Go Outside to Go Inside

Think of nothing and you will discover everything.

I recently Googled the word “nothing” and received 1,490,550,000 results in 0.31 seconds. Meetings and events are delivering content and information at the same pace as our increasingly stimulated society—more facts, more figures, more studies, more media, more statistics, more words, more texts, more experts, more emails, more awards—and more and more content is just a click away. It’s no wonder some event attendees are feeling meeting fatigue.

mindfulness, adventure, team facilitator, keynote speaker, leadership speakerIt’s been my experience that most learning models—whether a conference, classroom or workshop—are based on content learning, meaning information is gathered from some outside source and directed to you. This is often shared with the idea that more is better. To be clear, learning approaches including content, skills-based and experiential are truly important. They allow us to navigate this world in remarkable ways, yet there’s a missing piece.

My home of Colorado and the Mountain West have world-class meeting venues in amazing locations. However, too often people attend meetings without experiencing the natural beauty around them. As an adventurer, mountain guide and facilitator for corporate retreats, I’ve seen hundreds of people—from troubled teens to harried executives—experience unlimited new thinking through the outdoors.

One of the most powerful ways to foster self-discovery, transformation, creativity and innovation is to allow space for meeting participants to go outside to experience their world from a rich new perspective. Going outside offers a way to move and breathe, connect with nature and discover a sense of serenity as well as find insights that aren’t often found in a conference room with a rigid agenda.

An outdoor adventure or team event can be designed to be collaborative and fun but with too much structure, they can become just another form of content learning. The biggest returns show up when the team members have time to experience stillness, mindfulness and process what I call insight learning. What I mean by insight is elevating wisdom from within—sight from within. Consistently, I’ve seen that just as each individual transforms, the team transforms, which ultimately leads to organizational and cultural change.

Think of a time when you were most alive and performing at your best. What did that feel like? Be curious. As a former SWAT team member and retired paramedic/firefighter, I’ve accumulated thousands of hours of training and on the job experience—lots of content. Yet, when faced with crises in highly charged situations, the key to top performance and the well-being of those I was serving was a clear state of mind to calmly assess the best course of action.

A Simple Strategy for Mindfulness

These experiences led me to develop a simple yet effective strategy called the ABCs of Leadership: Awareness, Breath and Choice. Play with it. I sense without saying a whole lot more about this form of mindfulness that you already get it.

Although going outside in nature might be the most obvious way to create new thinking, outdoor experiences aren’t the only option. Most meetings are packed full of events from sunrise to after sunset. Instead of adding one more activity, consider how you might design a meeting to allow for mental and physical breaks.

The irony here is that I’m sharing content to encourage you and your clients to be open to less content. I am suggesting that insight learning is a look behind the curtain. It is the missing piece that content and information cannot provide.

I invite you to get curious and …

  • Consider how you might add an outdoor experience to your next event.
  • Look for creative ways to provide space in your meetings for attendees to find stillness for a deeper understanding and learning.
  • Leverage skilled facilitators to be the catalyst for elevating the attendees’ awareness and bring meaning to the conference content.

How will you create an experience and build a culture of valuing the insights of your attendees?

Brian O’Malley, CSP
Adventurer, Motivational Speaker, Executive Coach

Excerpted from a feature article originally published in Colorado Meetings + Events Magazine.

Adventure, Insight Learning, Meeting Planners, Meetings, Mindfulness

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