A Sabbatical to Get Your Motivation Back on Track? Well...

Dorottya Nagy-Jozsa PCC Dorottya Nagy-Jozsa PCC today 2023-11-27 label ENG, English tag

Well, it's going really well today, truly. I hear your grumbling, and of course, you're right.

Because in many places, we are really spoiled. The sabbatical, for example, is becoming fashionable in more and more companies. As more and more people take creative leave.

The half or completely burnt-out employee takes three months off, builds a vintage car in the garage, or walks the Camino back and forth six times. Either way, they have a peaceful quarter of a year when they even get paid. It's good for both the company and the employee, right?


Finally, they can get some rest.

Finally, they will come to work motivated again.

Finally, their eyes will sparkle again.

Well, there is no evidence for that.

On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence for the opposite.

So, I absolutely don't understand why you're doing it. Why you do it as an employee, sure, building a vintage car in the garage for three months is cool. In our garage, it would take three months just to find the car, but there are longer sabbaticals too.

But why, as an employer, you think that Lajos will be like before, well, that's really foggy. Or he will be like before, of course. His eyes will sparkle for two weeks, then not for two weeks. Then he will buzz like a spinning top for three days, and then he'll stay the snail version for three days. Because Lajos is normal.

We all work like this. We have already written about how human motivation does not work in the long term as it has long been believed. At least according to the smart ones' research of the past ten years, not at all. So, if you listened to me then, you have been listening to the podcasts of neuroscientists, reading their books, their studies for half a year now.

And translated from jargon into normal human language: you know that if you deplete your dopamine storage, it takes time to recharge.

If you constantly do everything every blessed day to deplete yourself by the end of the day, it will become harder and harder to recharge. It doesn't matter whether you killed it with video games or five successful negotiations a day. Either way, the state labeled burnout comes, which can be debated whether it can be treated or not.

But sabbaticals definitely won't fix it.

Because an average three-month leave has two exaggerated versions:

At one end of the scale, the three months are absolutely wonderful, you recharge, enjoy, wander, get lots of new impulses, travel around half the world. Then, completely recharged, you fall back into daily work. Into the state of dopamine depletion.

So, you sit back in the hamster wheel, and lo and behold, your eyes no longer sparkle after three days. But why would they? Because you haven't embedded anything in your everyday life that would result in different dopamine pathways in your brain. You don't go out in the sun in the morning, you don't go out in the open air, you don't exercise without music, to give your brain time to live without the many layers of reward, you don't stop eating chocolate pieces that result in fifteen-second dopamine peaks (I hope you at least spat out that one piece from your mouth now!!:))) ), and so on. So, has anything changed? No.

At the other end of the scale, the three months turn out to be a disaster. Because the sabbatical freed you from 8 hours of work a day (or four, or twelve, don't take it personally, it doesn't matter), but the 16 hours of the day remained. And in the second week of your mega-vacation, you realize that no, you can't go mountain climbing in Bolivia for twelve weeks, because your four-year-old son and your dear wife find someone less burned out than you in the fourth week. Totally justified. So, you stay home and mess around with your car in the garage, but it hurts your back, and you're actually looking forward to going back to work. Then you go back and realize that the car is not finished, nothing happened at work, and your sabbatical is over. So, has anything changed? No.

So then is there no point in a sabbatical? Or a long leave?

Of course, there is. But not on its own.

It makes sense when you consciously do everything every blessed day in your everyday life so that your dopamine level is fine.

Because then you can raise your baseline in the long term with your well-put-together life, of which freedom is a part. But as long as your daily rhythm, your eating habits, the pace of your work, your workouts, the time you spend with your family and friends, your alcohol consumption, those lifestyle choices are not in order, then you shouldn't expect anything from going on leave.

Whether it's for three days.

Or for three months.

I don't even think it would occur to you what a great plan it would be to turbocharge a lousy theater performance - with an excellent intermission.


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