As you may know, the right pace and rhythm can help you create a life you love.
In 1958, the Chinese leader Mao Zedong ordered all sparrows to be killed. The reason? He thought they ate too much grain. So, he mobilized people to kill them. They beat on drums, pots and pans to scare the birds and force them to fly until they died of exhaustion.
People shot them out of the sky, tore down nests, destroyed eggs, and poisoned them pushing the birds close to extinction.
The next year, locust populations soared and they ate everything in their path causing a massive famine. The Chinese government reported 15 million fatalities, but it’s estimated the real number of deaths from starvation was somewhere between 20 to 50 million people.
It got so bad that people began to eat other people.¹
It turns out that balance is a fragile thing.
There is a natural order that most of us take for granted. Not only when it comes to birds and nature, but in our own lives as well.
When small things are out of balance for too long, it creates big problems.
There’s a Better Way
For the last several years, I’ve been focused on finding and creating a sustainable pace and rhythm of life.
That’s why I’m taking a two-month sabbatical starting next week.
Taking a sabbatical is just another step on that journey. So, what is a sabbatical and why does it matter to you?
Maybe you’re saying, “It’s great that you can do that, Kent, but that’s not possible for me.”
I hear that.
But this isn’t necessarily about you taking a sabbatical though I desire that for you.
This is about you finding the right rhythm and pace for your own life.
And while you may not be able to take a sabbatical (though more and more employers are offering it), you can – no, you must – find a sustainable pace and rhythm of life. That is if you desire to live a life of impact, longevity, and true success.
You may or may not be able to take a sabbatical, but I hope my journey will help you find your own rhythm.
What Is a Sabbatical?
It comes from the word Sabbath or Shabbat which means to cease work or to stop. Think Sabbath day – a day of no work, a day of rest. Though Sabbath is a Jewish concept, you don’t need to be religious to take advantage of it.
There is much to be learned from traditions that go back thousands of years and have discovered tried and true methods that create personal and societal health.
Jewish culture not only embraced a weekly day of rest but went so far as to take a year-long rest every seventh year! Every seventh year, there were no crops were planted. It turns out the soil needs time to rest and replenish its nutrients. Go figure!
That’s not all. That also means people rested from planting and harvesting for a year as well. They relied on a bumper harvest during the sixth year that would actually last three years until the next harvest. In an agrarian culture, can you imagine how much time they had as a result of no planting and no harvesting for a year?
This wasn’t just resting the land, it was rest for the people.
A sabbatical is like several Sabbaths put together.
I’m not taking a sabbatical because I feel burned out. I am in good physical health, feel a lot of emotional and spiritual vitality, and my family relationships and friendships are in a good place.
I am taking a sabbatical as the next step on my journey to create a sustainable rhythm of life, be more productive in the things that matter most, and have more margin for creativity. Over the last 5-to-7 years, I have begun to implement rhythms to help me lead for the long haul. This is one of the rhythms I would like to implement on a regular basis (every 3-5 years). Taking a sabbatical is a continuation of this practice in my life.
The purpose of my sabbatical is threefold:
- Rest – take time for rest and leisure for myself and with my family
- Reflect – pray and think about the next season of life (I feel I need space apart from the day-to-day responsibilities of my current role as a pastor to do this well)
- Replenish – write, create, study, and read (this is life-giving for me)
Let’s Break It Down
Essentially, I’m breaking the sabbatical up into four, two-week periods:
- The first two weeks are for rest and reflection. I will start with a three-day personal retreat at one of my favorite places, Singing Hills in New Hampshire. I probably won’t set an alarm, will take a long walk every day, and want to visit a beautiful place each week for reflection. I will be available in the afternoons for my family and probably during a weekday to do something as a family.
- The second two weeks are for replenishment. I will read, write and create in the mornings which is life-giving for me and be available to my family in the afternoons. I’m also hoping to get away with my wife for one or two nights…alone.
- For the third two-week period, we will take a family vacation.
- And for the last few weeks, I will do some projects around the house (again this is replenishing for me) and end the sabbatical with another personal retreat.
The official dates for my sabbatical are May 30 to August 6, 2022.
Letting the Land Lie Fallow
Over the next few months, I will assuredly be doing some writing, though I’m not sure how often I will be posting to my blog, writing emails, or posting on social media.
I guess if it feels life-giving to do so, then I probably will. If not, I won’t.
I may also run a free workshop during that time. Again, creative work is replenishing for me.
Summer is a time when things tend to slow down a bit, and now is a good time to consider your own pace and rhythm. Where might you need to make an adjustment? What is one step you can take this summer to work less and enjoy more? Is there a project you’ve wanted to do for a while? A trip you could take? A schedule adjustment to leave more time open for family, friends, creativity, or leisure?
Take a few moments and brainstorm five ideas to adjust your pace:
Check Out the Sabbatical Series:
- Rest Is Hard (Sabbatical 2)
- Edit Your Life (Sabbatical 3)
- The Second Mountain (Book Review – Sabbatical 4)
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