Retreating to Advance

I love a “retreat” — which for me is generally a treasured (approaching sacred) time with physical and/or mental distance away from the daily grind.

I retreat to rest and rejuvenate. I retreat to reflect. I retreat to plan. I frequently retreat to write. I retreat for self-care.

I have even been known to retreat just to get a brief break from the cold, gray, and snow of winter.

I retreat in solitude and I retreat in groups.

The common denominator of my retreats is that I always retreat to advance.

It’s easy to stay super busy (for me both professionally and personally). And frequently we falsely assume that constant motion or activity is the “key to success” and progress. However, I’ve learned — and re-learned time and time again — that for me retreating is critical to true progress, fulfillment and advancement.

So in all cases I retreat to advance:

To advance in my thinking,

To advance in my work,

To advance in my writing,

To advance in my self-care.

Retreating is critical to my success, fulfillment, grounding….so I retreat to advance!

——

Reflection during a recent retreat planned to facilitate recovery from emotional & physical labor.

The Importance of the “Pause”

All too frequently, we are on the “move” — rarely pausing to process what brought us to any one point, destination, or decision.

Whether a “win” or a perceived “loss” or “failure, we rarely pause and meaningfully reflect upon what contributed to the outcome at hand.

There are so many questions we need ask ourselves when something exceeds beyond our wildest dreams OR when things go down a different path or meet an unwelcome roadblock.

Yet, we rarely pause to reflect, learn and plan adequately (and boldly) for the next steps. I think for too many a pause is uncomfortable, undervalued, goes against all the incessant action that too many of us value – i.e., the illusion of busyness as evidence of commitment and productivity.

Now, I admittedly may be a little too obsessed with the pause as evidenced by my “over-commitment” to retreats (for a range of distinct purposes).

However, it’s often in a pause that I can identify the strengths, good choices, purposeful planning, specific community, etc. that brought me to a “win”. This awareness then ensures that I can position myself to engage these factors/players intentionally in future endeavors. Also, it’s in a pause that I can claim accountability for the ways in which I impeded my own growth and success, and strategically review opportunities for me to identify and engage support of mentors, advisors, “re-direct0rs”, and other players.

It can also be in a pause where I recognize the structural barriers that may impede progress in some ways or areas.

Our gut reaction after a “success” or especially a perceived “failure” can be to move on quickly to the next thing. Sometimes we rapidly move on due to a need to continue to demonstrate “worthiness” in the case of successes or to cover any perceptions of our “worthlessness” in the cases of failures. Yet, we have to resist outsourcing our personal perceptions of our worth and embrace the possibility that true worth comes from what we learn from the paths we pursue rather than strictly what we “achieve” and those things at which we succeed.

In this sense we pause to reflect, we pause to learn, we pause to advance with meaning, purpose, impact.

If you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM

Evolving From a Focus on Mentee to Cultivating a Mentoring Ecosystem

Many current “mentoring” programs focus primarily on interventions for those being mentored, i.e. mentees (or sometimes referred to as trainees). All too frequently, these so-called interventions focus on fixing “deficits” in individual mentees so that they can “succeed” in the environment.

What goes under-recognized is that such an approach assumes infallibility of the environment or context, while ignoring the impact of structural deficits and biases of mentors and other powers that be.

Whether focused on engaging undergraduates in research experiences, mentoring graduate students to success, or increasing equity and inclusion for mentees and faculty in STEM–most activities and funds have been laser focused on deficits in individuals. There has been significant hesitation, and at times downright denial, about a need to engage environmental factors that impede growth and advancement of all individuals.

Of late, there has been increasing interest and engagement of the role of mentor preparation and training in mentoring effectiveness, particularly in STEM. A national and highly visible effort has been the NIH-funded National Research Mentoring Network.

To fully support efficacious mentoring and impactful outcomes for individuals from diverse groups, including minoritized and marginalized individuals, we need to evolve and expand our focus to include mentee, mentor, and the entire mentoring ecosystem. It is this latter point that has received much less attention; yet the ecosystem may indeed be one of the most critical factors.

Until we are prepared and ready to activate a focus on the role of the ecosystem and environmental stewardship of the ecosystem by mentors and leaders, we will continue to have incremental success in advancing equity in STEM and the academy.

If you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM