Real experiences from the Change Catalyst – are you ready for change?
We’re really excited about the Vet Change Catalyst programme for the autumn 2018. It’s a pioneering project and has never been tried before for healthcare professionals. The underlying evidence supporting the project is from ecopsychology and we’re really confident that it will make a difference for our veterinary professionals. It’s the same evidence that underpins a “green prescription” for mental health and wellbeing or the development of teamworking, creativity and leadership skills.
Being a new project though, we don’t have any testimonials and we can only really talk about our plans. The next best thing is for a previous attendee on the 2017 Natural Change version of the course to tell us about her experience. Penny George is Climate Fund Development Manager for the Scottish Government and participated in the full five-day version of our shorter course, where the solo she refers to will be a half day instead of a full day.
My name is Penny George, and I am Climate Fund Development Manager for the Scottish Government.
For me, deciding to go on the Natural Change Retreat was actually coincidence – a colleague had booked a spot, but then couldn’t attend so the space was offered up to our division. I put my name in the hat and was selected. Chance or destiny, I’m not sure…
I attended a five-day course (Sunday night to Saturday morning) in the Highlands of Scotland in April 2017. The course was primarily delivered in the outdoors, when the weather allowed – it was actually snowing heavily much of the time, so we had to be very wrapped up! The first two days were preparation for the ‘solo’ on the Wednesday; a full day from dawn to dusk spent alone in the outdoors with no phones, no camera, no books, no screens, no distractions, and no talking. Full equipment was provided to ensure we were safe and warm. Plus, lots of food! The two days after the solo included a series of practices and exercises helping us work through any learning we’d had from the solo and sharing that learning with each other in a way that felt safe and unthreatening.
Although I was extremely nervous about the solo day, and barely slept the night before, I unexpectedly really enjoyed it! It was amazing how the time passed, and I was happy just to be on my own sitting under a tree. In the days afterwards, via the process the facilitators took us through, I gradually discovered that on their solos, everyone else on the course had stayed more or less with a ten-minute walk of our base, at a low level, on warm grass and bathed in sunshine whereas I had hiked all the way up to the tree line on the mountains and spent the day sitting in deep snow and surrounded by low cloud! It hadn’t even vaguely crossed my mind that I didn’t have to take the most challenging route and push myself to the physical boundary that we had been set by the facilitators. My big learning point from this – combined with other aspects of the course – was that I have a tendency to always choose the most difficult option in life, whereas in fact it’s okay – and perhaps better – sometimes to choose the easier path.
The Natural Change experience was different form every other training course I have been on and in every way possible. It’s as much a physical experience as a mental one – and the physical aspect can have as much impact as any of the mental processes you are taken through.
Although I’d never have expected it, I feel somehow like the experience is still coursing through my veins. I’ve had some health issues of late but when I am better, I fully intend to do my own solo day or days in the future as I think it really grounds you and gets you completely away from the consumer-based and screen-driven society that we all live in today.
I think that anyone who is open-minded would benefit from the experience; from any walk of life and any work background. I’d say to anyone who was thinking about joining the Vet Change Catalyst, Do it. And be open to be a bit of a hippy for a few days!