When you’re in “the machine”, just functioning as a human being can become difficult. You may be putting 16 hours a day into work that you’re not enjoying, or feel that you’re just another cog in the wheel. You don’t feel a sense of focused, productive output. We’re wired to seek fulfilment and meaning in our work beyond just earning a paycheck every month.
Artists talk a great deal about the importance of inspiration, or the muse. While inspiration has more of a platform or pedestal for artists, the concept applies to any type of job. Inspiration is what fuels the drive and motivation for you to get out of bed and get things done. There’s a widespread misconception that inspiration will strike if you’re poised in front of a window that faces the open seas. My view is that if you haven’t worked on yourself and ideated in your own field, external factors won’t move the needle the way you’d expect. Your drive has to come from within.
When you feel that your inner well is running dry and needs to be replenished, you should consider taking a break from your job.
However, not everyone has the luxury of deciding when they want to take a break. Sometimes, breaks can happen without us planning for them. People may be forced to take a break because of their health or if they’re in a comatose professional state due to death or family circumstances. In whatever way life presents you with this spell, you can always run with it and try to use this time to recalibrate, learn and grow.
Of course, taking a break comes with its own set of challenges. It can certainly feel damaging to your career to take a break, especially when things outwardly appear to be completely fine. When you’re in a good position, taking a break can come across as not valuing the wonderful opportunity you have. There’s the notion that you’re not grateful for a job that many people would love to have.
I used my break to speak about mental health, the importance of having a personal life, and finding balance in my work. The backlash to that came from people who criticised me for “living under a rock”. However, all of the artists I’ve looked up to have reinvented themselves by bravely taking a step back from full, busy careers. To reinvent and change, you need to give yourself the time and awareness for growth. It won’t happen with a snap of your fingers.
When you take a step away from your job, you will also gain perspective about the people in your life. How do people perceive you if you’re not adding value to their lives on a daily basis? In withdrawing from your career, you might be confronted with the reality that the people you thought you could rely on are not by your side. I’ve been blessed to have my manager in India who has been very supportive of my decision to take a break. She understood why it was important to me, and helped me visualise what challenges I would face in taking this break. Find that person in your life who will brainstorm with you, reflect your strengths and weaknesses back to you, and tell you the honest truths that will keep you grounded.
Before you take your break, you will need to account for the factors in your life that would be most affected by your decision. Making sure you have a comfortable financial buffer is obviously an important consideration you should plan for. No jump is made without a cord or a net. You can’t jump off a cliff without some sort of safety measures in place. You might be dangling off the cord for some time, but at least you know you’re safe.
You should also ask yourself what variables matter to you. We are all slaves to many variables, whether we like it or not. This could be our families, partners, children, friends, or even what society thinks of us. These are parameters that ultimately influence the personal decisions we make in our daily lives.
What are your limiting variables? Make a list of these, and then prioritise them. Then, strategically decide which of these variables you’re okay with letting go of, at the cost of damage, and which variables you will continue to hold on to as you decide your next steps. For example, you could decide that you will need to continue to support your partner during your break, but choose to let go of what your friends might think of you.
Know that while you may need emotional support from your loved ones during this time, they might not always be there when and how you expect them to be. And know that this is completely fine. When I took a break, it was to heal myself and address my struggles with mental health.
I knew that I couldn’t simply unload on my friends and family. I worked through my challenges in therapy, which was incredibly empowering. It makes an enormous difference to talk to a trained professional who is capable of suitably guiding you in the right direction. While therapy may not be for everyone, I know many people don’t access this resource because of the stigma attached to it. If that’s the case, please put your concerns aside and do it for yourself.
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Indian Film Actress & Singer