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Retreat

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Adjusting to the next normal

What was that about the ‘new normal’ we thought or hoped we might be moving towards? It was just the end of COVID we were hoping for, wasn’t it? On the back of 2020, we were all sure that 2021 was going to be a new start, then when that didn’t work out, perhaps 2022 was going to be the year. Funny how that worked out.

It feels like the world as we knew it has gone for a long time. COVID hasn’t gone away. It might not be as a serious disease as it was, but a lot of us are still getting it and it’s making us feel under par for a while. The cost of living, taxes, energy and fuel prices are shooting up with no end in sight and then, of course, there’s the war in Ukraine with all the massive uncertainties that introduces.

Throw in a couple of personal worries, the friend with a cancer diagnosis and the offspring being less settled in their lives than they were and…..

I have been reflecting and wondering, how to be in all of this. Acceptance feels like the first thing – there’s only so much I can do to change anything. Someone has pointed out that stress = expectations – reality so I’m going to lower my expectations of how much certainty I can find and how easy life will be over the next couple of years. This is going to be the new normal. Perhaps our joys and the things we appreciate will come in small ways, that sunset, the arrival of spring, trying a new recipe, making contact with an old friend, taking in a refugee.

We need to recognise the effect all this has on us as well though. The latest issue of Raconteur (14th March) had an article suggesting that more people are looking to take a sabbatical on the back of a hard two years, stress, burnout and the need to switch off, recharge and get work and life back into balance. If you don’t have time, or won’t get the support from work for a full sabbatical, why not think about coming on one of our five-day retreats (over three months)? They are an ideal opportunity to take some time for yourself and focus on what’s really important.

For more information please get in touch https://thenextchapter.guru/get-in-touch/

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Where do we find hope for the future?

Sometimes I wake up with an enormous sense of hope despite all that we have been through, the disruption of Brexit, the doom and gloom of the virus, and now the war in Ukraine. What is fuelling that?

  • The way in which people are responding to the war. At a global level, so many countries and organisations have come together not only to condemn what is happening but also to do whatever they can to support the Ukrainians. Have we ever had such a unified response to an outrage like this? At the same time, let’s not forget or condemn ordinary Russians who are also caught up in this and who are as shocked as we are.
  • The inspiring example of ordinary people and their courage as well as leaders like Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • A sense that as a result of the pandemic, we have been forced into new perspectives, different behaviour patterns that we might have previously resisted but which have led to changes in lifestyle which we are now enjoying.  The tectonic plates have shifted and when that happens there are opportunities for something new to emerge. Businesses are allowing staff to choose how and where they want to work.
  • There seems to be a real shift in a commitment to do something about climate change. More and more people are seeing an opportunity to do something and are taking action.
  • Perhaps what underpins all of this is a growing sense that we need find purpose in what we do, that we can choose how to respond, choose what action to take in an uncertain world.

I know there are so many difficulties that have to be confronted and I don’t want to sound too Pollyanna-ish. What we can do is look to see what new patterns are emerging and make the most of the new opportunities that are presenting themselves to businesses, relationships and the way we want to live. Someone has pointed out that 30 years of mayhem, pillage and murder in Italy gave rise to the Renaissance, 500 years of stability in Switzerland produced insurance and the cuckoo clock (sorry Switzerland!). What do we want to see in our world? How can we make it happen?

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Do you aspire to a life less ordinary?

What do you aspire to? Do you feel you haven’t yet achieved your potential? Do you believe that it’s never too late to invest in yourself?  Do you have a sense that you have so much to give but are held back by your current role? Is there someone you’re close to you feel is holding you back? Are the circumstances of your life getting in the way? Are you looking for inspiration to take the next step? Or even courage?

It’s time to act!

We meet a lot of successful people who’ve lost a sense of purpose and direction, run out of steam, gone off the boil, been knocked off course by any of life’s difficulties and we help them get back to their best. Our clients know the power of investing in their own personal growth and development, they are emotionally intelligent and self-aware. We help nurture that awareness into action, leading to a more fulfilled life. Bringing focus, renewed energy and impact. 

If this is you, one of our 5-day retreats (spread over 3 months) is exactly what you need.

We’re not for the ‘yes but-ers’, ‘someday I’ll-ers’, ‘I’m too busy-ers’. We are for you when you’re starting to feel the effects of ‘I haven’t got time for myself’ when you find yourself making mistakes, postponing important decisions, feeling the loneliness of your position, always in a rush, never enough time for the family, not sleeping, using drinking or drugs to get you through.

