Last week I took some time out, headed to a health retreat and went off grid. Totally off the grid – no wifi, no 4g and no TV. That meant no news, no email, no social no phone calls and no tracking deliveries for an entire week!
Think about that for a minute. Taking yourself away and into nature, breathing fresh air and being fed wonderful food – that you didn’t have to think about how to make – for a week.
Yes, it was as good as it sounds and liberating. No expectations, nothing external coming in and poisoning my thoughts, and no noise.
And it seems the world didn’t fall apart because of my absence! I will be honest; I felt a little anxious about leaving the safety of my world and entering into the unknown, but it was worth it for many, many reasons.
I thought I’d share a couple of insights with you that may resonate:
What I Loved
Stillness – the power of silence is quite profound and something this city slicker wasn’t used to. There was nothing to hear except the creek running outside my cabin, the birds chirping and the sound of my own breath. I really don’t think I have experienced that before and it provided a heightened awareness of all of my senses and enveloped me in beautiful calmness.
Nature – the benefits of being in nature are well known but I felt it was amplified without the distractions of my phone or having to rush and be somewhere. Taking the time to breathe deeply and notice the colours, textures, shapes, sizes and beauty that nature provides is medicine in itself.
Nurture – being kind and gentle with yourself is a form of self-leadership and self-care. We can’t care and lead others if our fuel levels are low or running on empty. We are so careful to charge our phones ready for the day and ensure they are charged up throughout the day so they work as we want them to; so why don’t we apply the same philosophy to ourselves? Taking time out during the day to nap, or rest (without looking at the phone) or do some gentle walking re-energised me in a way I didn’t think possible.
What I Learnt
Addictions – as much as I hate to admit it, I was addicted to my phone. I pick that thing up so many times during the day, especially to check on emails. I also waste too much time at night looking at social. I may also be addicted to the BOM (weather) app! These are simply bad habits that can be broken.
Removing distractions – by removing social, TV, news, emails & all the other things that can distract you, it is amazing how much time you have to do what you believe you don’t have time for. Like having a bath, learning Pilates and practicing breathing techniques to calm the mind. It turns out, I have plenty of time. It also allowed me to stay focused on my thoughts and priorities without external forces trying to influence me their way.
Reacting – I realised how quickly I can react to things I can’t control. Like having to constantly stop at traffic lights, being stuck in traffic, delayed flights, waiting for luggage. All of these things I can’t control so why do I let them frustrate me? My new breathing techniques will be deployed in these situations in place of my huffing and puffing and eye rolls!
What I Found: CLARITY
The main reason I went to the retreat is I felt I didn’t have clarity about anything really. My past 9 months have been tumultuous after my diagnosis and I didn’t feel I had the space or time to think clearly. I have been navigating so many medical appointments whilst trying to work intentionally and purposefully and trying to make sense of what happened.
It turns out that by taking myself away, just for a short time, I found the clarity I was looking for. All I needed was the space and time to think and feel freely. The ‘feel’ part is the most important component of that sentence. I certainly don’t allow myself to feel enough as I am too stuck in my head. Allowing yourself to feel your way through things is powerful – even if it feels like crap sometimes. It’s worth it!
As I sign off here in my ‘Zen’ state, I trust these insights might help with your leadership, both personally and professionally and you might think about some habits you have created that you might like to break.
Remember – you can’t lead others unless you can lead yourself.