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Sabbatical fears - how to overcome them

In a world that rewards the relentless pursuit of productivity, it’s sometimes hard to give ourselves permission to take a break. Just the process of considering taking a sabbatical can illicit many fears and anxiety.

Fears are the most common reason for people not giving themselves permission to take a sabbatical. Here are the most common fears and how to overcome them.

Will people find out they don’t need me if I’m away?

Response: You are where you are in your career because you’ve worked hard and deserve to be there. You won’t be ‘found out’ as an imposter or valueless if you take a break. People will realise the value you deliver. You’ve built up years of experience and no one can take that away from you. Tenure and loyalty are assets that are valued. Trust in yourself and your abilities. You deserve a break.

Will my important projects/clients will be ruined if I’m not there to step in?

Response: What would your team do if you were hit by a bus? They would be shocked and sad and ultimately, they would step in, and the work would get done. With a sabbatical, you have complete control over the plan and the planning. You can prepare people to take the reins while you’re away. It’s also a great chance to take the pressure off you. Being the only person who knows how things are done isn’t a source of power. It’s a potential source of failure for the company. Give others the opportunity to learn, grow and step in. That will give you the chance to return and step up to more value added and strategic priorities.

Is it a waste of money?

Response: Being financially responsible doesn’t mean never spending money. You work hard. You save hard. You deserve to enjoy your hard-earned money. Make good choices that balance your financial wellbeing and your enjoyment of life. Spending money to rest, recharge and refocus is money well spent. Invest in yourself and building a life of experiences.

It’s too hard to take time off. There’s too much to do.

Response: There’s a common saying “no one on their deathbed wished they spent more time at work”. This is your chance to live life. Make memories. Do something you’ve always dreamed of. Yes, it takes time to prepare and make sure work and clients will be looked after. But you will always remember your sabbatical and what you did. If you don’t take the sabbatical and spend those months at work, those months will disappear in a blur of routine. Take the time to make memories. It will be worth it.

My boss will never say yes.

Response: If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. You lose nothing by asking. Furthermore, the people you work for believe it’s important to take time out, to recharge, refocus and to reward long serving employees like you. They know there is more to life than work and they want you to go and live your life. With careful planning, honest communication and a willingness to compromise, everyone should be able to enjoy a sabbatical.

Ask yourself these questions to help you reflect and overcome fears

1) What is the biggest thing holding you back from taking a sabbatical?

2) Which of the fears listed above resonate most strongly for you? Why?

3) If you were talking to a friend about your fears, what advice would they give you?

4) If you don’t take a sabbatical, what will you regret?

5) What would it take for you to commit to taking a sabbatical?

Whatever your fears, acknowledge them and challenge if they are true or not. Work though the fears rationally rather than avoiding or denying them. If this is particularly challenging for you, get some help from a trusted friend, therapist, or coach.


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