08/14/2012 03:31 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

Off the Grid: Luxury or Necessity?

According to a study by Harris Interactive, an Internet-based market research firm, 57 percent of Americans ended 2011 with unused vacation time, failing to take, on average, 11 of their allotted days off -- or 70 percent of what they'd rightfully earned.

Is it because we are such good souls that we couldn't possibly leave our employers without our contributions for a week or two, or is it that we have created a culture that has forgotten the value of leisure? Or perhaps it is that we've gotten caught in a trap that leads us to believe that leisure will be plentiful WHEN we _______ (fill in the blank).

All of the above is true in a way. We have no use for leisure when it takes us 10 days to clear our way to leave and 10 days to catch back up when we return from our supposed vacation, where we answered texts and emails just to be sure we could afford to relax.

Pause. (I am recovering from that last sentence!)

We fool ourselves into believing that we cannot afford to take a vacation and that we can't enjoy one if we are on one anyway.

Yes, we've created a culture where we make ourselves indispensible because everyone is afraid to make a decision that could cost them their job. Yes, jobs are in some sectors scarce, so we fear leaving anyone else to shine in our absence. And yes, we are also overworked from the sprawl of our jobs caused by layoffs and companies not rehiring to keep profits up. Or maybe we own our own business and have made sure it will fall apart without us.

When we have a flash of sanity, we remember that to recover your SELF, vacation needs to become a necessity. Not just because it's good for your soul to get away, have fun, and connect with yourself and others, but also because it's a necessity for career reasons too.

Ideas, ah-has, and clarity do not often come in a linear fashion. Doing all the right things, following the routine and working harder are not the tasks that create an environment where something different, unique, exciting or even useful can emerge.

I recently ran a small group of people through a seminar that would help them break their mind open to new ideas. They were very diligent and wanted to do everything I told them to do the right way. However, they wanted a result to their quandary so badly that they squeezed the creativity right out of the exercise. They worked too hard and didn't just let ideas come to them. In turn, I let them go to lunch but asked that they eat apart from each other and order something in the cafeteria that they would not normally eat. When they came back, more than half of the group was brimming with new ideas that came to them during the break.

Was it the new food? Not necessarily. But it was going to uncharted territory and stretching out of their comfort zone that allowed the lock to come off their stymied brains!

Vacation can have the same effect. Don't take vacation just because you know you should or it's good for you. Take it to come back with new perspective. To perhaps be preparing yourself to take on new challenges upon your return that you could not even anticipate would be waiting for you. Take it to stretch you out of your comfort zone and routine so that something new CAN happen. By stepping out of the norm you may just bump into something or someone that knocks the predictable out of your brain and invites a whole new set of possibilities for work and your life.

THAT's a vacation worth taking. No matter how much catch up there might be when you got back. You may just discover upon your return, that none of it was necessary anyway.

Original source The Boston Globe, June 16, 2012.

For more by Laura Berman Fortgang, click here.

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