My Life-Changing Christmas and What We Can All Learn From It

It was Boxing Day and life seemed perfect.

My parents and 2 younger sisters were enjoying a well-deserved holiday in one of our favorite countries on earth, Thailand. We had been there for a week already, enjoying the delicious food, exploring the night markets and local temples with local tuk-tuk rides, and had just been sailing till Phi Phi Islands the previous day. I had reconnected with my passion for scuba-diving and was relaxing before embracing my last year of Business School.

My sisters and I joined our parents for an early breakfast around 7h30 on Boxing Day, and enjoyed the lavish buffet by the pool. We exchanged gifts and thoughtful cards and wished each other a Merry Christmas.
The sky was blue and cloudless. I was a bit tired following our expedition to Phi Phi the previous day, and therefore decided to cancel the scuba-dive outing that I had booked. Serendipity …

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My parents decided to stay by the pool to relax and pass a few phone calls to France to wish the family a merry Christmas, whilst my sisters and I headed to the beach.

Our resort was on a hill, with a restaurant overlooking the long beach that was adjacent to the facilities. There was a lovely wooden stair leading from the heights of the hill to the beach, making its way through palm and banana trees.

On that particular day, when my sisters and I arrived on the beach, around 9am, it was already rather crowded, and all the sunbeds were taken, with the exception of those just by the stairs. We usually didn’t like these as they were slightly more in the shadow and also in the way of the hotel guests passing by as they were going up and down the stairs.

But we had no choice and hence we settled there. One of my sisters started reading her economics book (she was preparing for her Baccalaureate later that year) whilst the other called her boyfriend (now husband).

After I put sunscreen on, I looked up towards the sea and noticed the water had been receding. The jet skis and little hotel boats were on the wet sand, and the sea seemed at an extreme low tide, which I had never seen in Phuket. Fishing boats were grounded. The beach was now extending as far as the eye could see.
At first, I thought nothing of it. The ocean was just further away than usual.

We grew up on an island in France, and I am a huge ocean lover and sea sports fan, but like so many holidaymakers on that particular day of 2004, I had no idea that this was the warning sign of an impending tsunami. I don’t even think I had ever heard the word tsunami. I thought the sea had withdrawn because there was a full moon and it was a tidal phenomenon…

Untroubled, my sisters and I continued with our sunbathing activities.

But suddenly, we saw a German guest who was just coming down the stairs and observing this retreating sea becoming alarmed and telling us to go back up immediately. He and his wife had arrived in the hotel on the same date as we had, and we were always greeting each other at breakfast time.

We didn’t understand why he seemed so concerned, and it seemed that everyone on the beach, after a moment of puzzling observation at the low level of the sea, had returned to their doings, including children playing on the expanded wet sand area. Holidaymakers all around us were back strolling the beach, inquisitive but unconcerned.

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I now know that this is a satanic trick that tsunamis play. The first flood is sucked away, only to return bigger, stronger and deadlier than before.

And then it hit. The sea returning towards us suddenly. First, I thought it was just making its way back to normal. Again, I had no idea about anything else being possible, particularly in what was a paradise on earth. However, this paradise shortly transformed before our eyes into a roaring, raging, living hell.

Quickly, a foamy wave climbed all the way up till the rim of sand that was all dry. You never saw water on that stretch of sand. The sea never came this far in. This is what alerted me. “Oh, my god, the sea is coming to us”. My heart jumped and raced, I suddenly knew this was not normal anymore.

In the blink of an eye the monstrous mass of water started to go beyond its usual limit with unimaginable force, heading towards us with a frightening vigour.

I shouted “Run, let’s go now” to my sisters and pushed them by the hands towards the stairs, forbidding one of them to pack her books and camera … I reached the stairs with my younger sister, and looked back.

Camille was surrounded by white froth and the current swirling around her as she was trying to reach the stairs, holding herself to a sunbed that had floated till the first steps. Panicking. The water had risen within seconds. My breath stopped, I was paralyzed, trying to make sense of what was happening. It had taken just a few seconds for the water to reach her thigh heights, and it was rising fast. The higher it got, the more chance it had of carrying her away. I screamed feeling powerless, but before I had even time to react, the same German gentleman who had seen us and had tried to alert us, jumped down the stairs at the speed of light and managed to catch my sister and pull her to the stairs before running up with her and ourselves.

We couldn’t comprehend what was going on. We had no time. We knew this. We didn’t know what we were fleeing from, but we couldn’t stop. Once we reached the hill that the stairs were leading to, we paused.

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We gasped for breath, and looked back to the beach. For the first time, we had a chance to look around properly. Everywhere was submerged. We were in shock, speechless. The sparkling blue sky had turned cloudy. The usual song of the birds in the trees had turned totally silent.

The foam had turned into waves, leaping over the point where the beach ended and making their way inland. Rushing past the palm trees with determination and making their way towards the streets behind. Engulfing everything on their way. Charging, churning, furious. Menacing at a pace which seemed like hundred miles an hour… Waves not receding or dissolving. Brown and grey. Grey. Brown. White froth.

