What is The Grand Retro? A tool for structured reflection on your personal development goals

March 8, 2024

We designed The Grand Retro to help ambitious, high performers gain clarity on where they are, what matters most, and where to direct your focus.

This is the starting point for creating a plan for growth and development that successfully gets you to where you want to go.

Understanding The Grand Retro

At its core, The Grand Retro is a framework for holistic personal development across eight key dimensions of life backed by science.

While our members typically come to The Grand with career wellbeing in mind, we believe that while career wellbeing is a key part of a fulfilling life, it is only one  part– and that it’s very much intertwined with all the other dimensions.

The Grand Retro embraces this interconnectedness. We encourage deliberate reflection to foster long-term growth in each dimension over time.

How It Works

The Grand Retro operates on a simple yet powerful premise: structured reflection leads to meaningful growth. The tool invites you to engage in a regular practice of introspection across each dimension. With the Retro, you are equipped to properly assess your current state, identify areas for improvement, and set actionable goals to chart your progress.

The Impact

  • Clarity and Direction: By asking you to systematically evaluate specific dimensions, rather than something as broad as “life” or “wellbeing,” The Grand Retro provides clarity on where attention and effort are most needed, empowering you to prioritize your goals and aspirations.
  • Enhanced Self-Awareness: Through a consistent reflective practice like Retro, you gain deeper insights into your strengths, weaknesses, and values. By getting more in touch with yourself, you can foster a greater sense of self-awareness and authenticity. This awareness translates into better learning every time you reflect again, creating a positive feedback loop of growth.
  • Goal Setting and Accountability: The Grand Retro asks you to set specific, measurable, and achievable goals for one dimension of focus. This helps you focus your personal strategy for growth and development, and better hold yourself accountable to your goals.
  • Holistic Growth: By addressing multiple dimensions of well-being, The Grand Retro promotes holistic growth and development, ensuring that all the different dimensions of your life are considered.
  • Community and Support: When the Grand Retro is done in collaboration with your community (perhaps: your Grand Council, friends, family, manager, direct reports, or coworkers), all these outcomes are accelerated. The Retro provides an easy framework for communicating your goals and context with your community. In turn, your community can serve as better peer coaches for you, and help you achieve those goals even faster than on your own.

Harness Science to Build a Life you Love

70% of Our Learning Comes From Experience

According to recent research by Susan Ashford, 70% of our learning comes from experience, 20% from exposure to others, and only 10% from formal education, like reading books or taking courses. This means that the majority of our growth happens through real-world experiences – but only if we're actively engaged in the process.

This is where The Grand Retro comes into play. With a structured, research-backed framework for reflection, you can tap into the full power of your experiences. Using a consistent framework over time allows you to better identify patterns, extract lessons learned, and set actionable goals for the future.

From career well-being to emotional resilience, the Retro framework offers a unique lens to evaluate your progress and identify areas for improvement. You draw from a broader range of experiences to cross-pollinate your learnings.

Reflecting on Your Experiences Deepens Learning

The concept of 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert was popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell. But, according to the researchers he cited, it’s a bit of an oversimplification. It turns out that just practicing in an undirected, unintentional way is not enough to add to your 10,000 hours.

Your 10,000 hours of practice needs to be 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. As author James Clear writes: "While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance."

The Grand Retro is your starting point to a more deliberate practice of reflection. You’re not just looking back on your experiences. You’re breaking down your experiences into manageable parts (the dimensions), identifying weaknesses (where your scores are lower than you’d like them to be), and making a plan to improve. You’re also analyzing, synthesizing, and extracting insights that propel you forward. It's about being mindful and intentional in your approach to building a life you love.

Feedback Loops Are Part of Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice requires that you design your practice with a specific intention, and that you then reflect and evaluate how successful your practice was at achieving this specific intention.

This means that targeted feedback is crucial to the process – you won’t know otherwise how successful your attempts actually were at achieving your intention. The Grand Retro is designed to ensure that you are able to give yourself meaningful feedback. It puts you in dialogue with yourself. It’s also a framework you can easily use to start a dialogue with others, empowering your community to give you additional meaningful feedback.

Reflect Holistically and Act With Focus

If you think of your personal growth as a journey, The Grand Retro’s eight dimensions serve as a map for the areas of personal growth and development you can explore. The focus dimension serves as your compass.

