I arrived on the doorstep of Cabin #5. This tiny cottage in the woods was going to be home for the next nine days. I noticed a small plaque next to the door. It read:
“Everything is a choice. Look closely inside of you. If you see a behavior that you do not like, be different than that. Be your own role model. No matter what anyone does, see it as an opportunity, learn from it and use it for your own good. Love, light and gratitude.”
I was ready to take a closer look inside of me. It had been a while. I unpacked my gear and prepared to start the Hoffman Process.
Hoffman is a personal-growth retreat. From the website:
“The Process will help you become conscious of and disconnected from negative patterns of thought and behaviors on an emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual level in order to make significant positive changes in your life. You will learn to remove habitual ways of thinking and behaving, align with your authentic self, and respond to situations in your life from a place of conscious choice.”
The retreat required going offline (no phone or internet access) for the entire 9 days. At first, I was reluctant and uncertain about what to expect. I gathered with 38 other students for the orientation meeting, feeling cautious but hopeful. The week had arrived at an important time in my life.
A Wake-Up Call
My business grew 30 percent in 2015 and the pace was relentless. I delivered 79 live events and pressed to build out the next phase of our growth strategy. I lived in hotels and worked most weekends. While I was expanding professionally, I hit some rough spots personally. Roll like that long enough and you’ll experience the other side of opportunity cost. I did. I knew how to navigate around that pain.
Man up. Press on.
But this time, going all-in on the work wasn’t really working. Distraction is a popular approach to avoid purpose-driven self-examination and the hard work required to change. The world offers an abundance of options to help us disconnect including work, food, alcohol, shopping, drugs, television and social media. I could keep going. Eventually it catches up with you. Or worse, it never does.
It definitely caught up with me. I could feel the impact. Literally. My energy was low. My body was tired. I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. I was inconsistent with my morning and wellness routines. I felt anxious and exhausted most of the time.
I wasn’t happy. Turns out, there is plenty of research around why so many smart, successful people aren’t happy.
Then I got hit with a serious health scare toward the end of the year. When an MRI detected a mass in my left bicep, I remember convincing myself that it was my fault. This was all self-induced. I did this. “How could I let this happen?” (I want to make sure and share that I am completely healthy now. I feel very fortunate that was the outcome.)
I had just spent time interviewing my good friend Brian Wiles for this blog post about hope, healing and helping others. He inspired me to attack the nutrition and wellness piece aggressively. I mapped out a consistent routine that included:
- A clean diet (no sugar, alcohol or caffeine).
- A daily gratitude/journaling and meditation practice.
- Ayurveda coaching and yoga classes.
- A disciplined exercise routine.
- A commitment to 7 hours of sleep every night.
Physically, I started to feel really good. I adjusted my routine to make it sustainable for what I consider normal, healthy living.
I also considered some additional commitments. Typically, my list of New Year’s resolutions are mostly related to growth in my business. This year, my list looked markedly different. That’s probably why I haven’t shared this list until now.
- Be your most authentic self.
- Be present.
- Treat everyone with love in your heart.
- Be more gentle on the “self talk.”
- Write/journal every day.
- Reflect in gratitude daily.
- Healthy body + healthy mind.
- Read 12 books.
- Work hard when you’re working. Don’t work when you’re not.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about the list is what is noticeably absent. A sales/growth target didn’t make the cut. In order for the business to grow, I needed room to grow personally. I know that I intend to create a healthy work/life blend for myself, and everyone working with me. I also scheduled another 30-day sabbatical and some significant additional blocks of down time throughout the year. Little did I know how important that decision would be to accelerating my journey forward.
Change is a process. Not an event.
I started 2016 with a clean bill of health, committed to change. But by March, I was wavering and not particularly proud of my progress. Our comfort zone is an easy place to retreat to. It’s easy to get stuck.
Getting unstuck requires work. For me, doing this kind of inner work was new territory.
Fortunately, I had come to the right place. The Hoffman experience was so intimate and expertly delivered that by day three, I was fully invested. I embraced the learning opportunity and immersed myself in the experience.
“Through the Hoffman Process, you will come to know yourself emotionally, spiritually and intellectually as never before. The Process offers deep and rapid resolution of emotional issues and enables you to come to terms with life as it is. You can recover the love, happiness, ease of self-expression and emotional intelligence that are your birthright, and emerge as a renewed powerful and mature adult.”
As the week progressed, I started to feel more present, connected and alive than I had in a long time. I could see myself relaxing and responding to thoughts and situations instead of simply reacting. That little bit of space and awareness is powerful. I knew immediately that this breakthrough could be sustainable.
Technology wasn’t the only thing I had to give up during the retreat. I had to let go of my identity. There wasn’t any discussion about business or work with anyone for the entire week. I wasn’t Ryan the (fill in the blank). I was just Ryan. That was an adjustment for me.
No technology. No career identity. Those are easy places to hide.
When we stop hiding and decide to show up as our most genuine, vulnerable and compassionate selves, a funny thing happens. We start connecting.
During a weekend seminar with Tony Robbins I attended a couple of years ago, he described our two most basic human fears:
- The fear of not being enough.
- The fear of not being loved .
Those fears are powerful, driving forces that can produce limiting beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that inhibit our potential, relationships, happiness and fulfillment. Fear holds us back.
The key to transformation is to understand the truth.
The truth is, you are more than enough. I am more than enough. Those limiting beliefs, thoughts, patterns and learned behaviors aren’t who we are! They are just stories we tell ourselves and strategies we adopt to survive. We don’t have to simply survive. More is available. We can choose to thrive.
That means having the courage to confront our fear. To act boldly in the face of fear, and use it to our advantage.
Love and Gratitude
“Love is the flowing, the outpouring of emotional goodness to yourself first – and then to others in your life.” — The Hoffman Institute
Several friends have asked me for my biggest takeaway from the retreat. Here it is: Everything we need to accomplish what we deserve and desire exists inside us. It was put there for us. You can reclaim what you were made for at any time.
That journey home often requires attention. The best place to start is on the inside — with “yourself first.” When you elevate your self concept, you can elevate the quality of your life. That inner work is something I intend to create space for every morning.
“My life is my responsibility.”
I find that simple notion to be incredibly empowering. I have been afforded the gift of choice.
I also know that when I choose to genuinely connect with others my life is deeply enriched. My journey home was guided by 5 expert teachers and completed with 38 other beautiful souls on their own journey, each offering incredible support. It was a week I won’t soon forget and I wanted to share it with you.
With love, light and gratitude.
Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.