May 2016

Many of you will undoubtedly remember Susan Boyle’s appearance as a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent. She was 47 at the time. In the clip you see the jury’s sceptical reaction when she comes on stage. Basing themselves on the appearance of the somewhat elderly, simple and plump housewife, they clearly cannot believe this will turn into a memorable performance. Until Susan hits the first note and delivers a touching performance of ‘I dreamed a dream’. The audience and jury are blown away and give a standing ovation, followed by the most firm ‘yes’ anybody ever received.

Susan was the youngest in a large family and suffered from minor oxygen deprivation at birth. She was what you would call ‘a bit weird’ and everybody assumed she was mildly retarded and had a learning disability. She led a secluded life and took care of her parents until they passed away. She had been singing all her life, but had never been offered the opportunity to develop her talent professionally. Nevertheless she managed to develop her singing voice into a versatile and wonderful instrument, because singing is what she loves most. You can only wonder what she could have achieved if her talent had been discovered and stimulated earlier.

The point of this story is that everyone enters this world with their own unique combination of characteristics, strengths and talents, which are fed by the environment you grow up in. When you are able to do the things you are naturally good at, you feel ‘in your element’ or you are ‘in the zone’, giving you a feeling of fulfilment and achievement.

When you let children be, what attracts them naturally? In which activities do they spontaneously participate? What kind of talent do they seem to have? Which activities completely absorb them? Which questions do they ask, which statements do they often make?

How different would life be for many of us if those who raised and educated us would have tried to understand what really makes us tick? What if we would be curious about the answers to the above questions? Instead we often try – unconsciously and with good intentions – to model our children after a so-called ideal or at least a certain ‘normality’. This usually results in adults who, even at an advanced age, are trying to find out who they really are and what they like doing. Adults who make professional choices that basically do not give them the satisfaction they desire.

But just like with Susan Boyle it is never too late to discover what makes you ‘be in your element’. Do you also have this gnawing feeling that you are not really where you should be and that your job does not really give you the fulfilment you want? Or do you feel there is still so much undiscovered potential inside that you want to develop? Or do you want to better adjust your choice of study or your first job to what makes your heart beat faster instead of what everybody expects you to do?

Contact me for a coaching series. The first session is free, no strings attached. Afterwards you can decide if you want to continue. As of now I also work with VDAB career vouchers, making it financially interesting for you. Contact me to find out info about the conditions.

Take that literally! A week ago I decided to stop reading the newspaper and watching the tv news for a while. I use the extra spare time to read those interesting books on my list. Instead of ‘poisoning’ my brain with mainly negative news items, I now feed my grey matter with knowledge and stories that enthuse me, tickle my curiosity and teach me something.

You simply know there are many problems in the world and that politicians will continue with their intrigues and scheming. Not to mention the whims of the Donald Trumps and atrocities of the Assads of this world. Ultimately it’s like a soap. When you miss a few episodes, you basically miss nothing. So do not fear for the level of my knowledge now that I no longer follow the daily news.

So this is an experiment with me as the subject. The results so far give reason for hope. My mood is lighter, I have a generally more positive look on life and humankind, and my energy level has gone up with a few notches. I can already hear you say that this is not really a sound experiment and that the effects can hardly be proven. You may be right, maybe it is all in my imagination. The placebo effect is a nice bonus though.

Brain research has shown that such self-experiments are not complete nonsense. After all, it is easy to understand that when your brain is more exposed to negative thoughts and emotions than to positive, nice and loving ones, this inevitably affects your general mood.

It’s like you cannot expect to stay healthy if you stuff your body with junkfood and smoke like a chimney. So I’m having a mental health treatment whereby I ignore the junk news and feed my brain with only healthy snacks. It is not always easy to change a long-standing habit of ‘early morning coffee with a newspaper’ into ‘early morning coffee with a good book’. New behaviour needs 21 to 66 repetition days to become a new habit – I’m on track.