I routinely spend my income. What if I took all the money I spend on housing and invested it in continuous travel, for instance?

What if I defined a home as an extravagant waste? What if I defined continuous travel as a lifestyle necessity?

As I shared in a previous post about going nomadic, next year I’m planning to drop a lot of expenses from my life that I no longer consider essential, including my car, my house, and nearly all of my possessions. They take up time and space in my life, but they don’t enhance my life enough to justify their presence. Why didn’t I let them go years ago? I think the main reason was letting myself become too comfortable with the familiar and failing to commit to something outside my comfort zone.

Stepping Into Discomfort

Imagine being compelled to invest 35% of your days and 35% of your income on life-enhancing activities and experiences. Your time off can’t just be a break from work. Your personal expenses can’t be only for distractions.

Where would you invest this time and money?

Perhaps if you come up blank here, that may explain why time and money seem to slip through your fingers. Maybe abundance avoids you because you haven’t come up with a compelling reason to pursue it. As Anais Nin wrote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

Realize that waiting for more time and money to show up first is a foolish approach. This mindset of delay is an endless trap because every day becomes a postponement, ad infinitum, so you’ll simply keep delaying until you die. The only viable time to start investing is now. The only time you can ever make a real change is now. If your answer isn’t now, then realize you’re saying never.

Give abundance a reason to show up. Show it that you’re intelligently balancing the time and money you already have, by investing in life experiences that are meaningful to you. Realize that scarcity-mindedness is much more wasteful because it squashes your motivation and reduces your efficiency.

My life took on a whole new flavor when I made a commitment to enjoy and appreciate my life, even when I was broke. At the time I made this commitment, I didn’t know that it would turn my finances around too. I committed mainly out of desperation since struggling to earn money never worked for me. Once I realized that creating a fun, meaningful, growth-oriented life was possible regardless of income or debt, I stopped relating to money with so much neediness. Earning money then becomes a form of play instead of a source of stress. To this day I still see business as a form of play, and I know that many other entrepreneurs feel this way as well.

Being on this path is like peeling an onion. There’s always another layer to explore. In the beginning, I loved having the freedom to choose my own projects; having creative control was a big deal to me. In another phase, I got really into networking and doing win-win business deals with other people. These days I feel motivated to simplify my life, so I can spend more time having new experiences.

What does it mean to invest your time and money wisely? What are your true necessities?

Were your investments consciously chosen? Are they aligned with your values now? Or have you been saddled with inherited priorities that don’t inspire you?

You can invest your time and money however you like. You don’t have to follow the same model your parents set for you, especially if you can conceive of something better. The alternatives may seem a little scary at first, but such is the nature of exploring beyond your comfort zone.

If you realize you’re out of alignment here, perhaps it’s time to rebalance your investments of time and money. I think you’ll find as I have that even if it takes you many months to transition, the mere act of getting started can unleash some potent new energy and motivation.

Don’t wait for someday. Someday is never.

Steve Recommends
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True Loyalty

November 26th, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

Do you have anyone in your life who (occasionally or frequently) loves to vent their frustrations in your direction?

Are you often the provider of a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on?

At times these can be valuable roles to play. I think it’s well and good to be sympathetic and understanding when you can — if you’re truly helping the other person.

It’s nice to have people to turn to that can bring us back up when we feel beat up by circumstances. Being able to share our sorrows and frustrations helps us process them, learn from them, and release them. We may even see the humor in such situations and laugh at them.

On the other hand, some people get so stuck in negative thinking that venting becomes much more than a temporary steam valve. Instead it becomes their default strategy for connecting and getting attention.

Do you know anyone like that? If so, why are you maintaining that relationship? Why are you allowing such negativity in your life?

Is your investment in this relationship actually helping? Is the other person showing good progress along a positive path — and appreciative of your help? Are you being an effective mentor in helping this person move beyond their temporary period of funk? Can you point out all the positive signs of progress you’ve made together in your relationship during the past quarter? Would an objective third-party observer report, “I can see that your help and assistance are really paying off”?

