By Leigh Ann Hubbard

What does it mean to live with soul?

That was my first thought when I heard about Denise Boudreau-Scott’s women’s retreat, which is coming up in January. It’s called “Unlocked: Leading and Living with Soul.” Intriguing, right? I want that!

So I talked with her about it. And here’s the gist:

  • You’re able to find meaning in simple, unexpected ways.
  • You understand what matters most to you. And your everyday life and work reflect that. Which means . . .
  • Rather than feeling dread, you’re excited to wake up every morning (including Mondays!), knowing your life is aligned with your values.

Sounds idyllic.

Then again, so does the retreat.

It’s January 5–7 in Key West, Florida, and Denise’s humble goal is to change your life. You’ll uncover what “leading and living with soul” really, truly means to you, personally. Then, as she puts it on the website, “You’ll leave with a plan that fuels your motivation and inspires you to jump out of bed in the morning, excited to bring your dreams to life!”

You can get a ticket here. Or give one to a special staff member you want to honor this year!!

Here are some highlights from our live video interview, edited for better reading.

Disclosure: Senior Living Foresight is helping spread the word about the retreat, and we’re thrilled to be receiving a ticket in exchange. Yours truly was gifted the ticket, and let me say what a memorable, impactful gift it is! Highly recommended.

You’re Lucky That You Can Walk and Talk

Leigh Ann: If you had to quickly sum up what people will learn at the retreat, what would you say?

Denise: Leading and living in a way that’s in line with your true values, which means less stress, less guilt, less overwhelm, and more joy and happiness. That sounds kind of like—“how is that possible?” But it is, and I’m living proof of it. I can’t tell you how much better my life is now.

Leigh Ann: Tell us about that. What happened?

Denise: Two years ago, I had a ministroke. This wasn’t on my to-do list. And yet, here it came. I spent four days in the hospital trying to figure out what had happened to me.

The doctor that discharged me said, “You’re lucky that you can walk and talk as you leave this hospital.”

I thought, “I’m never letting this happen to me again.” Living with the stress of, you have to work more, have to do more, have to do for everybody else. What I learned was, I’m no good to anybody if I’m not able to walk and talk. 

It was a really rude awakening for me to think about the fact that my parents and my kids could be visiting me in a nursing home because I don’t have the ability to care for myself—because of stress.

It’s ridiculous, but that’s where I put myself. So I have completely changed how I approach life because I won’t ever go back there again. 

In a Tent by the Ocean

Leigh Ann: What should we expect in the three-day retreat? Sitting in a classroom with some notebooks?

Denise: Not quite. [laughs] It’s going to be in tents poolside. The pool is next to the ocean, so it overlooks the water, and there’s a beautiful marina. The resort is beautiful. Every room has a view of the water. It’s just incredible.

We’re going to be able to have group conversations. There’s going to be a lot of one-on-one conversations, a lot of self-reflection work. We’ll be working through questions and journaling and so forth so that everybody leaves there with a real plan.

On Wednesday night, we’re doing a get-together welcome party. And then on Thursday morning, I have a sound healer coming to do sound therapy, to open us all up to doing this work.

We’ll spend Thursday doing that work, and we’ll end Thursday night with a sunset sail on a catamaran. Friday, we’ll continue our work together and individually. We’ll end Friday at about 1:00.

Lots of people are staying because the hotel is really reasonable. We got a great deal. It’s less than half the normal price. Paddleboards are included, and bikes; even events with a marine biologist. So Friday afternoon, people can do some of those things on their own. And then Friday night, we’ll have dinner around the town together.

Denise’s No. 1 “Live with Soul” Tip

Leigh Ann: There’s a phrase on your website about living according to “your soul’s true purpose.” What’s your No. 1 tip for starting to do this?

Denise: Listen to what you know to be true. If we’re stressed, we’re out of alignment. If we’re overwhelmed, we’re out of alignment. If we’re angry all the time, something’s off. So the first thing you have to do is just see it. 

I have twin boys who are 20 now, but I think about when they were little, and I would come home from work—I was an administrator—and the days that I was stressed out, I was just not a good parent to them. You can’t be a good friend, a good family member, a good boss, a good coworker if you’re not in a good place.

Just recognizing that is unbelievably important. And it sounds so simple, but people don’t do it. I guarantee you 99% of the people when you ask, “How are you?”, “Busy” is the answer. It’s like this badge of honor. We seem important to ourselves; we seem more important to other people.

I want people to think intentionally about their lives. We’ve got a limited time on this planet. What a shame that we waste it in this hamster wheel.

There’s something that we can do about it. And it’s not, you know, “I’m going to go sit under a tree.” I don’t sit under a tree for three hours doing yoga! But I also recognize immediately when I’m out of alignment now, and I say, “What do I need to do to get myself back to feeling good—to what’s important to me?” And that’s different for everybody. 

