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Top 7 Lessons I’ve Learned On Retreats

Retreats, retreats, retreats! This has been my life in a nutshell over the past year. In 2022, I traveled over 5 months of the year and went on 10 retreats around the world. These trips covered everything from personal and professional development to health and fitness. I prefer these kinds of immersive, group-travel experiences over any other vacation. Here’s why.

Retreats are all about growth: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. You’ll learn the importance of self-awareness, the power of mindfulness and meditation, the impact of positive thinking and attitude, and the benefits of setting clear intentions and creating a vision for your life.

With a combination of interactive workshops, group activities, and individual reflection time, retreats are designed to help you gain a new understanding of yourself and your place in the world.

Imagine yourself in a paradise of lush scenery, surrounded by like-minded individuals all on a similar journey of self discovery. With a team of experts to guide you through the process, you’ll escape the daily grind and get to focus on yourself and your well-being.

In 2023, there’s no better time to embark on this inner journey of exploration. The world needs good leaders. The world needs more light, laughter, and love. Through retreat experiences like these, you will not only change yourself, but also the world around you.

Ready for an adventure that will change your life and help you become the best version of yourself? If you’re looking to push yourself out of your comfort zone, gain new perspectives, and come out feeling rejuvenated and refreshed, then join me in exploring this exciting world of personal development and mindset retreats.

Here are some key lessons and takeaways from my 10+ retreats over the past year!

Here's what you gain from a retreat
What do you gain from retreats? Keep reading to find out!

1. If you want to be happy, don’t be afraid to express yourself

This is the key to living a happy life. It may seem simple, but the reality is that most people are not living their lives in an authentic way. Many are afraid to express themselves (including their emotions, beliefs & desires) for fear of judgement and rejection from others. They are afraid to be silly and vulnerable. Fuck that – this is no way to live. Having to wear a mask every day carries a tremendous amount of weight and leads to unnecessary suffering.

Expressing yourself authentically is a breath of fresh air. It gives your soul a voice and also allows you to be true to yourself. Imagine being able to speak your mind without fear of judgement, being able to show your true colors without fear of rejection. It’s like having a weight lifted off your shoulders – it’s super liberating!

Being authentic (and honest) also helps you to build deeper, more meaningful relationships. When you’re able to express yourself authentically, others can get to know the REAL you and connect on a deeper level. Plus, when you’re true to yourself, you attract people who also value authenticity.

Learning from others at The Nomad Escape

And let’s not forget, expressing yourself authentically can be a lot of fun! When you’re true to yourself, you’ll let your creativity and individuality shine. You can tap into your unique talents, passions, and interests and use them to create something truly special.

So, here’s to authenticity and honesty. Let’s take a step towards being true to ourselves, and embrace the freedom and joy that comes with expressing ourselves in this way. It’s time to let your true self shine!

As a travel blogger, I felt self-conscious in the past about posting things relating to my lifestyle (like ice baths). I've now gotten to a place where I don't really care what people think about me, but of course it's a journey.
I used to feel self-conscious about posting about my lifestyle. But now I’ve gotten to a place where I really don’t care what people think about me. | Men of Means Retreat

2. Find the fun in all things

Retreats have taught me the ultimate lesson in life: follow your highest excitement and pursue fun and joy at all costs! After all, if it ain’t fun, it ain’t worth it. Whether it’s a routine, habit, or lifestyle change, if it doesn’t bring you joy and excitement, it’s not sustainable in the long run.

Think about it – when you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work. You’re so engaged and in the moment, that time flies by and you’re left feeling fulfilled and energized. But when you’re stuck in a rut, dragging yourself through a tedious task or a boring routine, it feels like an eternity.

Take exercise for instance. While some people may not find running or weight lifting particularly enjoyable, there are many ways to make physical fitness into something fun. Sign up for pickleball at a local gym, go hiking with a group of people, watch yoga videos on YouTube, or try rock climbing. I guarantee you’ll find something out there to make exercising fun. If you haven’t yet, then you haven’t looked hard enough.

That’s why it’s essential to infuse your daily life with activities and habits that bring you joy and excitement. Whether it’s dancing around your living room, taking a hike in nature, doing fun activities with friends, or reading a good book, make sure you’re doing things that light you up. And when you find yourself in a situation where it’s not fun, ask yourself, is this sustainable for me? If the answer is no, it’s time to make a change.