The blue lagoon which looked like paradise only half an hour ago suddenly was a grey dirty whirlwind of water, with floating sunbeds, umbrellas and pieces of woods appearing. There was no beach anymore. Only water, mud and debris. In an instant, this peaceful heaven had become noise and panic. The angry sea had become a torrent, weeping trees, branches, sun beds away … Smashed apart as if they were made of match sticks.

The sea had replaced the land. All around us was chaos. Buildings behind the beach were collapsing under the weight of the sea, roofs were ripped off and crumbled to pieces. It was a soup of floating wreckage, which soon also contained some of these famous “tuk-tuks” vehicles, which we had been using during our stay.
I couldn’t see a soul whereas the beach was packed a short while ago.

My younger sister mumbled – “But where are all the people who were on the beach?”… Both her and Camille were standing there trembling. A look of terror, eyes wide open, mouth agape.

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We didn’t speak. We kept quiet, no words uttered, trying to make sense of what was unfolding in front of us. I couldn’t compute what was happening. The German gentleman who had helped Camille told us to continue towards the hotel up the hill and find our parents, and he then left making his way to find his wife.

We were incredibly lucky to find our parents straight away by the pool area, which was totally protected from what had just happened. When we saw them, we started to run and jump in their arms crying. I have never felt so emotionally overwhelmed. To find the dearest persons to you, alive in the midst of all the death was incredible. The gratitude for this German gentleman who saved one of my sisters is eternal.

The sea was wiping out the world we knew. The landscape had changed completely. Our picturesque tropical resort had become the scene of a horror movie.

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My eternal life lesson

To this day, I have no idea where our strength and promptness to run out of the beach came from. Why us? Why did we manage to escape alive, and to find our parents straight away? Why had I decided that day to cancel my diving and stay with my family? Why was it that day that the beach was so packed that we had to settle by the stairs and not one of these comfy sun beds further down the beach?

I have no idea … But I learnt that Mother Nature is the one thing that is the most powerful and can flip our world around in a second with no warning. I learnt that we must enjoy every single second out of the 86,400 seconds we all have daily.

There was so much pain that day, so many lives lost, so much suffering … And I understand I was given a second chance.

This was the very start of my determination to leverage this experience to make a difference in people’s lives.
To empower others to live a more intentional and regrets-free life.

To not let the fear of the unknown prevent one from truly feeling and enjoying this life, in and out of work.

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. […] You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end!”

Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life

From this day onwards more than ever before, I developed an acute awareness that everything is impermanent, that everything and everyone is precious. The “normal” life we take for granted is fragile, and thus not really normal. Even in the most breath-taking places, when one feels in heaven and safe, everything can actually happen, in the blink of an eye.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, when asked about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan: “An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. […] This is the best that we can do for those who have died: We can live in such a way that they can feel they are continuing to live in us, more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, tasting every minute of life available to us, for them.”

Living even more fully … This is the promise I made to myself, after that unforgettable Boxing Day. To constantly endeavor to drink in every moment of life, and empower others to do the same.

Are You Using All Your Sources of “Knowing” to Know When You “Know”?

You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.

(Epictetus)

So many of us struggle with making a decision between two choices.

We don’t know which way to go in fear of not knowing what might of happen if we chose the other option, thinking there is a right or wrong option – a good or bad decision.

Uncertainty makes people uncomfortable so much so they might avoid opportunities or change. But uncertainty does not always mean risky. The biggest opportunities often have the most question marks. You neither want to make a decision based on 0% information, nor on 100% as this is impossible. There will always be uncertainty about changes (e.g. career opportunities, new relationships, moving to a new country). And if you wait for certainty, you will miss opportunities. 

Human beings have a need for certainty. We need to know that everything will be fine. 
But uncertainty is the only certainty in life! It’s time to stop letting that fear paralyze you and regain the power to “choose well”.

Discovering This One Human Superpower Will Enable You To Live, Work, Love, & Play Even More Intentionally

This natural attribute is in all of us. Not all of us recognize its enormous potential and fully take advantage of it in our professional and personal life.  However, this “superpower” has served me many times. 

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That is the non-rational knowing.

Ever had a moment when you felt that something just wasn’t right? Like that day I cancel my dive during a holiday, without which I might not be here. Or choosing to answer one of the multiple-choice test questions when you are unsure between two options. 

Or perhaps it was a moment when you felt that something was right? Like “clicking” straight away with someone, as if we had known each other forever whereas we just met. Or knowing my best friend was pregnant without her telling me before 3 months into her pregnancy. 

Good intuition can also keep business leaders from making decisions that do not fit with organizational values or customer expectations, and career choices that do not fit with their core values or what they want in life.

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The rationale is only one form of “knowing”

It is often said that 80% of success is due to psychology and only 20% is due to strategy – the specific steps needed to accomplish a result.

I would reframe this as – 80% is due to “holistic” forms of knowing: the rationale from the mind, the emotional from the heart, the intuition from the gut and the somatic knowing from the body.

