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Sabbaticals that spark change

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

When you're looking for a recharging break and you stumble across so much more

I’m a sabbatical addict and advocate. I’ve taken nine sabbaticals and the tenth is in planning. So I love talking to anyone and everyone about anything to do with sabbaticals! What’s interesting is that so often, the conversation will take twists and turns and we end up talking not about the sabbatical, but of the bigger questions in life.

So often, a sabbatical becomes a spark for change. The journey on what needs to change in your life starts even before the sabbatical begins. Just the process of deciding that you want a sabbatical in the first place starts the proverbial snowball rolling. Why? Because it forces you to answer some of the simplest questions in life (hint… they’re not actually that simple)

It all starts with….

What do you enjoy?

You have to answer this question in order to start planning your sabbatical. Because after all, if you had months of freedom from work and normal life, you probably wouldn’t spend it doing something you didn’t enjoy. Yet, all too often, this is the first big question stumbling block.

When you’re stuck in a life rut, working your butt off and generally not having any fun, the concept of what you enjoy can be such distant a memory as to be almost irretrievable. Some people realise they can’t actually answer this question — they don’t really know anymore. The idea that they could take a few months off to just focus on doing what they love seems unrealistic, irresponsible, if not ludicrous. Pessimism walks in and takes a seat at the table, followed by fear, then sadness dawdles in behind and they all tuck into a delightfully average bowl of status quo soup.

Believing a sabbatical is possible for you all hinges on you getting so excited about the idea of having a long break of freedom to do the thing you love, that the barriers you once thought were boulders, become pebbles. Once you grab hold of the dream of a sabbatical, the questions — where, when, how, how much — suddenly become answerable. But whilst practical, they’re not the biggest questions you’ll answer, and they’re definitely not the most important.

Once you’re actually on sabbatical, you’ll have the time to rest, recharge and focus on fun. When you’re relaxed and doing the things you love, you become the most natural, authentic, happy version of yourself. That’s when the magic happens. That’s when life really comes into focus and you can start asking the big questions

Am I happy?

What’s next?

What’s really important to me?

Who am I?

Who do I want to be?

As soon as those questions pop up, the spark of change is ignited. Having freedom from the constraints of normal life means that it’s much more likely you’ll have some new insights. I often tell people on sabbatical to not even bother seeking to answer any big questions at least for the first half of their sabbatical. It gives your mind time to transition to a state where you can be open to the possibilities the big answers might bring, rather than running tired and terrified at the prospect of change.

There’s no question that a sabbatical will change you. The depths of that change and the degree to which you make real changes in your life is all about your determination when you get back to normal life. Normal life is suspended on sabbatical. The sabbatical itself doesn’t change your life. Your actions when you return home will change your life. A sabbatical is a chance to discover what you want, what’s important and who you are, while getting supercharged energy and inspiration to make it happen when you get home.

So…. Dare to dream…. How would you enjoy months of freedom?


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