Charting your course for a Purposeful life – the Modern Day Road to Canterbury.

Author: Thayer Willis

Chaucer knew the importance of company on a journey. In his telling of the many stories in The Canterbury Tales, support and companionship on the pilgrimage was a recurring theme. When we each stretch and grow, we benefit in myriad ways from the company of our fellow travellers. 

In our era, scientific research has been completed on the value of relationships, or “company” as Chaucer would deem it. In Daniel Goleman’s bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, he writes: “Add the sounds of silence to the list of emotional risks to health –and close emotional ties to the list of protective factors. Studies done over two decades involving more than thirty-seven thousand people show that social isolation – the sense that you have nobody with whom you can share your private feelings or have close contact –doubles the chance of sickness or death. Isolation itself, a 1987 report in Science concluded, ‘is as significant to mortality rates as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of physical exercise.’ Indeed, smoking increases mortality risk by a factor of just 1.6, while social isolation does so by a factor of 2.0, making it a greater health risk.”  In addition to the research Goleman cites, those of us who work with wealthy families and individuals know that most topics and concerns having to do with inheritance are taboo.

Everyone learns to keep these thoughts to themselves, creating more on-going isolation. Now, there is a new resource in the UK, Longbow NXG, a program of personal growth uniquely suited to those who are ready to focus on their questions about where and how to find meaning in life. Longbow has a strong component of “company” on this journey in that much of the work is accomplished in groups. Recently, I was delighted to be a lead facilitator at the inaugural Longbow retreat. 

The founders of Longbow have created a rare opportunity for adults who are traveling the roads of privilege and who are motivated to take the high road, usually the tough road, from the many choices at hand. Just as the stories of Chaucer’s pilgrims varied widely, so do the stories of our Longbow travellers, creating a rich tapestry of experiences during the weekend retreat.Imagine yourself on a breathtakingly beautiful country estate in Suffolk, England. Now, imagine that your fellow travellers have come from a variety of backgrounds and countries and are all there for the same purpose – to determine what they want out of life and how to get there. 

The journey is different for each of you, but your quest for meaning, purpose and fulfilment creates a powerful bond. In fact, the inner resources of the others surprise you at times and help you tap into your own inner resources. The mood of encouragement and support is subtle and yet substantial. 

And so began the first Longbow retreat this Fall. Initially designed for inheritors, it also included many highly successful participants for whom transition was the main concern. There were wide -ranging types of transitions, career change being a well- represented example. The common thread for each and every participant, however, was the journey toward a meaningful life.

What made the Longbow weekend retreat such a success? It was the willingness of the fellow travellers to work hard on their own journeys and equally to support each other in theirs. There were many thought -provoking presenters, all chosen for the ability to guide and support in inheritance and in transition, and to help our travellers on their own road to Canterbury clarify their own resources. I attended several sessions when I was not teaching, and the session on Neuroscience presented by Dr. Tara Swart was as outstanding as it was riveting. She made scientific data about the brain both relevant and fascinating. All of the topics were carefully chosen to inspire and guide, and weave together in the most useful ways for all.  As in The Canterbury Tales, the Longbow meals were unifying as well. In fact, many of the discussions over meals deepened understanding in ways that can only happen in such a relaxed, unstructured setting. The food was delicious, too. I was in awe of our talented chef, Camilla! 


The process of becoming a Longbow member begins with an interview, an assessment and the initial sessions with your private coach, prior to joining the group for an intense, immersive retreat in Suffolk. Upon completion of this core program, members continue to work with their coach for the next six months to a year. One advantage of working with Longbow is ongoing access to a network of coaches with a range of different specialties and backgrounds. Members can also work with Longbow to design a bespoke program to help them further pursue their interests and passions. 

One of the most compelling qualities of Longbow is its independence. Longbow is well funded, does not allow sponsors, and is free of any mandate other than helping its travellers along their journeys. The only agenda is the goal of supporting participants in their own quest s for improving their lives. It is personal growth and each participant defines and pursues success on his or her own terms.

Longbow is a new and unique resource.