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How to define your sabbatical goals in 5 questions

Taking a prolonged break from work requires mindful financial planning and goal setting. It’s best to not do it on a whim. That being said, the sabbatical planning process can be fun! So… how to define your sabbatical goals? Keep reading!

From high-pressured professionals to entrepreneurs, to senior executives, anyone who is desiring a period of deep change, who craves personal growth, or just needs a break from the fast-paced professional landscape, can begin to research and get inspired by their sabbatical options.

There are 5 questions you can start asking yourself today to define your own unique sabbatical goals

sabbatical goals

Does a sabbatical need specific goals?

Some say that a true sabbatical should have an intentional, goal-orientated purpose. Here’s why…

A sabbatical is a carefully planned prolonged period away from your career, it’s not something you choose to do randomly. Your sabbatical is not a vacation. This is a special time that is dedicated to you, your dreams, and your wants. 

If you’re curious about the difference between a vacation and a sabbatical click here.

Maybe you desire to write a book, to learn a new skill, to discover a new culture, further your education, build out your photography portfolio, volunteer, or simply to focus on your wellbeing? No matter your goal, it’s important to know what you want. This will make the planning process much easier and fulfilling.

Maybe you know you desire a break, a change, but you’re not quite sure what you want to do? Let us share our top tips on how you can clearly define your goals, and begin planning the trip of a lifetime.

Notice the difference between what you want vs. what you need

There’s a balance when it comes to goal setting. Sometimes what we want and what we need can be totally different things during the planning stage. Maybe you really, really want adventure, but you’re craving rest and stillness? The balance between your physical and mental health can be a key focus for your time away from the office. A sabbatical can provide ample opportunity to reduce stress, reassess your priorities and realize your aspirations. 

It’s important to notice your needs at the time of planning and factor those into your trip. If rest and adventure are your desires, maybe create a trip that focuses first on rejuvenation, with the second half more adventure-driven. Depending on the length of your trip, the possibilities are endless. 

sabbatical goals

5 Questions To Help Defining Your Sabbatical Goals

1. Why do I want a break?

There are several reasons why you’d want to temporarily place your career on hold (or leave your job) and take a break. (Even though you’re never really on a career “break”. Even time away will help grow your career. Learn more here!)

What is your personal reason for this break?

  • Do you need to dedicate more time to your family?
  • Does your physical or mental health require attention?
  • Do you want to explore your passion?
  • Do you want to broaden your skillset?
  • Do you need a break from work stress?
  • Do you just want to stop making so many decisions every day?

It’s important to articulate your reason(s) clearly and convince yourself that it’s valid to YOU. It seems simple, but this step can actually be a little tricky. If you read the list of sabbatical benefits and say, “I want all of that,” go one level deeper. What’s the highest priority reason? How can that help you achieve all the other benefits you may be able to see as part of the sabbatical experience?

Take real time considering this question, this isn’t a decision to make quickly. Once you land on your reason, say it aloud with conviction! The importance of your reason, and the emotional connection to it, will help you answer all other questions that come next!

2. What is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about what I’d like to do?

Oftentimes we can answer this question, but then quickly come up with reasons why we can’t do it, or it doesn’t make sense, or we psyche ourselves out. What’s that one thing you find yourself going to when your mind wanders about your sabbatical?

Maybe it’s a certain location? A certain experience? A certain climate or landscape? Allow your mind to dream. If you could do anything, what would it be? The sky is the limit! Be open to what comes up because you want your goals to be powerful enough to motivate you when it comes to the less exciting aspects of sabbatical planning (logistics in our book, but we all have our strengths!). 

3. Who do I want to be at the end of my trip?

This is a great one for people who know they want a break but struggle to define what that means beyond the need for change. Working our way backward can help.

Is there a version of yourself you’d like to become? 

Maybe more confident, healthier, better boundaries or relationships, more outgoing or flexible? Paint the picture of who you’d like to become and then ask yourself what experiences will help you bring this version of yourself to life!

4. Do I have a support system?

It may be ironic but taking a break can be quite stressful without a good support system. Whether it’s your partner, family, friends, or a mentor, you’ll need emotional support as you transition from working life to sabbatical life. Or on those unnerving days when you suddenly question what you’re doing! Ensure you are fully supported. This will be of vital importance before, during, and after your trip.

How can you stay connected to your support system and the life you’ll eventually return to, during your sabbatical?

If no one comes to mind, consider reaching out to people who are currently on a sabbatical or already went or are about to go. There are wonderful online communities nowadays where you can meet like-minded people. 

5. How do I want to remember my sabbatical?

This question also entails planning backward, but it’s less about what you’ll do on your trip, and more about how you’ll capture the thoughts, experiences, relationships, emotions, questions, mind wanderings, and epiphanies that may come up during your sabbatical.

From our experience, getting a break from the day-to-day can open up a whole new side of thinking.

What are some things you can do during your time away that will help you return to that kind of thinking once you return?

Short videos? Photos? A journal? Short (or long) stories? A sketchbook? Song lyrics? A blog or vlog?

Or maybe it’s booking a retreat 6 months after your return to make sure you find yourself in a similar context or joining a volunteering group back home?

Can you incorporate the creation of something into your goals? Whether or not this was the original reason for taking a break, having a tangible artifact of your experience can help you remember what the experience meant to you long after you return home.

sabbatical goals

Answering these questions before planning your break will help you get clear on why and how you take your time off. 

If you’re hesitating and you’re not sure taking a sabbatical is what you need to do right now, we invite you to download our free guide below!

While the answers to all these questions should ideally come from within, sometimes it helps to talk through them with someone else to gain clarity. For more support during your planning process, get in touch with us. We, too, have planned sabbaticals and know what it’s like! And on top of these experiences, we also have great financial tools to share with you! 

We’d love to hear more about your trip ideas and to help you create the perfect sabbatical for you. The one you want and need!

Schedule a call today and let us help you plan for your perfect time away.

Learn more about why working with a financial planner might be the right choice for you.

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