Would You Pause Your Career and Take a Sabbatical?

by Alli Polin on September 12, 2017

Many years ago, I worked for a large consulting firm, and business was struggling. Rather than laying off large numbers of people, they decided to offer a FlexLeave sabbatical. It was time off to follow a dream with the ability to step back into their work life and their consulting position six to twelve months later.

If you could take a year off, would you? I’m not talking about sleeping in and lazing around all day but focusing on your life and creating the one that you want to live; Investing in your dreams, your health, and your happiness.

Since I’ve moved to the Outback, I’ve lived my life a lot like I still live in DC Metro. I get up, get the kids to school and work on my business. I could still be in DC given that I spend most of my days inside of my home office. When I finally get up and go outside, and see a kangaroo hopping down the street, I’m reminded that this world outside my door isn’t my forever view.

I love helping people expand their personal leadership and live their best life, and I also want to be a role model. Yes, five years ago I left DC Metro for a life unknown, but now it’s time to break the frame yet again.


For the next twelve months, while I take a sabbatical:

I’m going to work on my novel and the book I’ve started on personal leadership.


Get outside more.

Travel more.

Go, get a coffee, and read a book without guilt.

Hang with my kids until they tell me to leave.

Give my time freely.

Re-discover my spirituality.


See friends.





Did I mention read?

For the next twelve months I will not:

Travel for work.

Take on a coaching or consulting clients just to pay the bills.

Stress about my website needing an overhaul.

Plan my next product launch.

Worry about what path I’m following. I’m tired of following an expected path.

Maybe thinking about a sabbatical as a year off is wrong and it’s actually a year of turning things on. Lighting up, rediscovering my spark, allowing things to unfold, finding a new pace and rhythm.

In the race to get ahead, have more, be more and do more, I got lost. Recently, I watched a video of me making a speech. I was smiling, passionate and honest but I was also overweight and on my way out the door minutes later to my next engagement with limited time to linger, connect and enjoy once I was away from the podium.

When I had surgery in 2015, I didn’t let it change my life, but it did derail me. Now, two years later, I wonder if it should have changed my life instead of rushing back into the fray.

We all have a limited time on this planet, and I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of doing what I’m supposed to do. Tired of sharing parts of me while keeping other parts hidden away. Tired of always walking a tightrope instead of not worrying about my next step. 

Most of all I’m taking a break from the idea that I need to be more successful. I’m not a failure if my practice isn’t full or I don’t have a waiting list or a gazillion followers or blog readers. I know that but sometimes, like you, forget.


What about you? What ideas about your life and career do you need to break?

Maybe you can’t take a sabbatical to figure it out. Here are five questions to ask yourself to get started. Grab a journal or Evernote or whatever works for you. Ready?

1. What are you putting off that you say matters a lot?

2. Where do you need to give more time?

3. What dream do you secretly hold dear that needs to see the light of day?

4. How are you holding yourself back?

5. What story do you tell yourself? Is it true?

You don’t need to quit your job or make some mammoth leap to make an important change. Life, leadership, work… It’s rarely all or nothing. However, you have to make choices, or you’ll find yourself floating along instead of moving where you want to go.

I’m still here on Break the Frame and hope you’ll visit me and engage with me. I plan to continue sharing my ahas, experiences, and stories with you and hope I make an impact on your personal leadership journey.

Can I promise I’ll be back in the same business in twelve months post sabbatical? Nope. But if I use the time with intention I can assure you I’ll bring a world of new experiences to whatever comes next.

Here’s to leaping into the unknown with the confidence you can and will get to where you’re meant to go.


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Bazin September 12, 2017 at 6:36 am

Alli, you are absolutely the best. As you know, your words always resonate with me. It is so easy for all of us to get caught up in just ‘doing’. Without really taking the time for the pause, for evaluating whether things are really making sense… is it making us happy etc, keeping us healthy etc. I love that you put this out there and I love the idea of taking a sabbatical. What clarity will come of this! And I guarantee how you feel a few months from now you are going to say to yourself “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” I want to say one more time… you are the best. Your leadership shines. I appreciate you!


Alli Polin September 12, 2017 at 6:47 am

Your support and friendship mean a ton. It’s easy to get on a path, make progress, even do good work and not recognize or acknowledge that we’re stuck. I’m nervous and excited and it feels great.

Big thanks!!



Cynthia Bazin September 12, 2017 at 7:02 am

I am very excited for you Alli. If there is anything you need from me, I am here!


Terri Klass September 12, 2017 at 7:25 am

You’re so inspiring Alli! You deserve to find your next road to take and I will always be a fan and support. I totally hear your call and I am so happy to see you are answering it.

Try anything that seems exciting! Lead the way!


Alli Polin September 12, 2017 at 8:15 am

I have some ideas and that’s always the fun part. Dreaming… brainstorming… beginning to see what can be and not only what is.

Thanks, Terri!



Jon Mertz September 12, 2017 at 9:13 am


Well said, and well done. Taking that time is essential. More than that, your words are reinforced with your actions. We get too caught up in what we think success is and the reality is we are defining success by what others think. Your plan is a sound one. Taking that year off will not turn out as you maybe think, but it will be well worth it. For me, there was more meandering than structured steps, and I am a proponent of some good meandering!

Here’s to your year ahead!



Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 4:30 am


I think, like for you, there will be meandering. I have ideas but am shying away from hard rules. I strongly agree as well that we do get caught up defining our success by the way others see us. It’s not a great way to live.

Thanks for leading the way!



David M McNamara September 12, 2017 at 9:28 am

Refreshing read with my coffee as I am feeling the same “going through the motions” about my current situation… changes I want to make but haven’t pulled the trigger and can always find reasons/excuses… good luck to you…


Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 4:34 am

I know what it’s like to go through the motions. There were times I felt the spark, clients who were electric. However, for now, I need to figure out how to feel that in a new way. I also hear ya on always finding a reason “why not.” It got to the point where I asked myself, “Why not?” Who knows how it will go but I do know that it will be a journey.

Hope that the changes you want to make come to pass as well.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, David.



Gary Gruber September 12, 2017 at 10:04 am

Sometimes it is all about you because if it isn’t then you can’t be who you want to be for yourself and others. Whether it’s a year or six months is irrelevant but sounds like it’s become an imperative for you for some very good and sound reasons. I have a lot more to say on the topic, some of which is personal and some of which is professional. Fortunately for me, I am doing a lot of those things on your list such as travel, read, blog, be outside more, sit out on the patio or deck with coffee and conversation, walk, rub the dog’s ears, visit with kids and grandkids, etc. and lots of etc too. I will encourage and support you 100% to do what you know, believe and feel is best for you because in the end, that will also be beneficial to others. You are gifted in many ways and your insights and understanding of the human condition are among your many talents. Make the most of those for yourself, my friend.


Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 4:36 am

You’re right… in the end, it’s not only best for me but for all the people who are a part of my life and want to be with a human being who’s happy and fulfilled.

I am truly grateful for your support and appreciate all of your words of encouragement.



LaRae Quy September 12, 2017 at 11:46 am

You always inspire me, Alli! I LOVE that you are taking a year off to finish your book…I need to kick myself in gear and do something similar with my book of fiction…I have ideas but getting them on paper is always interrupted by other things. I also LOVE that you are no longer traveling for work. I recently made the same decision: I only travel if I’ve got a pair of flip flops in my carry-on. Life is too short to spend it in airports and hotel rooms. OK…you’ve given me the jump start I need to follow through. BTW, I’m always a willing beta reader if you need/want feedback for your book. I may reach out and ask you to do the same 🙂


Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 4:55 am

We’ll have to be beta readers for each other!! Although, you’ll laugh when you read the clandestine parts of mine. Also, I think having flip flops in your travel bag is a good rule of thumb!

For me, now there are no more excuses in my way! Unless I come up with some new ones… (just kidding)

Thanks, LaRae!



