Recent Posts

Turning Weakness into Strength and Embracing our Uniqueness

Jun 23, 13 Turning Weakness into Strength and Embracing our Uniqueness

Posted by in Books, Featured, Mindfulness

 I have recently discovered Andrew Solomon, a writer who nearly won the Pullizer prize 10 years ago for an exceptional book, The Noonday Demon, in which he recounts his own battle with depression and takes an in depth look at this modern plague, affecting an incredible number of people world-wide. Now I am reading another book by Solomon that I’d like to share with you – “Far From the Tree” – a book about parents who have exceptional children or children born in unusual circumstances – and the amazing journeys of these people who learn not only to deal with a son or daughter who is nothing like them, but discover deep meaning in loving these children who are so obviously different. Solomon tells the story of families with children who have autism, Down Syndrome, who are geniuses, who are gay, who are dwarfs or have been conceived in rape. The book captures the struggle, the joys, the amazing power of these parents to embrace a reality they had never envisaged before and for me, as a reader, was a precious reminder that often the “curse” of being different can be turned into a blessing, with the right attitude. The book led me to think of all our struggles for fitting in, for being accepted, of the obsession for being liked that so many of us share. It made me realise that we are often forced to embrace our imperfections when we simply cannot hide them anymore. For those children Solomon writes about the choices were obvious – accept that you are imperfect, different, and turn this into a positive or lead a profoundly unhappy life. For most of us, who are born “normal”, the choices are more subtle. The many ways in which we are different from others are not that obvious and the social pressure to comply is higher. We are expected to fit in, to constantly improve whatever is not quite right with us, to follow the prescribed path in life. This...

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30 Years. The Story of a Love Lost and a Life Found.

Jun 13, 13 30 Years. The Story of a Love Lost and a Life Found.

Posted by in Featured, Mindfulness

I first saw him, really saw him, on the bus taking us from Campus to the Centre of Bucharest. He was leaning on the rail, his gaze lost somewhere in that indefinite space between where I was, two meters away, and the window, through which the orangey light of late October was coming in. I remember having a strange feeling of dejá-vu – as if I had lived this before – I, secretly glancing at him, he, pretending no to notice me. Suddenly, he raised his eyes straight towards me and I found myself suspended in an space beyond time, flooded by a strange sensation of familiarity, awkwardness and a “something” I couldn’t quite name – a thrill, a longing, an impulse to get lost in his big, brown-green eyes. After a few moments, which seemed a lifetime, he extended his hand: “I believe we’re in the same study group, right? I’m Stefan” I replied trying to seem sure of myself, even slightly indifferent: “Hi. I’m Alis.” We were juniors at the University of Bucharest, the Faculty of Political Science. I had chosen this faculty because in 2002 Romania, when everybody wanted to study Economics and Law, it sounded “exotic” to me. Moreover, it was in English. I had dreamt about studying Psychology because I was fascinated in this intricate Universe in each of us, in myself in particular, but my father, doctor and skeptic, had convinced me to choose a more interesting career, one that wouldn’t require me to “work with all the mad men in some hospital”. So I thought I would be a diplomat. That’s an interesting career, right? Traveling through the world, meeting fascinating people and discovering diverse cultures – what could be more interesting than that? It was hard not to notice Stefan after our meeting on the bus. He was the brilliant student, a walking encyclopedia, great lover of history and philosophy, favored by teachers because he always had some intelligent question in seminars where others were nodding....

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The Blessing and Curse of Having a Choice