These sources give us the ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence. A feeling (emotional, intuitive or somatic) can guide us to act in a certain way without fully understanding why.

Sometimes – what you feel in your heart, gut and body – these “inner voices” from deep down inside – are louder than the logic and rationale from the mind.

Yet, it is so hard to lean into it – especially for big professional or personal decisions (e.g. investing in a business, getting married, purchasing a house, buying a stock).

Steven Speilberg gave a commencement speech at Harvard, and credited following his intuition as the key to his success. He also encouraged the class of 2016 to find their intuition and follow it. 

“Sometimes a dream almost whispers. And I’ve always said to my kids, the hardest thing to listen to – your instincts, your human personal intuition – always whispers; it never shouts. Very hard to hear. So you have to—every day of your lives—be ready to hear what whispers in your ear. And if you can listen to the whisper, and if it tickles your heart, and it’s something you think you want to do for the rest of your life, then that is going to be what you do for the rest of your life, and we will benefit from everything you do.”

Steven Spielberg

In far too many cases, the rationale might point towards one thing, but your non-rational knowing might tell you the opposite. When that happens, pause to consider it before disregarding them.

Curious about a simple framework to use your various sources of “knowing” as your inner compass to make decisions?

Download this 5-step process below!

What Are Your Brain Tattoo To Show-Up Intentionally In The World And With Others?

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Aristotle

An aligned life is created when what you think and believe in, how you feel, and what you do are all in harmony with who YOU are.

If we live and work in alignment with our values, then we are more likely to live a life that we look forward to looking back, rather than one we regret.

It is not necessarily living your “perfect” life or ignoring others but it means that you are intentionally doing your best to live in alignment with who you are and what you want.

A first step to raising your self-awareness on who you are and what you want, is to reflect on your values and strengths, and do a self-audit of how intentional you are about expressing these in the world and with others. 

The energy you bring to the world is correlated to the energy you attract from the world. 

Intentionally choose the energy you bring into each interaction by defining your “brain tattoos” and creating your “life principles”.

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STEP 1: Values and personality strengths identification and self-audit: how aligned are you with your top 3 values and personality strengths, both in your personal and professional life?

  1. Select your top 3 values and define what they mean to you. What qualities and principles must you honor – or part of you dies and can’t be fulfilled? (note: be careful not to select “aspirational words” of what you would like to embody more, this is about the root of you).

  2. Select your top 3 personality strengths. What words would describe the best version of yourself?

  3. How did you honour each of these, in the past 6-12 months, in your personal and business life? Low, medium, high?

  4. How can you express these more fully in your personal and business life?
    • Each day for the following week, try to use your selected strengths in a new way (e.g. curiosity: do a course on a topic you know nothing about; kindness: perform an anonymous favor for someone).

    • Try to use your strengths at least once per day all week long. You can find suggestions here and here.

Indicative list of values and the associated personality strengths:

  • WISDOM AND AUTHENTICITY: Authenticity, Self-awareness, Freedom, Humility, Spirituality
  • KNOWLEDGE AND GROWTH: Intellectual curiosity; Self-development
  • PLAY AND VITALITY: Enthusiasm, Positivity, Energy and joy for life, Adventure, Humour, Fun
  • HUMANITY: Kindness , Love, Generosity, Friendliness, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Respect and inclusiveness, Empathy and acceptance, Encouragement and support, Connection and cooperation, Patience and composure
  • HEALTH AND WELLNESS: Physical and mental health and well-being, Self-Care, Mindfulness
  • LEADERSHIP AND SERVICE: Creativity, Responsibility, Contribution, Service, Leadership
  • COURAGE: Courage, Persistence, Resilience, Interdependence
  • JUSTICE: Trust and reliability, Integrity, Honesty, Equality. Assertiveness, Open-mindedness
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STEP 2: Remember what you want to stand for, by defining your “brain tattoos”.

Create principles of how you want to live your life and impact others. Aim for 10 and pick your top 3 as “brain tattoos”. It is a creative way of distilling your core values.

To get you started here are some of mines:

  • Bring the joy and keep the smile.
  • Be thoughtful and kind. Lead with love.
  • Listen to my heart and trust my intuition.
  • Be true to me: “a lion who copycats a lion becomes a monkey” (Victor Hugo).
  • Be grateful.
  • Live in the moment and make each day count: Carpe Diem.
  • Physical fitness leads to life fitness.
  • Memorando Mori: live with souvenirs, not regrets.
  • Do not overthink.
  • Believe: when I want, I can (one of my Father’s instilled mantras).

Reflect and meditate on these principles and how you can express these more fully in and out of work.

  • Create phone alarms at regular times, phone or screensavers.
  • Write them on post-it notes in places you see the most in your house, or on your to do list.
  • Remember them whenever you are about to enter a place, or to meet someone.
  • Revisit them periodically so your life remains aligned with them, and update them as needed as these would probably change over time.
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STEP 3: Set daily intentions about how you want to “show-up” in the world and with others.

Below are morning questions to ask yourself and start the day intentionally – what you want to be, do, feel, live and give.

