Gardening Leave? Meh.

“So today will be your last day in the office” I was told by my manager. It was 5:30pm. I handed over my work phone and shut down my computer. I had resigned about an hour earlier and was within minutes of being out of the building. I had never expected nor planned for it to happen this way – it all happened so quickly.

But as I started walking home I had the realisation that I now had nothing to do for the next three months. And I was going to get paid for that time. Welcome to gardening leave. You can check out, but you can never leave.

The timing of my leave was no coincidence. It was three incredible months in which I spent every day with my young family as a dedicated husband and father. I bonded with my baby son, deepened my relationship with my wife and shared so many new, amazing experiences with them both. I also took the time to appreciate how life had constellated to allow me this time to spend with my family.

My gardening leave got off to a great start – I had planned to spend the weekend in Somerset to attend one of the workshops and healing courses offered by Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine. My newly found time off meant that I could now attend for the week and participate in an additional course, which felt like a really supportive way to start my leave.

Week two rolled around and I took my young son swimming and to stay-and-play sessions almost every day. I went from seeing him for an hour a day to being with him all day, every day. It meant I was able to provide support to my wife, who was still on maternity leave, and that we could spend much more time together. We even joked that every day had become a Saturday for me.

By the time my third week of gardening leave had begun, I noticed I was starting to become a little irritable and was feeling pretty flat – the exact word I used was ‘meh’ (for those who are unfamiliar with this expression, say it out loud and shrug your shoulders – that’s kind of what it feels like). In my head, feeling meh didn’t make sense because I had nothing to really feel meh about. I’m living the dream here right? No work, all play and pay. Despite telling myself this, I couldn’t shrug that flat feeling in the background.

I had gone from working 9-10 hours a day, servicing dozens of clients a week, answering endless calls and emails, working from my phone after hours and supporting an office in more ways than by just doing my job – to doing no work at all. I wasn’t just being busy, I was committed to my job, and doing it well.

But now this. I went from having purpose to having none. I went from serving countless people daily, to no one, not even myself. So what was behind my feeling so meh? A lack of commitment to life. Ouch.

It was clear that in the previous weeks, while there were great upsides to having this time – namely being with and supporting my young family full time – my daily life felt like it had no direction or purpose. My lack of commitment and the comfort of doing nothing actually created a tension within me that left me with that flat, meh feeling. This is just a truth that awareness won’t hide.

Hold on, my head does not compute. Back up a second. You’re getting paid to do nothing, dude! Why are you being such a downer about it?!

Well let’s get real here. We are not put on this planet to be on gardening leave and do nothing. Neither are we here to work until we’re 65 and then spend our remaining years looking out of the window. We have a responsibility to commit to life, for ultimately, this is committing to ourselves – and therefore, everyone. Anything less is holding back. And believe me, I know all about it. Deep down, we all know this. And hence that tension, that feeling meh.

So back to the story. I had booked myself an appointment with an esoteric practitioner at a London clinic. I’d been seeing her for a few years and always valued her support, direct approach and ability to see the root of my self-created problems (namely my holding back!). And her observations were and remain crystal clear. That session was no different.

She suggested that while I was on gardening leave I start doing something on a daily basis that would help me to work on my commitment. From that point onwards I began spending 10-15 minutes a day reading the news from my industry. In addition, having heard about some of the blogs that students of Universal Medicine were writing, I started reading and writing comments. It was the first thing I did when I woke up in the morning and it felt like a great foundation to my day.

I related to people’s stories, I became inspired, I was challenged, I learned, I understood, I expressed what I was feeling and I began to re-connect to myself on a deeper level.

And ultimately, as this reading and commenting practice became part of my daily routine, I began feeling that sense of purpose and commitment I had been lacking. It became a foundation, a building block to do more, because I felt to. And it’s no surprise that the meh feeling soon passed.

I really appreciated the time I had off and I feel like it was a ‘once in a career’ kind of opportunity. I learned over that period how important it is to commit to life – and that doing nothing all day isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be.

I’m now in my new job and am enjoying a renewed sense of purpose and commitment. And I still enjoy reading and commenting on blogs on a daily basis.

I am forever grateful for the experience I had over my gardening leave as it showed me that when life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind. In building simple activities into my daily routine, I created foundations that supported me and acted as building blocks to serve others and myself. More of a learning than a ‘meh’stake.