Jun 03, 13 The Blessing and Curse of Having a Choice

Posted by in Featured, Mindfulness

This is good, that is bad, he is right, she is wrong, we know better, they make mistakes. Where is the truth? We are all so immersed in our own view of the world that we forget one simple thing: We have a choice! A choice of what to believe, of which side to take, of how to define what is true for us. We are so busy judging others, playing the victim, complaining about things we think we cannot control, that we forget about the one thing which always is within our grasp: Choosing our attitudes towards life, choosing who we want to be and what we want to stand for.  I’m sometimes wondering if we forget we have a choice or we choose to forget. Lately I started thinking it’s the latter, rather than the former. Choice is a blessing, but it can be a curse as well. Choice comes with responsibility and often we don’t like what that implies. Isn’t it somehow easier to complain about your job and your boss and to use that as an excuse for always being tired and angry at everybody, rather than just quitting and embracing the risk of not knowing what to do next and financial uncertainty that comes with that? Isn’t it more comfortable to complain about others’ annoying you instead of accepting that you always have a choice of letting yourself be or not be annoyed? Isn’t it easier to find excuses for not living your dreams and let words like “must”, “have to”, “obligation” or “too late” rule your life instead of accepting that you are free to take a different path if you’re ready to leave that comfort zone and embrace the fear of the unknown? Isn’t it easier to feel victimised and use that as a justification for your own aggression, instead of choosing to become the owner of your life and to get out of toxic relationships, step away from hurtful people or stand up for yourself with calm...

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Where Do You Go When You Run Away From Yourself?

I have just finished reading a fascinating book: “The Examined Life – How We Lose and Find Ourselves” by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz. It’s a collection of stories gathered in more than 25 years of practice, patient stories which Grosz turns, with great skill, into life stories that can illuminate any of us. What can you learn from someone’s phobia, depression, panick attacks, self-hatred, obsessions? What can you learn from a wife whose husband has died? Or from an autistic child? How about from a depressed, anorexic young woman? What did Grosz, as a human being, learn from the experiences of patients he was treating as a psychoanalyst? These are the questions this book attempts to answer. Grosz finds enlightening insights in the most gruesome of human dramas. Far from being saddening, the book is engaging and inspiring, both through the pace of the stories – each is no more than a few pages long – and through Grosz’s amazing capacity to extract the universal lesson from a very particular situation. There was a common theme that I discovered reading all these storieone more fascinating than the other. That is the theme of “running away from ourselves“. There seems to be an inherent impulse in all of us to “look out the window” when the going is rough and “in the mirror” when things go well.  Somehow, by some inner mechanism originally meant to protect our self-esteem, we become endlessly creative in the ways in which we self-sabotage, refuse to confront and overcome our inner demons and stubbornly look for the causes of all our misfortunes on the outside. We literally run away from ourselves, rather than facing our deepest truths, especially when these truths hurt.  One story in particular resonated with me. Grosz met this woman on a plane, who had a longstanding problem with her parents, her father in particular, who, for the past 16 years, refused to speak with her or have any contact whatsoever, even if this meant not even getting...

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The Comforts of Being a Victim

May 19, 13 The Comforts of Being a Victim

Posted by in Featured, Mindfulness, Psychology

Recently I have been having some very interesting conversations about what it means to feel victimised and act from this perspective until you become convinced you really are a perpetual victim and the whole world is out to get you. I have thought a lot about what it means being a victim and, more specifically, what payoffs lay hidden in this status that, overtly, nobody wants. I have hardly ever heard anybody boasting about feeling a victim, yet I have seen people, myself included, stubbornly hanging on to this state of victimhood and finding countless explanations on why this is inescapable. “I have had a hard life”, “I still pay the price for my parents’ mistakes”, “I have bad luck”, “I am surrounded by heartless people who disappoint me constantly”, “I just know that more misfortune is coming my way – this is my destiny”, “Nobody appreciates my efforts – why are they all so ungrateful?”, “What else can I do – life is unfair”, “I have sacrificed everything for you and here’s what I get in return!” – all these are variations around the same theme. When I asked myself what did I have to gain from being a victim I found answers I really didn’t like at first. The very idea that I might be feeding and perpetuating my state of helplessness was disturbing. Yet the truth struck me in the face with a force I couldn’t ignore. I finally had to confront the chilling reality that I had much to gain from being a victim. Victimisation made it easy to feel sorry for myself. I had an excuse for my failures. I could blame others for my dissatisfaction. I always had some explanation for bad decisions, bad relationships, bad feelings – others were to blame – if only they changed, if only they stopped disappointing me, I would be happier. In fact, as I discovered, being a victim was quite pleasant in its own, twisted way – I got rid of...