Kaylene Mathews September 12, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Wow, wow, wow. Seems you have been living in my head for the past couple of weeks Ali! I have been toying with the same idea. But instead of “just doing it” I have been wishy washy, which has simply resulted in inconsistency. So good for YOU and good for me, because I’m going to do the same thing! Thanks for the jump start and don’t be surprised if you see a similar post from me soon 😉
All the best to you and see you in a year 😉 ~ Kaylene


Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 5:01 am

Talk about wow, wow, wow! First of all, I’ve been wishy washy for a long time and it feels so good to finally commit. Also, glad to know I’m not alone! Will be following your journey too! Yay! Here’s to unfolding…




John Bennett September 12, 2017 at 3:55 pm

That’s fantastic!!! I’m Emeritus since 2009 and haven’t done a great job of “emeriting” … My bride and I have moved to the Richmond, Virginia area and built a new home (quite a contrast from our 1734 home in Connecticut). And I’ve cancelled my ‘education’ subscriptions. And in the last few months have begun to take care of myself – down 25 pounds to date.

What I’m struggling with now is “How important is my continuing feeling that I have some things of value to offer to education?” In actual fact, in my honest, reflection moments, of course that’s at least partly (maybe totally) wishful thinking eminating via my ego.

So here’s my sabbatical, firmed up through Consideration of this post from you, young lady … I’m going to stop organizing that book proposal that’s underway and stop lashing out on myself about posting regularly to my blog. As much as I believe I have contributions I could make to Richmond schools, not going to happen – wouldn’t have anyhow.

I’m going to: Contribute more and engage more with family and friends. Get involved with our new community here in Hallsley. Continue my renewed attention to better understanding Methodism. Take better advantage of the arts and entertainment opportunities here in our area. Stroke my curiosity about the Civil War with all the options here in Virginia and nearby states. Continue and expand my attention to my health. WOW – I’m guessing I’ll not be able to continue much related to education beyond a Twitter chat or two and Considering some favorite blog posts – probably having to revise this list of intentions even!!!

All the best to you in your sabbatical!!! I’ll be following with interest.


Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 6:12 am

Have so much to say about what you wrote here. Will probably gather my thoughts in an email…

Let’s start with 25 pounds down. Fabulous! I’ve been sick but am looking forward to getting back into a healthy routine too. You’re inspiring me!

Also, over the course of our careers, we go in and out of positions and just because we’re not practicing, our knowledge, skills, and abilities aren’t erased. I can understand your drive to contribute and you do – even if not in the ways that you’d think. Every time you’re in a chat, comment on a blog, write on your blog no matter how periodically, you’re putting your ideas out into the world. I guess I’d like to think that despite the fact that I’ll be on a sabbatical, I will continue to share my know-how even if it’s in new ways in my community, online and who knows what other ways.

LOVE your I’m Going To list! Deeply resonates with me.

Here’s to embracing the sabbatical mindset and using our time in ways that feed our minds, bodies, and spirits!




Scott Mabry September 13, 2017 at 12:37 am

Alli, I wish you happiness, rest, joy and wonderful insights on your journey. Excited to hear where your story takes you. You have been an inspiration and even more so in your courage to do this for you.




Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 6:12 am

Many thanks, Scott! I’m excited to see where it takes me too. Thanks for being a part of my journey to date!



Chery Gegelman September 13, 2017 at 10:57 am

Alli – I love this! Not stopping your career, but pausing some things, to focus on other things. I can’t wait to see where this path takes you or to read your book!


Alli Polin September 13, 2017 at 9:01 pm

I still have things going on… some side projects that will take more center stage for the time being. Change brings perspective!

Thanks, Chery 🙂


Brian Smith September 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Does taking the summer off to relocate my consulting business to St. Catharines and play golf – depending on the weather – every other day? I always enjoy your posts Alli


Alli Polin September 17, 2017 at 12:17 am

Sure does! I’m enjoying some new projects too. I think it was all about giving myself permission to change focus.

Enjoy that golf!



Built For Teams September 25, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Taking the first step is always the hardest. Thank you for sharing your plan. It makes me want to do the same. It’s something I think we could all benefit from every year. If we took a moment to stop and prioritize and rid ourselves of what’s dragging us down and fill up that time with things that are meaningful to us, I think we would all be happier and hopefully more fulfilled.


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