Apart from “where did you travel from to get here?” The other primary question that strangers asked each other on arrival at Camp GLP (Good Life Project) was “WHY are you here? What brought you to campGLP?” I had a serendipitous reply. For, as I was about to turn 40, I had been sat pondering - as you do when you are about to turn 40, yet feel like '40?! What? How did that happen?' - whether there was anything that I wish I had done but hadn't.
I don't have a bucket list, as I wonder if that might perpetuate the feeling of 'I'll be even happier when...I've ticked this off my bucket list' and I am happy with and grateful for my life as it is. It's so much more soothing to focus on what you have rather than what you haven't; to feel gratitude as you grow. It's not always easy, but I am generally content with what I have and with what I have done.
Yet one *unfulfilled* experience popped in to my head.
The American High School Summer Camp.
I'm a Brit, and I've always wanted to go to the States and wish I had gone to summer camp as a teenager.
How much FUN would THAT have been?
But I didn't.
That unfulfilled wish didn't have a negative impact on my life, but I had a moment where I wondered what might have been if I had followed that teenage dream? Would I still be living this wonderful life I have now, with my amazing daughter and mister, working as an author and 'flourisher', pursuing my purpose to enable flourishing in business, life and childhood, working from home and living in the English countryside? Or would I be living in America, doing the same, or doing something quite different? What if I'd taken a different path? Who would I be? Still me or not? ...Oooh?
Literally that same week, an email popped into my inbox from The Good Life Project.
"Summer Camp For Grown-Ups" it said.
"Life will never be the same," it declared.
I sprung up from my mouse-clicking-induced-slouch. "Can they read my freakin' MIND?" I thought.
"Does newsletter subscription to GLP now come with some sneaky new tech widget which zaps mind-probes out of the screen and into my brain?" Jeesh!
Excitement subdued for a moment though when I considered the latter part of that message.
"Life will never be the same."
"Eek," I thought, "But I like life as it is now."
That said, I had been running around like a maniac the past few weeks, in the process of buying a home, juggling a number of projects and wildly in need of some deep down-time to reassess, reconnect with my purpose and gain some clarity about which projects to pursue and which to ditch.
And so I honoured the serendipity of that invitation and booked a place and a flight to New York. And when I had some doubts about venturing outside of my comfort zone, leaving my six year old daughter and going away on my own, my other half helped me justify the trip by saying it would be a 40th birthday present from my late father who past away last year and joined my darling mum in spirit.
So, despite "Bye Bye Miss American Pie... this will be the day that I die," blaring out of the radio from the taxi to the airport giving me a slight sense of unease (!), it was a pleasure to have this time to myself before the intensity of camp. After a day and a half staying in Chelsea, Manhattan and making like a tourist, I uber-excitedly skipped onto a yellow school bus (beyond excited - like in the movies man!) and instantly connected with fellow Brit, Marsha, an inspirational storyteller and networking coach who lives in Toronto. Our non-stop chatathon made the two hour bus trip to Monticello feel like minutes and then we arrived at #CAMPGLP to the warmest welcome I have EVER seen involving cheers from bouncy crew members and equally bouncy large bubbles.
From that moment on I didn't stop smiling. I instantly felt at ease.Why was that? I'd never met these people before but, like so many others have commented, I immediately felt like I'd found 'my people'. We were from all walks of life yet we were on the same page.
The same-wave-lenth-ness was mind-blowing and, as such, we connected really quickly with total strangers. This sense of belonging was cemented that evening as we toasted s'mores round the campfire. I looked around me at the glowing faces, knowing that we all had something in common – whether we were lost or on track, below or above base-line of well-being, we all shared a sense of hope and a core set of values. We turned up to make, create, love ourselves and others and to figure out ways to give something back.No wonder that "Make, create, love, give," appears on the gorgeous GLP merch.Because of this, one week after camp I miss these guys, despite having only known them for a few days. Evidently, genuine connection is POWERFUL!
As fellow GLeePer, Jeffrey Davis comments in his own blog post on belonging:
"To belong is to feel acknowledged, honored, and respected for whom you uniquely are and in turn to give space for others’ uniqueness. To belong is to feel that your quirks are potential strengths, that your oddities are potential medicine, that your peculiarities are potential badges of honor".
In his insightful introductory keynote, the inspirational Jonathan Fields talked about the concept of keeping three vital cups as full as possible in order to live a good and purposeful life and not letting the “contribution” cup overflow at the detriment of the other two cups (“connection” and “vitality”).
At Camp GLP all three cups were positively brimming with good stuff. They were spilling all over the place by helping us all to gain an understanding of our 'contribution preferences' and figure out our essence in terms of how we might contribute to the world, but also bubbling over with self-care, connection with nature, new friends and the good-old-Universe. We were resetting our collective brains in unison and filling our vitality buckets big-time courtesy of being on a vacation, enjoying meditation, yoga, Intensati (which BLEW my mind) and eating great food. Camp #GLP was enabling us to feel good.
Ulimately, we flourished here. As well as feeling naturally able to Just. Be. Ourselves. I realised that we were revelling in the five pillars of well-being as laid out by forefather of positive psychology, Marty Seligman; or the 6 pillars, according to Emiliya, the incredibly inspirational guru of flourishing, who gave a compelling workshop on The Science of Flourishing and Mindfulness at camp and who adds Vitality to the mix in her own certification programme. Like Emiliya I had added additional pillars via the '7 steps to flourishing', which is part of my own Flourish Challenge (See what I mean about same-wave-length-ness)!
Camp GLP Epitomised The Key Pillars of Well-Being
- POSITIVITY – There was immense gratitude, positivity and a whole bunch of smiling, happy faces at camp. It was a joyful experience, even for those who at times felt vulnerable or found it difficult, the overall feeling as a consequence of showing up was one of joy.
- ENGAGEMENT (FLOW/ACTION) – Time passed quickly because we were in the flow. We were engaged by the workshops, (from tea-blending and time-bending to hand-lettering and crowd-funding) engaged by the conversations and engaged by the possibilities and plans that filled our heads as a result of our learning. Frankly there was a lot of flow going on.
- RELATIONSHIPS – Connecting so instantaneously with a bunch of strangers who soon became friends was amazing. Supportive relationships bolster us and enable us to see more possibilities; now I feel like I have a) found a few solid life-long friendships based on deep synergies and b) found my 'tribe'. As awesome adventurer and fellow GLeePer, Samantha Sutherland says in her latest blog, "when the right people turn up in your life, magic happens."
- MEANING (PURPOSE) – We came here for various reasons; to gain clarity, find our true purpose or focus, grow spiritually, meet like-minded people or simply to escape the normality of daily life. But, as a result of the keynote speeches, I'm sure the majority of campers left feeling aligned to our true purpose in life with our intentions well and truly channeled.We also witnessed first hand how a clarity of purpose has helped boost the businesses of workshop leaders and keynote speakers such of Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend, Jadah and Jen of SimpleGreenSmoothies and John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire to another level.
- ACHIEVEMENT (GROWTH) – Showing up and attending camp gave me a sense of achievement, as did having the courage to step out of my comfort zone of my safe little bubble of my quaint English village. Camp GLP has helped me to know that I'm on the right track to growing in the right direction and achieving my vision (of helping make the world a little less frowny and a lot more appreciative, positive and resilient).
- VITALITY (HEALTH) – exercise via running, dancing (the hip-hop dance fest was utterly dope), or taking part in the motivational mind-body connection of IntenSati or Crossfit, or simply taking an early morning stroll around the lake, eating good food, learning how to make juicy smoothies and meditating with KC – the vitality cup of GleePers overfloweth (except perhaps for the lack of sleep after the post-talent-show buzz and consequential chatathons).
My Psychologies Magazine editor asked me to explain whether my adventure lived up to my expectations and what I learned? Dang! It exploded my expectations into smitherines (<< love that word! Smitherine!)
Camp GLP was so major in its EPICness that it raised the bar to a whole new level of community spirit, engagement and alignment. One day I plan to apply for the Immersion too and know that will be beyond epic!
What did I learn? So much! Too much to condense down here, but here are the main take-aways:
- The power of connection. As Emiliya pointed out in her Science of Flourishing workshop and as I cover in my book, The Flourish Handbook (UK / USA) - we have a choice each time we communicate with another human being. We can practice what's known as Active Constructive Response to help people savour good news, to help people feel that they belong, to celebrate what's right with each other or we can opt for a more Passive or more DeConstructive Response and dilute the good news or fail to listen. One of the reasons why Camp GLP was such a success was because it was jam packed with people who practice the former. People listened and responded with ENTHUSIASM. It was so refreshing to have people genuinely interested in helping me to gain clarity and even more wonderful when, through actively listening to their stories, people would jot down my heartfelt suggestions and vice versa. So let's listen and respond enthusiastically, because people matter!
- Stepping out of your comfort zone and being adventurous is a winning strategy. So if, on reflection, you do have any unfulfilled wishes or childhood dreams, anything that you'd love to do but haven't got round to doing yet - DO IT NOW, or book it now. The duality of immersing yourself in a new experience and fulfilling that unfulfilled desire opens the doors to new possibilities, gives you sense of achievement and confidence in your abilities. Because YOU DID IT, right? That's engaging and achieving and growing right there.
- Self-awarness and self-care are vital gifts to ourselves. Taking time to look after ourselves through meditation, mindfulness and analysis of our strengths gives us an insight into any unfulfilled desires we have and helps us to make clearer better-informed decisions; while choosing to congratulate ourselves instead of beating ourselves up is just kinder.
- We're better together (to pinch the recent Scotland stay with us campaign's slogan - yay! Thank you for voting to stay Scotland). Togetherness is so empowering. Singing the GLP Camp Song after the awe-inspiring talent show and at the end of camp; sharing the WOW moments with each other, learning and growing together in THAT setting with total strangers who fast became true friends - that is truly magical and difficult to explain. It was the epitome of pure harmony of humanity at its best - supporting other humans (there were tears - I cried during my first IntenSati sesion as I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my life now and my life as I grow into my future; others cried tears of joy or released emotions as a result of the high impact feeling of unity).
- Now is precious! The mindfulness workshop led my the formidable Emiliya outlined that, as did the watch worn by Shakira-like camper, Mariana Cervelleira, which, instead of showing the time, just said, 'Now' (Which has slam-dunked right to the top of my Christmas list).
The joy I found at experiencing Camp GLP had less to do with living a teenage dream and fulfilling a previously unfulfilled wish than I thought it would. Yes, that was a small part of the joy I felt, as was the sense of accomplishment, that I could do anything now that I'd travelled alone to New York and made this experience happen. But it was more about that - it was about shared values, that sense of belonging, learning and being authentic and feeling TRULY ALIGNED. Together we embraced possibility; we focused on sharing our dreams and hopes and moved away from our fears and, in doing so, we came alive.
Being there, in THAT environment with THOSE people gave me clarity, knowledge and inspirational guidance. It lit me right up and energised me (even at 6am for the guided group meditation with yogi, creative catalyst and all-round awesome dude, KC (Kristoffer Carter). The workshops gave me insight to know precisely what I want from myself and what I stand for, so that I can continue to live a proactive life, a flourishing life, a darn GOOD LIFE!
To sum up, in my explanation to readers of my books, participants in my challenges and retreats about what flourishing does, I've used the term 'your life, but brighter'and that's how I'd describe this experience. Every GLeePer was lit up, brightly shining out their authentic selves. Why? Because we felt like we were among people who got us, because camp organisers Stephanie and Jonathan (and their brilliant crew) made us feel so at home (from extra blankets, to actively listening, to the warming food and comforting smiles) and because we all got what we came for - whether that was clarity, engagement, connection, purpose-activation, reignition, relaxation, knowledge or friendship - GLP DELIVERED (and then some).
As I sit here typing at my desk in the UK, many miles from most of my fellow campers, I'm so thankful to have connected with people who got that 'me, too' feeling with and to have made some life-long friendships. I know!! We barely know each other, but we've sewn the seeds for friendship, just as we've sewn the seeds for perpetual growth and living a Good Life indeed - a good life with s'mores on! Mind-blown, soul-soothed, possibilities-expanded, expectations-exploded and unfulfilled wish of venturing to American Summer Camp well and truly fulfilled.
Furthermore, I'm pleased to report, I'm still me, but shinier (with my glitter tattoo), more-purposeful and bolder. Onward! (and thank you) :-)