We usually look forward to summer for the opportunities it brings to disconnect from day-to-day working routines and responsibilities and to connect with nature and a slower pace of life. Indeed, there’s nothing more freeing than dipping your toes in the sand, feeling the sun rays on your body or swimming in crystal clear waters.
No matter what kind of summer holiday you choose – you might just be going to your local park for a day in the sun or spending the entire season across the Mediterranean – these breaks always come as a welcome reminder of the need to slow down, stay close to nature and appreciate the simpler moments in life.
During those moments of stillness and calm in the summer, we’re also given the opportunity to take a step back from the daily running of our lives. This is the time where many of us have the luxury to press pause on errands, commutes, social responsibilities and work assignments – which makes more time for relaxing and treating ourselves, but also for self-reflection.
In fact, the state of calm we find ourselves in after a few days spent close to the beach doing nothing more than tanning, swimming and eating local seafood is probably the best state from which to look back at your current situation and life choices and assess if we’re happy with where we are, identify areas of improvement and find creative solutions about how to achieve our goals. Our minds tend to slow down and we move away from the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode we often find ourselves in when juggling everyday life, so this is the time to access the truest, most conscious parts of ourselves and gain clarity.
Sunny vacation mode does tend to naturally bring this slower, calmer side of ourselves out, but we can also take conscious steps towards embracing it. Taking a social media break – even for a few hours a day – choosing screen-free activities, be it reading a book or playing beach volleyball, or making time for self-reflection at the start or end of each day, can help take you one step further towards feeling calm, content and more clear about the path you’re choosing to take.
Asking the right questions can help open this path of self-reflection – because as the great life coach Tony Robbins often advices, “quality questions create a quality life and successful people ask better questions in order to get better answers.” By asking yourself the right questions this summer, you’ll kickstart this inner process of reflection and encourage yourself to seek answers in the right places. The only requirement? To stay curious and keep an open mind about what might come up – because all the right answers are usually already inside of you, you just need to slow down and let them come to the surface.
Here, we look at five of the key questions to ask yourself while relaxing on your sun lounger, sitting on a train en route for a weekend break or simply taking a long summer evening stroll in your neighborhood.
1. What do I love the most about my day-to-day life?
Starting from a place of gratitude is undoubtedly always a good idea – it puts you in the mindset of feeling positive about your life and seeing solutions rather than problems, even when you do go on to assess the areas that do need improvement.
Having taken a break from the daily running of your life, you now have the advantage of physical distance to look back with a fresh perspective and take stock. Think back and write down what are the areas, people and situations of your day-to-day reality back home that you feel most excited about? It could be something small like a morning ritual of enjoying your coffee while listening to your favorite podcast; an exciting new work project or professional partnership you’ve managed to take on; or someone who is providing a source of support and joy in your life. In my case, as I step away from busy city life and look back with a calmer perspective at the life I’ve been building the last few years, I’m feeling particularly grateful for having a cozy, safe home that I can call my own to return to; for the friends waiting to catch up and enjoy the city together upon my return from holiday; or the fun, fitness community I’m part of back home, keeping me healthy and motivated.
Once you put pen to paper the list becomes longer and longer, you realize the sheer amount of blessings in your life and become less resentful about the prospect of holidays coming to an end and having to get back to business. Writing about those moments of gratitude in the Five Minute Journal is an essential year-round practice, but during the holidays you can make a point to take a few extra minutes to reflect on what you are writing about and really reap the benefits of gratitude.
2. What are some of the areas in my life I needed a break from this summer – and how can I improve them?
After reflecting on everything going well in your life and putting yourself in a state of gratitude, it’s also worth asking yourself if there are areas in your life that you’re not as happy about and require improvement. The key here is to come at this question with a positive mindset: this is not about listing problems and complaining about how difficult life has been, but rather finding solutions. Challenges and moments of hardship are universal and appear in everyone’s life at one stage or another, but you can use your time off to recharge and think about how to move past any issues or improve on areas where you feel like you’re falling short. Sometimes in life we tend to avoid challenges or uncomfortable situations, leaving them undone. But summer vacations and the extra time they offer for winding down are the perfect time to face some of those uncomfortable issues, find the route of the issue and seek resolutions.
