I have told many professionals I have counseled they should take a sabbatical about every 7-10 years. That is not only good psychological advice, it is great career advice. Anyone involved in helping people or educational endeavors gets stale and routine because of working with people so much.
Yet in all of my advice-giving, I have never taken a sabbatical. Shame on me.
Even this one was “forced” upon me by a superior and by my board. They saw some tell-tale signs of exhaustion that I had missed. Fortunately, I had a year to plan this trip with my wife; and in doing so, I have read many books and articles on the subject.
One of the first things every book said is to know WHY you are going on sabbatical. There are many possible reasons, and each person should establish theirs. Here are the most common possibilities:
- Academic pursuit
- Traveling and site-seeing
- Preparing for retirement
- Preparing for a change in career/job focus
- Spiritual pursuits
- Reconnecting with family and friends
According to the magazine “Fast Company”, over 25% of companies in America now allow employees to take a sabbatical. Non-profit organizations allow over 35% of their workers to take a sabbatical of 3-6 months duration. Since this is becoming a common trend, I suspect that many people will be considering it in the years to come.
For my wife and I, we really have several goals during this time. For Kathy, she wants to finish up the research part of her Master’s Degree in Public Health Nursing. For me, I have been working on a book for the better part of two years. I have finished the rough draft, but now I need to get it ready to send in to a publisher. There is much to do. Each of us has dedicated two hours of every week-day during sabbatical to pursue these endeavors.
But there are four other goals I have for this time away. I have spent a year thinking about these things and these are the four that keep coming to the forefront.
1. Spiritual Growth: In helping other people to find a depth of discovery about God, I have run out of new paths to walk in my spirit. I want to find some fresh ways to stay in relationship with the God I love and serve. I have a number of
books that will help me do this. A friend of mine lent me a mini-guitar, small enough to fit into our gear, so I will use music to help me find this path. Jesus is waiting to spend time with me and both of us would be disappointed if I missed this opportunity.
2. Rest: Dr. William Dement in his book “The Promise of Sleep” says that each ten year period we develop a sleep debt of several months. He teaches that we can only bring true health to our bodies if we get caught up. Kathy and I intend to get more than 8 hours a night. In fact, the first few days we have rented a room on California’s north coast. The room has no television or phone. We may not even get dressed.
3. Reading: Each of us has found a half dozen books to read that will feed our minds, hearts, emotions, passions and sense of humor. I can’t speak for Kathy’s list, but mine is an eclectic mix of authors and topics that will surely send me flying in all directions. (One of our stops along the way is Portland, OR…and we will be spending an entire day at Powell’s Books. I am sure I’ll blog from that humungous book store).
4. Travel/Service: We will be moving around a lot during this time. And part of what we want to do is serve. We won’t be doing counseling/nursing/pastoring per se, but even if we help someone by making a meal for them, that will feed the service part of our being. Combined with rest and spiritual development, this will be an essential part of our growth.
Pray for us as we launch into the unknown reaches our own limitations.