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Volume XII, Issue I
Winter 2020
PLEASE NOTE!
 
 
I'm back at work and available for a conversation to consider executive coaching, team development, leadership training or women in leadership programs for yourself or your company.  

THE IMPORTANCE OF TAKING A PAUSE
Greetings!

It's good to reconnect! As you may remember, I took a year-long sabbatical in 2019 from work. It was an amazing gift and I am truly so very grateful for it. People have asked how I spent my time, and I thought I'd share a bit about my experience. While the time could have unfolded in many ways, for me and my style, I thought a lot about how I would know if I used this time well. I created an intention "to feast on the wonder and love in life". From here I identified several areas of focus that included:
 
1. Slow down and reset to be more present rather than reactive
2. Cultivate a daily personal relationship with spirit
3. Deepen important relationships
4. Feed my strength of curiosity and interest in the world
5. Reflect on the past, assess the present, and plan for future.
 
As someone who prefers structure, from here I reviewed my sabbatical list of things I could do (see the reflection exercise) and starting prioritizing actions in my calendar while trying to be careful of being no more than 80 percent full, and holding a balance of planning and space for spontaneity. I had a daily journaling practice and a weekly sabbatical check-in with myself to help keep my priorities in focus. I'm now on the other end of it, and entering the new phase of transition and integration. How do I process and carry forward the important learning I received to inform my life going forward? Join me in this exploration.
     
Warmly,
Kerry
Personal Lessons From a Year-long Sabbatical

Taking a break is important, and I get that not everyone can take significant time off from work. But with the belief we can learn through others- I thought I'd share some reflections. To try to keep it brief, I'm just bulleting out some major thoughts, each which has a whole story behind it. Perhaps something will spark you to reflect on what a pause of some sort might offer you.
 
1. I shaved my head bald. (It was something I have always been curious to do- and a bit afraid). I felt strong, vulnerable, and curious about the positive reaction I had from so many people (especially women).
 
2. I was often told I looked younger- I attribute this to lower stress levels and better self-care. It got me thinking about what would we all be like with less stress in our lives?
 
3. Even though I had no work challenges to deal with, my mind still got hooked by stuff, which made me realize the nature of the mind is to be a meaning-making machine. Keep with meditation.
 
4. I'm a "doer," and I'm inclined toward filling the calendar regardless of what I have to do, so I need to be mindful that "just because I can, doesn't mean I should".
 
5. De-cluttering my physical environment created calm and space for new to come in. I love opening my drawers and seeing organized shirts.
 
6. As an extrovert, while I was initially nervous to spend so much of my day alone, I learned to really cherish the quiet. A five-day solo backpacking trip on the Long Trail was a highlight.
 
7. It was actually a gift to have a finite amount of time- it helped me sort what was important to attend to now versus in the future. There is more in life than I will ever experience, and checking in with my head, heart and gut was essential to my discernment of how to spend my time.
 
8. Relationships take time- and if my head is filled with too much stuff it's harder for me to be present. The next challenge for me is how to maintain presence when the workload increases.
 
9. I am joyful in my body and love to move. I'm in the best shape I've been in since my gymnastics days and was thrilled to experience my body's strength and ability with training. (One of my goals was to ride 100 miles in a day which Jon and I completed in September in NYC.)
 
10. When I am quiet there is more space to connect with spirit. Having a life grounded in spirit is essential to me. Sharing this about me with others is vulnerable and authentic.
 
11. It is rare to have quality time with each of my daughters separately, and so planning a trip to travel individually with each of them helped us relate in new ways, and created amazing memories to look back on.
 
12. Novelty is energizing to me and helps me feel alive. I gave the gift of a "novel date night" to Jon once a month- and it was fun to get out of our regular routine. I had the space to follow my nose a bit in topics that I became interested in (for example: learning some Spanish before traveling, trauma and epigenetics, how to keep backpacking food bear-proof).
 
13. Thinking about my own death is also a way to feel alive and present to the wonder of life. I wrote down my wishes for my funeral, and wrote letters to Jon and my daughters in the event I should die unexpectedly with no time for goodbyes.
 
  What would you be curious to learn about yourself in a pause?

GREAT LINK:

Working to Live or Living to Work? 
Working to Live or Living to Work?



This inspirational reflection by Prince EA, reminds us of the importance to pause to really experience the moments of our life. (3:24)
 
REFLECTION EXERCISE:
Moving From Theory to Action
To support you in identifying some life priorities:
 
Creating a "Could Do Life List":
 
In 2018, a year before my sabbatical, I created a document titled "Could Do Sabbatical 2019" - throughout the year, whenever something came to me that I'd like to do someday -making dandelion wine, singing in a women's chorus, taking a pottery class, trying taiko drumming, etc., I'd just add it to the bottom of the list.  
 
On January 1st I sorted the list into categories to see what arose. These categories then became my focus areas (e.g., relationships, adventure, travel, spiritual). From there, I highlighted a few of the things I think I'd like to take on this year. The list shifted over time. I thought I wanted to learn guitar but after investigating it, realized that I didn't want to put in the time, and would prefer to bike instead.  
 
Life is full of choices, and I realized that this list is for a lifetime, so at the end of 2019 I renamed my list to "Could Do Life List". It is there as a repository for things that I could do- and I don't feel obligated to complete them all, but it's fun to review from time to time. I invite you to try it out and see what happens for you.

QUARTERLY QUOTE:

"The wisdom is in the pause."   -Alice Walker
 
 
BOOK REVIEW:
Pause: Harnessing The Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself A Break
Rachael O'Meara
 
While I did read several sabbatical books, what I like about this one is that is defines "pause" more broadly- whether that's a daily, extended, a few breaths or even a digital pause. It speaks to those who know that they need some downtime and can take some leave, as well as those who may not have the ability to take an extended formal break from employment.  
 
It's pragmatic in its step-by-step process -- identifying whether you need a break, how to take the pause plunge, and specific ways to build pause into your life. I love the last chapter, "Pausing as a Way of Life"- to actually rethink how we integrate pause into our life. This is the part I'm working on now. It's a great book to help you reflect for yourself on what regular pauses might do for your life. 
 
Kerry Headshot
Ker r y Secrest is a leadership coach for individuals and organizations who ins pires the bes t in individual and organizational performance.  

Read more about Kerry.

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