You Deserve A Summer Sabbatical

 I showed up nearly 10 minutes late for my yoga class this week. Twice.

I skipped a conference breakout session last week in favor of some personal renewal time in a favorite nearby bookstore.

I didn’t sign up during a recent call for volunteers within a community group I belong to.

If you know me personally, you might be asking yourself by now, “Who are you?!” Oh, I’m still the Robin you know – responsive to the people and projects she is committed to. I’m also the Robin who recently decided, after a fabulous personal retreat in the English countryside, to practice something new: loosening my grip on the sense of responsibility I have carried pretty much my entire life. The personal triumphs I’ve listed here may seem small and insignificant to you. But to someone like me who prides herself on using her gifts to be of service to others, being on time (early is better), and completing every learning experience she signs up for, these small but mighty acts of grip loosening are big for me.

What do you need to let go of?

I literally sent a rock with the word “responsibility” written on it to the bottom of a murky pond during my recent retreat. I am a person with many commitments that are important to me; it would feel anything but responsible to simply let go of everyone and everything I’ve worked so hard to have in my life. As I reflected on the ways I’d previously held that value though, I discovered a deeper sense of gratitude and stewardship that feels much more aligned to how I view the commitments and relationships in my life. Shoulders back, chin lifted, a sense of honor in my heart – this is what I carry now, and I am no less committed in the process.

Take a moment to think about what you would write on your own rock. What comes up for you? If you’re game, you can do what my retreat mates and I did: write your word on the rock and then carry that rock with you everywhere you go for at least one day. Yes, everywhere! See if that doesn’t quickly get you in touch with the story you’ve told yourself about whatever you wrote. When you’re ready to reframe that story or let it go, let the rock go, too. Maybe you throw your rock into a body of water like I did, or maybe you place it somewhere that is meaningful to you. Whatever you choose, pause to acknowledge yourself when you do it. Our stories are powerful and often closely linked to some part of our identity. Choosing to reframe or release our stories takes courage. You deserve to honor yourself for making that choice.

Run through the sprinkler

My weeklong retreat was framed as a radical sabbatical, designed to give all who attended a space for renewal, connection, and reflection. If the word sabbatical feels too formal, I’d encourage you to hold it lightly and start simple – it doesn’t have to involve a trip or even a day off. It should feel like you’re doing something different though, quite possibly outside of your comfort zone and set apart from your daily routine. You may even feel silly at first for spending time on small things that have absolutely no purpose than to delight you. For example, did you ever run barefoot through a sprinkler when you were a child? Think back to the last time you did that, or the last time you watched a child in your life do it. Don’t you kind of want to do it too, now that I’ve brought it up?!

So many words come to mind when I think about that leap through the sprinklers: Joy. Fun. Playfulness.  Sign me up for more of that this summer! Here are some other takeaways from my retreat journal that will help me keep more joy, fun and playfulness in motion all summer long:

  • I know that I love and need time in nature, time spent in gardens, time spent reading, and time spent learning. I intend to get up a little earlier each morning so I have time to enjoy a cup of tea and a book on my deck before work. These soul-nurturing moments feel like a treat that renews my energy and my spirit. How will you treat yourself this summer?

  • Some things are purely for enjoyment…and what a gift that is. I intend to spend as many summer evenings as I can watching for fireflies with my dad. Having both grown up in California, where we don’t have fireflies, these little light shows are a novelty that make us both smile. I love sharing that experience with Dad, too. Who or what do you want to spend more time with?

  • Going with the flow feels great and spacious. I can plan, organize, forecast, and manage with the best of them. I enjoy it much of the time…AND there are times when it is more than okay to let someone else do it. I’m not ready to give up color coding my calendar (c’mon, I know I’m not the only one who does that), but I am going to let go of at least one personal obligation or opportunity to organize in order to practice going with the flow. How can you go with the flow more often?

  • Flowers don’t bloom aligned to a pattern or a schedule. They just bloom. The gardens we visited during the retreat provided a wonderful reminder that every single plant is unique and it is blooming right on time for its season. Flowers don’t need permission or a plan in order to bloom; they just do what they are designed to do. I’m going to put a pot of gorgeous flowers on my deck to remind me of this image all summer. And as I water and prune the flowers, I’ll breathe in…admire them…and continue to feel a renewed sense of gratitude for the people I serve, the reason I do what I do, and the feeling of blooming in exactly the right place in my life right now. Would you say that you’re blooming in your life right now?

I’d love to hear what you start doing – or stop doing! – to bring more joy, fun, and playfulness to your spirit of sabbatical this summer. I’ll leave you with one more passage from my retreat journal, written on the day I arrived. I hope it inspires you to lift your chin towards the sun, open your arms wide, and take it all in.

“Enjoy it all, my love. You have earned it. All is well everywhere else that you normally are. Everyone you love – including yourself – is safe and healthy. Just be…and love it all.”


Robin Sparks, Leadership Coach, PCC

First published on LinkedIN