Last week I found myself feeling simultaneously overwhelmed and scattered. Between juggling work, family and household responsibilities, helping my son prepare to leave for college and all of the issues related to the pandemic— I found it hard to hear myself think.
I knew this was a sign it was time to take a personal retreat.
There are many reasons we take retreats (read 5 Reasons to Take Retreats) but one of the main purposes is so we can hear and see what we most need to know about our next steps.
For more than 20 years I’ve been pausing regularly to take what I call a “personal planning retreat.”
The purpose of these breaks is to sit with the questions, “What is uniquely mine to do?” and “What is the best use of my energy and talents over the next three months?” (I find this much less overwhelming than looking at an entire year.)
Whether it’s focusing on improving a key relationship, working on a creative business idea or getting my financial house in order, this is an opportunity to pause, reflect and access my inner wisdom or GPS.
Even in these times of uncertainty and great chaos, most of us are still trying to do too much and have unrealistic expectations of what we can actually accomplish. A personal planning retreat is a time to pull back and up and get clear on what matters most. Spend this time reflecting on what in your life is calling for your attention; think about how you want to allocate your precious time, energy and resources over the next 90 days.
A good place to start is by making a list of what activities in your life currently fuel you (which ones give you energy, nurture you, make you come alive) and what activities drain you (create a physical tightness or discomfort in your back, belly or neck every time they cross your consciousness). Often these drains are things like a financial issue that must be handled, a tough conversation that has been postponed, a disorganized space at work or home, or a timely career issue that needs to be addressed.
I like to approach these drains with a housecleaning mindset, giving myself three options for handling these energy zaps:
1. I can “just do it” and set a deadline for when I’ll complete the project.
2. I can delegate it and ask for help if needed or outsource the task.
3. I can dump it and walk away from this task or decide it isn’t going to happen (at least not in 2020!)
During your personal retreat, you can revisit old goals or dreams, enlist books for inspiration (see my life balance books The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal or Nurturing the Soul of Your Family for great exercises), check out the resources from our sister company Career Strategists’ Inspiration Café, explore my post How Well Do You Know Yourself?, journal or draw/paint or create a vision board from magazine images that represents a snapshot of how you want to experience the next three months.
Design a day that inspires you and helps you gain clarity and focus, but trust your intuition; this isn’t a race and you won’t be graded! A primary goal of this retreat is to give your analytical thinking a rest and give your creativity and your “Wise Self” the opportunity to speak. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your retreat:
•Set aside a day or a weekend void of all distractions (a minimum of eight hours is ideal, but even four hours is great).
•Have a solo date at the end of your personal retreat, really enjoy this time with yourself; get some ideas for solo outings here.
•Choose a location that is inspiring and conducive to contemplation—a quiet park or natural setting; a friend’s vacant house; an empty yoga or community room or even a coffeehouse patio are good places to go (it’s so helpful to get out of your own house!).
•Unplug, reflect and ditch your agenda. Dream and be open to new possibilities and new ways of being. Ask with compassion and kindness, “What would be the best use of my energy and focus in the next 90 (or even 30) days?
•Do less, have fun and make this your own. One of our clients sat and watched a bird’s nest being constructed over the course of several hours and experienced some big ah-has. When relaxed and playful, our brains can yield amazing creative solutions.
•Get the time on your calendar NOW! Otherwise it won’t happen. Think this sounds impossible? Well, if not now, then when? I just planned a personal retreat for August.
Let me know how it goes and what you uncover! These planned respites are a wonderful, nurturing way for you to invest in yourself and your future. “From stillness comes discernment.”
SEEKING SUPPORT FOR YOURSELF OR YOUR TEAM? HERE ARE TWO OPPORTUNITIES::
- Consider hiring me to create a workshop to help your team, organization or employees feel less stressed and more resilient, energized and focused. For 20+ years I’ve been speaking to professionals worldwide on how to find balance through practicing the art/science of self-care. Whether it’s a workshop, keynote or mini-retreat via Zoom, I’d love to discuss how I can support your organization. Learn more here.
- Seeking resources for inspiration or to support your personal retreat? Check out our award-winning life balance books and audio courses; perfect to enjoy from the comfort of your own home, car or back porch. Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by balanced living author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art and science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 400 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups and women’s retreats based on her work. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 18-year-old son. More on Renee here.