Take a look back – almost as if you’re looking back at your life from an outsider’s perspective – and identify any areas or situations in your life, you felt you needed a break from this summer. Maybe you couldn’t wait to get away from your job? Or was there a person in your personal or professional life you felt you needed a break from having daily interaction with? List the people or situations you felt you need to get away from and without judgment or resentment, try to identify why. If you make sure you’re in a calm, happy state and let your thoughts flow freely in a notebook – we recommend you pack one of the Intelligent Change Essential Notebooks with you – the answers will inevitably come to you. Once you’ve gained clarity around the source of your challenges, you’ll also be able to identify the best solutions.
Reflect on what the ideal post-holiday scenario looks like: perhaps it’s addressing that work issue with a colleague or manager, having an honest conversation with your partner about your relationship, or even eliminating certain people or situations from your daily life. Either way, you’ll be able to get back to your life post-holiday with a refreshed perspective and a better understanding of how to tackle the challenges you’re facing to improve the quality of your life.
3. What are my goals for the next half of the year?
Summer is also a great time to do some forward planning for the remainder of the year. After looking at the current state of your life and identifying what’s going well and what needs more work, it’s time to also think about what should come next for the upcoming autumn season – and get excited.
Look back at your Best Year Journal and the goals you’ve set for the year to see what you’ve achieved so far and what you need to be focusing on post-holidays. Make sure to leave some room for reassessment, setting new goals depending on how your circumstances have changed and also, celebrating everything you have achieved so far.
The carefree spirit of summer is also a time to gather inspiration for new and existing projects or come up with creative solutions about how to make your dreams come true. Inspiration abounds when you take a break from consuming everyone else’s content online, slow down and come back to yourself. Anything can spark new ideas, from conversations with friends to a long stroll in the sun or a book read on the sun lounger.
4. What’s my bigger purpose?
During those quieter moments of the summer, it’s also worth going in deeper and asking all those bigger life questions that ultimately determine the direction we choose to take and the quality of our lives. When you get time off and the opportunity to slow down and quieten your mind, there’s no better time to connect with your spiritual side: it can be by writing in your journal every day; using the extra time off to do a longer meditation practice; or even visiting a healer or coach at your holiday destination.
These deeper spiritual practices will help you dig deeper into your soul and reconnect with your bigger life purpose – which we can easily lose track of when we get more concerned with life’s daily errands and responsibilities. Taking advantage of time off to uncover that deeper side of yourself and remember what truly drives you, means that when it’s time to head back home you’ll be better equipped to deal with reality and in a position to allocate your time to people and situations that serve that bigger purpose.
It could be that your ultimate passion has always been sport, but you have been getting too bogged down with social responsibilities that you haven’t made time for training for months. Taking time off and reminding yourself of your needs and passions creates space for you to realign your life and feel more excited about the prospect of returning to reality.
5. What are some of the daily habits I need to implement in my routine after the holidays?
Just as essential as looking at your goals for the remainder of the year, is looking at all the small, daily habits that will help keep you at a positive, mindful state post-holiday and push you to achieve the goals you have been setting.
Look back at your daily routine: what are the habits that you have successfully implemented and what’s missing? In my case, I have managed to implement a journaling practice, filling in my Five Minute Journal every morning and evening – a habit that has helped me hold onto a positive mindset throughout the year – but I haven’t been as consistent with my meditation to help me manage stressful situations or moments of anxiety. It’s why I’m using the summer to practice daily meditation on the Insight Timer app – I tend to stick to Vipassana meditations by Tara Brach, as per Intelligent Change founder Mimi Ikonn’s recommendation – and plan to implement a short practice into my daily routine when I get back to work.
On a parallel level, what are some of the habits that you feel are missing in your daily life? It could be anything from a 10-minute workout to kickstart your day and help you achieve your fitness goals to a Saturday afternoon dedicated to a creative project that brings you joy.
To stick to your new habits and follow through the goals you set in the summer, it’s always worth tracking the habits in a habit tracker or productivity planner – until they eventually become second nature.
Summer is a magical time and a unique opportunity to reconnect with both nature and ourselves. Its carefree spirit and slower pace, will ultimately help you recharge and make a stronger comeback – all it takes is an open mind and the right questions.