  1. Who do I have to be and show up as to live more intentionally?

  2. What would make today great and exciting?

  3. How can I show more courage and self-belief?

  4. Who needs me today, in and out of work? How can I bring more joy?

  5. Who can I send appreciation, or surprise with love?

The Bottom Line

To lead a more intentional and regrets-free life, let your values drive your decisions.

“He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own”.

Aesop

What are your life principles and brain tattoos?

The Mexican and the Businessman

Stories are powerful.

This little story made an indelible impression on me when I first read it several years ago, and still makes me think about what matters most. It is filled with timeless life lessons and is an inspiration to slow down, reassess, and reflect on what we truly want in our personal and professional life.

THE STORY

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you could run your expanded enterprise with proper management.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, señor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years, 25 tops.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions señor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll in to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

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What Can We Learn

1. HAPPINESS IS IN THE JOURNEY AND MINDSET, NOT THE DESTINATION

It is so easy to forget that we are not human doings, rushing everything with end results. Some people wait all week for Friday, all month for their next holiday, all year for summer, all their career for retirement, all life for happiness.

Happiness is about consciously designing our next way forward whilst enjoying every single day and being grateful for what we already have. Remembering that there is a clock ticking and that this is not a dress rehearsal and there is no reason to put off living.

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2. SELF-WORTH AND SELF-FULFILMENT DOES NOT DEPEND ON NET WORTH

In the Story of the Mexican Fisherman, a small boat provided a beautiful life. In my experience, I saw some of the happiest people on earth living in the simplest conditions in remote places in the world.

One example is in the North East of Brazil where I took the pictures illustrating this article. In the state of Ceará, a few hours away from its capital Fortaleza, are some stunning fishermen villages with kilometres and kilometres of desert beaches. People there live very simply, most often grow their own fruits and vegetables, have their own chickens in the backyard and catch kilos and kilos of amazing fish and lobsters every day in some of the simplest boats on earth – the Jangada, a traditional fishing boat made of wood and which anchor is a big stone. Cows walk on the beach along with the inhabitants, who sell coconuts or grilled corn cobs whilst fishermen back from the sea sell their amazing findings. I never saw so many stars (including shooting stars!), beautiful sunsets and moonrise, and most importantly so many smiles and happy people anywhere else in the world.

Surely, money enables freedom and having the means to create certain experiences that might increase our happiness. However, we should always remember that our self-worth and self-fulfilment does not depend on our net worth.

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3. PRESENCE AND GRATITUDE: TRADING OUR EXPECTATIONS FOR TOMORROW FOR OUR APPRECIATION OF TODAY

In this fable, it seems that the Business Man, who is only focusing on growing his Business and his future plan of retirement, and who has access to much more information than the Mexican fisherman, has however very little gratitude for the present.

Regardless of your ambition and drive for success, don’t spend your life waiting to start living.

There is nothing else than now. Life is the moment we are living right now. Today is almost the most important day of your life. It is the only time when we have any power.

It is not the years in your life, which provide for a good life, but the life in each year.

Don’t live your life waiting for the week-end or that next vacation, hoping for a better job, dreaming of true love or more money, or thinking that when the children grow up or when you lose weight or when you retire – thinking that then and only then you will be happier.

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4. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES

The wife, children and amigos were all an integral part of the fisherman’s life in this fable.

Be thankful for your loved ones and those dear to you, take the time to give them a call or visit them rather than simply sending a text or email. Creating and collecting priceless memories with your loved ones.

Redefined When Confined

I will never forget 
That year when humanity 
Paused from being busy
Like it had rarely done yet

When a shift in consciousness 
Prompted us to realize with humbleness
That what we were calling success
In fact didn’t always rhyme with happiness

When human doings
Became human beings  
When many realized that what had been taken for granted
Was in fact never guaranteed

When many become grateful 
For life’s little pleasures 
When they become thankful 
For the simplest leisure

When everything on planet earth
Stopped, from cars and planes to trains
When that year become a rebirth 
Despite all the scars and all the pains

When ​a ​hug and kiss​  turned into weapon
Whilst distanciation 
And abstaining from visiting 
Our loved ones became caring

When no motion led to lower pollution 
When appreciation took over expectation  
When love and kindness and connection
Became a long-lost renewed obsession

When stillness
Replaced busyness
When there was an overall slow down 
During an unprecedented lock down
And not being in a hurry 
Turned out to be a luxury

When men were redefined 
Whilst being confined 
When the support of our community
Was the cure to anxiety

When in the face of such uncertainty
We opened our eyes
That living in the future fails miserably
And that the present is our only prize 

When we came to term with our mortality 
And remembered that life beauty
Comes precisely from its fragility
And that being healthy 
Is worth​ so much​ more than being wealthy

When the absence of our friends and family
Left us feeling terribly empty
Despite being connected through technology
As well as spiritually

When our little planet 
Became a fearful magnet
When resiliency 
Became the ultimate mastery

When true bliss
Turned out to be inner peace
When for a lot of us life re-evaluation 
Emerged from such a dramatic situation

Some Questions That Could Change Everything…

For a Regret-Free, Intentional Life

The Past, The Present, The Future

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

Voltaire

We have a natural instinct to seek answers, but most great leaps forward come from finding the right questions to ask yourselves.

