Since the year we got married, Matt and I have made an effort to visit Disney World in Orlando, FL., at least once per year.
It might be for one day, or it may be for one week. Regardless of the time – we strategically invest financially and structurally within our calendars to make a trip happen. And while the budget and timeline may prove difficult to pan out sometimes, the rewards are always worth it.
From a first glance to most, it seems like we are Disney fanatics. It appears we're the type of people who eat, breath, and sleep anything by Walt Disney. Maybe in actuality, this is only 50 percent true...). But the other 50 percent of our perpetual return to the same rides, same parks, and same dining options actually stems off of motives that are surprising to most.
Interestingly enough, we aren’t even the only ones who feel this way. As we’ve experienced through personal conversations, many younger and older leaders alike share an appreciation for Disney for the same reasons we do.
It’s not necessarily because of the need to relive childhood dreams. It’s not because of immaturity or to live out mantras from Peter Pan such as “Never Grow Up.” Instead, the reasons across the board are fascinatingly based out of leadership principles and purposes connected to faith.
So, just for the fun of it, here are three reasons as to why we visit Disney World every year:
1. It’s one of the only places I can mentally check-out.
My husband is much better than I am at separating his mind from work when on vacations. Normally, if I’m not engaged in an activity or conversation 24/7 during any trip, I’m tempted to get some work done. It takes almost two to three days of being fully disconnected from the outside world for my mind to relax during our time together.
So – since it’s a greater hassle and distraction to get work done IN Disney… I leave the phone and laptop in the hotel room taking only my agenda of fun through the main gate. And despite the sore feet after walking 10+ miles per day, it’s amazing what a refreshed, unplugged mind can do for you when returning back home.
Mental health is a necessity in the life of any leader. You can’t lead and give your team 100 percent when you’re running on empty, and this applies to all areas of life: physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social, etc. (Add in an “-al” that I missed).
As a church leader specifically, I’ve seen and experienced that it is quite possible to be spiritually full but mentally drained.
While the different areas of exhaustion can definitely coincide and are not mutually exclusive to another, there are seasons during each year where the most spiritual thing you can do in the life of leader is get a shot in the arm of joy, laughter and love by experiencing this great life God has given us. It will serve as an excellent reminder of what’s important in life, sending you back home rejuvenated to lead well.
So if riding theme park rides, taking pictures with strangers in costumes, and watching the same sing-a-long shows every year gets me to put down the phone, put away the computer and unwind – then I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Any Disney related place may not be the spot for you to do so, but there is a place that will. For some of my fellow leaders, that sweet spot is camping in National Parks. For others, it’s taking a cruise or sleeping the week away near a beach.
Whatever you need to do, be like that company with a checkmark logo, and just do it.
2. I’m inspired to grow in excellence and vision.
By the time we spend only a few days in Disney disconnected, I’m already inspired and ready to get home and continue working toward the vision God has put inside our hearts.
It’s very difficult as a leader to not leave Disney inspired. Through short films, signage, centerpieces and more, this corporation will clearly communicate a story of how what you’re experiencing in real time living all began with just the sketch of a mouse in 1928.
It’s a true tale of legacy, of being able to see what others can’t and eagerly work towards it despite the remarks and opinions of people.
The cherry on top is the excellence of everything. The park is consistently spotless. Cast members have a gold standard to live up to of being friendly and attentive. The detail that goes into story telling is remarkable. It’s an environment that will challenge any leader to leave questioning, “How can I do better?”
Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my husband about culture, quality and servanthood has been on day three or four of our WDW trip sitting on the PeopleMover (literally people watching) and dreaming about the future.
Excellence breeds excellence. Inspiration inspires vision. Vision is essential.
3. I’m given an eternal perspective.
At least once every trip, Matt and I find ourselves stuck in a traffic jam of people in one of the parks. There’s really nothing you can do in those situations except rub shoulders with fellow guests and baby step to your destination.
Once moving past our original frustrations of crowds, something incredible always happens. Tuning out my thoughts, I can usually hear different languages all at once.
Specially thinking of one occasion, on our left were people speaking French. On our right were those with British accents. I heard some Spanish in there and definitely some languages we’ve never even heard before. Looking into their faces, I saw all different skin tones, a variety of attire representative of each culture and an eclectic sea of multi-cultural phenomenon. Each one so different, yet every person still a person. Unified and divided by cultural worlds at the same time.
My first thought was comforting. “This must be a glimpse of what Heaven is like, such unalike people brought together for eternity holding the same Hope.”
And then the second sobering thought always floods in. “But not everyone knows Christ. Not everyone in this immediate area knows Christ. Not everyone in my community knows Christ. Not everyone in my family knows Christ.”
And I leave challenge and inspired once again – but in a more urgent way than mentioned earlier.
Maybe I’m over spiritualizing my vacations today. But also, maybe I’m not.
So, here's some final thoughts: Maybe vacations are not financially feasible. Maybe "rest" evades your trips because you have to bring the kids. We've been on many long trips and short weekend trips to know that vacation isn't always a positive.
In some cases, we've come home even more exhausted. We've come home before and told each other, "I feel like I need a vacation." Regardless, it's essential to engage with these questions:
- Where do you go to unplug?
- Where do you go to be inspired?
- What can you do to bring your focus back to where it matters most?
For us -- that's Disney World. For some of our friends that's pulling up their camper to a park for a few days or literally checking into a hotel room down the road for the weekend. Whatever that looks like for you, as leaders we must schedule time to unplug, be inspired, and re-direct our focus every once in a while.