My wife and I just returned from two weeks in Hawaii.  The first week on Maui was spent with friends, the second week we saved for just the two of us on Kauai.  We enjoy finishing vacations with only the two of us otherwise it doesn’t really feel like a vacation.  Don’t get the wrong impression, we love our family and enjoy our eight grandkids immensely, but feel that a true vacation is one where you can create your own schedule and spend some needed quiet time with each other.

Our week on Kauai was spent doing a lot of reading, walking on the beach, discovering a local coffee shop to walk to, and several massages.  There was a lot of time for us to talk about us.

It reminded me of the need for all of us to periodically take some time for ourselves to reflect and refresh.  Several speakers to my CEO advisory boards recommend a CEO take a personal retreat once a year.  This can be for one day or several days.

It is important to get totally away from your business and the routine of your normal life.  Go to the beach, to the mountains, anywhere to be alone.  You can choose a 5-Star resort or a cabin by the water.  It makes no difference.  Go to a area that makes you happy, perhaps where you see yourself retiring, but where you can be alone.

The purpose is to remove yourself from your day-to-day routine, which does not allow you to reflect.  To reflect on how you are running your business.  To reflect on how you are living your life.  To reflect on where you want to take both.

Don’t be surprised if this experience makes you feel uncomfortable!  After all, you are normally surrounded by people. People asking your opinion.  People wanting you to make decisions. People nibbling away at your day and when it is gone you wonder what you accomplished.

Now you are suddenly alone.  Left with your thoughts.  Not needed by anyone.  Yes, this might make you uncomfortable.

In an article in the Rochester Business Journal, John Engels, president of Leadership Coaching, Inc., a Rochester executive development firm, says “a personal retreat can help restore balance by sharpening a leader’s most important tool: self-awareness.”

Here are the ten questions he suggests reflecting on:

1)  What are my most important life purposes and goals?

2)  What am I doing that just doesn’t make sense?

3)  How much money is enough and what will I do with it when I get it?

4)  What do I want to accomplish before I die?

5)  What (and who) am I avoiding that deserves direct attention?

6)  In which relationships am I taking too much responsibility?  Where too little?

7)  In what situations do I tend to “lose my bearings”?

8)  What conditions and routines help me stay calm and at peace?

9)  Which of my greatest fears are imaginary vs. reality-based?

10) What stands in the way of me living my best life?

I would suggest scheduling at least two days away.  Arrive in the evening and spend dinner by yourself.  Yes, you will feel a little awkward in the restaurant dining alone.  Or there is nothing against preparing your own meals but, from experience, I find it is nice to get away from your “thinking space”.

The reason I suggest two days is that the first day may feel strange as you settle into a routine.  Bring comfortable clothes so you can take walks or bike rides (my favorite).  A lot more thoughts will flow in and out of your mind, things that have nothing to do with the questions above, as you walk a beach or bike through the woods.

Bring a notebook or journal to write down everything that comes to mind, positive or negative, having to do with the questions above or not.  Avoid your electronic devices.  Your office and family need to respect these few days.  Take naps.

My days usually look like this:  breakfast, reflect, lunch, exercise, reflect, nap, dinner, finishing with pleasure reading or movie or TV.  But there is no right or wrong way.  And you will know when you are done, when more time will not benefit you, whether it is one and one-half days or longer.  Time to quit and go home.

When you return from your retreat schedule a time with a close friend or mentor and share with them your discoveries.  Get their candid feedback.  Then act on the things that need acting on.

I can almost guarantee that you will show up differently to your family and your employees.

Consider Reading This

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is all about encouraging women to pursue their careers and dreams with gusto.  With personal stories of her journey to becoming one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business she imparts her message with wisdom and humor.