About 3 months ago I was about to take a leap into the unknown. It was the start of my 6 months sabbatical. I clearly remember finishing off the last tasks on Friday evening, saying goodbye to colleagues, and not willing to leave the office. It meant the start of a new chapter and although it was an exciting one, I was SCARED.
Before I jumped
Me: Here I am. I packed my staff. I am DOING THIS!
Brain: What if you lose your motivation? Without external triggers and deadlines, you will probably be bored and lost. I clearly see you in your pajamas on the sofa, being depressed and eating tons of ice cream.
Me: No, I won’t. I have made a vision board and I have exciting things planned.
Brain: It’s half a year without income. Who does this? What about your financial independence plans?
Me: I need this space and time. It’s like taking a step back before making a big jump.
Brain: What are you going to come back to? 6 months is a long time, the company changes so quickly, you will have to start from scratch.
Brain: Plus you are going to miss the social aspect. You interact with so many smart, interesting people here, but not when you are alone at home…
Brain: Ok, I see I can’t stop you. But then you have to do something BIG! Like a round-the-world-trip and visit at least 4 continents. That’s what people do, right? But it is going to be expensive …
Me: Oooooh Brain, leave me alone!
The truth is, the brain’s job is to keep you safe and alive. Every time we are about to undertake something with an unclear outcome, the brain enters panic mode. Although we are not in life-and-death situation it magnifies the danger and it feels much worse than it actually is.
So, I ignored my survival instincts, and I focused on my excitement to experiment with a different lifestyle. I have been working for 10 years without a break, starting with a summer job in the second year of university. Undoubtedly, my efforts have taken me a long way. I have a lot of options and freedom other people don’t have. But is it what life is all about?
I had a plan for the first 2 months. I was going to join a meditation course for 10 days, then travel in South Africa for almost a month. The remaining 4 months were open for things to unfold naturally.
I needed time and space to decompress. I wanted to spend time with my family. I wanted to continue writing this blog, improve my photography skills and perform inner decluttering.
It’s amazing how much baggage we carry around without even realizing it. Here are the usual contents of this nice, big, heavy bag pack:
- expectations of what we should have achieved for our age and gender
- shiny goals we picked up from somewhere
- the desire to please others and to belong at any cost
- draining relationships
- psychological traumas and disappointments which we brushed under the carpet for the lack of time to process them
- limiting beliefs of what can be done and what not.
I wanted to take it all off my shoulders. I wanted to discover what’s beyond. So, I gave it a name:
Fast forward to today
Monday is my favorite day of the week. I created my own structure and I experiment with my schedule. I have the freedom to play with it and adjust it for maximum effectiveness and satisfaction.
Guess what?! This whole BIG FEAR of lack of structure was full of shit!
I ‘work’ on my goals and it doesn’t even feel like work. I sit down every Monday morning, I do a review of the past week, I mark down the progress and I set tasks for the upcoming week. For most of the time, I deeply enjoy it and I am at my highest productivity.
So, here I am on the International Workers’ Day writing about how good it feels taking time off work.
The highlights of the past 3 months
- The journey of self-discovery.
I was hungry for adventure. I was planning to do much more traveling. I was tempted by the digital nomad lifestyle. As a start, spend 24 intensive days on a road trip in South Africa. I did all kinds of things, from bungee jumping, horse riding, to driving 2000km, sand boarding, safari, enjoying the most delicious food and nature, etc.
But at the end of week 2, I had an unsettling desire for getting something done. You know the feeling of a job well done, a project out of the door, a published blog post, of completing something and seeing a progress? I missed this feeling a lot. We were always on the move, and I was too tired to write.
I realized I needed and loved my home base in Berlin. I have set everything up here for maximum productivity and enjoyment. I like to know where I can get things, I like cooking my own food, and I like the focused work I can do when my mind is not thinking constantly about what’s else to be discovered in this place. The nomadic lifestyle is for some but definitely not for me. At least not the kind of lifestyle when you move every couple of days.
- The morning jogging session twice a week is something precious! I run for an hour along the Spree river, when it’s fresh and there’s almost no one. I love the cute dogs taken out for a walk or mothers pushing their babies in strollers. Schadenfreude – this is what I feel when I see the other people early in the morning rush to get to work. I know, this is bad, but I can’t help it.
- The Productivity Day – a weekly boostcamp, here in Berlin. The idea of Productivity Day is to dedicate a day per week to do deep focused work. No interruptions, no procrastination and the best of the science of productivity. It’s a day a week, where I get tons of shit done. I usually write blog posts or conceptualize new projects. This is also where I meet amazing, new people. If you are in Berlin, you should consider yourself lucky, you can experience it yourself!
So, what do I do most of the time? I photograph, I write, I read, I meditate, I watch Youtube videos, I ride a bike. I am on a quest to revitalize and expand my network. I catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while and I meet new people I can potentially collaborate with.
I don’t have big plans for the remaining 3 months apart from visiting my family for 2 weeks.
Of course, I think about the return to my job in 3 months. I am also extremely grateful to my employer for giving me this chance. I realize it’s a rare privilege to be able to step back, re-energize and re-calibrate my compass.
It turns out, the scariest things are always the things that eventually bring the most benefit.
Courage is nothing more than a skill – it’s the ability of taking action despite the uncertain outcome.
So, what are you most afraid of, but equally excited about?! This is the shortcut to what you really want. It is simple (but not easy).