Discover more from Productive Flourishing
The Power of Space, Place, and People
“I love what we’re doing here and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to hold space for myself like this at home. I know a lot of what I need to work through. It doesn’t feel like I should have to come to a retreat like this to do this work.”
A participant of our last Level Up Retreat shared the above as part of her morning highlights. We were about four days in and she had some key unlocks and insights about herself that finally came together.
I knew her well enough to know what was going on for her. She was being supported and had prioritized what she needed, which was a lot of space, rest, and deep community. Navigating their guilt and shame is often part of a Level Up Retreat participant’s journey, but it’s not because of what Angela and I bring to the retreat — it’s what the participants bring. (More on this in a bit.)
I’m not sure which of us — Angela or me — responded after she was complete with her share, but a question and a statement followed.
The question: “If you can do retreats and trips like this and they really work for you, what’s wrong with that?”
The statement: “You can’t recreate this experience by yourself.”
But I thought I’d take a bit to unpack the statement. Rarely do I say or abide absolutes. I’ve also learned not to tell our community what they can’t do. And yet, in this case, I stand by the statement.
The Elements of the Level Up Retreat
Since the participant was already at the retreat, we didn’t need to sell why she couldn’t recreate the experience by herself.
We could simply point to and point out a few of the elements:
Sitting next to her were eight other people, each accomplished, creative, compassionate, and coming to the table with their own experiences. The group co-created more of a mastermind experience for each other. Angela and I leaned into that — our event design adapts to what the group co-creates with each other and us. She had eight other people mirroring, sound-boarding, cross-sharing, eating, and walking with her.
Our event design progresses in a way that helps people reconnect with themselves and work from there. If you’ve ever experienced us in our coaching flow, you know that Angela and I have a gift for standing firmly at the growth edge with people. We don’t push, we don’t back away, and we intuitively partner with each other to support each person in a way that best supports their journey. No two participants had the same coaching experience; no two participants ever will.
We hosted the retreat in an environment that aligned with the energy of the year, season, and event intentions. Most people’s backyards aren’t mountaintop lakes with a 2-mile trail in one of the most scenic places in the world and their houses aren’t 16-room mansions. Everyone had their own space, their own bathrooms, and their own porches.
Based on our research and observations about chronotypes, we base the event schedule on a chronotype that works better for everyone. There’s a slower start in the morning and free space in the afternoon for people to nap, exercise, hike, talk, get in hot tubs, read, and/or write. This space and schedule is a peak contrast to many people’s daily schedules and, thus, a point of awareness and transformation for many participants.
Meals are catered or prepared on-site for our participants. They don’t need to think about food logistics, decide what’s for each meal, get frustrated about the dishes or commute, and so on. Our meals are also more protein-heavy than most people’s diets based upon our research about how under-proteined and over-carbed most people are, especially women.
Angela and I have been doing retreats for over a decade. If you count the experiences I designed and led as both a Boy Scout and Army officer, I’ve been at this for going on three decades. Angela has a similar background, more focused on academia and sports. We’ve learned a thing or two about the ingredients that need to be in place for a deep transformative event.
The Whole Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts
But more than the individual ingredients, it’s how they all come together. Remove one and the whole doesn’t work as well.
Trust me, we wish it were easier to decompose the retreats into parts. Creating all-inclusive events — where everyone stays at the same place, has their own space, and doesn’t have to worry about food — adds to the cost significantly. Even more expensive: having them be long enough that people have space and time to recover and find themselves.
But every time we’re brought into an event that someone else is hosting that doesn’t have those baked in, it’s palpable what the difference is. Most participants of those events are so focused on running from thing to thing and then getting food and then meeting people and then posting on social media and then checking in for their flight and then…
Well, it starts to feel like a different version of their normal days.
We want our participants to feel what a new normal day could be and we can’t get them to feel it by talking about it. They have to experience it.
So instead of hiding the total cost of the event by only focusing on the “programming” and leaving people to focus on their own food and lodging, we make the whole experience the programming and the cost is relatively the same.
That total cost is the second-biggest barrier most people have.
The Obstacles Are the Way
The first-biggest barrier a lot of people have is prioritizing their needs, wants, and dreams. Yes, the retreat is a significant investment for some, but no more than some of the other things they’re paying for, including “cheaper” conferences, teammates who aren’t really performing, and “vacations” that require them to recover after.
But many people — especially the women and people of color we attract — have to address the obstacles of their guilt, shame, and self-worth.
That’s part of what the participant who posed the starting question was dealing with. While she framed it as being about the retreat, she knew she was going to need to make some changes to her business, her home, and her inner expectations.
That this was coming up for her on the second-to-last day wasn’t a surprise. That’s when we were shifting from the personal journey to the journey of changing their world.
These are the very same obstacles that keep most of us from doing what really matters to us. In the moment, it’s so much easier for us to not deal with those and cram our schedules with OPP (other people’s priorities), busyness, and ephemera.
But over the course of quarters, years, seasons, and decades, we’re buried underneath all those easier-in-the-moment decisions that became precedents and routines… that became our life… that became just what we have to do.
You can’t level up if you’re not centering yourself, because there’s nothing there firm enough to make the changes. As I wrote in Start Finishing, “to trade (level) up, you have to let go.”
So, whether it’s the Level Up Retreat or some other experience that you’re considering, I’ll leave you with a similar question: “If you can do experiences that (might) really work for you, what’s wrong with that?”