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The Little Things are The Big Things

I came to Brazil with the rain – it poured on my first two days here. Then I received the gift of sun, warmth and cool breeze for almost two weeks in a row. Now, as I’m preparing to leave, the rain has come back.  Once I would have been saddened by it. Now I just enjoy it as I enjoyed the sun. I love listening to its sound. I love watching it. Torrential. Fresh. Washing the dust off the street and off my heart. Whatever dust there is left. I have learnt a crucial lesson over the past few months. And the peak of it was here, during these magical days in Bahia. I learnt to enjoy the little things. The feel of sand under my feet. The warmth of the sun on my face. The wind caressing my hair. The contagious giggle of a joyous three year old. I learnt that the Little Things are, in fact, the Big Things. And I also learnt to take responsibility for my own happiness.  There is no peak. No final moment when everything comes into place. There is no perfect timing. There is no such thing as “trouble-free” life. There is no monumental treasure hidden at the end of the road, which will make it all worthwhile. The future is just “tomorrow” turning into “today”. Happiness is real, but not in the way we usually understand it. It is not something that begins once all the suffering is over. If your “today” is unhappy, who says your “tomorrow” will be different? Now I understand that suffering and happiness are nothing more but choices. Much of the suffering of my own life so far has been of my own making. It was my own victimisation, insecurities, fears, that robbed me of my happiness. And I suffered as long as I kept waiting for some “Big” thing to come along to change things for me. “If only…” has been my faithful companion for a long time. There...

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Celebrating the Magic of Life

May 05, 13 Celebrating the Magic of Life

Posted by in Featured, Thoughts/Ideas

Are there days when you feel completely happy with no special reason? Days when it seems as if you are a child once more and a Cosmic Santa Claus wrapped up the whole world as a special gift just for you? Today was such a day for me. As I sat on the beach lost in the sight of the swirling ocean I fell into a state of grace and complete joy for life itself. I was is awe of the sun, the sand, the waves, the birds singing in the palm trees above my head, the people laughing and playing on the beach, enjoying the day as I was. I was unbelievably grateful for it all. I gave thanks for my loved ones, for the smiles, for the playfulness, for the passion, for the sense of purpose, for all there is in my life that makes it worth living. Today I felt the MAGIC. The magic of life itself. I felt life is like a huge playground inviting me to let out my inner child, a spark of light in the vastness of nothingness, an amazing opportunity the Universe is giving me to exist, to breathe, to build, to  feel, to grow, to give away something of myself into the world. I felt this opportunity itself is magical and every single day is truly a precious gift that should be enjoyed and cherished. Perhaps it’s not by chance that I had this feeling of bliss today of all days. For all of you celebrating Easter as a time of rebirth, this may be a reminder. We are reborn with the dawn of every new day. Don’t let the shadows of yesterday creep into today. Every single morning is a new chance to live differently, to choose to connect to that magic, to look at the world with the bright, innocent eyes of a child, to take nothing for granted and to be grateful for every opportunity to live beautifully. I leave you now with...

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Stepping Off the Treadmill and Into the Ocean

I’m back in sunny Brazil, which is quickly becoming my home away from home. Here, in a small, dusty, green, charmingly animated town by the ocean, one can find an impressive mix people from all over the world. I found myself immersed in this incredible diversity of styles, backgrounds and preoccupations, which felt like being thrown on a cultural carousel – the whole world, normally so full of lines dividing people/nations/cultures seems to have shrunk to the size of a small town where lines are blurred and surprising similarities start emerging from among all the differences. A French businessman seized the opportunity to own a “fazenda de cacau” (cocoa tree farm), producing his own organic brand of chocolate. A Dutch, former University professor, now in her 50s, used her life savings to buy a “pousada” – a small motel – right by the ocean and is now making a living from it. An Australian in her 40s, who had refused to settle down before, finally found true love here, in Bahia, and just had her baby one month ago – she and her husband own the local bakery. A Portuguese chef and passionate hand-made jewellery artist found a place here which she calls home. A lovely, highly educated young woman left a 7 year career in the largest bank of Brazil to live here, by the ocean, with the man she loves – he the manager of a small restaurant, she a waitress speaking flawless English, with a beautiful smile on her face most of the time. Surfers, eccentric “rasta” tattoo artists, people belonging to various spiritual communities, party goers, capoeira dancers with perfectly sculpted bodies diligently practicing their art on the beach every single day mix with locals, expats and tourists from every corner of the world in what probably is the most amazing cultural cocktail that one would ever expect to find in such a small place – barely the size of a pin-tip on the map of Brazil. What do all these people...

