What My Sabbatical Taught Me

As I write this, I am sitting on my screened porch, sipping coffee, listening to the sound of the burbling fountain in the backyard, and watching the avian frenzy at the bird feeder just outside the porch. This has been my routine most days since starting my sabbatical in June.
Now, as my time off draws to a close (official reentry is September 3!), I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what this summer has meant and what I’ve accomplished.
Bottom line: Taking this time off—the first extended period of time off from work I’ve taken in my entire adult life—is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself (right up there with marrying my husband and starting my own business).
And yet, it’s not like I used the time to learn Italian, visit an Indian ashram, or write a book. What I mainly did was read, write in my journal, think, weed the garden, clean out closets and cabinets, and watch the birds. I hit the gym and walked the dog most days, went on trips without trying to meet 15 deadlines in the two weeks before, and simply “floated” through the day on occasion, reveling in the sheer possibility of an entire day with no deadlines.

And still I learned many things:
  • How to be present in the moment. OK, this is still a work in progress, but I do find myself better able to simply be in the moment rather than thinking (uh, obsessing) over my next task/deadline/to-do list.
  • How to find enjoyment in the most mundane things. When you’re not rushing all the time, even running errands and washing dishes becomes enjoyable. And you won’t believe how Zen-like weeding a flower bed can be.
  • How to listen better. As I gradually unclenched over the summer and allowed space in my head, I found I could listen better to what others said (including my 17- and 20-year-old sons), which, in turn, enabled me to respond more appropriately (even to the 17-year-old—no small feat!)
  • What I want my life (and business) to look like after September 3. I talked about balance before in this space and failed miserably at achieving it. Hence the need for a full stop this summer. I now have a “life plan” that spells out very specifically what balance looks like, sets very specific financial goals, and highlights new areas in which I hope to take my business (see below).
  • How to knit. Well, sort of. I've spent three months knitting and then ripping out a baby blanket, but I learned I enjoy the journey most. . .the destination isn’t as important. (Hopefully I'll have the blanket done by the time the 17-year-old has a kid).
Why am I sharing all this with you, my clients and colleagues? Because so many of you were so supportive of me doing this, and so many of you asked that I let you know how it went. Many told me they were putting a sabbatical on their bucket list.
So here’s my advice: Plan for it. And then do it.
I’m constantly reminded of how short life is (two close friends, 50 and 64 years old, were both diagnosed with rare cancers this year) and how all our saving and planning for the future, while necessary, too often overtakes the present.
This is not “What-do-you-want-on-your-headstone?” advice. But, rather, a suggestion that you take some time and ask yourself: “Am I living an authentic life?”
The answer may surprise you.

Are You Ready for the ACA and Healthcare Reform? I Can Help

On October 1, the cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act kicks in—state-based and federal health exchanges go live, and millions of Americans will be able to sign up for affordable, often subsidized, health insurance.
But that’s just one part of the act and, more importantly, the act is just one part of the bigger picture of healthcare reform.
One thing I’ve been able to do while on sabbatical is dive deep into the details of healthcare reform. While I won’t say I’m an expert (not sure anyone is, given the complexity of the U.S. healthcare system), I do think that I understand it better than most writers, particularly as it affects healthcare-related businesses. 
My goal moving forward is to greatly expand my work in this area, whether through speaking, training, writing, consulting, or a combination. As part of that, I’m excited to announce that I’ve been named Editor-at-Large for Prevention magazine, with a focus on the ACA, healthcare reform, and patient engagement.
How can I help you position your business to be successful in the emerging new healthcare system?

Exciting News From the Office

Even though I've been officially “off” this summer, some very exciting things have been in the works:
  • I have been named Editor-at-Large for Prevention magazine, focusing on the Affordable Care Act and healthcare reform issues. Look for my stories on the ACA in the October and November issues, as well as at the online site.
  • I am partnering with the Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Experience Officer, James Merlino, MD, to write a book designed to empower healthcare consumers: Be a Patientzilla: Get the Health Care You Want, Need, and Deserve. The Cleveland Clinic is a national (international, really) leader in the area of patient experience and empowerment. And, in case you didn’t know, patient empowerment and engagement is a cornerstone of healthcare reform.
The blog has also been on sabbatical this summer. New posts begin this week, so make sure you subscribe!

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