Why Take a Sabbatical: 3 of the Most Common Reasons

Photo by: Tim Tiedemann on Upslash

Photo by: Tim Tiedemann on Upslash

If you’ve long thought that you'd love to take a sabbatical, I’ve got some practical tips, inspiration, and solidarity for you today.
Since taking my sabbatical – and helping others with their own – I’ve noticed that the beginning stages can be a little lonely.
Basically, with a sabbatical, you’re contemplating doing something that steps far out of line with typical expectations about what you should do with your life: go to college, build a career, buy a house, get married, have kids, work more, take a two-week vacation every year, and retire at age 65.
Within this culture, when you’re thinking of doing something totally different and risky – like taking a long period of time off -- it can feel like you're all alone in this crazy idea.

Until, that is, you find the right support.
Season 1 of my new podcast, Leap Like Me (available in September), tells a variety of stories from individuals and families who have taken sabbaticals.

If you’re considering a similar adventure, you’ll find loads of practical advice and encouragement here.
These interviews have reminded me that despite how unique it seems to take a big chunk of time off in our culture, many of us shared the same motivations when we set out on our journeys.

Top reasons why people take sabbaticals

Everyone I’ve talked to – and myself included – took the sabbatical leap with one or more of these intentions:
1. To rediscover who you are outside the busy, plugged-in, money-making world.     
Growing up, you start to collect ideas of who you are and who you want to be. You dream about how you’ll be when you grow up. Then, you get swept up into the working world and the pragmatic need to make money to support yourself.
Until you reach a point in life where you wonder:

  • What happened to that adventurous person I know is inside me?
  • When am I ever going to get the time to explore all these places on my list?
  • What about my love for experiencing new cultures and learning new languages?
  • What about the fact that I love to make things, and I haven’t had time to make anything in a really long time?
  • Why am I working so much, if spending time with my loved ones is the most important thing?

The fact is that we are all much more than our money-making selves. A sabbatical is a radical way to reclaim our wholeness, and a chance to redesign our lives so it finds a better balance.
Many people talk about how a break from working is also a break from consumerism and materialism.

People often mention that an unexpected (and welcome) outcome of their sabbatical was that they are now more conscientious about how they spend both their money and their time.  
2. A sense that it’s time to mix things up.
In most cases, a sabbatical is an expression of a desire to live life to the fullest – and the sense that you’re not quite living up to that ideal right now.
You might receive a dramatic wake-up call (or series of them) such as a health scare, a layoff or even a bigger personal tragedy. Or you might simply start to hear a quiet but insistent internal voice saying that it’s time for a change.
No matter the messenger, what you’re being asked to do is to push outside your comfort zone to discover what more there is for you out there.

(P.S. That little voice doesn't go away.)
3. Burnout.
You know what? It’s okay to be tired. It’s also okay to take time for yourself to recover. 
There are a lot of messages in our culture – especially corporate America – that a person can always be "On" and consistently on top of her game, and that taking breaks is for the weak or the lazy.
These kinds of standards are unrealistic, unhealthy, and unkind.
A number of people I’ve talked to were prompted to take their sabbaticals to finally recover from health issues brought on by stress and anxiety, including even panic attacks and chronic pain.
Many sabbatical takers also talk about wanting to disengage from email, texts, and social media – all that rapid responsiveness that we’re expected to have 24/7.
The pressures of our culture are so strong that some even described the shame they felt about “not being strong enough” and having to take time for themselves. It can take courage to stand up for your own health in this type of work culture.

These reasons are also the rewards

Given these reasons, you probably understand why I haven’t heard anyone regret their decision to take time off.
Think about how great it is to:

  • Feel like you’re living up to who you want to be and to your most important values. 
  • Discover that there is a richer, more fulfilling way to live your life.
  • Restore your health and feel better than you’ve ever felt before.

Are you motivated by any of these same reasons when you think of taking a sabbatical or other countercultural leap?

Would you love to see results like these in your own life?
Here’s a great (but limited) opportunity if you're tired of feeling stuck with your own big leap, for you to finally:

  • Get clarity about what you really want
  • Find the energy to get moving
  • Identify your immediate next steps

I’m freeing up a couple of hours in the next week to help move 5 action-takers from lost and stuck to taking their next steps to a new, more satisfying life.  
There’s just one catch. Given all my podcast launch prep, I’m not sure when I’ll have time to do this again. Grab your 20-minute slot with me now.

Can’t wait to talk!