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Job Getting You Down? Call Time-Out.

Tom was approaching 30, and he wanted to step off the treadmill, but doing what? He needed time to rethink his goals.

Tom and his wife, Elva, decided on a moratorium -- a time-out from responsibilities and commitments. They sold everything and bought a van. "But you're giving up everything... What will you do when you come back?" everyone cried.

After driving throughout North America, they settled in a small town. Tom does carpentry, an old hobby, and Elva is a bookkeeper. They have no regrets. 

Time-out or moratorium was initially used to describe the period that adolescents go through while trying out roles in establishing their identities. Adolescents are permitted to delay adult commitments as they search for roles that fit. Those who experiment emerge stronger and more in control of their destinies.

However, time-out is becoming more acceptable for adults. Adults want to derive more meaning from work and to define success personally.

Those who take moratoriums return from their breaks with greater vitality, enhanced self-understanding, renewed confidence and greater vigour and courage to pursue their goals. They are healthier and revitalized.

Nevertheless, a time-out may involve temporary personal or financial sacrifices or uncertainties. Tradeoffs include fear of not having a job to return to, loss of security or guilt that one won't meet obligations.

Organizations are taking a more liberal view of time-out. While some have offered sabbaticals every five to ten years, many are recognizing that those who take time-out bring greater creativity and renewed vigour to their old or new positions.

Your identity is not static. You continue to learn and grow. Throughout life, you progress through alternating transitional and developmental periods.

Transitions, which generally occur during late adolescence and around every birthday that ends in a zero, are times for questioning who you are and where you want to go. Time-outs usually occur during transitions.

Should you take time out?

You must do what's best for you. Responding "yes" or "no" to the following will help you clarify feelings: 

  1. I'm not sure what I want to do with my life.
  2. I'm disenchanted with my lifestyle.
  3. I question the importance and meaning of my work.
  4. I feel stale or tired.
  5. I'm restless.
  6. I'm irritable and impatient.
  7. I've explored many occupations, but don't know what to do?
  8. My body is sending me messages. I have frequent colds or other ailments.
  9. I lack a clear sense of purpose.
  10. Many things get me down.

Scoring: Four or more "yes" responses suggest you should consider at least a month off or get professional help. The more "yes" responses you have, the more you need time-out. 

Prepare for Time-Out

- Listen to yourself. This will help clarify what you want. Believe you'll succeed.

- Define and overcome barriers. Describe any blocks that are preventing you from taking time-out like fear of losing material things, power or prestige; fear of making a mistake; not knowing what you'll do when you return; or guilt that change may interfere with relationships. What can you do to overcome the barriers?

- Let go of attachments. Growth requires letting go of material possessions and people. Ask yourself, "What do I need to let go of?" "What's the worst thing that can happen if I let go?" "What can I do to minimize the risk?"

- Assess your finances and budget. Consider how much money you'll need to live on. Can you survive on your partner's salary? Live on savings for a year? Work at odd or part-time jobs? Live on less? Borrow money to survive?

- Know you have many exciting options. Investigate these. Research and planning will reduce risk.

Gloria took a sabbatical from teaching to study psychology. "I needed time to rethink the direction of my career," she offers. Recently married and laid off, Barbara is enjoying the pleasures of day-to-day-living and developing previously ignored life components.

Mark's illness, caused by job stressors, forced him to take a time-out. During his convalescence, he reassessed his career goals and researched his dream business. Today, this former executive describes his life as, “Disneyland ... fantastic."

Show prospective employers how you bettered yourself.  Many employers will respect your strength and courage.

Present a solid reason for your time-out. Have clear goals and focus.

Continuous learning is a hot topic so explain your new knowledge, self-understanding or skills. Illustrate how your enhanced creativity, enthusiasm, vigour and vitality can improve your performance and the company's bottom line. 

A time-out will enable you to develop the courage to be open to new experiences. You'll become more independent, mature, purposeful, flexible and have the power to effect change. You will be stronger and wiser.  

Questers, share their time-out experiences in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life by Dr. Carole Kanchier