‘I haven’t got time for myself’? What about all the people who depend on you: your family, staff, clients, suppliers, friends? What would happen to them and how would they feel if something happened to you?

Are you ready to take yourself on an adventure? Ready to embark on your own hero’s journey? And what about the consequences if you don’t? We are your Sherpas. We’ll get you to the top and back in one piece.

Our next ‘Your Next Chapter’ retreat starts on 7th March. See you there?

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And what do you want for Christmas?

I bet a lot of us get asked this at this time of the year and sometimes my heart sinks. What do I want that’s within the budget? It’s prompted the thought that there can be significant times in our lives when we don’t know what we want. The hardest people to buy presents for are those who have everything they need or want, but increasingly I’m coming across people who do have some idea what they want but feel hampered in getting it. Needless to say, it’s not another Christmas present!

Quite often, this occurs in the run-up to ‘retirement’ whatever that means for the individual. If they’re stepping back from full-time paid work, what this inevitably brings into focus is their relationship with their partner who may well have got their own life very well organised and doesn’t want it disrupted – the ‘I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch’ phenomenon.

I speak to many people at this stage in their lives who recognise that change is coming, have some ideas about what the next stage of their lives might bring, but it’s vague and not well thought through. Because it’s ‘retirement’ many don’t feel they can make an investment in themselves at this point – it’s just not worth it, they think. But life expectancy being what it is, if you retire at sixty, you might have another thirty years ahead of you, thirty years of what? Trailing around in the supermarket?  Not only that, but you’ve built up a considerable bank of skills, knowledge and experience – all to go to waste?

But what if you do invest in finding what you want for this next chapter of your life? And what if it’s different from what your partner envisaged? The management writer Charles Handy made the point that relationships need to be renegotiated at different stages of our lives. It makes sense when you think about it – how you need to be as a couple with small children is very different from when the children have upped and gone to university. There’s no doubt about it, it’s a risk. What if you find some quite big gaps opening up between you?

But if you don’t know what you want, you don’t have a starting point for negotiation and then it’s very easy to fall in with someone else’s wishes, to opt for a quiet life, not rocking the boat. But don’t forget about those thirty years. Not knowing what you want is not a recipe for happiness. This week we’ll be doing a virtual retreat with an engaged couple in the US working out what they want for themselves and together.

If you do want to invest in those thirty years, how about coming on one of our retreats? We give you space and time to start knocking those half-formed ideas into some kind of shape. Give yourself something to look forward to.

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Looking back

I find it very easy to be constantly looking to the future and either being excited about the possibilities or anxious about how much still needs to be done. What I don’t do nearly enough is look back and reflect on all that’s gone well and been successful. We all need to do that after the last two years that have been tough on us all one way or another.

We’ve seen so many certainties swept away, whether of being able to plan holidays, seeing people who’re important to us, pressures on our families, our businesses either tanking or flying and now not knowing what on earth to do about our staff who seem to have developed minds of their own during lockdown!

When I look back, I’m amused at the confidence and optimism with which we started a business running retreats a few months before a pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, I blithely proclaimed on LinkedIn that I wanted to live boldly and courageously and to have adventures, big and small. Be careful what you wish for, you’re probably thinking.

Perhaps I was more prescient than I knew. It was an adventure all right, a big one. I remember being inspired by something I saw on social media encouraging us to come out of lockdown better than we went in. Well, that was the first lockdown – if only we knew there would be a second and a third or more, depending what part of the country you live in. The enthusiasm for Joe Wicks wore off and we probably just got fatter!

I certainly needed courage. Like so many other businesses we tried to pivot (that much-overused word of 2020!) online, but how do you replicate a fabulous hotel, time, space, relaxation, switching off on a webinar with the kids running in and out in the background and the cat walking over the keyboard? We realised it was a non-starter.

However, there was plenty we could do. Build our brand, community, marketing assets and team, which all paid off once we could start in-person retreats. Now we’re beginning to see the fruits of our labours – people are coming to us wanting to partner with us, interview us on their podcasts and even an approach from someone in the US wanting us to run a retreat for them – before Christmas! Yes, I think I can and should feel proud.

But before you get into all the busyness and froth of Christmas and gearing up for 2022, what about you? How are you feeling about it all and where has it left you? What are you grateful for? What have been the successes? How about a little celebration, or at the least, a modest patting yourself on the back?

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Progress made in front of our very eyes…

As I’ve mentioned many times getting back in front of people has been very significant for me and I know it’s where I operate best.

