My heart is racing. The adrenalin is flowing. I’m trying to act brave, but inside I’m a bundle of nervous energy. “Just lean back into the crevice and let go,” he says. I conceptually understand that I am in my safety harness and there is no way I am going to free-fall to the bottom of a canyon in southern Utah. My brain gets that! My brain also understands that I am standing backwards, leaning over an 80 foot drop, and that I am being told to step backwards. Really? There is some major cognitive dissonance going on inside of me.
Guess what? I stepped backwards off that cliff, and had an exhilarating trip down the ropes and into the canyon. I remember taking it all in, telling myself to slow down and look around, to relax, to savor the views, and to savor the feeling of accomplishment.
“Why in the world do you do this?” ask some of my friends. I’m not an adrenaline junkie by any stretch of the imagination, but my two business partners (Ellen Dotts and Stacy Sollenberger) and I truly believe that getting out of the office and trying some new things helps us to run a better business. These “partner meetings” as we have come to affectionately call them, are our way of getting out of the day-to-day routine and into trying something that we would never do at home. We work in the field of leadership assessment, development and coaching. We encourage the leaders we coach to “get outside their comfort zone.” We need to practice what we preach, right?
Rappelling off a mountain was pretty intense, but getting away doesn’t have to mean extreme. In the past we have also hiked in Arizona, biked in Vermont, and snowshoed in Montana. The key is getting away from your normal routine, doing something active, pushing past your comfort level (at least a bit), taking in incredible views, and being outdoors breathing in with fresh air. We all spend too much time in front of our “screens” and sitting on our office chairs. Get out there to clear your mind! We find that doing all of these things somehow has a way of clearing our minds and allowing us to come up with new ideas, new strategies, new concepts that for some reason don’t seem so clear in the ongoing daily routine of running our business.
Here’s what works for us. We plan an annual trip that involves something outside of our normal day-to-day routine. It doesn’t require us to be out of the office for a week. It doesn’t break the bank. We leave on a Wednesday morning, and return late Sunday night. In between, we are able to squeeze in 5 days and 4 nights of incredible physical stimulation and mental exhilaration.
We don’t plan formal “strategy” sessions as part of these trips, but inevitably, on day two or three, we find ourselves coming up with solutions to problems that we didn’t know existed or coming up with new ideas to do things even better (when in fact they were already working pretty well to begin with). Our clarity of thought is incredible. We strengthen our business partnership and our operating relationship. We are able to focus on our business by being away from our business.
Many executives say they “get out of the office” to clear their heads regularly, but I’m sorry, playing golf every Friday afternoon (and talking business the entire time on the course) doesn’t count. Other executives (and I frequently hear this from other women) say, “I can’t take the time away from the office for ‘fun.’” Are you serious? You can’t afford NOT to take the time to do something like this. Allowing your mind, body and soul to be cleansed and challenged does a world of good for you! You return energized not only about work, but also about other parts of your life (could be your health, your relationships, your friendships).
Getting away is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Like you, we are busy professionals who are trying to balance it all. This annual escape provides a much-needed recharge, a reset, and a restore!