Embarking on a new journey

Can I embrace the chaos in my head and in my life? Can I live with ambiguity for a longer time period, knowing that it will persist for quite a while? 

This question put to me some time ago while participating in a Zen Buddhist workshop about psychological flexibility stuck with me.

Change takes time. I need to step away from the urge to move fast, and instead set my own expectations. I myself determine what I want, and only need to live up to that.

I already have moved beyond the point of questioning myself whether I can really do it, because I know I can. Why shouldn’t I, honestly? 

What’s so exciting about it: the learning experience, the insights gained and the inevitable transformation. By applying it to myself and others I can really make a difference. The required technicalities will be figured out along the way. 

Finally, I am moving closer to my purpose!

Aim for the sky, but move slowly, enjoying every step along the way. It is all those little steps that make the journey complete. (Chanda Kochhar)

My preference for people enablement was always there, hidden beneath the surface. It came up more than 10 years ago for the first time, when I realized while attending an internal company training, that enabling others is something I really enjoy. I acknowledged this insight, but did not act on it, because at that time there was no need for changing anything. I wasn’t ready to step out of my comfort zone.

Since then, this topic surfaced time and again. During the last 2 years after starting to support a new team in a different business area, I noticed more and more how happy I felt whenever I could enable others.

It was enablement in a very broad sense: presenting and explaining processes, developing concepts and finding solutions together or sharing my knowledge. 

Advising colleagues on how to deal best with their daily challenges, on communication and setting boundaries. Some conversations were very personal. I often recognized my younger self in them with all my struggles, expectations and frustrations.

It always gave me energy and a sense of accomplishment. It made my day whenever these little islands of useful activities were incorporated into my daily agenda. The feeling to have helped someone just a little bit is priceless.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

It is no surprise that only when encountering uncertainty, we become open to new opportunities, We notice things that were always there but we did not pay attention to them before. But now we do.

The human factor is and always has been the most important and most valuable to me. Looking back, it runs like a red thread through my past roles and activities up to the present moment. I realized that what I want to do more of is tied to enabling others and helping them grow.

I reached out to colleagues in a people development role to get their advice and to talk things through. The idea of becoming a coach began to cristallize and got stuck in my head. 

Coaching is different than mentoring or giving advice. What fascinates me about it is how a coach can enable the client to find their own answers and take action.

Starting to research different coaching institutes and tracks I decided – considering the broad area of highly interesting educations – that I definitely want to do more than one. 

It’s your road and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. (Rumi)

Would I be any good at it? Could I really be successful at it while working on improving my own communication skills? The voice at the back of my head was there, but not loud enough to hold me back. 

Doing what I enjoy and consider so worthwhile is not going to be necessarily easy – but that is not the point nor could it ever be an obstacle. Embarking on this path feels like the only worthwhile option. 

Encouraging others to uncover their full potential, to become aware of the solution that lies inside them. Giving them an impulse to change perspective and free themselves.

Everyone has a superpower

Of course, we all have our own struggles in life and we do not have to be perfect. We are real people dealing with real life.

In fact, our struggles are our super powers because they make us human and authentic. What we go through in our own lives shapes our self-awareness, enabling us to help others approaching their challenges better.

The education itself will be a big learning experience and a personal transformation for sure. Doing what really matters and is so much needed in the world is a very strong driving force for me.

You are your only limit

Now I am wondering why I didn’t realize earlier where my journey needs to go. But it proves once more how important it is to allow ourselves the time it takes to figure out our own special path to follow. Finding clarity and direction is a process.

The answer always lies within us – by being open and exploring we can uncover it and bring it to the surface. How happy I feel since this door opened is a clear sign that it’s the right thing for me to do.

And of course, I do not have to figure out all the next steps ahead straight away. They will become clearer to me once I start walking on this new path with confidence and joy.

The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but significance, and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning. (Oprah Winfrey)

Discovery, awareness and choice – that is what coaching is about. 

Discovering yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your struggles and their root causes, becoming self-aware, and deciding how to move forward.

Find the answer that lies within you.

