Entrepreneurs are a rare breed. They’re not afraid to create their own path to success and financial stability amid several hurdles and risks. This is true no matter how small their business may be.
That being said, they’re not completely immune from getting exhausted with life’s daily challenges. In some cases, they might even feel more burnt out than their employees. According to studies, life satisfaction and happiness are lowest among people facing midlife, from 30 to 50 years. This phase is called the u-bend. Researchers think that age isn’t only to blame, as marital and occupational conditions may be more significant factors for this phenomenon. (1)
Thus, people in this age bracket often find themselves wanting to take a midlife gap year, or a break from how they normally run their lives. Rather than treating it as a money-sapping exercise, a brief or long hiatus may be one of the best investments an entrepreneur can make. Here’s a breakdown of the matter.
Why people get ‘exhausted’
Taking a respite from work and business can help improve your perspective and outlook. Studies have shown that psychological detachment, or avoiding non-work activities outside job hours, serves as a good recovery exercise for people looking for a new sense of purpose. (2)
Inversely, job stressors are linked to low levels of psychological detachment. Unsurprisingly, excessive attachment to work or your business leads to low levels of well-being, reducing levels of satisfaction and resulting in burnout. (2)
So, what’s in a midlife gap year?
- A gap year will do you good
Business savvy people think out of the box to come up with unique business ideas. If you’re stuck in a rut and have noticed that you lost your drive to push your staff and your business to excel, taking a breather will do you good.
As mentioned in the previous section, psychological detachment is a good coping mechanism for when you’re feeling demotivated. Step away from the daily grind and think about something else while enjoying the view from your beachside hut. You’ll come back energized and ready to tackle new challenges.
- It enhances self- resiliency
Stress arising from work and life challenges are the main contributors to midlife crisis, and it can also exacerbate the symptoms if it remains unaddressed. When you lose your sense of purpose, you tend to lose sight of other things that matter too. When taking a midlife break, you’re exposed to new experiences, some great and some not-so-stellar. But you have to go with the flow and be prepared for what life throws at you.
Most midlife gap years are taken abroad where people speak a different language and may have contrasting customs and traditions. Without immersing yourself in a new culture, you may continue to see the world in a myopic view—unable to empathize and adapt to drastic changes. Not having these critical traits can be disadvantageous to your business, especially if you belong to the service industry.
- It means new experiences and new discoveries
Most midlife gap takers have discovered a thing or two about their “hidden talents.” This isn’t surprising. In most cases, being a stranger in a new place can bring out the traits that you might have kept hidden, unintentionally or intentionally. If you’re a business person who feels lost and without a purpose, a break can help you restore and recover your zest for life.
You may discover that you can connect with people easily despite language barriers. Such a case is good news to entrepreneurs who need to validate their personal relations skills. For business owners on the opposite side of the coin, a midlife gap year may be a good time to hone this skill. In business, it’s crucial that you establish connections and engagement with your clients. This holds whether you’re conducting business online or in–person.
- You can use it to learn new skills
Besides obtaining a breather from stress, some midlife gap takers seize the opportunity to learn new skills. It’s never too late to learn, whether you want to switch to another business or learn new skills to help improve your company.
Some learn a new language and hone their skills in crisis management or accounting. Others take up a new hobby such as cooking, photography, or interior design. No matter what you desire, there’s no stopping you from taking a pause to pursue your long-held dreams. (3)
- You might become a better person
Besides running a business, most entrepreneurs have expectations of who they’ll be or what their lives will be once they turn 50. If everything they hoped for is wholly detached from where they are currently, a midlife gap year can be an excellent time to study how to become the best version of themselves. For instance, a business executive for several US companies decided to switch careers in the academe and move to Africa. There, he realized he didn’t need to prove himself to the world; rather he felt his purpose was to teach crucial skills to future African leaders. (4)
If you’re one of the many who think that a gap year is nothing but a reason to take a costly and lengthy overseas trip, you may have to rethink your current status. In fact, in most cases, doing nothing can actually prepare you to do everything.
- “Mind the Gap in the Middle: A Call to Study Midlife”, Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734389/
- “Recovery from job stress: The stressor-detachment model as an integrative framework”, Source: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/job.1924
- “A Guide To Taking A Gap Year Or Gap Time In Midlife”, Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2019/08/15/a-guide-to-taking-a-gap-year-or-gap-time-in-midlife/?sh=4b1cf6a13c2c
- “After 2020, we all need a gap year”, Source: https://fortune.com/2020/12/25/gap-year-advice-midlife-innovation-jim-olson-syracuse-university-newhouse/