Your Map: The Eight Dimensions

The eight dimensions of The Grand Retro were selected because research has shown that these dimensions are what matter most to our lives. Several of these dimensions are important cross-culturally too. Here’s some of the science.

(1) Career Wellbeing: 2017 research from Frontiers, a psychology journal, found that career satisfaction and life satisfaction were interlinked, supporting the idea that wellbeing in our careers relates to wellbeing in life.

  • For these results, three different studies were conducted using cross-sectional and longitudinal survey data among workers in Chile on the connection between life satisfaction and job satisfaction.
  • The third study surveyed not just for life satisfaction, but also satisfaction of “basic psychological needs,” defined according to a psychological theory called self-determination theory.
  • All of these studies found the same result: higher job satisfaction relates to higher life satisfaction in both the short and long term, and the effects are also bidirectional—fulfillment in work contributes to fulfillment in life, and vice versa.

(2) Emotional Resilience: A study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on emotional resilience found that emotionally resilient individuals often use positive emotions to bounce back from negative experiences.

  • The study had three parts: In the first part, asked participants to prepare a speech that would be shown to peers in another study while being monitored by physiological sensors, and completed a survey after.
  • They were then split into two groups: one group was told to get psyched up and think of the task as a challenge to overcome. The other group was told that their performance would be evaluated and would be used to predict their academic and social success.
  • The third study had a separate group of participants write short essays about the most important problem they were currently facing. They completed a survey afterward.
  • The study found that the most resilient subjects channeled positive feelings to combat the bad vibes. Importantly: the most resilient subjects didn’t ignore negativity, but rather learned to adapt to it; they’d take the bad and pair it with the good.
  • It was also found that positive emotionality and resilience contributed to physical wellbeing. Subjects who were more emotionally resilient typically had stronger immune systems, too.

(3) Environmental Wellbeing: A study from **the Journal of Global Health also yields interesting findings about how the natural environment interacts with our health and wellbeing.

  • This was a literature review of existing studies, which found that being active in nature actually has observable physiological effects on humans. In fact, it reduces stress hormone levels – like cortisol – and increases pleasure levels when compared to indoor or sedentary activities.
  • Nature also has a significant observable impact on our mental health. MRI scans used in the study showed reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC) after spending time in natural environments, indicating a decrease in sadness and rumination.
  • Clinically prescribed nature-based interventions, known as "green prescriptions," are being introduced as treatments for physical and mental health disorders, reflecting the integration of science into public health policy.

(4) Financial Wellbeing: Research from the *Journal of Family Economic Issues* last year found that financial wellbeing and fiscal worries can have a significant impact on our mental health.

  • The study used data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which is a nationally representative survey in the United States. This made way for insights into the relationships between financial problems and psychological distress among American adults on a broad scale.
  • Financial worries are positively and significantly associated with psychological distress among U.S. adults, which is fairly consistent with prior research and stress theories.
  • Based on the study, there are several different strategies you can use to improve your mental health through finance, these include: developing your financial literacy, using financial planning services, or seeking professional support.

(5) Intellectual Curiosity: Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed journal, published a study in the midst of COVID-19 on intellectual curiosity and how healing it was in regards to wellbeing and loneliness. The data was collected via questionnaire.

  • Loneliness was found to mediate the link between curiosity, information-seeking, and well-being. This means that people who are more intellectually curious may experience reduced loneliness. In turn, this contributes to higher levels of well-being.
  • This study also found that our intellectual curiosity is linked to physical health – not just mental. High trait curiosity may mitigate the negative effects of high sugar intake on mood and anxiety during the lockdown.
  • This research ultimately suggested that intellectual curiosity and the desire for knowledge may contribute to better mental health outcomes during times of uncertainty and social isolation.

(6) Physical Wellbeing: Perhaps unsurprisingly, a 2023 literature review from the Cureus Journal of Medical Science found that physical activity and wellness has a direct link with one’s mental health and overall well being.

  • This research found that physical activity not only increases production of happy neurochemicals, but that these chemicals reduce anxiety, aid in sleep, and help with pain relief.
  • Exercise had a positive effect in treating depressive and anxious symptoms across multiple age groups.
  • And, who doesn’t love a good nap? More facts from this study show that regular exercise can significantly improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep, too.

(7) Social Wellbeing: A longitudinal study by the Harvard Study of Adult Development recently found that how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.

