Inspiration, Empathy and Empowerment: Inside The Ranch Malibu

What if I told you there was a place where in just 6 days you could do the following:

  • Lose weight and inches
  • Detox with healthy, delicious food
  • Make no decisions (everything is done for you)
  • Get to know inspiring people
  • Learn more about how to be healthier
  • Get a break from technology (mostly)

Would you believe me? I hope so, because each year for the past six years I have gone to The Ranch Malibu and achieved these results. It is actually astonishing what you can do in less than one full week at this program. Here’s how it works.

You arrive on a Sunday afternoon, get checked in and weighted/measured. There are 16-18 guests who all meet each other and get started with a hike around the beautiful property in the hills of Malibu, California. For the next five days, the schedule looks like this.

5:30 – Wake Up
6:00 – 30 Minute Stretch Class
7:00 – Breakfast
8:00 – 4 Hour Hike (at your own speed)
1:00 – Lunch
3:00 – Afternoon Classes Begin
4:00 – Massage or Class
5:00 – Yoga
7:00 – Dinner

Each day you hike at your own pace for 4 solid hours. People range from about 5-12 miles. It is intense and challenging. You decide how hard to push yourself. After lunch and nap/relaxation time, you start an afternoon that consists of two hours of strength training and one hour of yoga. Everyone has a sports massage at some point in the afternoon to work out sore muscles.

I’m not going to lie, the program is expensive. The 6 day program costs thousands. I’m sure many of you are gasping and ready to tune out. I get it! I was the kind of person who always said, “I can do it myself.” And you can if the money is absolutely prohibitive for you. You could create your own DIY Ranch experience if you took a week off and organized a program that mimicked the above schedule. You could find hiking trails, do gym classes and plan out a 1400 calorie day all on your own. It would be hard, but it is possible.

In my experience, attending an organized retreat/program like the one that The Ranch offers is more than the sum of its parts. So much so, that it changes lives.

The first thing I learned at the Ranch is how powerful we all are. Let me tell you, looking up at some of the steep inclines on the trails, you wonder how on earth you will make it. Here’s the answer; one step at a time. It’s a wonderful metaphor for everything you do in life. How do you write a book? One page at a time. Every goal we achieve in life is done in small increments that eventually get us to the end.

One of the biggest lessons I learned is that pessimism and negativity will derail you every time. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.” When people are forced outside their comfort zone, sometimes negativity and fears surface. I have seen people fear that they won’t be able to finish a hike, so they go much more slowly than they need to, missing some beautiful vistas; staying smaller than they need to. I have seen people complain, whine and actually throw fits on the hiking trails. When a person dips into this state of mind, it hurts them and the group as a whole. It motivates me to remain calm, stay positive and see the good that comes even when we are struggling. I can’t overstate this point. Gratitude is powerful and gives energy. Pessimism deflates you and robs your potential. This is true in every setting; not just the Ranch.

The guests and staff will inspire you in ways you cannot predict. People at The Ranch spend a great deal of time getting to know the other guests and staff. You might meet a stay-at-home mom, a fashion executive, a movie producer, someone in real estate, a writer and a surgeon. You will spend hours hiking the trails together, eating meals and getting to know people you would never meet in your own world. You connect at a deep level. In happiness researcher Shawn Achor’s book, Big Potential, he digs into the power of expanding your social connections to include people who aren’t just like you. He argues that we can’t reach our true potential in an echo chamber. We must hear different ways of thinking and addressing problems. Nowhere is this easier to accomplish than at the Ranch. The people there have inspired me to think bigger, give up fears and try to impact the world.

In my podcast with Alex Glasscock, the owner of the Ranch Malibu, we discussed the many psychological and emotional benefits he observes each week. I discuss how a few of the guests I met there changed my “ceiling.” I always thought of myself as a psychologist and mom and even though I wasn’t entirely satisfied, I was resigned to my reality and it was a pretty good life. After meeting a few special people at The Ranch, I had an epiphany. Why couldn’t I do more? There was nothing fundamentally different between me and the movers and shakers I was meeting, except goals and beliefs. So, I decided to do the thing I always thought about but had too many fears to do. I started to write a book, do a podcast and blog about the things I’ve learned as a psychologist. Without fears, and with inspiration, your happiness levels can soar.

Finally, you will spend time in nature, disconnected from the parasitic cell phones we all have incessantly attached to our beings. You practice self care. You give up the caffeine that jolts us into the day and the liquor that brings us back down at the end. You get to rediscover how you feel in your natural state. It’s pretty amazing.

As most of you know, I developed a recipe for happiness based on 20 years of clinical work with people that I call PACE. It stands for Pleasure, Accomplishment, Connection and Exercise. We all need these four areas in our lives to live optimally. The Ranch, for me, is PACE on steroids. I love being in nature and hiking, eating healthy food and having massages, so there’s the Pleasure. I typically hike around 62 miles so Accomplishment is a biggie. Connecting at deep levels with new people is build into the program and you will never Exercise more.

Maybe some of you will consider trying a program like the Ranch Malibu for the emotional benefits that accompany the physical transformation, for the reset, the detox and the inspiration.

You can listen to my interview with Alex Glasscock by clicking ‘play’ below or in the following places:

iTunes
Google Play
Stitcher

Thank you so much!
Shannon Connery Ph.D.

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