Slowing down

We are far too busy in our lives, every day. We cram as much as we can into our agenda – and we even do this during our holidays. I am guilty of doing this myself sometimes in the past – driven by the fear of missing out, of not getting to do something or to see a special place, setting up a tight agenda, stressing myself out in the process and then being totally exhausted because I wanted too much. 

Instead of enjoying my time off and allowing myself to float in time, exploring places without a fixed agenda, just letting things evolve on their own and see what comes my way. On my last holiday I realized quickly that I needed to stop myself, and instead spend the next day doing nothing, not planning anything, but enjoying the moment.

Which is difficult for me. It reminds me of a joke a former colleague made years ago about “the 3 German P’s: planning, process, preparation”. Yep – that’s me, I know this very well.

It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol. (Brené Brown)

It is no wonder we get stressed out and feel overwhelmed by this way of life. A typical example: we are attending a conference call, but we are thinking about the next one already, sometimes trying to prepare during the current call instead of being present and listening properly. And we excuse it with “yeah, I don’t really want to be in this call but I am expected to attend, although not contributing so I make better use of my time by doing something else.” Sounds familiar?

Well, isn’t it better to decline such a call in the first place? And set boundaries: if I do not have to contribute anything or the call does not contribute to my role then I skip it. I only have one life and need to be more strict with my time.

My body teaching me a lesson

Slowing down during my day is important. Focusing really on the present moment. Taking a break and doing nothing for 10 minutes, being really present. Far too much passes us by because we are on autopilot mode and our attention is divided. And the speed at which we are trying to function is too fast and not healthy at all.

Our body and mind needs slowing down. Otherwise, our body will force us to stop by becoming ill. The last months of continuous stress recently took their toll that way, when I got sick with covid and a nasty bacterial follow-on infection on top, forcing me to take a 3 weeks’ time out. I was exhausted and spent my time mostly sleeping. Something in fact I had been longing to do in the months that preceded it, often thinking “I just want to sleep for a week, because I do not get enough rest”. 

Currently, I am still not well, not feeling 100% because it takes an awful long time to heal. I cannot speak properly. Whenever I do, it irritates my bronchial tubes and restricts my breathing. It feels like having no strength when speaking, it’s super exhausting. 

My doctor expressed sympathy for my understandable desire to return to normal, but advised me that I simply have to give my body the time it needs to heal. I cannot speed it up and simply need to accept that – as difficult and frustrating as it is. The more I struggle against it, the more it will slow me down – I already feel it.

When we are not fit, not healthy, we are not at our best. We cannot really show up for ourselves and others, we are not present. We overwhelm ourselves, act too fast, talk too fast, overlook things, we run too fast and hurt ourselves in the process. No surprise.

We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

There is a negative connotation in the West with doing nothing, being “lazy”. That’s why so many people actually struggle to meditate and focus on their breathing – they struggle to be alone with themselves and their thoughts. Not for once filling every minute of their time with activity or entertainment like they are used to all the time, but just being in the present moment. It seems like the hardest thing to do.

We seem to think that we always need to be productive, or consume. As if we needed permission to do nothing, to justify what we do with our time.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking along these lines, like “do I make the best use of my time?” As if I had to answer such a question at the end of each day and could get scolded for not getting it right. The notion of wasting time is indeed a big trigger for me. 

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast; you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. (Eddie Cantor)

Are we afraid of being alone with ourselves? 

Do we feel the need to cover up this empty, quiet space with activity, because we cannot bear to be confronted with silence? 

The silence inevitably brings up some essential questions, and we prefer to run away from the soul-searching, in fact, to run away from ourselves. 

But we cannot escape ourselves.

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. (Sydney J. Harris)

To understand that being present, thus allowing and enduring the silence can help to keep us sane, more balanced and in control, is vital. Listening to ourselves, checking in how we feel and becoming aware of our needs. Being mindful of our daily actions and thoughts, instead of mindlessly running about.

Mindfulness is not a one time thing, it is a constant practice, a constant journey.

You are enough. You are doing enough. Tomorrow is another day.  

Don’t suppress feelings of exhaustion, aggression, feeling unwell, as these are usually an indicator that something is off and you need to take a break. 

