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The Big Stretch review
Life coaching in London, India, Spain & New Zealand

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The Quick Read: This brilliant creative coaching company set up by psychologist Rosie Walford has helped people to find meaningful work, to extricate themselves from negative relationships into better situations, accept a seat in the House of Lords and move from London to Malawi. Choose one-on-one days working in nature with Rosie in London or on Waiheke Island in New Zealand or book private coaching with Rosie via phone or Skype (an initial chat is free). Rosie also runs learning journeys in India – Be the Change journeys visit inspiring social entrepreneurs whilst coaching people to make fulfilling career moves, while Lead the Change journeys help leaders renew and reimagine their work. The Big Stretch walking and coaching holidays in Spain are on hold for 2015. Rosie is also a high-profile journalist in New Zealand who reviews retreats for Queen of Retreats.


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 real change in their lives, including leaders in all sorts of fields and business people. Most come from the UK and europe, and everyone books alone.

More on the life coaching in London and New Zealand: Rosie runs private, tailor made creative retreat days using nature to expand your horizons and coaching to design positive plans for the next phase of your life and work. These one-to-one Big Stretch Intensives are in New Zealand, where Rosie is based for most of the year, and in London parks, usually during the summer months. Dates can be set to suit the individual. If you choose an individual Stretch on Waiheke Island, you start with expansive thinking exercises on a deck overlooking the sea. An epic picnic lunch is on a tranquil beach, and the afternoon’s work is in native forest. In London you’ll meet at a park café, then move out amongst big old trees. Picnics on Individual Stretches in New Zealand are also thoroughly gourmet; in London, Rosie chooses a decent café. Read more here.

More on Rosie’s Be the Change Journey: Four times a year, usually in April and November, Rosie leads trips for brilliant company Journeys For Change in India. This life-changing eight days in India IS designed to accelerate your shift into more meaningful work. Every day you visit pioneering changemakers blending business acumen with social purpose and at the same time deepen your understanding of your strengths and potential through specialised career-shift coaching. Weaving together the stimulation of India with your own values, you learn how to explore new fields of work that make a difference and are likely to return fired up with new focus and a clear direction.
More on Rosie’s Lead the Change Journey:  This 8 day learning journey in India is great for people who are already making some positive impact to people or planet through their work. You step back, take in new inspiration through visits to some of the worlds’ most innovation social entrepreneurs, and through creative reflection exercises, re-imagine your approach to leading positive change. You learn heaps, rekindle your purpose and and join a growing alumni network of more than 250 socially-conscious leaders from around the world.  Read more here.
Writer and psychologist Rosie Watford in a coaching session

Psychologist Rosie Watford in a coaching session.

More on Rosie’s Be the Change Journey: Usually run once a year, this is a life-changing eight days in India designed to accelerate your shift into more meaningful work. Visit pioneering changemakers blending business acumen with social purpose, deepen your understanding of your strengths and potential through specialised career-shift coaching and join a growing alumni network of more than 250 socially-conscious leaders from around the world. Read more here.

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, they start with a spot of yoga-inspired stretching and a decent breakfast, after which you spend most mornings on a shaded terrace, workshopping your big life questions as others are working on theirs. By lunchtime you’re out in the Alpujarras mountains, walking to digest what you have learnt 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 remembers who they are at their best. Meals feature a lot of vegetables and fruits from the owner’s garden and local farmers, while other produce is locally sourced, including fresh fish from the Mediterranean. 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 sauce; 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

Letting nature guide and inspire

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 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 essential values at our core which guide 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. You explore what type of organisation within the expanding impact sector 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. Big Stretch holidays cost from £2350 per person for a week in Spain. Journeys for Change are from £3150 for 8 days in India.

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