Life is too short to be miserable and unhappy. So, make the most of it and pursue your highest excitement. By making fun and joy the ultimate goal, you’ll thrive in every aspect of your life.

3. Community is everything

Going on retreats has taught me the importance of community. In this digital age where people prefer Netflix over going out and working from home rather than in an office, it’s easy to live in a solitary way. However, it’s when you surround yourself with like-minded people that magic happens.

We all need each other to thrive on this planet
We all need each other to thrive on this planet | Men of Means

Think about it – when you’re on a hike with friends, the journey up the mountain is so much more enjoyable when you have someone to share the breathtaking views with. Similarly, when you’re doing yoga with a group, the energy in the room is electric and it helps you push yourself further than you would on your own.

But it’s not just about having fun – being in a community also helps you learn and grow in ways you never thought possible. During a cold immersion retreat I did in Iceland last year, we spent our days doing cold plunges in ice cold rivers and lakes and hiking to the top of a mountain in just a bathing suit. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy! But doing this with a fun and supportive group made this the tremendous experience that it was.

When you’re in a group, you’re also exposed to different perspectives and ways of thinking. It helps you broaden your horizons and see things from a new angle. Plus, when you’re going through a tough time, having a supportive community can make all the difference.

In 2023, I will continue to seek out opportunities for more group travel experiences. I encourage you to do the same!

Traveling is all about the people
Traveling is all about the people

4. We are SO much stronger than we think we are

This is perhaps my biggest takeaway from the past year. I didn’t learn this from a book or YouTube video; I learned this while pushing myself to my absolute limits during a Wim Hof retreat in Iceland.

Hiking a mountain in subfreezing temperatures
Hiking a mountain in subfreezing temperatures

From hiking a snowcapped mountain in just a bathing suit to jumping 9 meters into Europe’s coldest lake, I found my edge on this trip. I pushed beyond my fears and self-imposed limits and got after it. Here’s what I learned:

As mammals, we were born with a toolkit of powerful mental faculties and physical abilities. With the right mindset and consistent effort, we can do pretty much anything we set our minds to. This includes plunging into ice cold water during the winter months.

Don't be afraid to make the leap
Don’t be afraid to make the leap

Of course, you don’t have to submerge yourself in icy waters to overcome yourself, your fears, and your limiting beliefs. But damn, does it work wonders. And I can’t imagine a better place than Iceland to do just that!

Cold immersion in Iceland
Cold immersion in Iceland

Another experience that helped me find my edge was Body Camp Mallorca. During my week at this world-class fitness retreat, I worked out for 3-4 hours each day. This helped me crush my limiting beliefs around how much daily exercise my body could handle. While rest and recovery are important, I learned that the body will adapt to the workload no matter how challenging it is.

Working out at Body Camp Mallorca
Working out at Body Camp Mallorca

Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. To unlock the deep layers of strength and power that each of us possesses, it requires us to consistently challenge ourselves and push our physical and mental limits.

There’s a lion inside of you just waiting to be unleashed; retreats like these will help you learn how to tap into that energy.

Doing the beep test at this fitness retreat
Doing the beep test at this fitness retreat

5. Setting boundaries and learning to say “no”

Learning to say “no” is the ultimate superpower. It gives you the ability to choose what you let into your life and what you keep out. It’s not easy to set boundaries and speak up for yourself – but boy, is it important. Retreats have helped me get there.

I spent the first 28 years of my life as a people pleaser. I would often commit to things I didn’t want to do and spend time with people who drained my energy. My goal was to be liked by everyone, which put me at odds with myself. How can you live life to your full potential when you’re giving all your time and energy to everyone but yourself?

Retreats have given me the opportunity to practice these skills, as they provide a safe and supportive environment to explore my limits and learn how to communicate them effectively.

And it’s not just about saying “no” to external demands – it’s also about setting limits on your own self-imposed expectations. Additionally, saying “no” can be a form of self-care. It allows you to prioritize your own needs and well-being, rather than constantly putting others’ needs before your own.

