I went to a retreat, then I redesigned my life


Courtney is a customer experience designer, who has been working almost a decade for a leading worldwide company in IT and networking. Devoting heart and soul to her job, one day she felt the need to take a step back from her Silicon Valley lifestyle and flew away to Thailand. Courtney shared with us her thoughts about our retreat and tips to live better as a Catalyst, both personally and professionally.

“I find my strength in creating from scratch.”

Courtney is what we call an “intra-preneur” and belongs to the community of Catalysts. Indeed, she gets energy and motivation from solving challenges and gathering the right people/ideas/tools to fix an issue. “When something is stuck, I do anything to be able to move forward.” Turning every problem into an opportunity, Courtney has an impressive curriculum on the matter: building teams and getting them in place, working with customers to test and improve her design thinking tools… And all this work brings her, as to many other Catalysts, joy and pride.

However, how can one reach fulfillment when one’s life is a constant and frantic race forward? Many Catalysts tend to push their bodies and minds until they reach a breaking point. Therefore, when an acquaintance of hers told her about the Catalyst Constellations retreats, she immediately identified to the words « rejuvenation », « envision » and « recharge ». “The messaging was written just for me!”, she felt. That’s how she joined the second cohort in Northern California in October 2018. She joined with a vague but solid purpose to find clarity and peace in her career and personal life. She learned to give both equal significance.

The retreat experience

This peer-learning experience aims to bring people facing similar challenges together, in order to help them help each other. Courtney felt instantly connected to the 20 other Catalysts participating to the retreat which allowed her be vulnerable and open up. “I did not realize how much energy and attention I spend in my regular life to make people understand what I do and how I work. I have stayed in good contact with people through the network and I meet my peer group on a monthly basis.”

“One of the great things about the retreat and the community is about sense of belonging and finding your tribe. If you haven’t found it yet, do not worry as it’s out there, whoever that is for you, Catalyst or not – go find them.”

As a Catalyst, constantly driving for change, Courtney realized she was spending so much energy and effort in creating and improving products, without taking time to start figure out what the big picture of her life was. “What about my health and home life? They certainly did not get the same level of attention.” She had suffered from an auto-immune condition for a decade but kept moving forward.

“I did not know I had permission to do things differently, that I always had a choice! It is the story of how I went and asked for it.” As soon as she came back from the retreat, she took a 3-month leave from work – the company was very supportive – and flew away to Thailand to do yoga and fast, basically removing all the toxins from her body and soul.

Not eating allowed her to press the reset button on her brain, neuro-system, body weight and reconnect with her inner self. She experienced peace through a complete connection of her body, soul and emotions. “We usually want to do so many fun activities that we need a vacation from our vacation. It was the first vacation where I left more rejuvenated and re-energized than ever.” The retreat redirected her Catalytic energy and design thinking abilities towards a different area: her life.

You are freer than you think.

“When I look at that photo, I remember the deep feeling of complete freedom and joy I had at the time – as if I could go anywhere, do anything. It doesn’t matter if the feeling lost sometimes. Always remember you are freer than you think. Barriers are in the mind for a reason: flip it!”

The hardest part is to keep that feeling alive when re-entering real life. But since you are now aware, it is definitely possible.

Here are some tips from Courtney’s experience:

1. Prioritize. Doing everything all at once is less efficient than making one big change at a time. When saying yes to something, you actually say no another: so, let’s prioritize a fit with you personal story according what’s worth it on the long run.

  • make a list of what you want to accomplish
  • select 4-5 things to do today
  • chop it down to one thing
  • you can’t do everything at the same time and create significant change/progress on the run

2. Learn to say no. Turn off the tap to toxic people, environment and contexts. Everybody needs boundaries.

3. Celebrate failure and learn from it. Feel compassion towards yourself, do not beat up yourself and be proactive. Old patterns die hard

4. Find out what you will be doing differently no matter what, which should bring you a feeling of victory and fulfillment. For instance, drinking clean water only or running once a week.

5. Make small but significant changes, like initiating remote working, find a quiet place at the office. Work in an environment that suits you.

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