I wished and wished for the chance to take a sabbatical: a backpack, a camera, and a ticket to travel all around the globe. Well, lucky me. My wish came true. But it happened during 2020 and let’s just say that things turned out a little differently because of COVID-19. Instead of exploring, I found myself in a strict lockdown in Paris. I was permitted go for a run in the park and go to the supermarket once a day… during the winter, too! Far from my ideal definition of a sabbatical.
But months later, I can confidently say that it was a blessing. Even through the difficult circumstances, I learnt more about myself in one year than I had in a decade. I used all that invaluable time to self-reflect, to work on myself, and to learn how to enjoy this journey called, life. And now, I’d like to share my learnings with you.
The greatest traveller is not the one who has been around the world 10 times, but the one who has been around himself only once.
1. Deep self-reflection allows you to uncover your authentic-self
The multiple lockdowns, travels restrictions, and not having the daily pressure of work removed all distractions from the outside world. It presented genuine conditions for self-reflection. You eventually start to ask yourself deep questions like: Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I want? These questions have no straightforward answer and are perhaps the questions you have avoided asking yourself over the years.
We are spoilt for choice with self-development books, videos, and articles, which can also be quite overwhelming. Where should you start in your search for answers? I turned to coaching, which proved to be invaluable. You learn to remove the masks that life forces us to wear with somebody by your side, holding up a mirror for yourself. You eventually uncover your authentic self: the real you.
2. Being in the present moment shapes better relationships
We all say things like: “I would love to, but I’m too busy!”. Too busy to go to the gym; too busy to read that book; too busy to start that new hobby; or to spend time with your family or friends… And suddenly when you have the time – plenty of time – you’re not stressed. Time, which was once your enemy, becomes your friend. A paradigm shifts!
You start spending valuable time with your loved ones. And importantly, with yourself. Your attitude is likely to change. You’re becoming more relaxed, more present, more grounded. You can look around and start to see the beauty surrounding you. You step away from your phone. You really start to listen. There are no more minor emergencies needing your immediate attention, constantly distracting you from the present moment. You become fully present and mindful.
3. Infinite opportunities surround you
Being trapped in the funnel of life, we tend to somehow become narrow minded: working in the same company for years, hanging out in the same circles. We conform to what society expects from us. A sabbatical allows you to step outside of the bubble and live at your own rhythm. You can close your eyes. Breathe. When you open your eyes, infinite opportunities can surround you.
Perhaps you take more time to read, to talk to different people, and eventually find a new path. I met many wonderful people over this past year (mainly on Zoom!), from different backgrounds and cultures. Each individual helped me in my thought process and guided me towards new opportunities I had never thought about. A sabbatical allows you to step out of your comfort zone and embrace a new destiny. You eventually find your purpose. You start making bold decisions. I chose to become an entrepreneur, embracing the uncertainty, freedom, and joy that partners it.
4. You constantly learn how to adapt to the new world
We live in a fast-paced world. The pandemic accelerated the pace of change in many ways, too. Therefore, we need to constantly adapt our lives and reinvent our organisations. Taking a break from our usual, hectic schedules is the first step towards helping us on the road to regeneration. You are allowing yourself to become more flexible and to adopt a growth mindset. The learning never ends, and this is key to a fulfilled and happy life. Throughout my sabbatical, I started to invest in myself via coaching. I grew – and continue to grow – becoming a better version of myself every day.
5. Connection of heart, mind and soul will elevate you
Do you ever feel like you’re living your life on auto-pilot? From the moment we wake up, we go through our endless to-do lists: go to work; check the time; don’t be late for x, y, z; drop the kids off; back-to-back meetings; grocery shopping; catching the train; and bla-bla-blah! We are so overwhelmed by our thoughts. Switching off the auto-pilot teaches you to listen to your inner self. So, think about the last time you had a quiet moment for yourself. Were you able to delve deep and listen to inner voices without allowing your thoughts to lead the way? I know, it’s quite hard, right?
The game-changer for me was meditating. I’d tried it before my sabbatical and found it impossible. Even yoga was something I stopped practicing because I was “too busy”. Now, I meditate daily. It has helped me to deeply connect and raise my self-awareness.
In a world which values performance, achievement, and hustling, taking a sabbatical is unconventional. Even rebellious! But most importantly, it should become a priority towards self-care, guiding us to define the life we truly want. The sabbatical has an end, but the benefits are ongoing. All my learnings are now part of my next chapter.
Talk to people who took a sabbatical. I’m sure they have some wisdom to share with you.
Consider taking a sabbatical, too. Remember, it’s never too late!