Learning to say “no” can be difficult at first, but it’s a skill that can be developed with practice. And the benefits are numerous – when you set boundaries, you’ll have more time and energy for the things that truly matter to you. You’ll also be more likely to attract people and opportunities that align with your values and goals. This is no doubt one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while on retreats.

Learned a lot about setting clear boundaries while on this mindset retreat in Rosarito Beach
Learned a lot about setting clear boundaries while on this mindset retreat in Rosarito Beach

6. It’s SO important to get clear on your personal values and beliefs

Having a clear understanding of your values and beliefs is like having a map or compass to guide you in life. It helps you to make decisions that align with who you are and what you stand for. It also helps you to set goals that are in alignment with your values and beliefs, and to live a life that is true to yourself. Plus, when you’re clear on your values and beliefs, it’s easier to recognize and say no to things that don’t align with them.

Connection and community are some of my core values
Connection and community are some of my core values

Retreats have given me opportunities to get crystal clear on what my core values and beliefs are. This can be quite an intentional exercise – requiring you to dive deep into subconscious patterns and habitual behaviors.

"Dining in the Dark" experience in Costa Rica
“Dining in the Dark” experience in Costa Rica

Knowing your personal values

To get clear on your core values, start by asking yourself these questions:

– What are the values that shape your life and your daily decisions?

– Are you happy with them, and if not, what values would you like to embrace instead?

It’s easy to make a list of values and fill them with buzzwords like love, hard work, leadership, and gratitude. But without defining what these values mean to you, they carry little value.

Here are some of my core values and what they mean to me – taken from my notebook during the Live Life Activated Retreat in Costa Rica:

  • Authenticity: Letting my heart guide my life. Being real with myself and others
  • Boldness: Getting after it no matter what
  • High energy: Bringing joy and high vibes to everything I do
  • Curiosity: Having a passion to constantly learn and grow
  • Freedom: Being to do what I want whenever I want for my highest good
  • Community: Prioritizing time spent with people who inspire me. Deeply connecting with others – physically, mentally, and emotionally
  • Adventure: Always seeking out new experiences
  • Fun: Prioritizing play, laughing, and being silly every day
  • Faith: Deeply knowing that no matter what happens in my life, everything will work out for me

As you can see, these aren’t textbook definitions of core values. Each of these words and their meanings came directly from my heart rather than my mind or a dictionary. You don’t want to sound rehearsed or polished when you’re coming up with your personal values. After all, they should be natural (and specific) to you!

Rick Parcell guiding us through mindset exercises at Body Camp
Rick Parcell guiding us through mindset exercises at Body Camp.

In addition, as part of this exercise on core values, it’s important to make a distinction between your desired values and how you are showing up right now. For example, many people value authenticity, but how often are they actually living this way? The more honest you are about this, the more effective you’ll be in this exercise.

Personal connection with others is an important value for me
Personal connection with others is an important value for me

Knowing your beliefs

Once you have a solid understanding of your core values, it’s important to get clear on your belief systems. Ask yourself – what are the beliefs that are currently serving you AND are holding you back?

Doing a Temazcal (sweat lodge ceremony) In Tulum with Men of Means

Most people spend their whole lives without contemplating or changing their beliefs. They just stick to what they know – consuming content that reinforces their opinions and finding like-minded people who make them feel safe and unchallenged. I’m not just talking about topics like politics or religion, by the way. This is about all of your belief systems (mainly subconscious) that dictate your thoughts, actions, and behaviors every single day.

David Goggins is one of my role models, so it was such an honor getting this award at Body Camp Mallorca
David Goggins is one of my role models, so it was such an honor getting this award at Body Camp Mallorca

One set of beliefs that I’ve fundamentally shifted over the past years are my beliefs about distress. Like everyone else, I used to seek comfort and ease. I loved staying in my comfort zone, giving excuses for why I wasn’t achieving certain things, and avoiding high levels of physical and mental stress. I also did everything to avoid feelings of fear and anxiety. Now, I seek out challenging situations all the time – doing cold immersion, hard workouts, and retreats on a regular basis. What’s changed?

I didn’t wake up one day and have this huge awakening moment. It took a lot of intentional, incremental changes in my habits over time to change the way I show up in life. I fully accept that sometimes life will suck, but I get to choose how I want to show up regardless. By choosing to seek out discomfort every day, it makes the unplanned challenges seem way less scary.

