Article (March-2017)


Sabbatical- Boon or Doom?

Dr. Aparna Sharma

Designation : -   Board Member, Thought Leader

Organization : -   Best Selling Author & Motivational Speaker, Mumbai


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There are many interpretations of the term, Sabbatical. It was uncommon until a few years ago, especially in the Indian Corporate scenario, however, winds of change is blowing across all walks of life globally including India.

For reference in this article, a sabbatical is a prolonged hiatus, in the career of an otherwise successful individual taken in order to fulfill some dream, e.g. writing a book or travelling extensively. It could be also to attend to some medical emergency in the family including one's own health, time needed to attend to one's child's higher education or simply a desire to take a break to get out of the daily rut & regain health, energy & direction back in one's life.

While reasons may vary from person to person, I still get to see & hear a negative tonality to it especially in the Indian corporate environment. There's so much of social conditioning & pressure at play that one is almost viewed as an outcast if one chooses to go on a sabbatical for a year or more. I find this bizarre & extremely unfair for others to decide at least the work journey of your life. Does it need to follow a set pattern that you graduate complete higher education take up a job in your early twenties & then work till the age of superannuation?  It's almost like creating a social army of corporate clones

Each of our lives is different, our circumstances, compulsions & driving forces are different-be it a man or woman. Hence, our needs for a sabbatical or a career break-could be for a variety of reasons. Some companies have a structured sabbatical policy especially in the FMCG & Banking sector, others don't. Increasingly companies are offering it as a retention tool. Whatever is the reason, if the employer does not have such a policy you need to be clear about letting go of the job based on your compelling need?

While you're attending to the exigencies, this time can also be used to reflect on one's life's goals, recharging ones batteries after all is taken care of. It can also be used to further your skill set & try new experiences.

Have you thought of creating a "bucket list"? If not, I suggest you seriously consider making one at the earliest. It brings sharper focus & helps in bringing you closer to your "purpose" in life. Might sound philosophical, but creates a "sense of urgency" for living the life you want. I would recommend everyone to have a bucket list or a "To Experience" list. Here's why:

  • Bucket lists make you stop and think what you actually want to experience in this lifetime.
  • Bucket lists remind you that life is short and we should live it to its fullest.
  • Bucket lists increase our happiness because they give us both hope and curiosity (2 essential ingredients for happiness).

So, when I needed to take a career break since the organisation did not have a sabbatical policy, I decided to do my best for the cause of the break & succeeded in the toughest personal situation with help of the Almighty. I started to actively work on my bucket list. I kept myself professionally engaged by writing & launching my maiden book. It was a completely new experience- I have learnt & grown so much as a result. Studying further to gain knowledge was another goal I pursued very seriously & also applied it in the different professional engagements to enhance my performance. Undertaking the most challenging journey to the abode of Lord Shiva-Kailash Manasarovar was an absolute dream comes true. And my list continues!

I thought of sharing the above examples, so you get an idea of what I mean by spending time meaningfully. In summary, a sabbatical or career break has its own pros and cons . As the saying goes that there lies an opportunity in every setback, a break may make your comeback to work a little tough, but it provides a splendid opportunity to learn and seek more.