Being On Sabbatical: 3 Months of Bliss, Clarity and Discovery
As a man acts, so does he become. As a man's desire is, so is his destiny.
~ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, c1400-c 800 BCE
The Upanishads, Swami Prabhavanada & Frederick Manshester, trs., 1975
It's been a little over two years ago when I watched Stefan Sagmeister's TED Talk The Power of Time Off. I recall thinking after watching his testimonial talk that I had just experienced an Aha moment-- one of those times in my life where I realize I've uncovered a pearl concealed in one of life's oysters.
Motivated by the talk to take action, I did a Google search on the subject of professionals taking extended leave Sabbaticals. Google returned a list of websites that provided a rich set of resources to get me off to a good start. Visiting my local library's website, I downloaded several books that were listed on some of the sabbatical websites I had found. These first actions set into motion the making of what would be my first extended 6-month Sabbatical that began in the Summer of 2016.
"In the beginning, on the first sabbatical, it was rather disastrous. I had thought that I should do this without any plan, that this vacuum of time somehow would be wonderful and enticing for idea generation. It was not." --Stefan Sagmeister
Stefan's TED talk emphasized the need to plan a Sabbatical. His advice was echoed by the authors of several of the books I was reading on the subject. I began my Sabbatical planning by reflecting on what I wanted to do and accomplish while on my first extended leave Sabbatical.
As I thought about taking an extended break from the day-to-day that have become my daily routine, I realized I was seriously overdue for a vacation. Sabbaticals are not vacations by any stretch of the imagination. I could no longer ignore the fact, however, that my last vacation was such a distant memory that I could not recall the year I had taken time off to relax and reflect on my life. So, before embarking on my Sabbatical, I decided to take a much overdue and long-deserved vacation.
Two of the goals I had set for myself in the previous year included traveling abroad to a country I've never visited, and getting back to my love of journaling.
Why not plan a vacation abroad and write about the experience? This would enable me to take my long overdue vacation and provide me with an opportunity to return to journaling, by writing about this new experience visiting another country.
With this idea in mind, I began to write my plan for an extended leave sabbatical, which would follow a three-week vacation abroad.
After several weeks of reading about taking sabbaticals and researching strategies that could make my sabbatical a reality, I began to engage my plan, knowing that taking action would indeed manifest what I needed to make my sabbatical a reality in my life.
Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most.
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1821- 1881
Part of my Sabbatical plan was to dip my toe in the water by experiencing a week-long micro-Sabbatical break with my son, Dakotah. The together time invested with my son during that week-long break provided us with an opportunity to work on special projects together. We also had the opportunity to talk about important things that we never seem to be able to find the time during the week to discuss.
In the short span of a week, my son an I experienced benefits from taking even a short week off from the day-to-day routine.
We spend, I am very certain, the half our time among people that we do not particularly like and on things that do not particularly amuse us, and consequently have no time for the people and things that do really matter to us.
~ Alec Waugh, 1898 - 1981, On Doing What One Likes, 1926
Returning to Denver, I continued to develop my sabbatical plan, growing more eager as events and opportunities unfurled before me, as my plan transitioned to becoming a reality.
In May of 2016, an opportunity surfaced that would provide for a three-week vacation in South America beginning July 1st.
After notifying my employer that I would not be renewing my contract at the end of June, I updated my sabbatical plan to reflect first taking a vacation in Colombia, South America.
If you could get up the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.
~ David Viscott, 1938 - 1996.
My plan stated that my sabbatical project work would begin after my return from vacation in August, and continue uninterrupted through the end of the year.
On July 1st 2016, with suitcases packed, airline tickets and passport in hand, I embarked on a three-week vacation in Armenia, Colombia.
My time in Armenia and the surrounding countryside was absolutely amazing. I met people from all walks of life, made several new friends, engaged a different culture and lifestyle than what I was accustomed to, and saw first-hand the beauty of the countryside and the people.
When I returned from my Colombian vacation In August, I officially began my sabbatical, by working full-time on all of the projects I had outlined in my sabbatical plan.
Gifting myself with control of my own time and direction, I now had the freedom I needed to work uninterrupted for days on end, on projects and activities that were important to me and would shape my life experience going forward.
The self-mastered man or woman sets himself or herself apart. He or she is like a tree grown in fertile ground. It grows green and doubles its yield of fruit.
~ Book of Declarations of Virtues, in Kemet and the African Worldview, Maulana Karenga and Jacob Carruthers, eds,. 1986
After four months of sabbatical leave, I've completed a long list of projects. I've gained a significant amount of knowledge, experience and skills that I would not have gained had I decided to pass on the idea of taking time off to reflect and focus on what's important in my life.
I'm filled with gratitude and appreciation for the day that I was fortunate to listen to Stefan talk about the power of taking time off.
"And probably most importantly, basically everything we've done in the seven years following the first sabbatical came out of thinking of that one single year." --Stefan Sagmeister
Taking extended time off provides us with time for deep thought and reflection. Once we grant ourselves time off to reflect, we grant ourselves the freedom we need to truly discover all of the wonderful things in our life that lie just ahead of us in our life journey.
When you say you don't have the time, you are talking about priorities. For all of us, death is around the corner, we are all on death row and the only certainty is the method of execution and the length of reprieve. Don't ever say you don't have the time for important things, like love and nurturing and affection and tenderness and relationship and God, because before you know it, the present life will be over.
~ Deepak Chopra, 1947 -
It's early morning just after Thanksgiving holiday, as I gaze out of a window in my new home in Tampa Bay, Florida. It's 72 degrees outside, warm and sunny, with the weeks forecast projecting much the same for the remainder of the week.
The life I now am enjoying in my new home is the product of the power of taking time off. When I granted myself precious time to reflect on my life and consider how I want to continue to live it, the path forward became clear.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
~ Laozi. c. 570 - 490 BCE, Daode Jing
It's my hope and prayer that you will reflect and take action on what I've shared with you in this article. Consider the power of taking time off, the impact it can have in your life and the life of those who are important to you.
Reference and Resources
The Power of Time Off. (Stefan Sagmeister, TED Talk, July 2009)