Updated: Jul 10, 2019
Are you overwhelmed? Exhausted? In need of a BIG break?
After 20 years of intense corporate management roles, I was becoming someone I no longer recognized or respected. I was quick to become annoyed, frustrated, and exhausted not only professionally, but also personally. My work days became a series of moments to endure between weekends and meager attempts to survive until my next vacation. I knew I couldn’t continue living this way. Over the span of two years, I prayerfully discerned it was time to step out of the workforce to rest, recharge, and refocus.
In planning my sabbatical, there were three key actions I found useful; perhaps they can help you too.
Key #1: Ask the hard questions. I carefully evaluated the following aspects of my life:
• Soul Search: What does my soul long for? What is God is asking me to do? I prayed daily for clarity and wisdom. I didn’t know if I wanted a change of industry or environment, but I knew I wanted more out of my work and life.
• Evaluate Finances: Can I afford to do this? I spent the first year doing some long overdue financial housekeeping, then took a critical look at my monthly expenses. I started to consider what was essential, including what new expenses would be incurred (hello, increased health insurance premiums!) and what expenses would be cut (goodbye, monthly parking fees!). Be creative and consider what you might forgo if you weren’t exhausted from working.
• Talk with Loved Ones: What do my trusted advisers think? No one lives in a bubble, so it was critical to include my loved ones in the process. Gaining buy-in and emotional support is important, so I started to socialize the idea of a sabbatical with my loved ones 6-12 months before I made my decision.
Key #2: Take some action to gain short term momentum.
• Do Something: Desperate for immediate relief, I needed to gain traction by engaging in restorative activities to make progress in the short term. For me, this meant planning long weekends, taking family vacations, going on personal retreats, and implementing a weekly day of rest (aka Sabbath). I also completed Wake Forest’s Business Essentials in Nonprofit Leadership program to explore the possibility of a shift to the nonprofit sector.
• Research Examples: I researched articles, books, podcasts, TED talks, etc that spoke of the benefits of taking an extended career break. I also reached out to 3- 4 people I knew who had done something similar and listened intently to each one’s experience. Some people returned to their companies, some returned to their industries in a different company, and some changed careers all together, but not one person regretted their sabbatical.
• Explore your options: Given all I had learned, I evaluated my choices. Did I have the energy or time to look for another job effectively? Should I request a personal leave of absence? Or should I ask for a reduction in hours? What would the outcome associated with each option be? I realized that I was no longer passionate about my industry or corporate environment. I wanted to find a way to use my skills and talents to serve others in a new way, but first I needed to rest.
Key #3: Create your vision. Consider both short and longer-term goals.
• Set an Objective: What did I want to do and how did I want to feel as the end of my sabbatical year approached? I have always been energized by loved ones, travel, and learning. So, I started to daydream about a year filled with those meaningful things. I outlined the trips I wanted to take, people I wanted to spend time with, and books I wanted to read. Having a rough plan of what you want to accomplish and how you will spend your time significantly increases your odds for a successful and restorative sabbatical.
• Create a plan: Determine roughly how long your sabbatical will be and what you’ll need to do to prepare. This includes contingency plans for finances and a general transition plan back to the workforce. It was helpful for me to consider what my “worst case scenario” might look like, so I could plan accordingly.
Our society encourages us to wear the “busy” badge with honor and intentional resting is counter-cultural. I’m so glad I went against the norm, and I’m currently enjoying the tenth month of my sabbatical. This pivot toward rest has been the most rejuvenating experience of my life, and I’ve made priceless memories. I have also discovered a new vocational calling as an executive coach and founded Pivot Point Professionals, LLC dedicated to helping executives and professionals make passionate and purposeful changes in their lives. I wish you great success and courage on your journey toward rest!