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Authenticity, Trust and Following Your Heart

Last week I stood in front of around 150 students and spoke about authenticity. Today I stood in front of about the same number of managers in a large company, speaking about trust. Both times I felt completely connected with the subject and with my audience and had this very deep feeling that what I was saying to them was truly meaningful for me too. Now, thinking of the learnings from these two events I just realised how much my life has changed over the past two years because of these two simple words: authenticity and trust. Just over two years ago I was a corporate employee with many reasons for gratitude. The money was good, the job was nice – I was doing what I like best – creating and delivering workshops – and I was surrounded by a team of like-minded people, some of which I was and still am happy to call friends. Still I was miserable. I was dreading every single morning when that horrendous alarm clock would ring and make me reluctantly get out of bed for the dawn of a new day “at the office”. If asked, I could describe what I was so unhappy about: I disliked the rules and fixed schedules, the somber offices, the deadlines and procedures, the power-point templates that forbade me to put funny pictures in my slides. I hated the very idea of a dress code and, more than once, I received a warning from HR for shamelessly breaking it and wearing blue jeans at work. I definitely dreaded having to be there on time in the morning and leaving at a fixed time in the evening. I was saddened by the serious people all around me, seldom smiling, never seeming to have fun doing their jobs. I had a hard time sitting in meetings, doing “official” presentations and I could never really find my words when I had to speak “corporate”. But well beneath all these complaints that I had, there was...

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Kindness and the Magical Equation

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness” – Dalai Lama This is one of my favourite quotes in the whole world. These days I had new opportunities to think about the extraordinary gift of kindness and the miracles it can do for our lives. I have come to believe that all people are fundamentally good. You don’t need to agree with me – I am aware this is a very controversial topic – but it is my model of the world and I choose to share it with you here. I believe we all have light inside of us and we are all capable of amazing things. We are all absolutely wonderful in the beginning, as any adult looking at a small child can easily notice. What happens later on? How do we become embittered, egoistical, cruel, depressed, aggressive, victimised, dependant, demanding, judgemental, impatient, jealous, unforgiving and unloving of ourselves and of others? Where do all these states and feelings come from? It is obvious they don’t make us happy, it is clear as daylight they destroy relationships, families, self-esteems and yet we bring them into our lives and perpetuate them for years, sometimes for a whole lifetime. We end up hurting ourselves and those we love. We end up angry and lonely and wondering why life can’t be easier. Yet we are blinded to the fact that it is us, and nobody else, making our own lives hard. Our disappointment in others in nothing but a reflection of our disappointment in ourselves. Our anger and judgement against others is, in the end, just the shadow of our anger and judgement against our own faults, mistakes and perceived weaknesses.  It is my belief that it all starts with parents projecting their own unsolved emotional issues on their children. It all starts with an adult caught up in what psychologists call “the drama triangle” and I personally call “the dreaded triangle“. It is the triad of roles most adults tend to adopt in...

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Peeking Through the Keyhole at Life

I was talking to a friend the other day about the amazing studies on human consciousness which show that only 400 bits of information/second reach our conscious mind out of a staggering 2 million bits of information hitting our senses every second! Much of the rest we process unconsciously. That means we are aware of 0.02% of reality every single moment of our lives! It also means we could potentially have access to the rest of 99,8%, if only we learnt how.    I found it brain bending to grasp the real implications of this. It is as if we were peeking through a keyhole at reality and we are not even aware of it. Moreover, most people live their lives convinced that their perception of reality IS reality. And they strive to convince everyone around them of the same thing. The fact that the limitations of our conscious mind allow us to perceive a small portion of what actually lies in front of us is just the beginning. To this we add a host of limiting beliefs that plague our consciousness and make that keyhole even smaller than it actually is. Many of them come from education, others we simply adopted unconsciously along the way, as a response to life’s challenges. Here are just a few of the most common limiting beliefs I have heard of or have or had myself: – I am not good enough – This is how things MUST be – Life is unfair and there’s nothing you can do about it – Every good thing in life comes with suffering and hardship – you can never separate them – I simply am not as lucky as other people – It’s too late to change anything And, my favourite one: I don’t have time! The list could go on and on. We all have limiting beliefs and most of us are seldom aware of them consciously. They distort our view of reality and what is truly possible, making our...

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You Have Changed!