This is the advice I always would give to a friend, so right now I need to take my own advice for a change, and embrace the situation and its uncertainty, the clear discomfort. 

And slow down.

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. (Anne Lamott)

The angel of time makes us aware that our time is limited, therefore we shall live it consciously and mindfully. (Anselm Gruen)

Feel free to check out my new quotes section which I have added under the resources tab – here you find more inspirational quotes.

The balance between hope and despair

The concept of fairness is deeply ingrained in us. Like a red thread running through our lives, a structure that makes it easier to find our way – a Northern star guiding our decisions.

It determines how we treat others. For most of us, it is self-evident.

But sometimes we hit a wall. Something happens that suddenly throws us off balance. We lose a loved one. We lose our job. Accidents happen, disaster strikes, we get seriously ill… 

This can trigger a reflex making us ask: why me? What did I do to deserve it? Could I have prepared myself better, or somehow prevented it?

Interestingly, we think that we are somehow responsible, beating ourselves up for it, instead of acknowledging that this is just life – a random event happening which never follows the principle of fairness. 

To be a good person striving to do the right thing is unfortunately no guarantee to prevent bad things from happening to us. Fairness is rather an expectation we carry around: an expectation that life should be fair, if we just take the right decisions and behave in a just manner.

The frustrating realization that the world is actually not fair shows the deep disappointment we feel when someone else (or the universe for that matter) doesn’t keep their part of the (expected) bargain. 

We expect the world to be different. We even raise our children to act in a fair manner, to treat others well – like we want to be treated ourselves. And it’s in fact our children who remind us by shouting out “that’s not fair” that they indeed have a very good sense of how things ought to be.

It also triggers a deep fear when realizing that what we took for granted is suddenly caving in like a house of cards. We feel that we lose control falling into a bottomless pit. It is scary. It is threatening. That’s why the reflex in us is so strong to deny it: we are trying to run away from our suffering.

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

It takes courage to embrace our suffering, to endure a difficult and painful situation and not give up. Especially when it is challenging our beliefs and our inner framework. It can happen anytime and to everyone, and we cannot prepare ourselves for it.

It helps to understand that bad events happening to us are a part of life.

But our inner values and principles which are guiding us, are another part of it. 

These two are not mutually exclusive but rather different companions on our life’s journey. We will encounter the whole spectrum of it all the time. And we cannot expect to have one without the other.

The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope. (Barack Obama)

But what we can control is how we deal with what comes our way. The world becomes what we make of it, and that’s visible every day. 

Everything we convey through your actions or inaction, each word we say or don’t, each act of kindness or the opposite, changes the world. It makes a difference. So, let’s become more aware of how much influence we actually have. On others and on ourselves.

Does a bad thing happening to me make me question my approach in life? Does it make me lose my faith in myself and others? In humanity?

Would I throw my beliefs overboard?

I believe that hanging on to what is guiding me in life is even more important in such testing situations. There is a reason for why I have decided long ago to live my life based on certain principles.

What we can do:

  • Moving through it with patience and compassion for yourself is very important, in whatever sort of such situation you are. To have others supporting you is wonderful, but don’t forget to support yourself in the same way: speak kindly to yourself.
  • Ground yourself, calm yourself down, simply to avoid your nervous system going into overdrive. Meditation and breathing exercises can be a very powerful tool to help.
  • Cry when you feel like it. Once you stop you will notice that the earth has not opened up and swallowed you. You are still there. And then allow yourself time and space to heal. 

Nothing is as important as my peace, my joy. I smile to everything, even to my suffering, my difficulties. That is a practice of freedom. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

It is hard to lean into our pain, while staying confident and trusting ourselves at the same time. But it is important not to ignore the pain. Acknowledge it, but at the same time do not give up hope. Savour the precious moments of joy in your life.

We have every reason to trust that we can move through the hardships in life. Because there is constant change – in either way, hence also to the positive.

Trust yourself.


If you are interested in meditation and finding inner peace, I can recommend the Plum Village App.

The podcast “The Way Out Is In” offers profound, insightful conversations based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings of Buddhist philosophy.

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