A time out to step off your busy life, contemplate a question, or consider your future.

Some academics get a chance to do this every 7 years. This often takes them outside their lecturing and other work with students, it is often still work, but different, where they work on academic research and publishing.

I write about retirement which could be seen as the ultimate sabbatical but before this major step why not try things out for size?

Perhaps to take 6 months a few years before you were thinking of a retirement plan so you can try out different options, see what works best for you and perhaps to steer you into a direction you would have never considered.

I’m staying at Modern Elder Academy for a couple of weeks for their sabbatical session. There is some light programming, some very interesting people, and conversations, and time to do what’s important for you. For me it is a time to reflect and to step outside of my normal life.

Yesterday we were able to have a deep conversation with DJ Didonna who has been researching sabbaticals and his articles have been published in Time, The Atlantic, New York Times and more.

He asked us the same question he asked on his research:

What would you do if you had 6 months off? Would you travel, spend more time with a loved one, learn a new skill?

It can take 6-8 weeks to fully unplug from work, so a sabbatical needs to be for several months. Some people wonder if they can find this time, what will employers think and what about their responsibilities, but in the context of a 50 year working life, 6 months is just 1% of the time.

My answer to this question now is very different to if I had answered 5 years ago. Now, for me it is less about doing and more about being. Time to cook well, take up bee keeping, and spend more time to be in nature.

If going on a sabbatical it is helpful to set an intention, otherwise you can drift and end up returning to work without much having changed to when you went away.

We talked about our own reasons for taking sabbaticals in our life and he shared some of his research. This included that you can divide people into 3 camps: The Explorer, The Seeker and The adventurer.

With the Explorer the focus is out there – they want to travel, or perhaps to try out a new job. The Seeker is more focused on the inward journey, seeking the answer to one of life’s deep question or where to go next. The third group is the Achiever. For them it is about getting something done. It could be to write their book, perhaps to certify as a diver or yoga teacher. Perhaps to immerse themselves in learning a new language.

You can take the quiz on his website to discover your sabbatical style.

10 years ago I may well have been in the Achiever category, travelling with my laptop. Still working but from a different location. But now ….

I came out as a Seeker which fits well with me. I’ve worked so hard, done so much these last 5 years, this is now time for me to get outside of my normal life to consider what is truly right for me over these next 5 years and beyond. Yes, I’ll be writing my book, and will continue with some paid work, but what? … I’ll have more clarity after my time here.

People worry about taking a sabbatical. There is the cost angle, but some people will rent out their home, it can be how it appears to others, and what about their responsibilities such as childcare and pets.

The 3 main benefits of a sabbatical are

  1. To step back and gain perspective
  2. To gain more tools for change – more confidence and lowered risk aversion
  3. To improve longer term health and happiness by taking time to focus on quality of relationships

And many companies are sponsoring people to take sabbaticals, with 80% returning to their company, and the positive impact on potential employees is highly beneficial.

What are your thoughts on having a sabbatical? Could you? Would you? Will you? …