The Power of Catalyst Constellation Retreats


What follows is a conversation with Cecilie Hoffman on the power of Catalyst Constellations retreats.

Q: What made you want to come to one of our retreats?  

A: I was struggling with a career change. I needed help to sustain the decision because I was not finding employment in the role I wanted. I enjoyed the pre-reading assignments and felt that I would be in a safe place to work through my doubts and difficulties. The only expectation I had was the I would return from the retreat with at least one new perspective.

Q: What did the retreat bring you? 

A: The retreat crystalized for me that I would have to be steadfast about what I want to do as a professional, and not give in or give up. The Dalai Lama said, “Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.”

Shannon and Tracey carefully curated the cohort so that we would likely feel comfortable with each other, at least on an intellectual level. I learned that it is okay to be selective about whom I spend time with, and what a wonderful feeling to not feel guilt about that any more.

Q: What did you learn about yourself?

I learned that I’m the one making myself feel “less than” because I’m an introvert. It was so nice to find other introverts who are “out of the introvert closet” at the retreat. Because Shannon and Tracey made it okay for us to self-manage the overload of being in a communal space with people we did not know, it was easier to stay engaged.

I chose to not attend one evening gathering; instead I went to a nature presentation given by a county employee who takes care of hundreds of acres in the Santa Cruz mountains. Her presentation was on the local mountain lions, foxes, coyote, deer, and skunks, through photographs and video taken by motion-triggered field cameras. It was what I needed to re-charge after an intense day, and it was wonderful to arrive at the morning session refreshed with no concern about having ditched the group.

Q: What did you feel and learn when meeting other people who identify as catalysts ?

Meeting other catalysts who suffer from doubt was an immense relief. When I experience doubt, I wonder if I’m good enough, even with the courage of my convictions and rational thinking. It is hard for a catalyst to work in a vacuum; a catalyst has to find a way to get traction, otherwise it is time to move on. Maybe because we are a small percentage of the general population, we look around and can’t understand why people aren’t just getting on with what obviously needs to happen so we begin to question ourselves. If there are no other catalysts or otherwise like-minded people around to verify / validate our perceptions and offer encouragement, our confidence can erode. And moving on can be as much of a challenge as trying to get traction.

It is amusing to see that catalysts come in all sorts of personalities and styles. In the recent post-session re-union meeting that Tracey ran, we talked about a distinction between “change agent” and “catalyst”. Tracey’s observation is that some people are comfortable self-identifying at a “change agent” but might not be ready to call themselves a “catalyst”. I find this distinction useful; in addition to coaching my team to think like business architects, I can also encourage them to self-assess on the spectrum of change agency, and develop themselves, if they so wish.

Q: What did you change in your life after the retreat?

I stopped dithering about two obvious decisions that would move my professional and personal life forward.  I made a plan to pass the exam I dreaded but which was needed to move my career forward. I started moving forward on my “plan B” I my personal life – moving across the country to reduce my commute and living expenses, and be near family.


Q: Do you have tips to share with other Catalysts to help them be the best version of themselves?

* Speaking as an introvert, find other introverts and create a mutual support cohort. The purpose of the cohort is not for social purposes, these are your reality check buddies.

* Be proud that your mind works differently than most other people’s minds.

* Most people want to help, especially when they believe that their life or life in general will improve from the effort. Many people just want to be the hero, and some people just can’t be bothered. Once you know whether to or how to engage with a person, the catalysis can begin. Otherwise, you have more homework to do.

* As catalysts, we put out a lot of energy (even us introverts). Know how to re-charge yourself. For me that means spending some time alone every day, and, once a year, going someplace I have never been before.

* Publish. Put your stories, knowledge and experience out there for people to use, springboard from, critique. Plant the seeds of discussion. You don’t have to write a book, writing articles foments discussion just as well.

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