The least known and valued, but most valuable, skill for intentional, regrets-free living is asking the right questions. Without this skill, we may waste our time solving the wrong problems, or going blindly in the wrong direction.

Asking the right questions is never easy, because they often lead to more questions, time, energy, and resources than seem to be available.

However, they can also inspire us to take action and gain a better perspective on what we want in our personal and professional life. In the same way our daily habits shape our reality and our life, the questions we ask determine how intentionally we live.

Here are 18 of the most inspiring and provocative questions I have unearthed in recent years.

They have helped me and my private clients gain insight, and have also sparked quite a bit of positive actions.

I hope this motivates you to reassess what you TRULY want, to aim higher, lead and live your life intentionally, based on your most authentic self, and on your own terms.

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Asking Life-changing Questions For A Regrets-free, Intentional Life – The Past, The Present, The Future

Go through the below list of 18 questions about your past, present and future. You can go through all of them at once, or take 5-10 minutes every day picking any question that captures your attention. Either way, spend time answering them.

Pause after reading each question, and see what thoughts and emotions come to you. Rather than focusing on answering the questions, focus on questioning your answers when they arise. There is one golden and simple rule of thumb that will lead you in the right direction: Ask why, three times in a row. It often leads to a deeper understanding of whatever you are considering.

You do not need to know all the answers straight away. And if you do not get an answer immediately, it doesn’t mean there are no answers. The more you ask, the clearer your mind will be, and the more ready you will be to receive the answers.

Remember: There is no one final answer. It’s a continuous circle of discovery processes. If you resonate with any question, you can turn them into an affirmation, empowering statement, or meditation mantra by playing with the words.

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18 Questions For Intentional Living, In & Out Of Work

The Past
  1. What are your top 3 business or career successes – that you are most proud of? (e.g. the impact you had, the difference you made, the income you created, the acknowledgements you got). It is often hard for people to share what they are proud of.

  2. What are your top 3 personal or life successes – that you are most proud of? (e.g. family, relationships, growth, health and fitness, contribution).

  3. What is the hardest thing in business / life that you have overcome? What did you learn from the experience?

  4. How much time off have you taken, each year, for the past 3 years? Why was it not higher? Why was it not lower?

  5. How did you choose your current job?

  6. What is one truth / unique strength / gift / talent – that you have held back – that you know the world needs to hear?
The Present
  1. How much of a life do you have, regardless of how much money you have?

  2. How much are you really making when you factor in what success as defined by net worth only is costing you?

  3. When you are old, how much will you want to pay to travel back in time and relive what you are experiencing now?

  4. What (secret) dreams do you have that are still unfulfilled?

  5. What would you regret not doing, being, having or saying in your life?

  6. What are the 3 biggest reasons your life, business or impact might not yet fully where YOU want it to be?
The Future
  1. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

  2. What would you like to accomplish – that may look impossible, right now – but if it were achieved would change everything?

  3. If you were to look back 3 years from now, and say, “these have been the best 3 years of my life” – what has to have happened, personally and professionally for you to feel thrilled with your progress?

  4. What were the 3 tiniest shifts that made the biggest difference in those 3 years?

  5. What could hold you back the most in those 3 years? ( external reasons – e.g. economy; internal reasons – e.g. mindset).

  6. What have you done about your “best 3 years in your life” so far?
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I hope that these questions have provoked you to think harder and more intentionally about the type of personal and professional life you wish to lead. Most of the time, we don’t know what we don’t know, and it always helps to seek out new questions.

Let me know how it goes! And if you think I have missed some powerful questions, or if you want to provide feedback of any sort, contact me here!

To your most vibrant life & career,

What If You Were Switching From Yearly Resolutions To This One Weekly Ritual?

“The Weekly Review is the critical success factor for marrying your larger commitments to your day-to-day activities.”

David Allen, Getting Things Done

Instead of waiting for January 1 to reset and reflect on our goals or even ask “what was I doing all this time” …

A weekly review gives us 52 rituals to improve on the previous week, to learn more about ourselves, how we live and how we work, to direct our life with intention.

We can start to fix / eliminate/ improve what is not serving us, and do more of what is working.

It is a dedicated time to think about the past week, reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and plan for the week ahead. To ensure that the what we do daily is helping us reach our goals.

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End of Week Review

Choose your weekly review day, time, and place.
  • Try to do your weekly review at the same time and day (e.g. Friday end afternoon, Sunday evening, Monday morning) + in the same place (e.g. your comfy sofa in your house or even your neighbourhood coffee shop). Consistency will help with building the ritual.
Declutter
  • Clean up your desk and workspace (e.g. tidy random items, computer screen).
  • Get to “inbox zero”: answer or file what needs to be answered (e.g. email, text messages).
  • File away electronic items (e.g. any screenshots, images, and documents that you might have saved on your computer desktop).
  • Add any uncaptured personal and professional tasks or ideas to your master plan list.
Review

1. Overall feeling

  • What is your overall feeling? What did you manage to do and be that matters to you, your values and goals?
  • Intended weekly goals vs. what was actually completed. Review priorities, calendar items, meetings, and notes from the past week.

