After several weeks of contemplation, I’ve made the decision to press pause in a number of areas in my life including my business. I’ve had to put my hand up and admit I need a rest. So I’m embarking on what I’m calling a practical sabbatical.
Truth be told I’m simply tired. Many things have caught up with me and in recent weeks I’ve felt that I’ve gone to the well too many times. I often speak and write about giving ourselves a break. Most of the time I’m focusing on being less tough on ourselves, but there’s also a real break, a time out.
Because I tend to focus on what’s next, I forget that in the last few years, I’ve had bladder cancer which involves ongoing monitoring, two operations for skin cancer, 40 stitches in my body, witnessing my Dad deal with pancreatic cancer, and pass away just over a year ago and the grief that lingers. Added to that is the recent death of our beloved dog Cara. And then throw in for good measure a pandemic whilst trying to keep a business ticking over. It’s been a lot and whilst I’ve broad shoulders, I need a break.
I always think it is ironic that we teach what we most need to learn. A theme of so much of my work, especially in the last 2 years, has been self-care and well-being. The universe is always trying to teach us, to prompt us to pay attention, to course correct when we’ve drifted from our sense of authenticity and wellness. When we take action from a place of exhaustion it will always lead to resentment and in recent times I’ve been resenting my schedule and that’s not good.
Last month marked the 200th edition of my community newsletter Next Steps – over 17 years, 600 articles, and 200 book reviews. That was a great achievement, but it’s been a big commitment too. It certainly started as another labour of love but in recent times the obligation of writing 3 new articles a month, not to mentioned a monthly podcast became more of a chore. I’m used to applying myself, doing what needs to be done. There is the definition of discipline which is doing what you should do when you should do it, even though you don’t want to do it. But I’ve fallen out of love with that definition – beating myself up with the word should.
I have the awareness to know that when the energy around producing something is off, if I’m doing it for the sake of getting it done, well I’m just putting more noise out into an already noisy world. And If I put my business hat on, and as my accountant reminded me recently, I’m not paid for producing a weekly podcast or monthly ezine, they are voluntary parts of my business. And yes they enrich my service offering, facilitate my purpose as a communicator, deepen the connection and add value for readers and listeners, but somehow it’s begun to feel unbalanced. This would also highlight for me the fact that I’m an expert giver, but not such a good receiver.
During a break in a coaching conversation recently a client asked me – James, do you enjoy your life? Now in those scenarios, I’m usually asking the questions, so this, one seemingly from nowhere, really hit me between the eyes. I could feel that the question stirred something in me, a true sign of a powerful question. There are many of my life that I enjoy wholeheartedly, but others that no longer spark joy (to quote Marie Kondo!)
Taking a sabbatical is not new territory for me, I did it 20 years ago when I left the corporate world behind and began writing and inhabiting a new chapter in my life which turned out better than I could ever have imagined. If that old adage of God has bigger dreams for me than I can dream for myself was true 20 years ago, it remains true today.
When I work with a client who feels stuck, I ask them what change might be trying to take place if you surrender to the unfolding?
That’s the question I’m now asking myself, but to hear the answer I have to be quiet for a while. From a place of feeling more rested, I will have the energy to dream again, to forge a vision for a new chapter in my life.