You may have read a recent blog we posted about sabbaticals. In it, we mentioned we’d be sharing one of our Flintster’s sabbatical stories and the impact it had on her personal and professional outlook. Dawn Koranda, who joined Flint over 32 years ago, was one of the very first to raise her hand for the opportunity, and she recently returned from her four-week sabbatical.
When I stopped by Dawn’s office to talk about her experience, I planned to make it a quick visit, as I know how hectic things can be after a vacation. But as soon as we began talking, I was reminded that Dawn hadn’t been on vacation, she’d been on sabbatical. And the difference between the two became glaringly apparent. For example, instead of telling me about all the things she did (which is typically what people share after a vacation), Dawn told me about all she accomplished.
Follow a passion
As a director of creative services at Flint, Dawn gets to do what she’s passionate about – create. She’s a master at listening to and understanding her clients’ visions and then strategically applying logic to design. She loves what she does, but she was eager to focus on creating for herself.
“I wanted to spend my time doing things I love but just haven’t made time for. I also wanted to learn something new,” Dawn explained. So, pre-sabbatical, Dawn developed a list of goals she hoped to achieve during her break. Oil painting, woodworking and art classes were a few of the things on the list that she accomplished. She also followed some other passions such as volunteering, and she added some new plants to her already extensive flora family. (We’re talking more than 60 plants!)
Appreciate the small things
Dawn decided to journal her sabbatical, and she discovered that doing so compelled her to notice – and enjoy – the little things. “I was in my yard one afternoon when suddenly there was a large kaleidoscope of monarch butterflies, and I just stopped and watched them. Something about that moment made me realize that maybe it was time to give myself a little more grace and balance.”
When Flint implemented its sabbatical program, leadership made it clear that they wanted employees to completely unplug from work and focus 100 percent on themselves. Dawn said that she was able to do that thanks to an amazing team and a little prep work upfront. “I just made sure everyone had what they needed so they could step in if necessary. And I know my colleagues share the same level of professionalism as me and that they completely had my back.” Because of this, Dawn didn’t make or take a single work phone call during her sabbatical, nor did she check her work email.
It would be easy to assume that checking out entirely for four weeks would be difficult and that it would be stressful returning to a full inbox. Dawn, however, said that as part of the balance she wanted to maintain in her life; she needed to fully embrace her sabbatical experience – and apply her new insight to her work life when she returned. Her new perspective, and the complete trust she has in her team, made it easy to come back to work refreshed, less stressed and ready to roll with whatever awaited.
Monarch butterflies go through many phases during their migration, and it’s been said that seeing the monarch butterfly is a sign that you’re experiencing a profound internal change. So, perhaps for Dawn, the visit from the majestic group of monarchs in her garden was more than just a beautiful moment. Maybe it was a depiction of how, by following her inner compass, Dawn was entering a new phase; one of transformation, growth, and the discovery of her inner truth.
When asked what advice she would give others contemplating taking a sabbatical, Dawn said, “If you have the opportunity, take it. To maximize the experience, make sure you are professionally and mentally prepared to commit to and learn from the journey.”
Although each person’s sabbatical journey will be different, one key lesson to be learned from Dawn’s story is that big things are often just a compilation of the little things that go unnoticed. So, take a minute, take a breath … and notice.