Just remember – life is a journey and it takes time to effect change. Don’t sweat the details and set arbitrary deadlines for achieving your goals. Just make progress every day, no matter how big or small. That is good enough. Enjoy the journey!

Making snow angels in Sweden
Making snow angels in Sweden

7. Get out of your mind and into your heart

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past year is that the mind is a great servant, but a terrible leader. When you lead with the mind, you let subconscious biases cloud your judgment and talk you out of things that are important to you.

I’m not saying that you should forgo the mind completely. No – I am not that much of a hippie. Absolutely use this incredible mental faculty that you have, but use it as a tool for achieving your heart’s desires rather than let it control you.

If you often find yourself carefully planning things that you say and do, then you are operating from the headspace rather than the heart space. If you find yourself talking about things you “have to” or “need to” do, then you’re leading from the mind. Though I am super conscious of it now, I still find myself hanging out more in the mind than I would like. It’s a-okay though…we are all human!

On all my retreats, I’ve learned many powerful ways to open up the heart. Here are some of them below:

Heart-opening exercises

  1. Meditation: Practicing meditation can help you to quiet your mind and connect with your heart. It can also help you to gain insight into your thoughts and feelings, and to develop greater self-awareness.
  2. Mindful breathing: Focusing on your breath can help you to shift your attention from your thoughts to heart. It can also help you to calm your mind and reduce stress. Cold immersion, which requires mindful breathing, is one of the best ways for me to move from the mind to the heart.
  3. Gratitude journaling: Writing down things you’re thankful for can help you open the heart space. It can also help you to connect with your inner self and to express yourself authentically.
  4. Yoga or other physical practices: Yoga, dancing or other physical practices can help you to connect with your heart and the rest of your body. It can also help you to release tension and to gain a greater sense of inner peace. Kundalini yoga is one of my favorite heart openers.
  5. Nature walks: Spending time in nature can help you to connect with your heart, emotions, and feelings. It can also help you to gain perspective and feel grounded.
  6. Creative expression: Engaging in creative activities such as drawing, writing, music, can help you to connect with your higher self. It can also help you to express yourself authentically and to gain greater self-awareness.
  7. Mindful listening: Listen to others attentively, focusing on their words and emotions. In doing so, your heart will open as a side product.
Cold water immersion in Iceland has a remarkable way of opening my heart
Cold water immersion in Iceland has a remarkable way of opening my heart

When it comes to living a fulfilling and authentic life, operating from the heart space is the way to go! It allows you to connect with your emotions and feelings, to make decisions that align with who you are, and to build deeper, more meaningful relationships.

So, let’s quiet the mind and listen to our hearts. It’s time to live authentically and in alignment with our values and beliefs. It’s time to let our hearts guide us on this journey of self-discovery and growth. Don’t just think…feel (and live) from the heart!

Doing a sweat lodge ceremony in Tulum, Mexico was the ultimate heart opener
Doing a sweat lodge ceremony in Tulum, Mexico was the ultimate heart opener

Why you should embark on a journey of personal development right now

Humans were meant to be strong, happy, and healthy. Our bodies – which include trillions of cells, muscles, tissues, and organs – were designed to carry us through the biggest trials and tribulations in life. We were not intended to spend most of our time indoors and on the couch, eating junk food and worrying about petty problems. The world right now is filled with fear, weakness, and victimhood, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

In the journey ahead, you have two options: (1) to seek out comfort every day or (2) to seek out challenges and opportunities. If you choose option one, life won’t be easy. The world is a tough place, even brutal place at times. If you want to pursue comfort and ease, you will be left with anxiety and depression – if not now, someday in the future when life gets tough (it always does). Life won’t be easy with option 2, either. But in the process, you will go on adventures. You will learn, grow, and sharpen your skills. Life is going to throw crazy shit your way, but you will be prepared to face them.

There’s an old Dutch proverb that says tall trees catch much of the wind. By choosing a path of personal development and transformation, you will face adversity. But you will also gain the power and strength to withstand whatever life throws your way, and effect meaningful change in the world in the process.

If you want to change the world, it all begins with yourself.

– Lots of love, Jon

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