2. Energy and focus

  • What unexpectedly arose that blocked your productivity and take-away lessons. e.g. “I was derailed in my writing this week by several unexpected meetings. I will assess / ask how I can minimize these so I can focus.”
  • Why you might have been more efficient than usual and take-away lessons. e.g. “I got more done than ever this week by delegating work to […]. I might hire […] in a full-time capacity / delegate more to[…].”
  • Whether you staid energized – present and focused as you wanted and recharged throughout the days.
  • Whether you avoided distractions – respecting your boundaries and the time blocks you had planned.

3. Resilience and growth mindset

  • How you dealt with your emotions and responded to life challenges. e.g. fears, stress, anger.
  • Whether you took actions with courage despite uncertainty or risk.
  • Whether you identified something to learn or improve.

4. Intentionality

  • Whether you were intentional about how you acted and the feelings you wanted to generate – setting intention at the start of the day and when transitioning activities. Review this article for more.

5. Authentic interactions

  • Whether you shared your real self, thoughts and feelings with others. 
  • Whether you demonstrated care and compassion to others. 
  • Whether you inspired others as a leader.
Take the pulse on your goals and life areas
  • See if this week helped to progress your overall personal and professional goals and key metrics for these.
  • Revise any tasks that might have fallen behind schedule or circumstances that have changed.
  • Where relevant, consider reflecting on the life areas in yourHolistic Life & Work Assessment and assessing whether you want to adjust any of your goals.
Plan ahead
  • Identify your top 5 goals for the week ahead and for each, breakdown, from beginning to completion, the sub-tasks that you can complete in a few hours maximum. Make each step as specific and actionable as possible (where, what, when) to save you time puzzling over it later (e.g. “read” vs. “read chapter 5 of book x to prepare for presentation on date y”; “work on project X” vs. “do research about […] using […] to start X”).
  • Based on your list of goals, sub-tasks and time estimate, plan your your days ahead (in the end of the week for the following week, and in the end of the day for any adjustments to the following day).
  • Put actions in your calendar or project management tool. What is not scheduled does not get done 🙂 Include anything relevant – e.g. time blocks (up to 120 minutes) and transitions (10-15 minutes) to sustain your energy and focus, morning rituals, your fitness and wellness routine, your business priorities, your creative work, your social and your recreation time.
  • Invite flexibility within your plan. Sometimes we put things in an order, but then they are created in a different order that makes even more sense – or life happens and they get done later. Allow yourself to be informed by reality. It is not about procrastinating, but allowing yourself to be a human being, beyond the planning and the doing!

STOP Technique – How to Stop Overthinking, Stressing & Worrying (4 Steps that WORK!)

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.”

Bruce Lee
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Mindfully witnessing your emotions helps you separate yourself from them, and feel more in control – to move away from the emotional rumination, into the rational part of our brains by focusing on evidence and logic. 

If your negative emotions stay within, it will consume your physical, emotional and mental energy. 

Bruce Lee knew the powerful effect emotions had on behavior, to maintain his abilities as a philosopher and martial arts master. He knew positive emotions strengthened the spirit, while negative emotions weakened it. That is why he always worked on transforming what he felt at any moment. His goal was to dilute negative emotions or turn them into something that contributed positively to his development. He knew positive emotions are where personal strength resides.

Here is the “Stop technique” – a simple and easy-to-remember approach to channeling resilience and controlling emotions, rather than escalating or prolonging moments of stress when triggered in business or in little annoyances and upsets from everyday life.

Stop Technique

1. STOP

To be resilient, you must be able to detach from your habitual response. As a first step, to prevent a negative stress response and shift to a more controlled response, you must be aware of the cues

The moment you notice a potential trigger, stop and examine your reaction. Even say out loud “stop it”. 

2. Take a deep breath and smile
  • Breathe – Breathing is the only part of our autonomic nervous system that we can control and one of the simplest ways to decrease anxiety and stress. We can consciously change your response from stress to relaxation by changing the rate and the pattern of your breathing. Taking control of your breathing is like having a superpower.
  • Here is one of the many breath work hacks you can try:
    • Notice your breath and count what a natural breath cycle feels like. Try to match the length of your inhale and exhale.
    • Make your exhale significantly longer than your inhale. E.g. – inhale for 4, exhale for 8. Pick a number that works for you and stop if dizzy 🙂
  • Switch – Switch from judgement, stress, or other negative emotions to curiosity and perspective. Instead of saying “I am stressed / anxious / overwhelmed…” say “I am feeling [stress / anxiety /overwhelm].” YOU ARE NOT YOUR EMOTIONS.
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3. Observe

When you catch yourself, ask: 

  • How Fascinating. Is this how I want to feel? Is this feeling helpful?
  • Will this really matter in …  5 minutes, 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, and 10 years? 
  • Will my 95 years old version think that this mattered? Will I not regret having lost precious time worrying about what might look like futilities looking backwards? 
4. Practice being fully Present

The experience of this moment is here now, but this problem is not the only thing happening in your life at the moment, and this moment is not the only moment in your life. 

