The Stimulating Sanctuary Approach

There are many ways to help people to develop. This is an approach followed by many educators, mentors, trusted advisors and people in the caring professions. They sometimes focus on the following themes.

Stimulating Sanctuary

Good mentors, for example, aim to create a stimulating sanctuary in which people feel able to explore their possibilities. They then help them to shape their future and achieve success.

Good educators aim to create a stimulating environment. Some do this by focusing on inspiration, implementation and integration. They create an inspiring environment, provide implementation tools that work and help people to integrate the learning in their own ways.

Different people spend time in different kinds of sanctuaries for different reasons. They may rest, sleep, listen to music, talk with friends or do another activity. Sometimes they aim to make sense of an experience.

Some people spend time in a sanctuary when recovering from a severe illness. They need a safe place where they can heal their body and soul. They are then more able to emerge stronger.

Some people spend time in their version of a retreat. They may rest, recentre and reflect on what is really important in life. Some emerge with a positive mantra they aim to follow in their daily life and work.

Mentors, educators and people workers sometimes go further than offering a safe place. When appropriate, they also aim to provide stimulation. They therefore prepare properly before running a session.

Good mentors, for example, consider the following questions before meeting a person. Other professionals may prepare by exploring variations on these themes.

Great educators focus on similar themes and aim to make the session enjoyable and effective. They clarify what people want to learn and make the learning personal, practical and profitable.

Personal – the learning should relate to the person’s agenda and help them to achieve their goals.

Practical – the learning should provide people with practical tools that can use to achieve their goals

Profitable – the learning should, in the widest sense, be profitable and help the person to achieve their goals.

Some people workers aim to create a stimulating sanctuary where individuals can reflect and, when necessary, refocus. This leads to the next step people can take in their lives and work.


Sanctuaries are great for a while. But at a certain point it can be important for people to move on because otherwise the muscles atrophy. This involves people aiming to shape their futures.

Different people do this in different ways. Bearing in mind what they can control in the situation, a person may start by clarifying the results they want to achieve.

Looking ahead, they may explore their potential options for going forwards together with the pluses and minuses of each option. They may also look at the attractiveness of each option and any potential creative solutions.

Buying time to think, a person may settle on the route they want to follow. They will then translate this into a clear action plan and do their best to achieve their picture of success.

A person recovering from an accident, for example, will begin exercising to build up the muscles. A jogger recovering from a mugging will start running in a safe place or with a friend.

A person who is laid off may do a piece of project work for a friend. They will do something simple to follow their version of getting back on the horse.

Going out into the world again can take a lot of effort, so a person may then wish to return to their sanctuary for a while. This is perfectly natural and will give them time to recover.

Many individuals who re-take charge of their lives start by doing something physical. They start exercising, move house or do other things that will bring them a quick win. They follow one of the oldest rules regarding change:

Change the physical things to change the psychological things.

People like to shape their futures. Sometimes a person can explore their options by themselves. Sometimes they may meet with somebody who helps them to get an overview of their situation.  

Good mentors, for example, often use the Three C Model mentioned earlier. They help a person to focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results. When appropriate, they pass on knowledge in a way the person can accept and use.

Looking ahead, a person may then clarify their future plans. If so, they may do something like the following exercise. Whichever route they take, however, it is important for them to set things up to succeed. This can lead to the next stage.


Different people spend time in sanctuaries for different reasons. Some use them to find comfort after a loss or a setback. Some use them to return to their spiritual faith or inner compass.

Some people use sanctuaries to get stimulation. They go for a walk, listen to music, spend time with positive people or do other activities. They may also do this when aiming to develop a new sense of purpose.

Some take this approach when faced by a challenge. Buying time to think, they spend time in their chosen sanctuary to do some slow thinking. This helps them to see things in perspective and make better decisions.

Some people create times during their day when they can recentre and refocus. This enables them to regain their energy, refocus and rehearse what they are going to do next. One person expressed this in the following way.

“When I was younger I was addicted to experiences. I threw myself into activities and packed my diary with back-to-back events. I felt most alive when doing things, dealing with crises or striving to achieve a goal.

“Nowadays I like to create time to think. Maybe it is because I have got older or because we are now bombarded with information. I need time to reflect and make sense of experiences.

“This had led to me spending time in my sanctuaries. Sometimes I go for a walk, play music or have a nap. I find this helps me make better decisions and then rehearse what I am going to do next.”

Some people workers may help individuals to play and pursue their chosen route. When doing so, they may encourage the person:

To clarify the strategies they can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success;

To clarify the specific things they can do to get some early wins, perform superb work and manage potential challenges;

To encourage themselves on the journey and do their best to achieve their picture of success.

Such people continue to provide support and, when necessary, create a stimulating sanctuary. They will then help a person to shape their future and work towards achieving their goals.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may follow some elements of the stimulating sanctuary approach? How can you do this in your own way?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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