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When was the last time you felt like you truly had control over your work day?
How often does the goal you set in the morning become derailed by lunchtime?
Do you still feel like you’re driving forward towards an ultimate purpose, or are you constantly getting lost, bogged down, and sidetracked by a million problems that demand your immediate attention?
These are the constant battles of business owners. You started your company because you had a one-of-a-kind vision. But that vision often becomes blurred in the chaos of daily maintenance. From worrying over sales numbers to dealing with employee turnover, you gradually slip out of “mission mode” and into “survival mode.”
You’re not active; you’re reactive. You’re not creating; you’re enduring.
And even if you take a moment right now to remember what it is you ultimately want—where you’re trying to drive this company—odds are, you won’t be as sure of the answer as you once were.
You’re feeling lost. You’re deep in the weeds.
You need a hilltop.
Find Higher Ground
Back in my army days, my training included the occasional mission to get from Point A to Point B.
That was all we had to do. Start at one place and arrive at a different place. My team and I were given an opportunity to study a map. Then we had to put the map away and spend the day navigating towards our final destination on foot.
Much like the average business strategy, this mission looks simple and straightforward on paper. But the reality was more complicated. It’s easy to become disoriented in the wilderness. While the journey always seemed clear on the map, there were no pre-established trails to follow in the real world. The scenery started to look the same. And as we ventured on, we found ourselves second-guessing certain instincts and disagreeing on the best path forward.
Fortunately, our officer gave us a tip for handling these moments of confusion or doubt.
He told us to find a hill or a mountain and climb high enough to get a view of the entire landscape. From higher ground, we could see the bigger picture. We had a clear view of where we had already been, where we wanted to be, and what it would take to get there.
If you’re lost in the chaos of running your business, you need to find higher ground.
In other words, you need to take a break.
The Good Kind of Diversion
Following the advice of our officer sometimes meant diverting slightly off course. As everyone who has ever been on a mission knows—whether it’s a military mission or a professional mission—the mere thought of stepping away can induce panic. Leaving our path to find higher ground meant sacrificing time. But the clarity we discovered was always worth it.
Stepping away from your business works the same way.
Entrepreneurs often get locked into a “grind” mindset. If you’re not working, you’re slacking. If you’re not sacrificing rest and family time for the sake of your business, it’s because you don’t want success enough. You’re not driven. You’re not a real business owner.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
You need time away . . . not just for your own sanity, but for the sake of your career. The deeper you get into the weeds, the harder it is to remember what the wider landscape looks like. You get disoriented and start wandering in the wrong direction. You lose sight of who you are, what your business is supposed to be, and why you began this journey in the first place.
Think you can’t give yourself a short vacation because the stakes are too high?
You’re wrong. Those high stakes are precisely why you must take a break.
I run one of the fastest growing franchises in the U.S. There is a lot riding on my ability to focus, lead, and make crucial decisions for my company. And by “a lot,” I mean “hundreds of careers.”
You’d better believe I step away sometimes. It may be a long, leisurely family vacation or it could just be allowing a Saturday to be a Saturday. Either way, I make sure I take the time to climb out of the weeds and get that wide-angle view.
How to Take a Break Without Panicking
You can start small. If your business is brand new and a week of vacation is completely out of the question right now, give yourself a three-day weekend. Or maybe even just a Sunday with your laptop closed and your notifications turned off.
If you’ve been approaching your business with a hustle mindset, any form of break may seem more anxiety-inducing than clarifying. Do it anyway. The anxiety fades. As you allow yourself to relax and let go, the less urgent your day-to-day worries seem.
You realize losing that client last week wasn’t actually the end of the world, and in fact it reveals an opportunity to improve an area of your business. You find some mental space to dream about what you want your business to become, which in turn helps you return to work newly committed to the projects that matter. You finally recognize which battles aren’t worth fighting. And when you come back to your business, you come back well-rested, energized, and clear-headed.
While your mental health should be a priority just for your own sake, even work-obsessed entrepreneurs need to realize that when you take time to find personal clarity, your business benefits, too.
Even if you had to cancel your summer vacation, make sure you take time off to breathe, climb a figurative or literal mountain, and get some perspective.
In other words, do what’s right for your business. Walk away.