Mar 31, 13 You Have Changed!

Posted by in Featured

When I was a little girl, my world was filled with magic, as is the world of most children. The border between imagination and reality was just a convention. In my mind, imagination and reality were ONE. Characters from stories were as real as my kindergarten friends, the sun shining every single morning and the moon caressing my pillow at night were reasons for joy and wonder. I was happy and free, I believed in miracles, I believed that life was sprinkled with fairy-dust and that anything, truly anything was possible. Then something happened. I grew up. It all started, or at least that’s how I remember it, on a day which started off as any other – magical, and ended up as the first “real” day of my life. It was the day my father, in a context I can’t now remember, told me, out of the blue, or so I thought, that Santa Claus didn’t exist. I was very sad that day. Suddenly I couldn’t see the dust of fairies around me anymore. I was about six and I felt really old and this feeling of being much older than my biological age stayed with me for the following 23 years. Then more and more “reality checks” came my way. I started school, I took my first step into adolescence, had my fist heartbreak, lost my first friend. I grew up. Mature, responsible, driven. I redefined “happiness” and put it in the same check-box as “success”. If I were successful, then I would be happy. And I was. Successful that is. Happiness is another story. I now believe that somehow, in secret, I was hoping that once I would fulfil all the expectations my family, my friends, my employers and society itself seemed to have of me, then I would be able to feel the magic again. In my heart that sense of magic and happiness were never really separated. That’s why, regardless of how joyful I felt at any given moment...

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Man’s Search for Meaning

This is the title of one of my favourite books of all time, written by Viktor Frankl, a great mind and a remarkable human being, who survived the worst of the Holocaust only to come to the conclusion that, even in the worst of circumstances, we are still free to choose our destiny. Frankl was an Austrian Jew, a professor with a more than promising career in psychiatry, who refused an offer to emigrate to the US when the Second World War broke out because his parents had not been granted permission to leave Austria and he felt he couldn’t abandon them. This brave choice led him to a gruelling 3 year journey in the Nazi death camps, where he sat next to his father as he died and then lost both his wife and mother. He survived through a combination of unique attitude and a series of fortunate circumstances, or, as some may say, dumb luck – although I believe there was nothing dumb about his luck. He witnessed people becoming noting more than animals in their fierce struggle for survival in the camps. Inmates torturing inmates or robbing them of their last piece of bread only to prolong their own existence a little while more. But, amazingly, he also witnessed people becoming heroes, creating a meaning for themselves in that meaningless circumstance by helping others, often at a risk or even at the cost of their own lives. What is the difference between them? Between the brutes and the heroes?  His answer to this was that we, humans, have both these potentials in us. We can become brutes or heroes and the only thing that creates this difference is our own free will. We have a choice. Even when all other freedoms have been taken away from us, he said, we can still choose our attitude in front of those circumstances.  Frankl’s legacy to mankind, which he built in his very long life post death-camps (he lived to be 92 years old)...

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The Magic of Forgiveness

Sounds funny, doesn’t it? Funny word! I heard about Ho’oponopono from a good friend of mine recently and, apart from the weird sound of it and a short explanation on my friend’s part about it being an ancient healing practice, I forgot all about it. Then, as it usually does lately, synchronicity intervened. Today I met a new coaching client, a very nice young woman who had written to me asking for my support with some personal issues that she is currently going through. We talked about many things and, among others, we talked about forgiveness and how difficult it is to give to others, as well as to yourself. For some reason the discussion with her left me in a very meditative state, that awkward feeling I get right when I’m about to discover something new or get a fresh insight. I never know where the insight is going to come, but it always comes from the most surprising sources. I got home and took a quick look on Facebook and one post stood out: “Ho’oponopono meditation for the healing of Earth’s waters”. To join this world-wide group meditation you only needed to do one thing – repeat the mantra: “I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”  For some strange reason I felt a compulsion to look it up and find out more. What I learnt is that Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Islanders in the South Pacific believed that all people and things were interconnected and whenever an imbalance appeared – a disease, a conflict – forgiveness was needed to restore order and balance. Anger and secrecy (repressed emotions) were believed to be major causes of illness – and modern research in the impact of negative emotions on health supports the ancient’s beliefs. Sadly few “modern” people acknowledge and are open to these truths which were common knowledge hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Ho’oponopono was initially a group ceremony, performed by...

