I knew something had to change. I could look for another job. But there was also a little voice in my head that nudged me to think bigger…
What helped me most during this difficult period in my life was my daily journaling practice. It created a safe space for me to organize my thoughts and feel more in control of my situation.
Making the big decision to take a creative sabbatical didn’t happen overnight. I spent months doing this daily practice to finally gain the clarity to know what was best for me.
Looking back, there were a few prompts that really got the ball rolling.
1) Figuring Out My Core Values
These prompts made me think about what I want to prioritize most in life and what behaviors I want to demonstrate.
Core values are something we all develop as we experience life. The people we meet and the experiences we go through help shape what we value and don’t care for.
Here are a few prompts that helped me define my core values:
1. Who do you look up to, and why?
2. What are your non-negotiables in life?
3. What activities light you up and make you feel alive?
4. What was your childhood dream and why?
5. What’s your proudest achievement so far, and why?
6. What would you miss the most if it were taken away from you, and why?
Answering these questions helped me uncover the things that mattered most to me. I then mapped them to this list of core values by Russ Harris, identified 5-8 that resonated the most with me, and stuck them on sticky note on my monitor.
These core values act as an internal compass, and guide me in moments of difficult decision making. When I found myself at a crossroads, I could rely on my core values to choose the right path.
Defining my core values was a game-changer because I realized that my job put me in a position where my actions and core values were totally out of sync. The job wasn’t giving me the experiences I craved.
So then I asked myself, “Should I stick with my current job, find a new one, or take a creative sabbatical?” And after starting at my list of core values, I found myself gravitating towards the latter option.
2) Connecting With My Future Self
These questions helped me imagine what my best life could look like in the future. They were forward-looking and helped me come up with new ideas, goals, and aspirations that I was having a hard time getting in touch with while stuck in my cloudy thoughts during burnout.
Here are few examples:
1. What does the phrase, “living my best life” mean to you?
2. Describe your ideal future self.
3. In a world where you have unlimited confidence, how would you behave differently?
4. How would you approach work, play, and performance differently?
5. What new things would you start doing?
6. What habits or activities would you stop doing?
7. How would your close relationships change for the better?
Answering these questions helped me visualize what I wanted to manifest for my future. It helped me map out a whole new direction to navigate towards, and identify the incremental steps that would get me there.
I could finally start to imagine what was possible if I took the creative sabbatical. Instead of feeling anxious from my limiting beliefs, letting them go and imagining the best possible scenarios from taking the leap got me feeling excited and hopeful again.
How to Get Started
If you feel some resistance to journaling everyday, I recommend starting small! Taking just 10 minutes each morning to write down what’s going through your head is a great way to start. Alternatively, you can also start by making it a weekly practice.
These days I carve out 30 minutes in the morning as I sip my coffee to journal. I write down the tasks I want to get done that day, reflect on the previous day and write down 2-3 good things that happened that I’m grateful for, and spend the rest of the time putting my thoughts down to paper or responding to prompts. This practice helps me feel more grounded and at peace before I start tackling the day.
I also acknowledge that my values and what I envision for my future self will change as time passes. So it’ll be good to get in the habit of checking in with myself every few months to see what’s changed and how I want to adjust moving forward.
If you’re feeling the itch for change or thinking about starting a journaling practice, I hope this gets your creative juices flowing.