Independence is important to me. Feeling alive is important to me. Being in awe and wonderment is important to me. Feeling secure is boring to me. But I know that because I’ve done the work on my personal values. So I know what’s important to my soul.

So when I’m not getting those things, I think about, “Do I need to do some volunteer work? Do I need to not pack my schedule with 20 trips this month?” Sometimes it’s small little things—“Do I need to buy coffee for someone behind me in line?”

But the first thing you could do is notice it. And the only way that you can be aware of it is to slow down, even if that’s two minutes in your car before you go into work. Take a breath. Connect with yourself. How are you feeling?

The more you do that, the more decisions come to you. Like, this woman’s retreat was because I quieted myself enough to realize I had to do this. It felt like such a calling. It doesn’t even feel like work. It feels like a blessing that I’m able to share this with other people.

Don’t Wake Up With Dread

Leigh Ann: It sounds so simple, but we go so fast and so steadily that we don’t even realize that today is gone in a second. And it’s like, figure it out now, or—we all know people who have been through health stuff that can be attributed to stress.

Denise: If I’m waking up in the morning and my first feeling is dread, something’s wrong. That’s not how you should be going through life. Your first thought in the morning should not be dread. When people are like, “Thank God it’s Friday!” I’m like, there’s something wrong. To me, you’re missing out on five out of seven days of your life every single week.

Am I advocating, “Everyone quit your jobs and go lay on a beach in Hawaii”? It’d be fabulous; that’s also not realistic. But how could you start sneaking in some more of these things? And that’s what we’re going to talk about: What is important to me? And then creating an actual roadmap for that to make it possible.

For me, I look at some of my values, and then, how can I sneak them in? One of my values is awe and wonderment. Sometimes I’ll say, “I’ve just been rushing through the day, and I need to stop.” So I just look for something. Sometimes it’s a heart-shaped rock or the sunset, or sometimes I’m amazed by these weeds or trees or flowers or that grow in cracks.

Taking that—what is it, one minute?—something that is important to me allows me to tap into my values and feel more aligned. So it’s not flying to Hawaii and quitting your job and laying under a tree and meditating all day. It’s, how do we fit this into our everyday?

Leigh Ann: Your retreat’s tagline is, “It’s time to discover your true purpose.” Sometimes it does feel like, if I’m going to discover my true purpose, I have to quit my job and climb Mount Everest. But your true purpose can happen within your life, right?

Denise: Yeah, and what I’ve found is, the more you’re finding it in your everyday life, the more the Mount Everest stuff starts happening.

If I’m looking for this little, odd wonderment moment, that might seem like a simple thing that day, but that’s leading me to listening to myself, which then leads me to the next thing that leads to myself. All of a sudden, this big, beautiful world starts opening up.

Hence my women’s retreat! If you were to ask me three years ago, I would have been like, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I’m not going to be doing that.” Yet I’m guided there because I’ve been following this “knowing” that we all have, or should have if we are able to tap into it. 

Ripple Effects

Leigh Ann: You said it’s hard for us to find time for ourselves. It’s probably hard for us sometimes to think about going on a retreat for ourselves! But this is three days, and this is profound stuff that could affect you for the rest of your life.

Denise: My expectation is not, like, go and have a good time. My expectation for everybody is that you walk away from this and say, “This changed my life, and that was the starting point of something new in my life.” That’s the low bar I’m setting for myself. [laughs] 

Leigh Ann: And it will affect people around you too.

Denise: Your friends, your family, your kids, they’re watching what you’re doing, and they’re picking up on all this. Are you running around busy, stressed all the time? If you’re a leader, your whole team is picking up on that.

I see it all the time in organizations. I pretty much can walk in the front door and know if the leader’s running around like a chicken with their head cut off or the person is leading calmly.

Three days to me is nothing compared to the havoc that you can wreak on your organization or your family if you aren’t aligned with these things.

Leigh Ann: At the retreat, will the attendees mostly be from senior living?

Denise: It’s a mix of people. There’s a lot of people from health care and senior living and long-term care. But in addition, the cool thing is I have a whole bunch of people that are bringing others. Someone’s college roommate is coming; we have a bunch of best friends coming.

Leigh Ann: I’m thinking about how hard of a year it’s been. If you had a woman or a couple of women in your organization and you really wanted to lift up, what an amazing gift this would be.

Denise: Yeah, we have one organization that’s sending three people, which is really, really neat. Can you imagine raffling it off for staff or saying thank you to someone? First of all, the ROI on someone coming back and being such a better person, which makes them a better leader, is immeasurable.

And how appreciated and valued would someone feel if they were—well, you know! You’re having it done for you at your organization! You said to me, “I can’t believe I’m getting this gift.” To invest in somebody like that would be so neat. And that’s like a drop in the bucket, for that person to come back better at the job that they’re doing, or stay with your organization because you’ve done that for them. Incredible gift.

Unlocked: Leading and Living with Soul happens January 5–7, 2022, in Key West, Florida. There are only a handful of spots left. You can get your ticket, or give a gift, here.