Is it too late to say Happy New Year? I’m buzzing because I’m lucky enough to have just returned from Portugal, where I spent a lovely week in the sun with my husband. As a result, I’m starting 2023 refreshed and full of beans, much needed in January when long dark days and what can feel like constant drizzle can really lower your mood and energy levels!

Now I realise not everyone will be in a position to jet off to the sunshine, but it’s not just me saying I can highly recommend the benefits of a change of scene, there’s massive amount of research showing that as humans we need regular bouts of time doing something different.

So what do we get from a change of scene?

Being away from your normal setting can give you a new perspective and help you find new ways of approaching things which may have been eluding you before. So if you have been wrestling with a problem – and let’s face it all leaders have problems they deal with – rather than spiralling into self-doubt and anxiety when you have a thorny issue or problem to solve, having a change of scene gives you the opportunity to let your brain come up with new solutions and opportunities that you perhaps couldn’t see a way out of before.

The irony is that we often make our problems into a mountain that sometimes seems too high to climb over. But having a break means our brains suddenly come up with this different perspective or problem solving really spontaneously – meaning the problem can be solved really easily without having to work hard at it!

So even if you can’t go to Madeira for a week (did I say it’s a great place for a holiday?) – well, just a small change can also do the trick! Go for a walk or work from a different space, have a walking meeting. You’d be amazed at the difference even a small change can make.

Whilst we were there, we found ourselves going on a bit of a bear hunt. Not literal bears, but instead we decided to take a trip to a nearby museum. We didn’t bother looking at a map: we knew roughly the direction we needed to go in and it didn’t look far, so off we set for a short, enjoyable stroll.

2 hours later, we arrived at the museum somewhat hot and bothered, after what was less a gentle stroll and more a hardcore hike through the mountains!

If we looked at the map and turned left out of the hotel rather than right, we discovered there was a far easier route which would have got us there on the flat in probably about 20 minutes. Now, you might think, oh, what a shame, Adelle, I bet you were annoyed. But no, not in the least. On our hike, we saw so much that we would have otherwise missed.

We saw some incredible views, and we met locals, lizards and feral cats. It just goes to show that maybe we don’t need to plan our outcomes to the nth degree. It may have seemed like we’d gone in the wrong direction, but ultimately our experience was far richer and far more memorable.

The last thing I want to share from our holiday was our trip to 25 Fontes, an incredible group of waterfalls. It’s a really popular hiking destination in Madeira and promised to be an amazing experience.

25 Waterfalls is deep down in a steep valley and involves you having to drive up to the top of the mountain and walk down many steps and sheer angles to get to the bottom of the valley where you see the amazing 25 waterfalls come together. The peak of the mountain is so high that it is a full 10 degrees cooler than the temperature down below where we were staying.

This isn’t a wee walk – it’s a serious hike – 4 hours in total and I honestly would not have been surprised to see people collapse with the physical exertion of it all – my legs were shaking like jelly at points!

When we reached the bottom and stopped to sit on a rock to eat our cheese rolls I was watching the people all around me (I love watching people, don’t you?). What really struck me was the sheer number of people who were in this amazing place ON THEIR PHONES.

I get that you may want to take pictures for memory’s sake (and really, who still has a camera these days), but watching person after person get that Instagram-perfect shot instead of really taking in the views they had worked so hard to get to broke my heart a little. It was almost as if it had to be recorded for social media, otherwise it hadn’t really happened. Those who weren’t recording were sitting on the rocks, head down scrolling on their phones.

The reality is that living life through a phone isn’t living life! You’re missing way too much!

So my tips and challenges to you this month are:

  • If you need a change of perspective, change your surroundings
  • Let go of needing to have 100% control of an outcome and instead be open to experiences, even if you were expecting something different.
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway!
  • Get off your phone and experience real life!

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