You want to take a break. No, you need a break.

But you don’t take one.

You’re worried you’ll be seen as irresponsible, unreliable, or selfish. You keep saying, “Things will slow down in a couple of weeks and then I’ll schedule some time off.”

Two weeks go by. Then two months. And the tasks just keep coming.

When I said I wanted to be a writer, I did not mean a writer of to-do lists.

Sometimes I’m tempted to curl up with a cat and not get out of bed until I’m too hungry to lie there anymore (which, for those who don’t know me, is about 15 minutes).

Sometimes when I sigh particularly loudly and my daughter asks me what’s wrong, I don’t know what to tell her because actually, everything is freaking amazing in my life right now.

It’s just that, sometimes, I want to cry from exhaustion.

And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. People often tell me they feel so overwhelmed, they’re paralyzed.  They don’t have the emotional energy for dinner, much less career change. The best they can muster is some down time in front of the TV or computer, but it’s not relaxing and strangely not satisfying.

The writer in me would like to give you 5 simple steps to solve your problem. But let’s face it, ignorance is not the issue.

Nope, I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m going to do one better: I’m going to show you.  Even if it hurts.

Life is complicated (because we make it that way)

It’s not like I didn’t see this coming, though maybe not quite to this extent.

In my 2010 annual review, I said the theme for 2011 would be focus. My approach can be summed up like this:

RT @ 'let your passion light the way'...which means, starting right now, place what you love ahead of what others insist you do

Not only does this advice work, it works in spades! Look at what I’ve accomplished in just six months:

  • Quit my job as a consultant, forcing myself to “sink or swim” with my business
  • Landed 5 guest posts on big name blogs I admire
  • Launched my very first product in career design, a pilot program that sold out in less than 24 hours
  • Developed an 8-week course for my career pilots, penning nearly 35,000 words in just two months while still maintaining my blog
  • Coached 12 awesome students through the framework I developed
  • Began preparations for a larger launch of the program, scheduled for September
  • Completed three professional development courses on entrepreneurship, online marketing, and speaking
  • Started taking voice lessons from premier coach Roger Love (something I’ve always wanted to do)

I thought I could just run off into the sunset with my passion and scream, “I’m never coming back!” (insert mildly manical laughing here)

Yeah, well.

All that stuff that others insist I do?  I can’t always make it go away. When you sell a house, it involves a lot of boring paperwork and trips to the notary. Want to move to London? It’s a lifelong dream, sure, but it’s also a huge hassle (and the consulate doesn’t want to hear me whine about it).

And then, because I’m madly in love with my husband and we have a mutual agreement to support each other’s dreams no matter what, I told him it was okay to sail across the Atlantic for 30 days right before we move.

With all that, you’d think I’d be writing pithy, 20 minute blog posts so I can sell our cars and pack our bags. But you know that saying: do it right or don’t do it at all?  Well…

A difficult (but deliberate) decision

Even when I’m crazy busy, I see parallels between ordinary life and our career needs everywhere. This is what happens with obsession.

For example, I’ve been taking my daughter to swim lessons. I wanted to get her private lessons because she tends to be cautious by nature, probably because her mother stumbled along behind her at a young age yelling, “Careful, careful!”

I worried group lessons would provide her with a mechanism for hanging back behind the crowd and she wouldn’t get enough time in the water.

And that’s exactly what she did, except it wasn’t a bad thing. Hanging back actually helped her move forward, and I suspect it can work for you too.

If my daughter had been one-on-one with an instructor who wanted to dunk her under the water on the first day, I think the experience would have been so scary she might have refused to go back.

But after watching 10 other little kids go under and survive, she was at least willing to consider the idea, even though she was still scared.

So here’s my deal: I’m willing to be the first to dive into a much needed break, but I really want you to follow. You can’t hang back too long.

It makes sense for me to go first anyway. After all, I’m my own boss.  I can (in theory) take a vacation at any time. I can (in theory) re-prioritize or reschedule my deadlines.

Except I’m scared.

But I made the commitment to step up to my fears instead of stepping away from them, so there was only one way forward that made any sense.

I’m taking a break from blogging.

Not like I’m lining up a bunch of guest posts for you so the blog continues cranking out material. The truth is that still takes quite a bit of work on my part to make that even halfway worthwhile. I’m talking about a true sabbatical, where this is the last post on the blog until I return, bright and shiny, in September.

Okay, it’s not a true sabbatical because I’ll be moving overseas and gearing up for the launch of my No Regrets Career Academy in the Fall, but it will be a lot less hectic than it is now!

Part of me (and I’m sure some of my fellow bloggers) thinks this is crazy with a capital C.  There’s this idea that if you stop writing, the crowd will disperse and never, ever come back.

There’s no way of knowing in advance. It’s a real risk.

But you know what?  I built this blog from nothing, and if I had to, I know I could do it again.(Though just for the record, I’d really prefer not to!)

It’s true for you too. Absolute worst case scenario, your boss fires you or your business falls apart and you have to start over.

Not that it’s going to happen. You know that. But isn’t it funny that when you graduate from college, everyone assumes you’ll find your way just fine. But later in life, re-starts are to be avoided at all costs. Apparently the only time we’re capable of starting from scratch is when we’re least prepared and least connected.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I hope you’ll be bold enough to join me in taking a break.

Maybe not for two months. Maybe just for two days. But I urge you to make it at least one day longer than you think you can afford, just to prove to yourself that you can.

Fight the fear, vote for freedom

In the U.S. we just celebrated Independence Day, and I’m not above hijacking a holiday for my own purposes.

Look, this isn’t easy. I hate admitting that I need a break. After 20 years in the military, I’ve pretty much trained myself to get up and keep fighting for the goal, no matter how tired I am.

There’s no whining in war.

But that’s just it–there’s no war on for most of us and I wish we’d quit acting like everything is an emergency.

Lisa Johnson recently asked on Twitter for tips or tricks for dealing with being overwhelmed.  And I was able to respond (with a completely straight face): take a break.

What’s holding you back is you. Tell yourself it’s okay. Remind yourself that the pyramids weren’t built in a day or even a long weekend.

Let’s stop trying to be superheroes. Here’s how you can step away from the to-do list and encourage others to do the same:

  1. Fight the fear.  Vocalize the fear (in the comments if you’re really brave) and you’ll find it has far less power. What are you really afraid of?  Now pay it forward by sending this post to one person who you think needs a break. Tell them it’s okay. Even better, take the plunge first and lead the way.
  2. Vote for freedom. Commit to a date and time for yourself. Let the community hold you accountable. Be specific. When’s that vacation and what will you do with the time?  Did you ask for more time off than you thought you could afford?

Oh crap. I think I just told you what to do.

Well, here goes nothing. Now who’s going with me?