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SABBATICAL (noun)


Have you ever considered the origin of the word?


The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests the following…..a middle English word from the1590s, "recurring in sevens or on every seventh;" 1640s, "of or suitable for the Sabbath," from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos "of the Sabbath," from sabaton. By 1836 as "characterized by rest or cessation from labour or tillage." Other adjectives from Sabbath include Sabbatary, Sabbatine.


Or even from Sabbat, a noun from the 1650s, which was a midnight meeting held annually by witches, demons and sorcerers under the leadership of Satan to celebrate their orgies. Immoral, disturbing or unnecessary practices. Perhaps more familiar is the noun meaning "a year's absence granted to researchers" (originally one year in seven, to university professors). This is from 1934, short for sabbatical year, etc., which was recorded by 1886 (the thing itself is attested from 1880, at Harvard), a term perhaps suggested by the sabbatical year (1590s) in Mosaic law, the seventh year, in which land was to remain untilled and non-foreign debtors released!


As with so many words in the English language, the passage of time can often conceal its true meaning and in this case the religious, irreligious or educational origins have mostly disappeared. However in 2023 the word Sabbatical retains an air of significance and even a seriousness about it that the commercial world has happily integrated into its lexicon.

Sabbatical or Career Break, either way, it can be a great way to develop or refresh yourself and in so doing, there is usually a benefit not only for you but also for those around you. It can provide a great opportunity to do something for you, but only if you work out why you are doing it in the first place. Is it a break…..or a chance to explore a career change or maybe even a life change? What is the motivation for the break? Do you plan to return to your job or not? Do you need to continue earning or learning, or both? Once clear on the many important questions, you can start to explore a whole range of options out there from doing nothing at all for a period of time to climbing Everest and everything in between.


To get you started I have outlined a few thoughts and please note that the URLs provided are here by way of example rather than recommendation.


Take a Break: Just go and travel. Take a break away from it all and clear your head. Go yomping in The Lake District or lie on a beach in Phuket, go horse riding in Kyrgyzstan (for the brave or foolhardy) or get a rush on the Shotover Jet near Queenstown NZ. Sail around the Norwegian coast on the postal boat or maybe just find some surf in Portugal or Cornwall. Whatever turns you on, the options are boundless. Wherever you go, whatever you do, the aim is to refresh and recharge, so it will be different for different people. All I ask is that you acknowledge that it is a break rather than anything more significant.



Period for Self Exploration: Whilst a break can expose you to new places and cultures, it can also distract you from focussing on you. It’s worth taking time to clarify whether you are just in need of a longer holiday, another fix, as above, or whether you really want to use the time for self exploration, development or even change. For a more significant experience and to put yourself on the path to self enlightenment you may need time (and money) to work things through, to process. You could consider the following:-


www.theoldway.info - 1000 year old hunter gatherer immersion on Dartmoor www.hoffmaninstitute.co.uk – intensive and transformational work on yourself www.wimhofmethod.com – physiological self exploration

and of course there’s always a retreat or yoga or both!


Change Career: Let’s face it, this is one of the most difficult challenges in life and you need time out to really get to grips with it. Yes, you can start a course on coding, or digital marketing and social media. You can have a go at blogging, or graphic design, or you can retrain to be a teacher, a plumber, a lawyer, an electrician or a psychotherapist. How about that book you’ve always wanted to write?


There are many stories of people who have changed career later in life with significant success and you must never give up hoping and dreaming, but the reality is that for many of us, we carry on doing what we know. I don't know anyone who did make the change!!

The big change is often achieved by doing what you know……but delivering it in a new and different way. For example, moving out of the grey corporate environment to a place where you can exercise more control of your life. For most of us, this is the holy grail. You can deliver your experience to the market as a consultant and start your own business. You can work 3 days a week, if you can make it happen. Use all the experience and the contacts that you have gained in your career and deliver it differently. Ever thought of Coaching or Executive Coaching? Maybe you should use the time constructively to explore new ways of operating that suit your lifestyle post 50!



