LOS ANGELES – You've got the whole corporate retreat thing down. You've rappelled off a cliff in front of your office mates. You've closed your eyes and fallen backwards trusting the VP of finance would catch you. Skits, role plays — you've done "team building" more times than you care to remember, strategizing and prioritizing for your company. But what about you? Have you ever tried a retreat just for yourself?
I'll bet you'd really benefit from a personal retreat. Leave the office team in the office, leave the family at home. You and your thoughts — alone.
I keep hearing this from my friends and mentors: "Jennifer, you should take more time out for yourself!" And another friend, who just turned 50, did the same: "It was unbelievable," was her summary. So I decided to follow suit.
What can you accomplish on your own retreat? You can re-energize, regroup and refocus. You can rest, relax and emerge with a new creative impulse. Your best ideas will bubble up during quiet time, of which a recent USA Today survey suggests you only get 40 minutes or so in a given day. Those ideas might be business breakthroughs or personal revelations, big or small.
A few weeks ago I took my own retreat to reflect on what life has given to me so far and review how my business and personal life are going to operate together, especially with my upcoming nuptials.
My "time-out" happened at the Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass., on a personal three-day retreat. Walking alone in the woods through a fresh blanket of snow allowed me to reflect. After following my own self-created retreat "plan" and a few one-on-one sessions with instructors, I emerged with renewed energy and a sharper sense of how to accomplish my goals in my new situation.
To get the most out of a retreat, you should go in with a plan, as I did. Many retreat "providers" offer classes and sessions designed to expand or relax your mind. Familiarize yourself beforehand with the offerings, then decide which ones will best help you meet your goals. Most places do not offer a standardized retreat program, so you'll probably want to customize your own program before you go.
I recommend choosing some activities to stretch you physically too. In fact, a good mix, of physical, mental and just plain quiet, contemplative time works best. And remember: overscheduling is exactly what you're trying to get away from!
And don't expect every session to produce an idea or a result. You may not have a creative breakthrough in the midst of a sweaty hike, but it might happen later that same day when you've showered and stretched out, eyes closed, feeling your muscles relax and enjoying the sensation of having worked hard.
Your mind works in funny ways. Don't try to "structure" results or expectations too much going in — you might be disappointed.
Where you actually go isn't that important. What's important is to find a place that helps you move forward.
Once you return to work, it's critical to keep moving forward with the newfound feelings and insights. I find that sharing my new plans and commitments with others helps me stick to them.
Think of it this way — in today's stressful working world, retreat can be your best form of attack.
Copyright (c) 2006 MarketWatch, Inc.