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.

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.

Becoming ourselves

We shall not stay attached to our views, and we certainly cannot do it anyway in the long run, simply because we do change. And so do our views. We learn so much more during our lifetime, and that keeps on changing us. 

This Buddhist concept of impermanence is actually something very positive, because it offers development, growth, using our potential. It offers new experiences, new pathways to be walked on, new opportunities for happiness.

It might sound sad at first, that everything disappears eventually and nothing stays the same. We are clinging to notions or things, often desperately, even if they are harmful for ourselves, because we don’t want to let go. Change scares us. We do not know what the future will bring, and we want to eliminate the insecurity which we fear might throw us off balance. It feels easier to stay within our comfort zone. But isn’t the potential for growth outside of it?

Do not think for one minute that because you are who you are, you cannot be who you imagine yourself to be. (Jedidah Isler)

We never stop evolving. And it is never done with a one time learning. 

Think about when you do a training or learn something new. If you do not apply it in your daily life, you lose it. It slips away to the back of your mind and you cannot even remember a lot of it after some time. It needs constant practice to become part of your daily routine – work-wise or in private life.

When we learn and evolve we take a step forward. We might experience setbacks, but we need to get up and continue. And take another step. Re-iterate the learning process. There is constant repetition. If we are open for it. Even though it is often painful, exhausting and frustrating.

Having a moment of enlightenment about ourselves, especially about changing our direction in life, does not mean this is a one time event, once and for all, and then we can just go on into this new direction we found, and everything will be fine. 

To be very clear: it is just one step on our continuous journey. We change direction, we change ourselves and how we see life and feel about ourselves, what we do and how we want to live. Nothing remains the same.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. (Lao Tzu)

It took me some time to acknowledge that the difficulties we inevitably experience in life are not something being thrown at us from an evil force to make us miserable. These are actually lessons and exercises we need to go through. And they come in phases. This is just life with all its colours.

Instead of shying away I know now that I actively need to embrace my struggles as an opportunity to learn, change and question my approach in life over and over again, and then transform myself. Clinging to the past might feel comfortable, but I won’t get back what has already passed.

The element of fear is always present, of course. Fear of not managing the change well, of failure with ensuing despair and unhappiness. The fear of the unknown essentially, of insecurity is always lurking in the background.

The usual question “What is the right decision?” comes into my mind every time, however there is not a real right or wrong, it is just a turn into a different direction opening a door to a new world. I also recognize this very strong human desire in me, to apply a final fix and then be happy and have everything sorted in my life. It sometimes feels scary to realize that I am on my own with the decisions I take.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

What is really important though, is not to beat ourselves up for going through a difficult time again when we already had a similar experience in the past and learnt out of it. We applied our knowledge at that time well and evolved. Now something is coming back – not exactly to haunt us – but to show us that we are not done yet (which we never are), or that something else has changed in the meantime forcing us to face it now.  

My recurring theme in that regard is my strong discipline that I often use to soldier on in a stress situation, ignoring my body’s clear signals for rest, until realizing that my re-surfacing health problems are already a cry for help and that I need to stop, listen and slow down. And that I need to change direction in my life.

Becoming aware of the situation faster and reaching out for help and resources quickly is already a good sign of applied learning from past experience. With time, I got to know myself and the traps I tend to fall into much better.

The package everyone of us carries around – based on how we grew up and our past life experiences – is heavy and does not disappear. The habits we developed are a result of this package, and that’s why the saying “old habits die hard”, describes it so aptly: we cannot get fully rid of it. But we can learn to manage it through a lot of self-awareness and kind reflection, and the will to move forward and eventually beyond it.

While accepting – very importantly – that we are only human, thus never expecting perfection. Being too hard on ourselves for something that we continue to carry around, is not going to do us any good, but is actually a self-created obstacle.

Life is a journey, not a destination. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

So, what to do? Take stock, get clarity about what is going on and why, how we feel about it, and then decide what to do next. We feel in our heart that something is clearly off, and it’s important to find our peace and restore our inner balance.

Easier said than done, as it is of course, far more complex than solving a school assignment or finding a good solution for a work task. That’s why talking to a counselor in such a situation helps a lot, because these professionals can bring our inner thoughts to the surface, helping us to gain valuable insights. 

My experience with such conversations has been thoroughly positive, and I did it more than once in my life. The feedback received about my thoughts and attitudes brought me more clarity because it held a mirror to my face. Whatever insights I gained was never anything that I had not been aware of before deep down within me, but I actually needed to hear it from another person.

And don’t forget: it takes as long as it takes. Impatience is not gonna help. 

It is indeed a journey. 

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