Sunday, July 12, 2015

Five things I discovered on my sabbatical

My workplace afforded me the opportunity to take six weeks of a sabbatical as a thank you for five years of service. The break was a wonderful experience and I appreciated the opportunity. I travelled a bit (see my previous post). I took the time just to be, to socialise with people and to write. It was great. The time is over and I would like to share five lessons I am taking away from this period:
  1. The power of a smile: Smiling is such a powerful tool, not only for your well-being but everyone around you. I want to continue smiling as much as I can. When you smile, you can turn your seemingly grey surroundings into a colourful painting with people smiling back at you.
  2. Being at peace with myself – just be: Being comfortable to be alone and enjoying it; being happy with who and where I am. It feels like carrying sunshine inside yourself. I have discovered a method for myself to put me into this mind-set. The first step is to find a spot to sit quietly if possible in the sun. Then, I try and be grateful spending at least five minutes thinking about all the things I am thankful for. After that, I think back to a situation when I was happy and laughed. I do that filled with thankfulness that I was able to live that moment. And lastly, I reflect on compliments I received recently. These small steps help me to be at peace.
  3. Hosting people: I organised a few dinners at my place mostly with one or very few people. It was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed having people at my house. It reminded me of my mom’s house where people were always welcome. In my daily life over the past years I often got sucked into the attitude of feeling stressed and thinking that having people over is too much work. It is not. The pleasure of having people over outweighs the little bit of work (also see point 4).
  4. Working hard and being disciplined: It seems odd to add this to a list after six weeks of a break. It is also odd because nowadays most self-help advice is about relaxing and switching off.  I, of course, did not work during my sabbatical but I did do quite a lot of manual labour during this period. To be honest, I had become quite lazy and rather used services available to do chores like cleaning, maintenance and ironing. Getting things done yourself brings satisfaction. I am not only highly motivated to go back to my official job but to also start doing some freelance work and to continue doing more work myself – all with a smile. I don’t want to become a workaholic or overdo things but I realised I have time at hand, much more than most people. I appreciate and treasure this luxury but I want to live a bit by the slogan ‘work is love made visible’. 
  5. Writing and reading – improving a skill: Since I was a teenager, I liked writing mostly for pleasure, processing of difficult life events and sharing. But I also always had to write a lot for my studies or work. Moving to another country and switching language made writing more difficult and I became insecure about writing (besides writing for pleasure like on this blog). The interesting experience of the past weeks was to a) just write and b) spend time exploring my writing. I left my fear and insecurities behind and just wrote. I silenced the limiting voice in my head that would normally tell me that my English is not good enough and that I don’t have the vocabulary neither skill to write. In addition, I worked with a writing coach/editor to help me understand my writing and learn a few aids about how to analyse and edit my text after I have written it. It is of course just the beginning of a journey but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was about immersing myself into doing something with dedication and discipline. It was great to have the extra time to focus and without this long break, I would have probably never gotten to do it. 

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