4 Tips for Effective & Transformational Exercises

One of the things people ask me most when they come to me for support on facilitation and curriculum techniques is “How can I create more effective transformational exercises?”

I love teaching about this because knowing how to masterfully craft exercises that move your participants is KEY to co-creating results and deep learning.

Yet, too often teachers and facilitators don’t quite get it right.

And when you don’t get it right, your exercises come off as trite, too surface oriented, misplaced or just plain weird.

There are a lot of components that are necessary for an exercise to work REALLY well, and this includes a very important piece about how you set up your curriculum throughout your workshop, class or retreat.

We’ll get to Curriculum Development soon, but for now, I wanted to share a few tips on what you can do within the exercises themselves to make them more powerful, more effective, and more moving.

These 4 tips are truly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crafting exercises, but they should get you started:

  1. Activate at least two different levels of Learning & Processing

    In a previous article, I shared about the 4 Levels of Learning and Processing. In any full curriculum you create, you want to make use of all 4 learning and processing levels. But in any single exercise that you lead, you want to include at least two of these different levels so that deeper transformation can be harnessed and integrated.

  2. Set up an emotional journey

    How do people learn most effectively? Well, think about the Hero’s Journey for a moment. In every powerful Hero’s Journey, there are the actual events that are taking place (this can be compared to the content & information shared in your exercises)….but there is also an emotional journey that is happening for the Hero.

    If you want your participants to really be moved by an exercise, then not only do you need to evoke emotion, but you need to go beyond evoking just ONE emotion. For true transformation to happen, you want to weave a variety of emotions into any given exercise.

    For example, when I craft exercises, I may lead my participants through anger to grief to joy. Or perhaps from frustration to surprise to celebration. The variance of the emotional experience keeps participants present, helps activate breakthroughs, and allows for emotional integration of the content to happen.

  3. Make use of metaphor and body wisdom

    The absolute most powerful and effective exercises for workshop, retreat or class participants make use of metaphor and body wisdom. Simply put, this means crafting ritual and ceremony into your exercises.

    The language of ritual and ceremony speak not only to the mind, but to the body, to the heart, and to the soul. I always like to say: Before there was therapy, there was religion. And before there was religion…there was ritual. Ritual acts as a potent and physical metaphor for desires and wishes. Enacting ritual and ceremony goes deep to embed new patterns into the psyche. It is also a really wonderful way to harness the energy of the group itself, as ritual is often made more powerful through community.

  4. Lean in and demonstrate

    Really transformational exercises often require participants to do things out of their comfort zone – things that may at first seem or feel strange or foreign, or things that evoke emotion that they are not comfortable with. One of the keys to supporting participants to be willing to go to the depths with you and not feel weird or confused on it is for YOU, the facilitator, to be fully 100% present with what you’re asking participants to do and model it for them FIRST.

    When you model, you not only demonstrate for participants the nuts and bolt of HOW to move through an experience, but you also demonstrate the focus, intention, emotion and passion with which to be present. This makes such a difference in how an exercise will be understood and experienced.


Would love to hear how these tips are landing for you. I’ve literally got 100’s more when it comes to exercise and curriculum development, but these are some of the first ones to think about.

Some of my Facilitation Blunders (3 Case Studies & the tools I developed from them)

It’s true that I’m known as one of the best workshop, ritual and retreat facilitators in the industry, but what you probably don’t know is this: In my nearly 20 years of facilitating (& training others to facilitate!), I’ve made tons of mistakes. Not just little mistakes, but real biggies. The kinds that are cringe-worthy and the kinds that I’ve shed some real tears over.

But that’s how I’ve learned and that’s how I’ve developed so many of my facilitation tips and tools.

I decided it would be fun to share 3 Case Studies with you on mistakes I’ve made and the facilitation tools that came out of them.


5 teaching modes that will revolutionize your retreats

This very important article is almost like a glossary of 5 different Teaching Modes that are each vital components of a transformational retreat or workshop.

In my nearly 20 years of experience as a facilitator, and in over 50 retreats that I’ve led and 100s upon 100s of classes I’ve taught, I’ve learned that having a healthy balance of these 5 modes creates a learning environment that nurtures true growth and transformation for participants. READ MORE

6 tools to create deeper transformation for your clients

transformationIn my 15 years of facilitating Transformational Experiences for thousands of individuals and groups, I’ve come to learn that there are certain skills and elements you need to master as a leader and facilitator in order to be successful at creating lasting shifts, healing and real openings for your participants.

In fact, what I’ve come to see is that without these tools, things can go very, very wrong – your workshops can fall flat or not go deep enough, or someone in the group will dominate and upset everyone else, or you will misuse your energy and feel exhausted and spent.

Here is a snapshot of some of the most valuable tools I’ve developed over hundreds and hundreds of rituals and workshops:

  1. Create and Hold a Tight and Safe Container:

    This is the most important tool to facilitating any kind of ritual of transformational experience for an individual or group. If your container is leaky, you will find that participants get bored or don’t go as deep as they could, or get upset at you or others in the group.

    From the very beginning – literally from the moment you walk in the room – you must make sure you are creating a very tight container, an environment that feels safe enough for your participants to open up, be vulnerable, share with you and the group, and transform.

    And you must make sure you hold that container throughout the work so that it remains tight and doesn’t fall apart.


Energy is Real (& you need this for group facilitation)

Energy is realFolks who experience my retreats, workshops and talks often ask me how I am able to create and lead events where participants feel so present, so vulnerable, so connected to me and each other, and so deeply transformed.

My answer is always the same: MASTERY.

You need to master your coaching and facilitation skills in order to go from leading a “nice” event to leading a “WOW” event.

You need to master your coaching and facilitation skills to create experiences that your audiences will never forget.

The 4 Levels of Transformation you must provide your clients

(integrate this into EVERY coaching session, workshop, retreat and curriculum you create)


transformationIf you’re keyed in to the self-development and transformation industries, you know that a lot of folks right now are pretty pissed off at the services they’re receiving:

They are complaining that they’re not shifting,
they’re not learning,
they’re not transforming,
and they’re not growing.

Now of course, some of the complaints are total BS (excuse my language).

A Love Letter to the Ones Who Go Deep

If you are a coach, practitioner, facilitator or healer who likes to go deep, you and I are definitely coming from the same place.

I wrote today’s “love letter” and manifesto for you to inspire you to keep on doing what you’re doing and to remind you of the incredible value that you offer.

It’s too easy to lose sight of this in a transformational industry that can sometimes be a bit flashy or surface-oriented.

We created the manifesto as a pretty PDF so that you can print it out and keep it close at hand when you need it.

Here it is: http://JoannaLindenbaum.com/LoveLetterPDF