The power of the pause
“Are you listening to your life; what is it trying to tell you?”
Some people are surprised to hear that I get as excited about making a big pot of minestrone soup for my family and friends as I do at receiving an invitation to go to India to speak to a women’s group on life balance. So after almost six weeks of travel and speaking, I’m ready to be at home, reconnect with my family and get clear on my top priorities for this spring. One of the ways I do this is by pausing … and taking a personal planning retreat.
I take personal retreats-usually each quarter–to sit with the questions, “What is uniquely mine to do?” and “What is the best use of my energy and talents in the next two-three months?” (Whether that’s focusing on my marriage, working on a new business partnership or getting my financial house in order.)
More than ever, we’re feeling over-committed, over-scheduled and exhausted. We’re trying to do too much. A personal planning retreat is a great way to pause, pull back and get clear on what matters most. You may want to spend this time getting clear on what in your personal or professional life is calling for your attention and thinking about how you want to allocate your time and resources in the next 90 days (I find this much less overwhelming than looking at an entire year).
I recommend starting 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 at home or a career or job issue that needs to be addressed.
I like to approach these drains with an aggressive 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 this year!)
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 Familyfor great exercises), draw from our Career Strategists Inspiration Café, journal, draw/paint or create a collage from magazine images that represents your vision for how you want to experience the next three months.
Do whatever inspires you and helps you gain clarity and focus (but “do less,” and trust your intuition; this isn’t a race). A primary goal of this retreat—whether it’s a day or a weekend—is to give your analytical thinking a rest and give your creativity and your “inner teacher” the opportunity to speak. 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 4 hours is great).
•You may want to make this a personal retreat and be alone or you may decide to attend a guided group retreat; it depends on your personal needs and life stage. I do both.
•Choose a location that is inspiring and conducive to contemplation—a quiet park or natural setting; a friend’s vacant house; a retreat, yoga or spa center or even a quiet coffeehouse are good places to go (but get out of your own house!).
•Focus on what you want to create for the next ninety days of your life (or if that’s too overwhelming, look at the next 30 days).
*Have fun and make this your own!
•Get the time on your calendar NOW! Otherwise it won’t happen. Think this sounds impossible? Well, if not now, then when?
You may, like me, decide you want to take a personal retreat each quarter. These planned respites are a wonderful, nurturing way for you to invest in yourself and your future. They may just be one of the best gifts you’ll ever receive.