Anxiety was growing. Stress was building. My head was swimming. And I had more questions than answers. This was December 2015 for me.
I was stressed out, maxed out, and quickly reaching burn out. Just the way you want to enter into the “most wonderful time of the year”, right? On the outside, life was good - but internally, I was completely overwhelmed. It wasn’t until one morning breakfast with my mentor that it all finally came to the surface. She said, “So, let’s reflect on the year. How do you think it went?”
And I started crying.
I actually hadn’t realized how much I had locked up until the tears spilled out all over my eggs and grits. The truth was, I wanted to leave my job - not because it was a bad place, but because I felt I’d done all I could do there. I had also been struggling with health issues, needing to find a slower life pace. Plus, the tug of social justice kept pulling at my heart - I knew I wanted to dig deeper there. The list went on, and I had been praying for what seemed like forever about my next steps to take, but I didn’t have any clear answers.
During that pivotal conversation, I decided to leave my job - and actually put a date on the calendar to do so. I didn’t know what exactly was next to come, but I had a few ideas and a lot of motivation. That morning was certainly a starting point, b ut probably like your year-end, mine grew hectic. So, I decided to take my first personal retreat. Until that time, I’d always considered them a luxury. Something wealthy people did. Something people who were offered sabbaticals did. I thought, a retreat wasn’t something ‘regular’ people did - but there I found myself.
It was only an overnight trip, just about an hour outside of Atlanta, my hometown, but it was grand. I checked in early, checked out late, and feasted on take-out. Most importantly, I got down to business. I maximized those 24 hours by bringing everything along I had saved for months to guide me in decision-making, planning, and personal reflection.
It was during this intentional, introspective time that I resolved something huge - I needed to start my own business.
Of course, I didn’t leave with all the answers. But this time did, however, become a catalyst in taking my next steps. I felt better prepared to tackle the New Year, leave my job well, and plan out my next career adventure. I’m so glad I made the decision then to carve out this time to myself. In fact, it proved so impactful that I’ve committed to taking a personal retreat every year! With two now under my belt, I wanted to share a few guidelines that helped me to create this time, and I encourage you to do the same.
- Get away. Even if you’re only going down the street, which I did for my second retreat, get out of your house. There are too many things vying for your attention at home. Anytime you are out of your regular environment and routine, you’ll see things differently. So, rent a hotel room, borrow a guest house, or go camping.
- Get focused. As I mentioned, I had a lot of questions and no clear-cut answers. But - I knew the focus was my new career, so my goal was to work through the relevant books, articles, podcasts, and journals that I brought along to help put me in the right headspace. Know your focus and set a goal or two.
- Get rid of distractions. I told people that during this time window I would be unavailable. Even though I had my computer, I refrained from spending hours on social media or email. I knew how important this time would be, so it made these boundaries easy to draw.
- Get in some down time. Let’s face it - a personal retreat may sound fun, but it can also be really hard work. Maybe some of your retreats will be focused on relaxation, but if you’re planning one strictly to get things done, build in some “me time”. It can even be simple - after my first retreat, I scheduled a mani/pedi, and I ended my second one with a movie.
- Get moving. If you don’t have a plan for after your retreat, life will interrupt you when you return home. Make sure to create some action steps for yourself in the days and weeks following your retreat so that you can build on the momentum, and ask for accountability if you need it.
If you haven’t taken a personal retreat, I can’t recommend it enough. Despite how hard it might be to get away, you’ll be grateful that you did. This time can help you gain clarity in your own life, plan for your business, give you perspective, provide some self-care, and renew your mind, body, and soul. I know I needed those all of these in my life, and my guess is that you could use one, if not more, of them too. Even though I used to see retreats as a luxury, I now realize that they are a necessity.