As tens of millions of scholars and their mother and father proceed to ponder and query the worth of a COVID-era collegiate expertise, there was lots of discuss in regards to the beloved “hole 12 months.” Not surprisingly, thousands of U.S. college students opted to take one within the present educational 12 months. 

However soul-searching younger individuals aren’t the one ones who may gain advantage from a 12 months of suppose house at this ominous time. 

In 2019—on the age of fifty—I launched into a midlife hole 12 months of my very own. My journey took me to one of the vital unlikely locations on this planet—a distant Indian Ocean island, 1,500 miles off the southeast coast of Africa. 

After having climbed the company ladder for 3 many years, and holding govt posts at United Airways, Starbucks, and US Airways, I spotted it was time to cease fueling my ambition and begin refueling my soul. So my household and I offered our residence, packed our baggage and moved to Mauritius, the place I served as an govt in residence and chief communications officer at African Leadership University (ALU). 

I used to be enticed by ALU’s moonshot mission to develop a brand new era of entrepreneurial and moral African leaders. The varsity, with campuses in Mauritius and Rwanda, is doing this by difficult college students representing greater than 40 African nations to declare a mission somewhat than a significant—and in doing so uncover their function and embrace a grand social problem. College students work with college to handcraft a studying path to catalyze their private calling. This may occasionally assist clarify why New York Instances columnist David Brooks described ALU as one of many 4 spots on earth “the place historical past is being made.”  

There are three huge classes I woke up to as I hung out on this modern surroundings throughout my midlife hole 12 months: 

Do onerous issues  

In 1961, John F. Kennedy declared, “We select to go to the Moon on this decade and do the opposite issues, not as a result of they’re straightforward, however as a result of they’re onerous.” At ALU we had been fond of claiming that fixing Africa’s greatest issues summon us to do onerous issues. In my case, I used to be summoned to do crazy-hard issues—like promoting our residence and transferring 10,000 miles from Chicago’s leafy North Shore suburbs to the turquoise north shore of a distant African island. Now—probably greater than some other second in our lives—is the time to cease considering what if and begin declaring why not.

Discover house for suppose house

The magnitude and quantity of stories, data, and noise we’re uncovered to offer little if any refuge wherein our brains could do what they’re meant to do: suppose. So take lengthy walks, select the quiet automobile on the practice, skip the film on the airplane, or hire a secluded cabin for per week (or maybe transfer to a far-flung island for a 12 months). As my daughter jogged my memory throughout our third month of quarantine, a foolish previous bear correctly as soon as professed: “Doing nothing typically results in the perfect of one thing.”

If we fear about all the pieces, we’ll by no means do something

Within the three months that led as much as our departure for Mauritius, there have been 100 causes to not get on that airplane. Securing enough worldwide medical health insurance, for instance, turned a bureaucratic quagmire. (To our shock, the pre-existing situations waiver within the Reasonably priced Care Act doesn’t apply to worldwide protection for U.S. residents.) And nothing broke my coronary heart greater than making an attempt to reassure my teenage daughter that all the pieces could be okay. Tears would roll down her cheeks as she fell asleep every night time, devastated about leaving her BFFs behind and feeling trepidation about making new pals in a distant land. 

Every new headwind would have been a legitimate motive by itself to abort our plans. However we by no means deserted the one motive we had been doing this to start with—to do our small half to assist change the trajectory of a continent with a lot potential for itself and the world. And alongside the best way, change the trajectory of our personal lives. 

Nelson Mandela proclaimed, “There is no such thing as a ardour to be discovered taking part in small—in settling for a life that’s smaller than the one you’re able to dwelling.” Which is why I’ve come to consider that our lives is not going to be measured by the titles we attain, the awards we accumulate, or the wealth we accumulate, however somewhat by the moments of influence we obtain—the mark we depart on the individuals and world round us and, extra necessary, the measure of our willingness to allow them to make a mark on us.

After spending 12 months surrounded by the limitless potential of a brand new period of African leaders, I spotted it was time to cease making an attempt to show myself to the world and as an alternative dedicate myself to bettering the world. In August I returned to the U.S. as a public relations professor at Syracuse College. In my new position I’m on a mission to assist my college students declare and obtain their missions. And alongside the best way, I’ll do my small half to assist form the following era of entrepreneurial, moral, and consequential leaders our world wants now greater than ever. 

The lecture halls of academia are a far cry from the plush govt suites that I roamed lately, however there’s something magically transformational about dwelling on an African island for a 12 months. I arrived the individual that I assumed the world anticipated me to be and departed the particular person I do know the world wants me to be. 

Isn’t that what hole years are for, at any age?  

Jim Olson is a public relations professor of observe at Syracuse College’s Newhouse Faculty of Public Communications and a former company communications govt at United Airways, Starbucks, and US Airways. 

Extra opinion from Fortune: