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The Big Stretch review | life coaching, London & worldwide

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Coaching retreats in nature to redirect your mind

The Quick Read: This brilliant creative coaching company set up by psychologist Rosie Walford was the original coaching holiday , and it has helped people to find meaningful work, to navigate from negative relationships into better situations, to accept a seat in the House of Lords, scale a social enterprise, and move from London to Malawi. Choose an individual daylong intensive, working in nature with Rosie in London or on Waiheke Island (New Zealand). Alternatively, book private coaching with Rosie via phone or Skype (an initial chat is free), or join a weeklong journey of coaching, fresh thinking and mountain walking in Spain. Rosie is also a journalist and she reviews retreats for Queen of Retreats.

Budget: £££-££££

The Big Stretch life coaching holiday

A creative coaching exercise on The Big Stretch life coaching holiday in Spain

Who it’s for: The Big Stretch attracts intelligent, professional, self-aware people usually in their 30s, 40s and 50s looking to make a significant change in their lives, and perhaps more positive contribution to the world. Men and women, including leaders in all sorts of fields come from the UK, Australia and Europe; most book alone.

More on the life coaching in London and New Zealand: Rosie offers private, tailor made coaching retreat days using outdoor creativity. One of these days can radically expand your horizons and focus your plans for the future. Whether reinventing life or work, expect to dive deep into your interests, your patterns of satisfaction and frustration, and your concerns for the world: you’ll be expertly helped to use these as pointers towards your next direction. In London you’ll meet at a park café, then move out amongst big old trees; on Waiheke Island, you start out overlooking the sea, and end in native forest. Wherever you Stretch, you draw on nature for stimulation and calm insight, as needed. Dates are set to suit the individual – the London option generally in summer months. Read more here.

Writer and psychologist Rosie Watford in a coaching session

Psychologist Rosie Watford in a coaching session

More about Rosie’s life coaching holidays in Spain: These are where we first encountered Rosie’s brilliant coaching, though they are on hold for 2015. Based at the rather lovely Casa Ana in Spain, days start with yoga-inspired stretching and a decent breakfast, after which you spend most mornings on a shaded terrace, workshopping your big life questions with conversations, images, mapping and all manner of exploration. By lunchtime you’re out in the Alpujarras mountains, walking to digest what you have discovered, and reflecting with nature-based exercises that help your subconscious resolve the unresolved. Dinners are jovial, and the group spirits rise and rise as everyone reconnects with the things that bring them alive. The week long process gradually leads you to clarity and a concrete plan of action for your return home. Meals feature a lot of vegetables and fruits from local gardens, incredible cheeses and produce that’s locally sourced, including fish from the Mediterranean below. It’s a menu for the tastebuds rather than the waistline – a typical starter might be chestnut and sherry soup; a main course fillet of pork with almond and honey; a dessert poached figs stuffed with pistachios and dark chocolate. Yum. Read a word from the queen on our experience of this trip.

More on Rosie: Rosie trained in creative problem-solving at the Creative Education Foundation in New York, in coaching at Zenergy in New Zealand, and in Ecopsychology in Scotland and Spain. She has a background in advertising, teaches on leadership and social innovation programmes worldwide, and is a photojournalist who draws on every creative tool she’s experienced, from meditation to medicine men as necessary, to get you thinking and seeing afresh.

The Big Stretch life coaching holidays Rosie Walford

The creative process opens up a space for new perspectives

More about the life coaching methods: The Big Stretch uses a coaching framework that cuts through limiting beliefs and the rational side of us that might ordinarily say ‘no’ to visions of major positive change. At the same time, the creative process opens up a space for new perspectives and clarity about your future direction. Confidence is rekindled from the source,  and practical next steps are planned.

You’re encouraged to stretch beyond your ‘comfort zone’,  rediscover what you feel passionate about, and to articulate the needs of the world which stir your compassion (often a great pointer to meaningful work). There’s a certain tough-love provocation to release entrenched habits which won’t serve you in the long term. One man buried his old patterns under a rock, and walked away.

Other than when you choose coaching by phone, The Big Stretch coaching is uniquely combined with ecopsychology. Natural surroundings definitely help us to access our intuition, recognise our place within a wider worldview, and to resonate with the values at our core. Altogether, an environment which brings forth sound choices in life.

The Big Stretch life coaching

The holiday is just the beginning of the process

Whatever aspect of life you’re revolutionising, it’s put in context amongst your relationships, health, money and work. You condense things down to one particularly important and enticing ambition (your Big Stretch) – and that’s just halfway– you then get to work on the how – inventing practical ideas to overcome obstacles, and building the self-trust to make it your reality. All of which means the process can be emotional, and reveal some unexpected new pathways ahead.

The follow up: Vitally, The Big Stretch in any form is seen as the beginning of a journey, not an end in itself, so you’re provided with all the tools you need to carry things forward – on return from a stretch holiday, for example, you build up a list of ‘easy wins’ to kickstart change, and plan the harder things that need to be worked on over a longer period of time. You’re even coached in how to articulate what you’ve learnt to others, helping you keep up the commitment and momentum in your daily life and gather support from those around you. If you work individually with Rosie, you can space your sessions to mobilise and guide you through every stage of your shift.

Making a difference: If you’re keen to make a difference to the wider world, The Big Stretch is particularly good at helping you pinpoint what difference you want to make to whom. Surveying the impact sector, you are helped to explore which type of organisation will draw on your natural talents, experience and acumen to best effect.

crown What’s queenly: Rosie holds a very safe and strong container for deep exploration – and it’s amazing how diverse the results can be – we’ve met people who have left being able to stand up to a bully, rethink a working partnership and create a better balance of work and play.

What’s lowly: Rosie spends half her life in New Zealand so she isn’t always around.

Costs: You can start your one-to-one coaching with a free discussion, then it’s £370 a month for two detailed sessions, structured assignments and  unlimited e-mail support between. Big Stretch individual London days cost £1600 with pre-work and meals. Big Stretch holidays cost from £2350 per person for a week in Spain.

Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones

© Queen of Retreats Other life coaching retreats

The Big Stretch life coaching

Rosie draws on every creative tool she’s experienced to get you thinking and seeing afresh