If you’re not really helping, what are you doing? Why are you on the receiving end of repeated venting from someone who isn’t taking responsibility to improve their situation? Why are you wasting your precious time with someone who’d rather whine than grow and improve?

Using Negative People to Slow Yourself Down

Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that you’re using this relationship as an excuse to slow yourself down and hold yourself back from working on your own big, scary goals?

After all, wasting time and energy on someone who isn’t really committed to a path of growth isn’t actually going to produce meaningful results, will it? You could surely find better investments elsewhere. Learn some new skills. Write that book you’ve always been wanting to write. Branch out and meet new people. Start a new business. Go travel for a while.

But of course, many of those things are scary. They’ll stretch you beyond your comfort zone. It’s so much easier to deal with the familiarity of a negative-minded person. It almost feels good to hear them whine at you, doesn’t it? Their problems are probably simple and easily solvable. You see the solutions even if they don’t. But you love clinging to their intractability because it helps you stay in pause mode.

By keeping this person in your life, you also fill up some of your social space — space that might otherwise be occupied by people who’d actually encourage, support, and push you to grow. Negative-minded people will never push you to grow. If you became more growth oriented and began speeding up, they’d regard it as a threat. What are you trying to do? Leave them behind?

Such relationships will indeed slow you down. If you have some ambitious goals in your life, and you fear working on them, a great way to procrastinate is to cling to a relationship that’s incompatible with your greater vision.

The most fearful and disempowered people I encounter almost always have a constant source of negativity in their lives. Usually this is a close relative or a close friend. Additionally, these people wrap themselves in a belief system that says they have to value that relationship more than their own sanity, growth, happiness, and fulfillment.

Putting your relationships first makes sense if your relationships are healthy, supportive, and empowering. It’s foolish to be stubborn and clingy with unhealthy relationships though.

While your negative-minded friend may reward you for engaging in a clingy dependency relationship, what you may not realize is that others are punishing you for this behavior. The most growth-oriented people in your life are surely losing respect for you. They’re losing interest in you because you don’t look like a growth oriented person yourself; you look like you’re standing still, making feeble excuses, and succumbing to complacency. You look like someone who’s more interested in delusions than real growth. Most likely they won’t tell you any of this because they have better things to do. You don’t seem particularly investment worthy.

True Loyalty

Positive relationships are growing relationships.

A positive relationship is a delicate balance of someone who accepts you as you are yet also recognizes your potential to keep growing. A positive relationship makes it hard for you to settle. It lets you feel loved and accepted, but it makes it difficult for you to be too complacent. When you stagnate, you can feel the strain it creates in your positive relationships, but your negative relationships have no trouble with your stagnation.

Positive relationships are available and abundant. They’re yours to enjoy. Commit yourself to a path of growth, and take action on it each day. Push yourself, and don’t settle. Positive people will recognize you as a kindred spirit and befriend you. Negative people will push you away because you’re a threat to their stagnation.

You don’t even have to deliberately cut ties with negative people. Just be unwaveringly committed to your own path of growth, and hold them fully responsible for their own results in life. When they vent excessively at you, call them out for it; hold them responsible and tell them to stop whining so much. You will disgust them in short order, and they’ll very likely feel compelled to dump you in short order.

Commit to no longer using relationships with negative people to slow yourself down. This behavior is beneath you. You have better things to do with your life.

If you cocoon yourself in a bubble of denial, your negative relationships will surely permit it. But you’re only making yourself look ridiculous to the positive people in your life — if there are any left.

Being loyal to negative relationships is being disloyal to courage. Disloyal to growth. Disloyal to your path with a heart.

Drop the ridiculous belief that you’re somehow being a loyal friend when you serve as someone’s go-to outlet for whining. That isn’t loyalty. It’s disloyalty to that which genuinely deserves your enduring faithfulness and steadfastness.

Be loyal to courage. Be loyal to the greatness within you. Be loyal to your path of growth. Challenge and invite your once negative relationships to join you in this exciting adventure.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website - Save $100 on SBI through Dec 26th with their holiday special
Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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