This expanded perspective enables to see new responses and patterns, and look for options and choices with free-will. The more we understand our own mind, the more we can both self-regulate our own emotions and reactions, and understand the minds of others with greater empathy, compassion and connection. 

Relax and release: surrender – not with passivity but from the strength of controlling your mind: 

  • Positive re-frame: e.g. – My way doesn’t have to be everyone’s way (e.g. if disagreeing with a colleague or losing patience when stuck in traffic or because someone is driving slowly).  Swap and replace the negative image / emotion with a new positive image / emotion. Our superpower as humans is to choose the emotions we want. (e.g. I feel joy / strength / peace; “I can’t cope with everything going on” “I am snowed under” / “under the water” => “This is challenging but I have great coping skills / I can handle this and everything will be alright.”)
  • Smile: You may be upset, unhappy at work, or going through a tough time. But a smile triggers a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that can make you feel happier / better and shift your state.
  • Look for options and choices with free will: What else can I feel/ think/ do with what I have and where I am right now?choices with free will: What else can I feel/ think/ do with what I have and where I am right now?

As an inspiration, check outThe fish story from David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” 2005 Kenyon commencement. 

Elevate Your Well-Being and Success Through Kindness and Gratitude

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Mark Twain

When you help others, you are demonstrating the kind of person you are, and you are creating the kind of world in which you want to live.

The more we help and give to others, the happier we become and the happier we become, the more inclined we are to help. 

Many people and leaders associate being kind in business as a sign of weakness. Quite the contrary, kindness – a mindset of helping others – is a powerful driver in fostering organizational and individual success, as well as customer and employee engagement.

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The power of kindness on our own well-being

Kindness, like happiness and positive energy, is contagious. It is one of the best ways to connect with other people and to lift our own spirits. 

When we care for other people’s fulfilment, our mindset widens and our own problems become less significant, which increases our inner peace and happiness.

When we forget about ourselves and our problems, and are genuinely interested in other people and helping them, with an authentic interest in their well-being, our own well-being increaseased, our anxiety and fear lessen and we gain a better perspective on life. 

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The power of kindness in leadership

Give And Take: Why helping others drive our success by Adam Grant highlights the real power that lies in being a giver. Those who succeed (personally and professionally) don’t take or match. They give the unexpected and add value and joy to everyone around them – thus attracting more success. 

The book is full of stories of successful givers.

“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the part. […] “The more I help out, the more successful I become. But I measure success in what it has done for the people around me. That is the real accolade.

Adam Grant
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Here are a few ways to get started. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list – if you set your mind to it intentionally, you can come up with many other possibilities.

7 days kindness ritual to elevate your well-being and success through the power of kindness and gratitude

Starting today and over the next 7 days, pick the one random act of kindness per day to brighten someone’s day, beyond what you normally do. If needed, refer to the below list of suggestions for uplifting ways to give. You can do one extra act of kindness per day, or you can do a few acts of kindness in a single day. 

  • These do not have to be big or time-intensive acts – only something that helps or impacts another person. 
  • At the end of each day, list your random act of kindness (e.g. in a notebook, on your phone, a daily planner or online calendar, or whatever method works for you). 
  • At the end of the week, examine the emotions you felt and how the person reacted. Savor this and allow this experience to materialize inside you. As you see the other person and experience your own feelings, think of other ways and future opportunities you can continue to give help to others. Repeat!
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Suggestions of uplifting ways to give and help

Anytime you interact with another person, remember these three words first: help this person. Be as persistent at helping others as you are at getting what you want.

Create something that helps people (e.g. song, cooking, book, blog, a support group, a non-profit, a book club or podcast club or mastermind).

Regularly send a thoughtful “something” however big or small for no reasons or when you feel it would interest someone else or when someone is going through a hard time (e.g. hand-written or if easier electronic card, thank you or congratulations note, chocolates, flowers, electronic gift card, articles you think they might enjoy, a book or your favorite podcasts / YouTube channels / Spotify playlists recommendations). 

Collect notes, photos or videos for special occasions that others around you celebrate (e.g. colleagues, friends, family) – consider technology tools such as www.kuddoboard.com and www.tribute.co

Build bridges and connections between people where you think it could help them.

Remember important dates for others (e.g. their birthdays or those of their children’s, wedding or work anniversaries). 

Bring people together whether in person or virtually (e.g. keep up a group chat with your friends who are spread across the world, have a standing online or in-person date to get together with friends and family, masterminds). For virtual gathering use your preferred tool  (e.g. virtually, use apps like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, House Party) and likewise to coordinate scheduling among several people.

