The Case for a Sabbatical


Why a sabbatical may be the best thing for your work and quality of life 

During a time when buzz words like “the great resignation” abound in the media, we’re forced to reckon with what’s not working about how we work. As a coach, I have helped countless people know when and if it’s time to quit their jobs. But what if you don’t need to quit? What if you just need to take a long, intentional break? 

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the trend to take a sabbatical has officially arrived. Consider that financial giant “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. started offering six-week unpaid sabbaticals to people who have been with the bank for at least 15 years, following an early 2021 move by Citigroup Inc. to give employees in North America with at least five years of service up to 12 weeks off at 25% of their base pay. A Citigroup spokeswoman said more than 200 employees have been approved to take sabbaticals as part of this program,” according to WSJ. Clearly, the sabbatical is more than just a trend followed by your more spiritual and adventurous types – this is something happening on a large scale across many industries and types of work. 

Why take a sabbatical? 

Because we’re here to make an impact, not simply be workhorses. Your impact on this planet is built day by day, and for many people, it takes decades to build. When you’re playing the long game, it’s important that you don’t give up on yourself. And because it’s life, there will inevitably be times for most of us when we will be tempted to give up. Enter burnout. 

Recognize burnout.

There’s a famous saying: “learn to rest, not to quit.” This is brilliant, but perhaps easier said than done. Firstly, I’d like to clarify that burnt out need not be a prerequisite for a sabbatical – you can take one from a place of feeling great! However, for many, the nod to take a sabbatical comes from recognizing burnout and/or a strong desire to make changes in one’s work and perspective. Recognizing burnout is like a superpower that will help you know when to press pause rather than self-destructively burn your life to the ground. 

You may be burnt out if… 

-You feel irritable on the regular. Are you snapping at people more often? Do you find yourself mumbling under your breath or instigating more conflict than usual? 

-You’re very easily frustrated. Things weigh you down and feel like roadblocks. In general, you feel a lack of resilience.

-You experience difficulty feeling gratitude or joy. Perhaps you used to love elements of your job or relationships with employees and co-workers. Lately, you feel resentful and are jaded. 

-You experience mental and physical exhaustion. I’m not talking about feeling tired from a long day of work. I mean that you feel exhausted and struggle to muster the energy for basic tasks.

– You’ve lost motivation. You may find it lacking for most things, even the things you once enjoyed. You generally feel dejected about facing tasks. 

-You’ve lost excitement about the future. In fact, you may dread the future, period. 

If any or all of this resonates, take a deep breath and acknowledge that you’re burnt out!

So, you’ve decided to take a sabbatical. What’s next?

Making the decision to take a sabbatical is an accomplishment, don’t let anyone tell you differently! You may be wondering: Do I structure my time off? Is this just a vacation? Remember, this is for you, your career, well-being, and creativity. It helps to have goals and intentions for your sabbatical, especially if you’re leaving a situation where your life was previously very structured. I suggest that you set intentions for your sabbatical, but also be open for them to change and evolve. This openness to change – a loose structure – is part of why you’re doing this. 

A few ways to create structure and intention for your sabbatical: 

  • Create a syllabus, if you will. 
  • Structure a timeline with how you will use your time – actually use your planner and calendar! You’ll have this to return to in case you start to feel lost (it happens).
  • Define your goals and look into options to obtain your goals. Do you want to study something? Spend more time with a musical instrument? Become more involved at your children’s school? Make it practical and actionable. 
  • Bring clarity to what you’d regret if you don’t accomplish “it” within your sabbatical and make sure that “thing” is at the top of your priority list. 

This is for you and your impact on this planet

Friends, it’s no coincidence that the words sabbatical and sabbath are related. Yes, make goals, consider your future career, and create a modicum of structure. But remember this is bigger: your sabbatical can be about strengthening your relationship to life, the universe, “G-D”, yourself. You may want to spend more time in meditation or prayer, simply allowing your nervous system to attune to life off the capitalist clock. That alone is enough! 

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