Getting distance

Every year over the past eight years, I’ve made it a point to take time off after the 10th of December (give or take a couple of days) through to the new year. I do this with one goal – to get some distance from the rest of the year.

The first eleven months are dedicated to the pain and joy of day-to-day living. In these months, I attempt to live my life in a way that is consistent with values and principles I hold dear.

December, on the other hand, is focused on figuring out what these values and principles should be. Of late, that has meant figuring out how they should evolve for the next year based on everything I’ve learnt this year.

That comes with distance, reflection, and an accompanying dose of perspective.

As I start on that journey this year, I feel very aware of the many amazing things I take for granted during huge parts of the year. Articulated in the language of the things that matter to me – I like what I do, I think it matters, and I do it with people I care about and learn from. These are massive blessings. Especially so in a year that has revealed the enormous privilege that comes from having a steady income from a job that can be done remotely.

And, perhaps, most of all, I have the luxury to take most of the last month of the year off for said reflection and distance. In nearly every other year, this has coincided with either visiting our parents or having our parents visit us. However, given the circumstances, that isn’t possible this year.

But, the extended time off tradition remains more important than ever. That’s because I’ve also come to believe/realize that taking extended time off at some point of the year is critical for anyone who is paid for their judgment and creativity.

Why? Aside from all the good that breaks do for us, I keep going back to that word – “distance.” A long break helps us get that space to think, to take stock, and to get some perspective. Given that time and space and an insightful book, we realize the futility of some of the battles we fight and the importance of the many little things and wonderful people in our life that we take for granted.

That in turn helps us zoom out of the minutiae and refocus on what matters. We do this by reflecting on what we’ve experience and synthesizing the essence. That essence may just be one or two insights that change how we operate – i.e., those one of two insights form the most important lessons we’ve learnt this year. And, those lessons compound over time and step change our productivity.

For many of us, they also do more than just that. They remind us just how much we have to be grateful for. And, that gratitude inspires happiness. The kind that sticks around.

If you haven’t managed much distance this year, here’s hoping you get some ahead of 2021.