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The Time is NOW

As you walk on this imaginary road you will reach a house. It is beautiful, a palace almost. You know they call it the House of Time and inside you will discover amazing secrets of your past and future. But in order to enter, you need to reach past the gate-keeper. And he has one question for you, requiring only one right answer that only you can know: – What is the time? – The time is “NOW” – you reply, and the door opens. Robert Moss, the well known history professor, best-selling author and dream teacher, has changed my life in more ways than one over the past six months. Reading his books opened up a whole new world for me – a world where our dreams are much more than random electric discharges of our brain during sleep, they are a source of self-knowledge and guidance. Attending his workshops gave me amazing insights into my own inner universe while talking and sharing my thoughts with this wonderfully warm, open, intelligent, life-loving and definitely unconventional man has opened a whole new door for me professionally. I have started using his core technique, Active Dreaming, in my coaching and training and I can’t wait to go to Seattle this summer to start my “official” training as a dream teacher. The above fragment is a short part of what Robert calls a “dream journey” – a trip into the world of imagination, the world where our subconscious speaks to us, often in symbolic terms, and our possibilities and resources are unlimited. Sitting on a comfortable chair or right down on the floor, listening to the sound of drumming, one can easily journey into fantastic landscapes such as this. You can find the full journey to the House of Time in Robert’s book “DREAMGATES: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death”. In the “House of Time” you can find clues from your past and insights into your future. It’s is a wonderful visualisation exercise...

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I Love You!

This is a love letter and a declaration of gratitude. It is a letter to myself, to my parents, sister, to the loved ones who left for the heavens, to the men who have touched my life, to all the friends I am blessed to have had, to all the people I have ever coached or trained, to all the teachers who have poured the water of wisdom over the seeds of my mind and soul, making them grow. It is a letter to all the people who have hurt me, lied to me, infuriated me or challenged me in any way. It is a letter to all those who have crossed my path and given me the gift of a smile or a kind word, to the children I have taught and who have taught even more in return and to all the people who have given me a hand when I most needed it. I love you! I have come to believe there are two emotions that drive our lives – love and fear. There are still so many things I fear, still so many lessons to learn and mistakes to make. Yet there are still even more things and people to love. Today I make a vow no to forget that love is always the best antidote for fear. I want to tell you all how grateful I am for your existence! I thank you for all the love you are giving me, for all the opportunities to learn, for all the challenges you are placing in front of me, which make me discover more of myself and grow to be a better human being, wiser, kinder, more patient, more confident, more forgiving, more in tune with my own femininity, more in touch with my own heart. I thank all the people who have ever hurt me for teaching me about forgiveness! I thank all the people who have ever loved me for teaching me about feeling! I thank all the people who...

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We Are the Champions! Or…Are We?

I haven’t written about competitiveness in a long time. I haven’t thought about it as often as I used to. But recently I was reminded why I turned my back on the subject in the first place. And, as usual, I’d like to share my insights with you. Many people think that competitiveness, that is, striving to be the best in your field, is a healthy and desirable trait. Our education teaches us it is so, our society encourages us to behave so. However, few understand there is a dark side to competitiveness, a trap that many fall into without even realizing. That dark side is “over-competitiveness”. When the desire to be among the best turns into obsession, you are in big trouble. I could write a long long article on why competitiveness is dangerous in the first place and why it’s not generating the high achievement rate one might expect. I could spend hours arguing that, although they are often found together, high performance and competitiveness are not necessarily connected, or at least not in the way most people think them to be. Being competitive does not necessarily ensure high performance. And vice versa – not caring about competition does not, by any means, imply you’ll end up mediocre. But that is a discussion for another article. For now, I’d just like to point out what happens when our competitiveness is driving our behavior. There are a few dangers that, in my view, we expose ourselves to when we get too competitive, and these I’d like to share with you. 1. Too much competitiveness may lead to arrogance and self-sufficiency Believe me, I’ve learned this one on my own. I used to be extremely competitive, obsessing about being on top of my class, about being the best in everything, all the time. This made me blind to countless opportunities for learning from others, which I dismissed with an air of superiority, simply because I considered myself smarter and more knowledgeable than those people...

