If you were lucky enough to get vacation days this December, you might reflect on how you choose to spend your time off. On holidays we can finally do what we want to, instead of all the have tos that we are normally chained to. Even though I enjoyed doing as little as possible, what I chose to do during my holiday is telling. I chose to practice my language skills on Duolingo and I chose to read a book on my favorite subject, happiness. How can we carry this feeling of control of our time into the long work weeks ahead?

In coaching we try to cultivate this mindset of choice and intention because it completely shifts the energy you put towards an activity. Think about it. When you really are itching to go for a run or to take a new class, you have much more motivation and energy to put into it. It’s about the mindset of feeling that we want to instead of feeling that we have to. That mindset changes how we perform and experience something. When you’re doing something you are passionate about, how does that shift your energy and attitude? Often you look forward and anticipate that activity and you make time for that activity, no matter what your time management issues are. For me, no matter what is happening in my week, I fit in time to go for a run. When was the last time you felt passion for what you were doing? When do you get lost in what you’re doing?

For me, it’s learning German. Since moving to Germany, I fill all my spare moments with reading German signs anywhere I go, doing Duolingo exercises, or looking up words in one of the several dictionary apps I have downloaded. I’ve been known to take a book in a foreign language with me on vacation as a challenge. When you find yourself programming, studying unnecessarily, training, or anything other unusual leisure activity on your holiday, that’s a sign: it must be a want to. And these pursuits of pleasures that are also challenges and personal growth experiences at the same time have been shown to be much more important for our happiness and sense of fun than passive pleasures, such as watching TV.

Unfortunately however, vacation ends at some point. And these want tos can easily turn into have tos when it’s going to an early morning German class that I haven’t prepared for. How does this happen? It’s when we feel we don’t have a choice over our time or actions. So how do we get back into the want to frame of mind? Remind yourself you have a choice. You never have to do anything. Remember you choose to go to work everyday. You are valuing offering something to society, helping people, or feeding your family when you wake up early to trudge off to work. You’re giving priority to those values when you make that choice each morning instead of sleeping in. It’s empowering to realize and actualize your power to choose. Try it!

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