By Nick Probert, London, UK

Related Reading:
The ultimate commitment to life!
Commitment to Self – Commitment to Life
Myth-busting retirement and valuing your contribution at work


















693 thoughts on “Gardening Leave? Meh.

  1. There is the expression “Living the Dream” or a “Life of Leasure” – but more often than not, those who appear to be living the dream and a life of leisure are actually deeply unhappy. Without purpose in our lives we are indeed lost, as it is our deepest call to be here and bring to the world the very qualities that only we can bring, Another expression comes to mind – “Use it or lose it” – and in this case I feel it is very fitting – if we do not live our every day with true purpose and sharing the unique qualities that only we can bring to the world, then we are lost and everyone else loses out too. So perhaps living the dream is actually not about a life of leisure but rather a life of purpose and loving toil that shares who we are with the world?

  2. We have just finished an Easter long weekend in the UK and this blog felt quite relevant to read. Across the 4 days, my husband and I did a lot of work related stuff and one person said it was a shame we weren’t having a holiday. This is a perfectly normal thing to say, but what I have come to understand is that as soon as I switch off and ‘put my feet up’ – that is where I detach from my sense of responsibility and purpose. Sure we’ve a had a little more down time as we’re not working 9-5, but we have stayed committed and in response to what is needed for the business, and I feel as rested and refreshed as ever.

  3. Brilliant blog Nick. I’m on ‘gardening leave’ at the moment and it is revealing many things. My false relationship with time has been revealed. I used to think work was what stopped me from getting things done at home but I’ve discovered that work actually supports me to be more productive at home. When I return to work it will be with newfound appreciation and purpose.

  4. There is a beautiful message in this piece of writing, a message about what is there to be committed to and how when that commitment is reduced to only a select few, like only our immediate family for example, we can actually start to feel a sense of loss. This is something I have experienced too, and it constantly is a reminder that life is about being with each other and not ever is it about isolating ourselves within our family units, because we all have so much more to offer than just that.

  5. I’d say free time is actually when I get in the most trouble, I am super thankful for the rhythm, routine, purpose and non-stop lessons I get from my job. Work is amazing – it’s where we learn about life and it’s where there are the biggest opportunities to evolve and grow. It’s in free time I would say most of our bad habits creep in…

  6. ‘When life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind.’ How true this is – and taking every opportunity to bring all of who we are to all our interactions.

    1. Hello Ariana, sure this is key to our life and actually brings value to it but can only be experienced in full when we do not hold back and bring our full self to it and leave nothing behind. I love it…

  7. Everything in life is there for us to learn and evolve from, so too a gardening leave that is able to let us feel the purpose work has to us individually but also to all of society. Our contribution to our family and societies we live in do matter and give real value to life and no gardening leave whatsoever will be able to beat this.

  8. It is gorgeous that in constellating an experience that showed you the importance of committing to life, you share a blog of your learnings and are able to inspire many through the power of embodying and expressing a sense of purpose in your foundation.

  9. The importance of rhythm and routine cannot be overemphasized…our bodies just LOVE these ongoing daily rituals that enable the ‘chemistry’ of our bodies to really do its thing.

  10. A great demonstration of what purpose and commitment bring to our life and that, for a man, being the provider by virtue of his pay, is not the end all and be all, far from it.

  11. What you have expressed here Nick is so true; life is continually presenting opportunities for us to bring all of who we are to, with purpose and commitment;
    “When life gives me an opportunity, I must bring my full self to it and leave nothing behind.”

  12. This is a great article. I find myself on a prolonged “gardening leave” given the dearth of jobs in my area… My days are full of activity, but I think I do need something more and a bit of a change. Thank you for this. It’s given me something to think about.

  13.  ‘I learned over that period how important it is to commit to life – and that doing nothing all day isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be’. When we do nothing all day we soon get to feel stagnant and miss our connection with the world and our contribution to it. We can pretend to ourselves that all is well but we know, in truth, that this is not so and that our sense of vitality and purpose is hugely compromised.

  14. A great experience to share Nick, when we lose purpose we lose our rudder, because we often drift without direction, really inspiring how you brought your gardening leave back to purpose.

  15. It’s amazing the difference having simple, daily tasks makes and how when we stay connected to the wider world, it takes us beyond ourselves and into an understanding that it’s not just about us but that we have a purpose here, to commit to life in all it’s fullness.

  16. A great learning here Nick. It seems like the old story “be careful what you wish for because you might get it”. Much of what we want in our lives is not all its cracked up to be and we don’t know this until we experience it.

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