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Chronic Busyness – The Epidemics of the Modern World

After almost two weeks spent in Brazil and more to come later this year (so I have more opportunities to double-check my initial impressions), I am becoming aware of something that I had noticed before, but never really found the time (sic!) to reflect upon – and that something I can only call “the chronic busyness syndrome“. What first struck me when arriving here, besides people’s joy for living, accompanied by constant hugging, kissing and smiling, was the pace at which everything seems to be happening around here. There is no rush, no hurry, no stress, no deadlines. This place is the nightmare of any self-respecting corporate worker!! My friends here in Itacare have are experimenting this latin-american spirit of laissez faire on a daily basis. Running a business here is no easier than in any other part of the world, and to do it well – especially if you are an European who’s worked hard all his life and knows exactly the rigors of doing business in other countries – you first need to learn the rule of laissez faire. If you haven’t grasped this rule early on in your stay here, you’re bound to suffer the torment of what you might rightfully label as eternal delays and un-kept promises. For example, my friends needed a new sign for their restaurant, to put on the outside of the building. There is just one guy in this small tourist town by the ocean who specializes in this and has created the signs for all the restaurants and shops in the area. The process of hiring this guy goes like this: you don’t have his cell phone number because he either doesn’t have one or he hasn’t bothered giving you the number (I’ve only seen one business card in my time here, and it was from a Portuguese lady – the rest of local businesses work by word of mouth). So because you can’t call him you wait until you run into him on the...

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The Trip to the Land of Green and Smiles

It took me more than 24 hours to fly to the other side of the world. 12 hours across the Atlantic Ocean, in what turned out to be one of my scariest flight experiences ever. I think Mother Nature decided to show me her worst before she could show me her best. The huge plane trembled like a leaf in the wind bravely going through what the flight attendants politely called “un mar de turbulencias”. And while we were “atravesando” this sea of turbulence, I seriously thought about my life so far, about the possibility that these might be my last hours on Earth, or actually above it. This trip provided me with a wonderful opportunity to reconsider what I had to be grateful for in my life and to think of all the reasons I still so badly wanted to live. It also made me incredibly happy to have my feet back on the ground when we finally landed and gave me a renewed sense of wonder for everything around me. I discovered a fresh capacity to look at the new world unfolding before me with a child’s eyes – full of joy and curiosity and deeply connected to the magic of being alive. I finally made it to Brazil, the land of luscious green forests, breathtaking sunsets, wild waves, amazingly colorful birds and strange bugs. I found myself happily drowning in the emerald sea that assaulted my senses from all directions. Waiting for my last plane connection to my final destination in Bahia I had a few hours to get acquainted to the warmth of the people here. I’ve seen countless people hugging, stewardesses coming back from their flights happily greeted by their colleagues at the airport with a kiss on the cheek and a heartfelt hug, people smiling everywhere I looked. I wondered what is it about this land and its people. In the few days I’ve been here I’ve seen more people smiling than I see at home, in Bucharest,...

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The Emotional Shield

I had a very interesting debate today, during one of my workshops, about the “layers” people use to protect themselves from others. We talked about the professional facade we put on, the public image we project, and the countless strategies we use to shield ourselves from the world and the harm it may bring to us. In her book, “I thought it was just me – but it isn’t” – one of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, writes about shame – an emotion she calls the “silent epidemics” – and holds accountable for many of the destructive relationship patterns and life choices people make. She explains how we use anger as a shield against shame, the mechanisms that make us want to conform to what others seem to expect of us and the shame which comes when we fail, the impulse to hide who we truly are because we are too ashamed to show the world that we are imperfect and too afraid to let ourselves be vulnerable. She also writes about our tendency to run away from shame altogether, by denying it, even to ourselves. She also discusses labelling, stereotyping and the habit of shaming others before they get a chance to shame us, or as a means of coercion – for example parents using shame as an “educational” tool. Reading this book made me think of the many ways we build walls to protect ourselves from the outside world and how we strive to defend the image others have of us. Today’s discussion made me think one step further -how we often build shields to protect us from ourselves. Take one example. In our culture, boys are usually taught to be strong. Of course I am generalising here and I am aware there are many exceptions, but still, statistics show us the leading trend. And the leading trend is that boys are shamed by adults if they cry or show signs of weakness, which tends to be considered a feminine attribute. The...

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