As I watched Bear Grylls’ reflections on the recently completed experience of two groups of adults surviving on a desert island, I drew one parallel with the Farscape trek – that when you are far removed from your daily environment, in a place that physically challenges you, you return a different person from the one that left. Although the Atlas Mountains were not as extreme as a remote desert island, pushing both my physical and mental boundaries at the same time gave me a depth of experience and learning that has allowed me a different perspective on the issues I was grappling with before I went.
Having had one of the most challenging periods in my life so far over the last 18 months, the opportunity to reflect in one of my favourite environments – the mountains – could not have come at a better time. The combination of daily physical effort, with structured reflection on a variety of stimulating topics with other senior professionals, proved extremely powerful. I also remembered what it was like to laugh…a lot.
In the month since we have returned, I feel a need to take a daily walk in the fresh air, which not only continues a level of fitness I did not have before the trek, but also gives me a real sense of calm and wellbeing. I have also been able to reframe my emotions around the challenges I previously faced, take the learning from my mistakes and extract the key bits of learning to develop further as I enter a new career phase. In essence, the positive chemicals have returned to my system, I have a new outlook and I continue to smile.
One of my wise mentors commented only yesterday that in the last 18 months I have had the kitchen sink thrown at me, from personal loss, to professional challenge, to career change and yet I looked calm and excited by the future possibilities. I believe it was the chance to remove myself from home and to be out in the inspirational Moroccan landscape, that enabled both a clarity of reflection and this centred feeling. For anyone wondering what they can do to become a better leader or for anyone grappling with challenges, then this environment gives you the space and structure to address whatever you bring with you.