I’m a machine these days. (Post-wizard Tin Man sense.)

One year ago I was working in the head office of a large company with an expense account, fancy car, nice paycheque and big expectations, managing a 3500 product portfolio in over 28 major markets spanning more than 15 languages I don’t speak, working as a go-between for cultures which did not mesh.

Today I am in a tropical paradise, shoeless, wearing a sarong, looking at another sunny morning. I have a little kitchen, a ceiling fan and a balcony that glimpses the ocean.

This year, this sabbatical, has been about creating opportunities to learn and produce in ways that are different to the corporate structure I spent so much time in over the last 7 years. I’ve learned simplicity, eliminating the glamour of multi-tasking. I’ve 1) realized what’s actually important 2) cut waste and 3) been incredibly productive.

Opposed to a year ago when my the fruits of my labour may never see the light of day – their fate was out of my hands – everything I do now is completely up to me. If I learn and create or if I try and fail, it’s all up to me. I have a deeper understanding of the responsibility I have to make something of my time – not just as a function of my job, but as a human being with a contribution to make in a needy world.

I strongly believe in morning routines, and now before 10am I’ve generally accomplished more for my growth and wellbeing than I did in a few days in my old life. By 10am these days I’ve meditated, done some writing, reviewed my Spanish lessons, listened to at least one of my IIN (nutrition course) lectures, been briefed on the latest tech/health/science stuff, and often connected with family or close friends (which these days are often are like coaching calls or lead to co-creation of some project or other).

One year ago by 10am I’d drank 2 cups of coffee, finished a conference call where it was decided we’d “hold off on making a decision” and instead put another call on the agenda. My feet were sore in my (beautiful) heels, I’d stopped by the office where my expense report still wasn’t finished because 4 people dropped in “just to find out where you’ve been traveling to”, and at precisely this moment I was standing behind a first-time flyer in the security line who seemed to have a water bottle and scissors in their carry on, a pacemaker and metal implants in their person, gunpowder on their palms and explosives in the soles of their shoes.

That stated, I am excited to return to work. This is the beauty of sabbatical. You see what’s possible, you learn how incredibly productive you’re able be and you’re not going to give it up for just that fancy car and the office with a big window. You become motivated not just to contribute but to create, not just to build but to architect. You realize that your life really does have a product and it’s not the number of years spent at a company – it’s what you’ve made and offered to the world.

Sabbatical has made me realize the height of possibility as well as the weight of responsibility to rise to meet it.