A lot of people dream of taking a break to find new direction. But fear and confusion stops them. Do you want to know a secret? A break involves planning like anything else. Nothing more, nothing less. I did it and so can you. It took me a while to realize I needed one, though. When you have an ostensibly ‘good job,’ life can be conceptually very hunky dory. But then I hit my mid-thirties. Suddenly, I didn’t know what skill I was developing. I didn’t know how my work created value for people. I discovered I was stressed too much and too often. And I had stopped doing the things I loved. Like trekking. I thought, ‘Something’s not right here. I have lost myself.’
Then the 3 AM questions: What is happening? Is this the end? What next?
Then the elusive longings: I want to travel the course of the Ganges from Gaumukh to the Sunderbans and take the train from Leningrad to Vladivostok; I want to affect people using my strengths and passions; I want to do something of my own.
Then the fears: I can’t possibly take time off to re-think my life; what if there is nothing at the bottom of the well?
Fortunately, my desire for change was bigger than my fear of entrapment. So I took that break. Today, two years later, I am a different person. But I didn’t get ‘lucky.’ I followed 9 rules:
- Decide where you intend to land before jumping: Have an idea of what you intend to do once your break ends. I discarded many options because they were not viable. After a year’s research (during which I held my job) I decided I wanted to be a life coach. Then I made a Plan B. Entering the wilderness after that was easier.
- Talk to your money: I created multiple excel sheets to arrive at the magic figure – the money I would need to complete the necessary certifications and market my business. When I calculated the figure, I thought ‘Hey that’s not too bad.’ Then I thought, ‘Gosh, I’ve been wasting a lot of money on rubbish!’
- Start creating a slush fund now: After you decide what you need in the bank, the challenge is putting it there. I had made some good investments early in my career and they came in handy. If you don’t already invest, start now. It can be just 10 grand a month. By the end of two years, you’ll have your ‘sabbatical seed capital.’
- Kill your darlings: I realised I had enough darlings – clothes, shoes and bags – for two lifetimes. I decided to only spend on what I needed.
- Routine is the enemy of depression: The first week of your break will be bliss. Then, panic sets in. Have a routine. Practice your routine before you quit. Ask yourself, ‘Do I see myself doing this?’ This will help you hit the ground running.
- Become the cheerleader to your soul: Time spent alone during a break is dangerous time. It invites negativity. Train yourself to kill negative thought patterns. Use a mantra if you want. Like The Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the strength to change what I can, accept what I can’t and wisdom to tell the difference. Or just make up your own.
- Have a script to tackle unwanted questions: You will be surprised at how cynical and rude people can get when they discover you’re taking a break and they’re not! Train yourself to not react to stupid questions. Believe things are OK and they will be.
- Stand shamelessly on the shoulders of giants: Choose whose advice you value and shut out all other voices, including your own. A mentor makes the journey easier.
- But most of all, FIRST YOU MUST ENDURE: Beginnings are easy. Middles are painful. When the pain sets in, remember why you started. The one who wins isn’t always the most capable; it’s the one who stays in the ring longest.
So where am I now? I am at step 10. I am On My Break, Loving It, And Getting Stronger Every Day.
You can do it too.
Still doubtful? Despite being dissatisfied with your life? Then repeat after me: Everything I’ve done so far has been research. Now, my great work begins.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.