That alone has motivated me to start our quarterly round tables where we aim to get like-minded business leaders around the table to discuss, debate and connect on matters close to their heart. Our first one on the 1st of December is already over-subscribed and I’m delighted.

Another big moment recently has been to see the progress made by our June retreat attendees. June was the first of our in-person retreats in 2021 and the first 3 days of our 5-day retreat, with the final 2 days concluding in September. We’ve been having regular catch-up sessions with the cohort since, and our November get-together was truly inspirational.

Each individual has made significant progress in their own personal and business wellbeing and it really was, and is, a wonder to witness.

It makes what we do so worthwhile to see physical progress made as a result of our work.

One individual has described being trapped in a narrow and dark corridor for many years and since June has seen the world slowly becoming bigger, brighter and full of opportunity. They took us on a physical journey of experiencing the narrow corridor through to enjoying the freedom of the outdoors without boundaries or barriers and being full of light.

Another has become very at peace with her outlook on her future and pending retirement, seeing the next five years as an opportunity to make her final mark and legacy on the thousands of people and businesses she’s touched with her nurturing, leadership and strategic input. She really is making hearts beat faster through her infectious character and sheer desire for inclusivity. And more important than anything she now believes and witnesses the impact she has.

Two other, intensely hard-working individuals now realise that taking time out for themselves, being kinder to themselves, not feeling guilty and not constantly beating themselves up, makes for much more rounded, at peace and effective individuals.

They are all-round calmer but every bit as ambitious and driven, just with refocused energy and productivity.

It’s progress like this that makes us tick. We continue with our pursuit of impacting ambitious and driven leaders to find the best version of themselves.

Those individuals will certainly not die with their best music left unplayed.

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How to choose the right retreat for you

There are so many different kinds of retreats out there which naturally we’re very pleased about. The more people see the value of taking time out for whatever reason, the better.  But how to choose? Detox, yoga, mindfulness, weight management, psychotherapy? A weekend or longer? Just down the road or somewhere more exotic?

It seems obvious to point this out, but it’s a question of what you most need. Having said that, sometimes we’re too close to what is happening in our lives to see what we most need. Is it our physical health or mental health that is the issue? Anything that provides us with some space and time to catch up with ourselves is going to be good.

People go on retreats for all kinds of reasons. What is your reason? What do you need time out to achieve and what kind of retreat or off the radar activity will help you achieve this?

We came across a very handy ‘sense check’ tool that might help you identify the reasons why a retreat might be a good investment for your mental health, wellbeing and career progression – take a look at ‘Being my best sense check

People come on a Next Chapter Retreat for all sorts of reasons which works because we don’t prescribe the right way forward to anyone, but help people find what makes sense for them. On our last retreat we had people who wanted to change career, address a workaholic lifestyle, become a better leader or plan the remainder of working life before retirement. We offer a framework of activities to raise questions and possibilities that haven’t been thought about.

Often there is a vague awareness of dissatisfaction or that all is not what it should be. Others are more aware that they are at something of a crossroads in their lives and don’t know what the next chapter looks like. Still, others may have had a difficult or traumatic experience which has left them feeling adrift from themselves and what they want from life.

We work with successful people who may have lost a sense of purpose and direction, have run out of steam and those who want to get back to being their best. Our clients know the power of investing in their personal growth and development, they are emotionally intelligent and self-aware. We nurture that awareness into action, leading to a more fulfilled life, bringing focus, renewed energy and impact.

Oh, and no, we don’t do detox or yoga. Where’s that nice bottle of red?

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What’s your next chapter?

As I write this I am looking forward with excitement to Monday and Tuesday of next week which is the second half of our five-day retreat which began in June. Since then, we have been meeting the participants at regular intervals on Zoom calls to find out how they’re getting on and to support them in making the changes they want in their lives.

The group which included three MDs and a partner in an accountancy firm came with different motivations: one to take their leadership to the next level, one to completely change careers, another to think about the last few years of their career and into retirement, and one with a lifestyle that was killing them. We used the Japanese concept of Ikigai to help them articulate their purpose and then write their next chapter – to be revealed on Tuesday!

We work with people’s stories of both success and failure. One of the key moments in the retreat is when we get people to tell stories about experiences that have been difficult, and which have held them back in some way. One of these stories is told in this blog https://thenextchapter.guru/time-for-a-retreat-i-dont-think-so/  Retelling these stories enables people to make some real shifts in their lives.

One thing we have noted in our Zoom calls between the two halves of the retreat is the extent to which people are making big changes not just in the externals of their lives but in their mindsets and attitudes and in developing new habits. As we all know, these changes are sometimes the hardest and then it’s good to have some people with you who’ve been through the process with you, understand what you’re trying to change and why and are your biggest cheerleaders.

