“Must”, “It’s Impossible”, “I’ll try” and other Tyrants

Lately I have been working a lot with young people. Students. Members in NGOs or student organisations. Some on their first job. Other interns in different companies. Beautiful, curious, intelligent, ambitious, willing to learn. Every time my workshops are an invitation to introspection. We talk about authenticity, emotions, personal values, mission in life. It’s a difficult exercise even for people more experienced, let alone for 19-20 year olds who are just starting in their life journey. I’m always happy to see how bravely the throw themselves into these inner conversations despite their youth, or maybe because of it. Then I feel their confusion and even fear when the answers they give themselves to the question “Who am I” don’t match what they have been taught to believe is “normal”, “good”, “compulsory”, “possible”.  “There is no job where I can be completely happy, I need to compromise if I want to be successful”. “I will be happy when I get really high up on the corporate ladder and for that I need to work hard on the things I’m good at, not necessarily on what I like”. “Money comes first on my list of values, but that’s only normal at 21; now I have to find the highest paying job possible so I can raise enough money to have my own business by the time I turn 25”. “You can’t do only what you dream in life”. “I can’t see myself doing the job I studied for, but I have to carry on because I’m to scared to try something else”. “My parents told me that life is not easy and I need to fight and make sacrifices if I want to succeed”. “I was told that these are my talents and this is the most appropriate career for me, the one that will make me successful”.  These are all statements I heard over time from young people that I worked with. And not seldom did I leave these workshops with a nagging question: When exactly...

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Coaching, More Than a Fad

I talk about coaching almost daily- in leadership workshops, in one on one sessions, in meetings with students, in NGOs, in corporations, in casual coffee talks. Coaching has long ago crossed the border of my professional life and is filling up my existence in surprising ways. I sometimes get calls from my closest friends telling me: “Alis, I have a problem, I don’t want your advice, I need coaching”. Other times I find myself coaching Viorel, or he coaching me and, contrary to what the “norm” says (to avoid coaching your life partner) we, as a couple, have grown immensely from such earnest and non-judgemental conversations. They helped us become, separately and together, wiser and more self-aware. My relationship with coaching started over six years ago in bitter disappointment. I was keen to better understand what this fuss about coaching was all about, so I enrolled in a course – one of the few available on the Romanian market at that time. I got a lot of materials to read, I attended a few days’ workshop, where I listened trainers talking about techniques, types of questions, models, standards, ethics, process – concepts which I largely found cold and sterile. They talked more about ways to make money from coaching than about what coaching really was or how one could become a great coach. I was already working as a professional corporate trainer, I loved my job, I had no motivation to learn coaching just to make more money. I was keen to learn because I had an intuition that it might help me to reach people’s hearts and make a difference through my work. I left that course with a bitter taste, but also with a feeling that there was more to coaching than I had been shown thus far – I just needed to get that information from somewhere or someone else. Then, one year later, I met Sir John Whitmore. The man is a legend. Many consider him one of the founding fathers of...

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10 Recipes for Guaranteed Unhappiness

Over the past few years I learnt that there are no accidental encounters and there are no moments, however mundane, which cannot be turned into a lesson or a source of inspiration. Today I had the gift of such a meeting and such a moment. One of my workshop participants, with whom I discovered I had common interests and even common friends, was telling me over lunch about Luminița, the author of the popular blog Purpose Fairy, a fine place where I often go for inspiration. We ended up talking about an article she wrote — “15 things you should give up in order to be happy”, which I hadn’t read (yet), but whose message resonated with me and a thought I have been having lately: How come we keep getting lost on our way to happiness and yet many of us are masters in the “art” of unhappiness?  After this talk and reading that article I realized I have no idea if there is any formula for happiness, but I could easily come up with a list of recipes for unhappiness. It’s becoming clearer and clearer, in my work with people, that fulfillment, inner peace and joy can be achieved in countless ways. I know what makes me happy but I could hardly offer that as a general rule for others. I read so many books — scientific, psychological, spiritual — each taught me something valuable. I help people experiment with happiness every day, I can make suggestions, offer perspectives, but I cannot tell anyone what they should do to be happy. Along the way I learnt so much about happiness, but was left with few, if any, certainties. Today I realised, as a revelation, that on my search for happiness I’ve come across some (I could call them) certainties on unhappiness. I have met and continue to meet so many unhappy people every day that I dare say I have unintentionally become a sort of an expert in the most effective ways one could render oneself completely, profoundly...