  • The study tracked 268 Harvard sophomores’ wellbeing starting from 1938—that’s 80 years of data.
  • The research later expanded to include the original participants’ children and spouses. In the 1970’s, the researchers added Boston inner-city residents to the study.
  • Across both the Harvard sophomores and the inner-city residents, relationships helped to delay mental and physical decline, and were better predictors of long and happy lives than money, fame, social class, IQ, or even genes.

(8) Spiritual Awareness: A 2021 literature review study published in Religions, a public access journal, found that there’s a strong link between one’s personal sense of spirituality and their well-being.

  • This study offers that spiritual awareness – at any level – is associated with higher levels of psychological well being. A large part of this is because it fosters a greater sense of our purpose in life, personal growth, and self-acceptance.
  • It was also found that spiritual engagement lent to healthier behaviors, like lower odds of smoking or engagement in addiction recovery programs.
  • Additionally, this study suggested that spirituality played a role in social well-being, too! It fostered social connectedness and built a stronger sense of community.

Your Compass: The Focus Dimension

Once you’ve gotten a good understanding of the “landscape” of your wellbeing, you must choose a North Star to chart your path. This is where the focus dimension comes in.

We want to be clear: the goal of the Retro is not to achieve a perfect score in each dimension all at once. The Retro is designed to create awareness and bring your current state into sharper focus.

Everyone’s personal circumstances are unique, and we are all only human. That’s why it’s so important to decide on one manageable dimension to focus your efforts and limited energy in a clear direction.

The Positive Feedback Loop

It doesn’t matter which dimension you start with, just that you do. That’s because once you start working on one dimension, you’ll start creating a positive feedback loop of growth for yourself in all the other dimensions. The Grand Retro's eight dimensions are interconnected, reflecting the holistic nature of personal well-being and professional fulfillment.

Take emotional resilience and career wellbeing, for example. Emotional resilience, as defined by ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal, refers to the ability to adapt to change, cope with disruption, and maintain functionality in the face of stress or difficulty.

Individuals with high emotional resilience can bounce back from setbacks, bend without breaking, and effectively navigate challenges without succumbing to stress or burnout.

In the context of career well-being, if you improve on the Emotional Resilience dimension, you might find that your Career Wellbeing score improves too. That’s because Emotional Resilience makes you better equipped to handle the inevitable and ever-increasing stresses and pressures of the workplace. With strong Emotional Resilience, you are better able to maintain composure, make sound decisions, and persevere in the face of adversity at work – increasing your Career Wellbeing.

It can go the other way too—improving Career or Financial Wellbeing, for example, might provide you with the resources and feeling of safety that you need to improve your physical fitness or spiritual awareness, which in turn improves your Career or Financial Wellbeing even more. This is the positive feedback loop in action.

Track Your Progress Over Time

Consistency is the bedrock of growth. Where The Grand Retro really shines is when you complete it multiple times. When do you so, you start building a personal playbook of growth over time. We’ve designed the Retro with this in mind.

Use Numerical Scores to Compare Across Quarters

The Retro intentionally asks you to start with numbers so that you have a clear, standardized metric to compare the state of your dimensions across time. This gives you a shortcut to evaluating your progress – you can easily get a snapshot of how you’re doing if you see that scores dropped or increased.

Build on Saved Reflections So You Don’t Start From Scratch

The metrics are of course only the starting point to getting where you want to go – when you see your numbers change, you want to intentionally reflect to understand why and what those numbers mean for your growth and goals.

The Retro includes a space for you to record these reflections each time you complete it. That way, you can remember what your insights were and build on top of them. You don’t waste time struggling to remember what happened last time, and you’re only enhancing and deepening your self-knowledge each time you do the Retro.

Share With Your Community

The Retro is your data-backed playbook of personal growth. If you keep building on it, you’ll have a well-organized treasure trove of data that you can share with your community as context when you’re ready to reach out and ask for help to get where you want to go faster.

When you share both the quantitative and qualitative data you’ve gathered from Retro with your peers, mentors, and managers, you invite more targeted constructive feedback, collaboration, shared dialogue, and external accountability.

Your community can give you tips and tricks from their experience on how they’ve improved the dimension you’re working on before, share insight from their perspective as to why certain scores might be so low, or even just nudge and cheer for you as you work toward your goals. When you involve your community, you enrich your journey with collective wisdom.