By Sarah Godfrey MAPS. AHPRA. PBA. CCOUN
Psychologist – Coach – Author – Speaker
Not convinced to book that leave yet? The importance of creative thinking is vital for emotional resilience and intellectual achievement. Let’s take a moment to see into the future and learn how creativity will be a much sought after human skill. According to the World Economic Forum in the Future of Jobs Report, in 2015 the top three human skills employers wanted were;
- Complex problem solving (part of executive functioning).
- Coordinating with others (part of emotional intelligence).
- People management.
By 2020 (at the time of writing this, that is just shy of 12 months from now), the top 3 human skills to secure your job will be;
- Complex problem solving.
- Critical thinking.
- Creativity (a very new entry into ‘must have’ qualities of future employees).
Beyond 2020, the prediction is that the human skill of Creativity jumps to the number one spot and Emotional Intelligence arrives on the scene, moving from the sixth desired attribute in future employees into the top three. These significant human skills will be needed to balance our increasingly technologically dependent world and can be connected with the benefits of taking sabbaticals. I know! How easy is that?
A rested mind is a creative mind.
Creativity is coordinated through the right hemisphere of the brain. Let’s not get caught up with thinking this skill is only about creating works of art, making things of great beauty or releasing emotional stress through artistic exploration. Creativity is innovation. It is a human skill that will help you perform better in solution finding (problem solving), allow you to view opinions from different perspectives, explain and comprehend information from new angles and increase success to communicate, connect and conflict resolve with others. Creativity is integral to change adaptation and flexibility, as it lets you cope and deal with uncertainty by allowing you to include the unknown in your thinking.
Sabbaticals can untap your creative potential by delivering time. Time is the quality none of us have and desire the most. A sabbatical forces you to step out of a busy life, preoccupied with ‘living’ and making immediate choices on a daily basis. It allows your mind to drift, slow down, process and tap into that dusty and underused imagination. Much like the positive effects of boredom to spark your imagination, a sabbatical, by changing your environment, focus and goals, can stimulate the brain to activate a different skill set than you would normally use. Time and personal freedom are the key to growing your creative potential. Two things a sabbatical can offer you.
Research conducted by academics across New Zealand, United States and Israel (Sabbatical Leave: Who gains and How Much?) studied the effects on sabbaticals across 10 different universities. They focused on emotional well-being and found that their colleagues enjoyed enhanced psychological health during sabbaticals, particularly where they journeyed out of their home country, in comparison to those who did not take leave. This cohort also showed increased resource levels (productivity and resilience).
Our mental health is improved by the time we take to venture into the world and gain new experiences. But leave your work and screen obsession behind. Our brains are not designed to be switched on 24/7. They are engineered to problem solve, whether that is a complex problem or an emotional issue, by slowing down and allowing information to randomly explore possibilities. Mastering emotional resilience is a part of effective problem solving. Contrary to what most might believe our brains need time to disconnect from excessive focus, restructure the process of seeking information, develop the capacity for insight or deeper understanding of the issues and relish in the very scientific term, the ‘A-ha’ moment, which is the sudden realisation of a solution to the problem (according to Simone Sandkühler, and Joydeep Bhattacharya in their research on insightful problem solving). None of which can be mastered in our hectic working lives but can be generated by taking sabbaticals and allowing us to connect with our emotions, randomly work through hurdles and learn to explore and stabilise intense feelings. The brain needs to slow down in order to do this and work as it is intended. If we are screen obsessed and use holidays to stare mindlessly at technology or continue work tasks, you may as well stay at home and continue the grind because the benefits are going to pass you by.
Studies such as these confirm what we know instinctively; that taking a break will have a positive outcome on your general physical and mental well-being. How you use your sabbatical is also important. We need to create space and time to switch off our working brain and explore and develop our creative brain. Having a different focus, exploring the new and novel, breaking a routine and even being bored by too much free time on your hands, are positive outcomes from taking that much needed break. It is the restful escape that will develop a more creative, emotionally resilient and intelligent you.
Sabbaticals, especially regular sabbaticals, have the ability to improve our brain function, release our creativity, enhance our emotional intelligence and alter our genetic map for the better. It is time to embrace the body and brain benefits of planning sabbaticals and reap the emotional and physical rewards. Employers should look more positively on the long-term outcomes that sabbaticals can have on their staff, their productivity and overall employee well-being. A well-planned sabbatical has the ability of helping us all.
On that note, I think it is time I got myself a safari suit, picked up a shovel and booked my own sabbatical. Afterwards I can return to my career and family rested, inspired, creatively improved and physically ready for the year ahead.
Sarah is a lateral mentalist providing coaching psychology for two decades focusing on personal development. She works with her clients to build successful futures, speaks at conferences and writes books and blogs on discovering how to improve your life, find happiness and master human skills.
You can contact Sarah by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org