personalretreat 2015-Jun15
I’ve said this many times, but being a major gift officer is a really hard job. Over the course of the year it takes a lot out of you. It’s just an incredibly emotionally draining career.
This is why during the summer months I strongly encourage MGOs to take a personal retreat. This could be a one-day retreat; you could take two or three days, or even a full week. It depends on your experience with personal retreats. If you have never taken a retreat before, I recommend one to two days.
I’m not talking about a vacation. I’m specifically talking about a personal retreat where you go away somewhere to reflect, write, sleep, meditate and clear your mind. In your profession, this is not a luxury. You should consider this as part of your job. You cannot be effective unless you are able to stop, reflect and take personal time for yourself.
I was reading a post by blogger and philosopher Simon Boylan recently, who said this about taking a retreat and why it’s important – even if you take time every day for quiet and meditation:

“In our busy lives however, such moments may be fleeting, with consistent daily practice often a distant dream. Giving yourself the gift of time away in quiet reflection, time away to concentrate on those things that you know are so important, time away to connect with your deeper self, is profoundly powerful. Many feel unable to do this, fearing that those in their lives will be unable to cope in their absence. While it may be difficult to organize initially, undergoing a period of spiritual incubation will have untold benefits to you, and all those that surround you. You will receive a new perspective on your life and the spiritual strength to make difficult decisions upon your return. The whole world benefits from your time away.”

I really like that last line, “The whole world benefits from your time away.” Many times I run into development professionals and MGOs who excuse their not getting time away by saying, “Well there is so much to do here, I just couldn’t possibly take the time.”
Really, nothing could be further from the truth. When you take personal time to renew your spirit and your mind, your entire department will benefit, as well as your donors and yourself.
Now, I want to tell you a personal story. By nature I’m not a reflective person. I’m really working on it, but I’m not there yet. I’m very extroverted, I love new experiences, I love being with people. The idea of a personal retreat actually terrified me. But at one point in my life, all that outside stimulation was just getting to be too much.
I finally decided I needed a personal retreat. The first personal retreat I went on by myself was just for 24 hours. I couldn’t imagine how I could function any longer than that with my own thoughts. Well, that 24 hours alone was absolutely amazing for me. It took a few hours for my brain to settle down. But once I was left with just me, a small room and a nature path to walk, I started to feel at peace. That peace led to new thoughts and insights about myself and my work. I started to feel relaxed and happy.
In just 24 hours of being alone, I felt renewed. Believe me, anyone who knows me would tell you I’m not “a retreat kind of guy.” But it really changed me.
I’ve taken other personal retreats since that first time, but I haven’t done them every year like I should. As I write this post, I’ve decided to commit to doing it once a year, and I’d like to urge you to do the same.
Summer is a great time for this, since it’s less hectic in the office. You will be amazed how just a one- or two-day retreat will help clear your mind, give you a renewed sense of purpose, settle your soul and renew your spirit.
Your work almost demands that your spirit be full. You can only refuel that spirit by taking personal time away. Will you do it this summer?