On learning from my sabbatical

At the end of 2015 I left work with no clear next step. I knew it was time to take a chance in life and figure out what inspired me to give my best contributions to the world. A year later I’ve enjoyed my sabbatical, finished my Masters degree at LSE, sold my house and moved to London, started a new job for the RSA and completed a half marathon at the Great North Run. Rarely can I have summed up so much activity, brain ache and heart ache in such a short sentence. 

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster, to the extent that I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy without a full-on life again. Well, maybe just a little less full-on. So I’ve reflected on what I’ve learned as a result of taking a chance in life. This is no ‘ten things’ list, just what comes to mind.

Space. I realised the value of creating some space in my life to tend to the future, to figure out my next steps. This is almost impossible to do when working full time due to limitations of time and cognitive capacity. 

Clarity of reflection. I was in need of a time out. Far more burned-out than I realised. And the absurdity of office life crystallises. By which I mean the value of what you do is actually only a small part of the day; the things that truly matter can get drowned out by routine and politics. 

Self-reliance. If I didn’t figure out my next steps, no-one else sure as hell was going to.

The value of time over money. You’re really not as wedded to a certain income level as you think you are. Reflect and figure it out. My worst case scenario: sell everything and go travelling for a year to see all the places on my bucket list, then come back transformed and move forwards. Doesn’t sound like a ‘worst case scenario’ does it? 

Think the unthinkable. I kept asking myself ‘what’s the worst than can happen?’ and the answers were never that scary. It’s ok to take a risk to figure out the answers. Because, assuming you’re proactive, you’ll usually land on your feet, like a cat. It’s ok to jump and not know where you’re going to land. 

The value of a few close friends and relationships. Those people who always say ‘wow go for it’ and encourage and support without judging. I received support and guidance and ideas from people I never thought would give so freely of their time and experience, and I valued every single contribution. And those that said ‘are you crazy?!’ – well, that was generally the last I heard from them.  

When you cast out into the world you never know what’s going to happen next. But the world really does move in mysterious ways. I realised I had stopped embracing the glorious uncertainty of life. And if you don’t cast yourself out into the world, sure as heck nothing exciting will happen. 

Stretching your comfort zone is the only answer to living life to the full. I knew if my palms were prickling I was in the right space. I know, too, that I’ll look back at this time in years to come and be so grateful I took this road. The bigger risk, what I think is the biggest risk of all, is to live a life where we play it safe. 

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