Finding Your Why for Taking a Sabbatical


One thing I’ve learned in my sabbatical journey is that it is going to take a lot of extra work. Over the next year, I’m going to have to work extra hard, save more money, and skimp on purchases I might otherwise enjoy. 

This won’t be easy. 

Whenever we are doing something hard, we need a really good reason – a purpose – to keep us going.  Some might say that this is your “why.”

What’s Your Why?

Discovering your “why” may be the most important question you ask yourself. If you want to succeed, it may be the most critical question you answer.

If you want to reach your goal — a sabbatical, a year off, a trip around the world, or just a break — you must know the answer to this question.

Simon Simek’s TED talk on what’s your why encourages you to “start from the why.” That is, to understand why you are doing something.

In knowing your why, you will be able to persist when things get more challenging. Let’s be honest; things will get more challenging if you are doing something worth doing.

The “5 Whys” Exercise

So, the question for you is: Why do you want to take a sabbatical? 

Take a minute and write down the answer to your question.

Then ask yourself, “Why?” again about your answer.

Then do it again. 

And again.

And again.

The “5 whys” exercise will ultimately help you understand your true motivation.

For me, it might look something like this.

I want to take a year off to spend more time with my kids.

Why do you want to spend more time with your kids?

Because they are still at an age where they enjoy being with me. Before long, they will be too busy with their own friends and right now I don’t spend as much time with them as I’d like.


My job is a 60+ hours a week job. Practically speaking, I just don’t have the hours in the day. And the hours I do have, I’m not as present as I’d like to be.


While it’s a very demanding job that requires a lot of my time, it also requires a lot of my emotional and mental energy. So even when I’m with my kids, I’m not the best self that I’d like to be. By taking a year off, I will be able to be my best self with my kids.

The Bottom Line

There you have it. When I dig down and truly start to unpack my reasons for wanting to take time off, it’s because I want to be able to show up as my best self every day for myself and for my family while making an impact not just for my kids, but on the world.

What about you? What is your why?

This post is part of our Sabbatical Sundays series. To read more, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *