This weekend I took a 2 day break from all 6 of my current 30 day challenges. I didn’t do push-ups and pull-ups, I ate whatever I wanted, I didn’t read, I didn’t do anything. And it was great.
In the past, this type of break would have thrown me for an absolute loop. My perfectionism would have come boiling to the surface, telling me that I had failed these 30 day challenges and that I had to start them over.
If I tried to do every 30 day challenge perfectly, I would absolutely never finish a 30 day challenge. If I tried to do everything in my life perfectly, I would do nothing but fail. That’s why trying to shift your mindset to “progress, not perfection” is really the golden ticket for escaping self-destructive perfectionism.
Why Does It Seem So Wrong to Take Breaks?
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling guilty for taking breaks. When I’m taking a lunch break at work, I’m not really that relaxed. It doesn’t feel too much like a break. When I’m taking a break from a 30 day challenge, I find myself questioning my dedication and honesty.
Our culture is not built around breaks. Breaks are actually the antithesis to the work-centric society that we live in. We’re supposed to “rise and grind” not “Rise, grind, take a break, grind again”. We’re oh so busy that we can’t take breaks. We’re focused and a break is just going to ruin that.
This guilt, this idea that taking breaks is wrong is absolutely unfounded. Breaks are our friend! In the last 2 books I’ve read on performance (“Peak Performance” and “Willpower Doesn’t Work“), one of the main suggestions was to TAKE BREAKS!
Here’s a great quote from Tim Kreider in this New York Times piece
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets…It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.
Why I Have Come to Love Breaks
Over the last 2 months, I’ve embraced the idea of breaks. I take breaks when I’m working on the computer (good for the eyes and the brain) and I take breaks from building and breaking habits. These breaks have saved me from being devoured by the enormity of making behavioral change happen in my life. They’ve saved me from the unforgiving nature of strict, unbreakable rules.
It’s a beautiful thing, right? The idea of planned failure. The idea of giving yourself some time to reset and start again. The idea of starting anew rather than starting over.
How You Can Start Break-ing Like a Pro
I encourage you to start break-ing in your life! If you’re doing 30 day challenges, take some days off (the exception is for addictive behavior such as smoking, drinking caffeine, eating sugar, etc.). Give yourself that “safety valve” of knowing that this behavior change is not going to be forever. There is some leeway, as long as you get right back to it when your break is done.
But it’s not just about consuming sugar, it’s about anything difficult. Working extremely hard on homework or at your job? Take continuous breaks. By giving yourself time to recuperate, you’ll probably finish it faster and do a better job. Trying to get into a gym routine? Take some days off and don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that breaks are not the lazy man’s escape like our workaholic culture would have us believe. Breaks are necessary for the mind and body to continue performing at a high level.
Give yourself a break!