Volunteer: Do you want to help out and/ or make a difference to the world? Volunteering opportunities come in many forms, on many continents and so it is important to drill down on what you really want to do or achieve. Selfish or selfless, either way is fine, but do your research. Volunteering can give you a different view of the world and in so doing provide you with the opportunity to reinforce your skillbase, learn new skills or create real change for yourself.


Environmental: If you love nature and the great outdoors, you can volunteer in environmental conservation projects, such as reforestation, beach clean-ups, nature trail construction, and invasive species management. These tasks are often physically demanding, but rewarding and educational.


Social: If you enjoy working with people and making a positive impact on their lives, you can volunteer in social services, such as education, disability support, homelessness prevention, domestic violence prevention, or refugee assistance. You can help with tasks such as tutoring children, mentoring youth, visiting elderly people, providing counseling, delivering meals, or organizing events.


Healthcare: If you have a medical background or an interest in health issues, you can volunteer in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, hospices, or research centres. You can help with tasks such as taking vital signs, administering medication, collecting blood samples, conducting surveys, or participating in clinical trials. You can also volunteer for health-related organizations, such as the Red Cross or Cancer Research UK.


Sports and leisure: If you are passionate about sports or hobbies, you can volunteer in sports and leisure activities, such as coaching teams, organizing tournaments, officiating games, teaching classes, or leading tours. You can also volunteer for sports and leisure events, such as marathons, festivals, concerts, or exhibitions.


Animals: If you are an animal lover, you can volunteer in animal shelters, wildlife sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, or veterinary clinics. You can help with tasks such as cleaning cages, feeding animals, walking dogs, grooming horses, or assisting veterinarians.


Volunteering can be a rewarding way to give back to your community or the world, while also developing your teamwork and communication skills. You can volunteer at home or abroad, depending on your preferences and availability.



Learn something new: A sabbatical can be a good time to learn something new or improve your existing skills. In education, for a long time, the sabbatical has been used to enhance knowledge in areas or disciplines that are complimentary to one’s field of expertise. So you know that you will probably be returning to the same role in your company or business, therefore why not use the time you have to learn something new or pick a skill that is related to your career. Consider an MA or an MBA and use it!


Alternatively get out of your comfort zone, think outside the box and do something brand new in writing, music, art or learn a language or even learn to code. Fun or useful, or ideally both, just do it. For many of us, learning wasn’t always so much fun at school, but that seems to change and we develop more of a hunger for learning and in particular, creative learning, as we move on through. Have a look at the courses offered by your local college, adult community college if you have one, or the local university, or online.



Create: This is linked to learning something new, but is specifically about tapping into those creative juices. No matter how many people tell me I can draw, I know I can’t and that’s that. We are hard wired from a very young age to have confidence in certain abilities that we may have got credit for early on in life. But give it a go…..whatever it is. Apply yourself….with confidence. Maybe it will still be a struggle, but give it a go and remember that it is a long time since people told you that you weren’t really very good at that!

Create a story, a poem, an essay, write a song or learn an instrument. Book on a course and paint a picture or take an amazing photograph. Start a youtube channel. There are no end of opportunities around the world, or at home, where you can explore and release the inner you. It may lead you somewhere else….


Fitness Challenge: You can also use a sabbatical to get into shape. It’s difficult to know where to start with this as there are just so many opportunities out there and the answer will be very different for different people. Whatever you do, make sure it has an impact on your life and your wellbeing and ensure that it takes you out of your comfort zone.


You may already go on walks. Consider this:-

www.caminoways.com - an ancient pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

www.westhighlandway.org – 5 to 8 days in glorious Scottish countryside


You may already cycle. Consider this:-

www.transcontinental.cc - push yourself to your limit


You may already run. Consider these:-

www.tcslondonmarathon.com – just take it one step at a time

www.marathondessables.com – push yourself to your limit


You may never have run. Consider this:-

www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/running - an easy way to get you running


You may swim. Consider this:-


Keeping a level of fitness is important for mind, body, spirit and soul. You don’t have to run a marathon, a walk will do…..but keep moving!


Please post any other ideas or thoughts you have below.


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