Perform small acts of kindness. Too often we underestimate the power of a kind word, a true listening ear, a silent smile, a silent blessing, a touch, a compliment.

Give advice and strategies on problems / challenges others face where relevant, but always ask for permission first and practice until it becomes effortless. Be unconditionally positive and constructive in everything you say, even when having a difficult conversation (e.g. “I have a suggestion I think might work, would you be interested in hearing it? Would you like to hear how I handled a similar situation? Could I give you some advice?”).

Give compliments but convert them into acknowledgments: People will want to be around you if you are in the habit of giving acknowledgements and you will be energized as it feels good to give them. People get compliments quite often (e.g. what they wear, how they look etc.). Acknowledgments are even more powerful,  as they are about who the person is and leave them feeling great about themselves (e.g. “I really appreciate your support / your guidance / your work”, “your presence lights up the whole room, you are a great speaker”, “what an incredible attention to detail you put in this incredible piece of work / art / dish you cooked”).

Give a hug to someone in need of affection, love and consolation.

Every time you interact with another person, make a conscious decision about the energy you wish to bring (i.e. positive, uplifting, supportive…).

Give other people clues that you are really listening: nod, ask questions, repeat what they said, make them feel seen and understood, be fully present (i.e. do not multitask), listen with the willingness to learn.

If you know a friend or business partner is under pressure, provide something that will support or help them.

Express your gratitude. Gratitude has profound effects on the happiness of both the giver and the receiver. Do not wait to show appreciation in others and never miss an opportunity to say thank you.Send 5 thanks a week. One of the most effective ways to build powerful relationships (e.g. partner, family member, dear friend, business contact, client, mentor, manager, colleague, employees) is to thank people for all they do for you, and acknowledge them. Make it one of your weekly rituals for 15 minutes a day, to send at least 5 thank you notes a week. Ideally, hand-write it (e.g. beautiful postcards, card with inspiring quotes, photography) as it is more personal and will be more remembered and appreciated (particularly in this modern time!).  

  • A great leadership example of creating a company-wide culture of gratitude: When Doug Conant took the reins at Campbell Soup in 2001, the stock price was falling and it was the worst performer of all the major food companies in the world – and employee engagement was extremely low. By 2009, the company was ahead of the S&P Food Group and the S&P 500. Over the course of his 10-year career leading the soup giant, Doug Conant wrote at least 30,000 thank-you notes to employees and clients. In a 2011 Harvard Business Review article, Doug Conant explained that he sent handwritten notes because more than half of Campbell Soup associates didn’t use a computer.

“Have you ever noticed how a pat on the back makes you feel great for days? If the praise comes in handwritten or email form, maybe you frame the note and put it on your wall so it can lift you up on a tough day or help you feel more engaged at work. Sadly, kudos from bosses are all too rare. Believe me, I know.”

Doug Conant

Are You Leading Your Life, Career, and Others With Lollipops?

We have all changed someone’s life – but most often do not realize it and remain unaware of it, or at best discover that we did further down the line. 

Have you made someone’s life fundamentally better with just a small remark or act of giving or even a kind word? Or possibly by connecting them with another like-minded individual you think they would enjoy meeting?

You might not know what you did in the moment, but you might find out looking backwards that what you did or said in a way that changed someone’s life or empowered them. 

We all have the power to drive positive change wherever we are and whoever we are. In almost every circumstance, we can find a way to inject positivity in interactions and hereby start to spread positive emotions and consequences.

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Leading Your Life, Career & Others With Lollipops

Drew Dudley is recognized as one of the most dynamic keynote speakers in the world, and in this funny TEDTalk, he calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.

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Here are some highlights from this TED Talk

On the definition of “Lollipop Moment”

“How many of you guys have a lollipop moment, a moment where someone said or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better? All right. How many of you have told that person they did it? See, why not? We celebrate birthdays, where all you have to do is not die for 365 days .

Yet we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it. Every single one of you has been the catalyst for a lollipop moment. You’ve made someone’s life better by something you said or did. If you think you haven’t, think of all the hands that didn’t go up when I asked. You’re just one of the people who hasn’t been told.”

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On defining “Leadership” based on giving and kindness, spreading “Lollipop Moments” in others’ lives

“My call to action today is that we need to get over our fear of how extraordinarily powerful we can be in each other’s lives. We need to get over it so we can move beyond it, and our little brothers and sisters and one day our kids – or our kids right now – can watch and start to value the impact we can have on each other’s lives, more than money and power and titles and influence. We need to redefine leadership as being about lollipop moments – how many of them we create, how many we acknowledge, how many of them we pay forward and how many we say thank you for. Because we’ve made leadership about changing the world, and there is no world. There’s only six billion understandings of it.

And if you change one person’s understanding of it, understanding of what they’re capable of, understanding of how much people care about them, understanding of how powerful an agent for change they can be in this world, you’ve changed the whole thing.”

If you want to go deeper on how to elevate your well-being and success through the power of kindness and gratitude, you might also like Elevate your well-being and success through the power of kindness and gratitude.