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Good Leaders: What do you hear when you listen to yourself think?

The pool deck at Kichaka Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa gave me a great place to listen to myself think.

How time flies. This morning, I’m returning to my work at Good Leadership Enterprises from a sabbatical. The word “sabbatical” means many things, but for me it meant significant time off – a deliberate “pause” to let go of the daily pressures of being a business owner, to rest, to enjoy my family to the fullest, and to listen to myself think. My pause included three days at home to prepare for 21-days of vacation and travel with my family in South Africa, followed by another 9 days of free time at home again. (I will write more about our adventures in the coming weeks.)

Looking back, here’s the best way for me to think about the value of a sabbatical: when my iPhone or my MacBook gets frozen or temperamental, the best strategy is to just shut it down for awhile. It needs rest. 99% of the time, when I return to the device and turn it back on again, the technical glitch causing my angst is fixed. Magically, the pause is the fix.

My sabbatical strategy

The benefits of taking real time off are well-described in this issue of Spirituality and Health, featuring Maria Shriver.

Much has been written about how to take time off. Two things specifically shaped my approach: first, a book by Twin Cities executive coach Kevin Cashman called THE PAUSE PRINCIPLE: Step Back to Lead Forward, and more recently the writings and media appearances by Kennedy-family descendant (and ex-wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger) Maria Shriver. Both advocate for time away from the office, with specific goals. Here were my three goals: 1) Be fully present with my family. 2) Take good care of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. 3) Listen to myself think.

So, I shut off my laptop, left it at the office, and walked out the door. For the first time in my life I left my work behind without any worry. Nothing significant ever happens alone. We have a great team, and they wanted me out of their hair!

Captured thoughts

Here’s some of the thoughts I heard myself say while I was gone:

I am grateful. Grateful for the amazing people in our lives who help make our dreams come true. The theme “nothing significant ever happens alone” was an affirmation that we have a great team.

Two weeks in Africa with my family was indescribably satisfying.

Family is the best investment. Melinda and I found watching our adult children radiating goodness with people half-way around the globe was gratifying beyond description.

I needed to shut down. After 8 years of growing and pruning the Good Leadership Enterprises tree, I had reached a point where I was a little frozen in my thoughts and temperamental in my approach. I needed to shut down for awhile.

I love to work. Really. I love the work of building a business whose mission is spreading goodness through good leadership. And I also love to work in my free time – building things in my workshop, working on my fitness, working on my relationships, and planning the next family trip. I’m not happy without a to-do list, and that’s OK.

Carpe diem.

So, this week, it’s no surprise that being “back in the office” actually means going out on the road. I’m speaking today at a conference in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, returning later in the week to host the Good Leadership Breakfast. I’m happy to be back!

Good leaders recognize the importance of time off to pause from the daily pressures we put on ourselves. And they seize the golden opportunity to grow by listening to themselves think.

Please share with me: what do you hear, when you listen to yourself think?

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