Of course, these kinds of changes can be made in lots of different ways but the retreat acts like a reset button. It’s five quite intensive days spread over three months, but the changes happen more quickly than when you’re working on your own exerting all your self-discipline which is hard when you’ve got so much else on.

We’d love to talk to you about what you’re trying to achieve in your life and whether one of our retreats will give you a kick-start. The next one starts on 1st – 3rd November so you need to get in quickly.

Blog

Time For A Retreat?… I Don’t Think So

We have just concluded the first 3 days of our flagship retreat programme for a cohort of senior executives.  We wanted to share an article written by one of the group to give you a flavour of the life-changing benefits to be experienced.

Someone said to me ‘you should go on a retreat’, ‘a retreat? have you seen my diary, I barely have time for lunch each day let alone 5 days out on a retreat’. ‘No way. I’m fine as I am thanks’.

(Getting up at 5am, working until 7pm and regularly working at the weekends too. Heart regularly beating beyond the pace it should, snapping at the children in the brief 30 minutes I saw them before bedtime and so exhausted missing dinner as I didn’t have time and going to bed at 9pm before a restless night’s sleep and groundhog day starting again).

No I’m fine thanks – I don’t have time for a retreat.

Meanwhile, friends raising their concern with me that I’m always working and ‘are you ok’ ‘you must remember to look after yourself’, the occasional gut-wrenching comments from the children that ‘you’re always working mummy’ ‘we never see you’ ‘please can you stop looking at your laptop and help me with my reading?’. Family members raising constant concern that ‘you can’t keep going at this rate’ you’ll burn yourself out’.

Time for a retreat…? No thanks, I’m fine. Honestly, I’m fine.

Clients sending me messages of concern, distant contacts from the past noting their concern on social posts, family pleading me to take some time out.  Anxiety in my chest, shallow sharp breathing, never taking a deep full breath, sleep getting harder and harder due to a constant busy mind. Restless legs. Drinking a glass or two of wine every night knowing it’s a quick way to get to sleep (despite never staying asleep for long). Changing my diet to try to shift a few pounds but having no luck. Exercising more but feeling more depleted. Running harder and faster on the treadmill but getting nowhere. More meetings, more actions, more calls, ok let’s try getting up at 4am instead then and gaining another hour for work – I’m not sleeping so why not.

I’m no wife, I’m no mother, I’m no business owner, I’m no daughter, I’m no friend. I’m doing none of those things successfully. But then I was told as a young girl, struggling with studies and dyslexia, ‘you’ll never achieve academically so just accept that. Just accept you won’t get high grades you’re not clever enough’.

Time for a retreat…? No thanks, I’m fine.

I’m not fine. I’m far from fine but I don’t have time to take out for myself.

Is that what I want written on my gravestone? Is that what I want my legacy to be. Is that the view I want my children to have of a successful role model and mother?

……..

I met Hilary and Peter through a business group called BoB (Business of Brand) and I helped them shape the strategy and marketing activation for their Retreat business, a new venture they had taken after years of experience coaching and mentoring senior executives and dealing with their fair few personal turning points in life. They were inspiring, they talked about the power and intensity of self-discovery their retreats created and we shared stories from previous retreaters for the website and social.

……

I’ve just returned from the first 3 days of their flagship 5 day Executive Retreat (split into 3 days with a 10 week period of reflection before the final 2 days) and here is what I’ve learned.

  • I am worth it.
  • I can break the ground hog day and I will.
  • I can be successful without jeopardising my family and friends.
  • I am good at what I do. And people appreciate me and see strengths and skills I me I never knew I had.
  • I’ve got a strong purpose and I’m value driven, I just never realised those values and how I play them out in day to day life in decisions and relationships.
  • I’m not the little girl standing in her head teachers office being told to accept second best.
  • I’m not a failed mother.
  • I’m someone who is powerful and strong and I now know exactly what I need to do to get the balance I need in life. I need to let the fun back in. I need regular time out, for me, to make me the best version of myself I can be.
  • I’m three days in but world’s apart from the women that arrived on that sunny Sunday afternoon.

Set in the beautiful countryside in the Cotswold, surrounded by two ultimate professionals who know exactly what they are doing and the journey they are taking people on – I discovered I have passion, kindness and determination racing through my veins. I’m better equipped now to channel this and I’m on a journey with like-minded professionals.

www.nextchapteretreats.guru

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