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One Drop in the Ocean

Or Why You’re Never Too Small to Make a Difference Reblog from Medium.com One of my favorite movies is the fascinating and controversial “Cloud Atlas”. Some of my friends loved it, others hated it, others said they could understand nothing from this intricate story of intertwined destinies stretching accross centuries and life-times. Characters from the past whose choices and actions reverberate in the future and the other way around. Love stories echoing across multiple life-times and the amazing power of one individual to change the course of history. To me this movie is perhaps one of the best representations of life itself and the role each of us plays on this grand stage of existence and also a wonderful metaphor describing the wave of change that’s been building up in Romania lately. For the past month I found myself being pulled out of my usual “bubble” and being swept in the current of outrage that’s been rising and rising in my home-country. People have been coming out it the streets every day for a whole month. Last Saturday thousands of people held hands and created a living chain around the Houses of Parliament — an enormous, grotesque building reminiscent of a past era and a place where politicians with dying spirits decide the fate of this country. Sundays are the highlights of each week. Ten thousand, fifteen thousand, twenty thousand and, every week, even more people are expected to protest in the streets of Bucharest and other major cities. The starting point was the Rosia Montana Cyanide mine. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. These many thousands of people are in fact animated by something much wider and much deeper than an ecological cause. The massive energy of this crowd is directed against what they all perceive as an outrageous violation of their fundamental rights— the right to have a government that represents THEIR interests, NOT those of some foreign corporation, the right to free speech, the right to be respected in their...

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Romania Rising

What Happens when Sleeping Beauty Wakes? reblog from medium.com Never in my life did I feel so proud to be part of my generation than I felt today. Today my country marked a new stage in its history. A whole generation of people who, for the past 20 years, have been living each inside their own bubble, minding their own business, studying, building careers and families, has come out on the streets to raise its collective voice for the future of the next generation. This future is now in peril because of a controversial mining project which is threatening to destroy one of the most beautiful parts of the country, turning it into a waste dump filled with cyanide. More than 15 000 people have marched in the streets of Bucharest today, and many thousands more have protested in tens of other cities, both in Romania and abroad. In a country where televisions are starving for the “sensational”, and mundane gossip becomes “breaking news”, televisions are silent. Politicians who normally race to give a statement about the most trivial of subjects are quiet. There is a virtual media black-out on the whole phenomenon, the largest peaceful popular protest since the fall of communism. Never in the past 20 years have so many people come out in the streets, never before has this country seen such a mass of people protesting peacefully, making themselves heard using state of the art tools of democracy in a country which proves to be nowhere near democratic. The amazing thing is that all these people have organised themselves and have managed to spread their message DESPITE the complete silence of central press and major televisions. This is proof that a whole new era has begun. Watching the news that kept pouring on my Facebook timeline this evening I couldn’t help feeling in awe at this incredible network of ad-hoc reporters, at their creativity, at their connection with one-another. Artists who created banners and key-messages, photographers who took amazing pictures of every...

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Why I Feel At Home In Brazil

Aug 22, 13 Why I Feel At Home In Brazil

Posted by in Featured, Thoughts/Ideas

If you ever arrived in a place for the first time and was taken over by an incredible feeling of familiarity, of “home-ness” and felt you simply belonged there, you will understand how I feel like being in Brazil. Ever since I first stepped off the plane on my first trip in February I simply felt I arrived. Every time I had to leave I left a small part of my soul behind, only to find it again when I returned. Now, on my third trip this year, I cannot help smiling when people back home in Romania still ask me: “Aren’t you afraid? Brazil is a dangerous place!”. To all my friends concerned about my safety, here is why I feel so at home in Brazil: I love to smile. I do it most of the time. I smile for no particular reason. Back in Bucharest some people find this odd and often they ask me what am I so happy about. I sometimes feel others consider my joy inappropriate.  I never get this question in Brazil. This is the place where everybody smiles. It’s not unusual to say “Hi” to people on the street, smile and get a smile back. If you’ve met them before they not only smile, but they kiss and hug you every time they see you. In the restaurant where Copo now happily lives out his own love-story with Brazil, the working day opens and closes with hugs. They hug each other at the beginning of the day, as a sign of joy for spending yet another evening putting happiness on people’s plates and they hug each-other at the end of the day for a job well done. When I’m here I’m included in the hugs. Joyce, the sous-chef, affectionately calls me “meu amor”. In the shops people ask me where I’m from, what I am doing here, if I like Brazil. Two days ago I basically ended up sharing my life story in my rudimentary Portuguese to a shop...

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