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Yesterday I was having lunch with my old colleagues. We had a great conversation: several people told me they liked my blogs, so I was feeling wonderful. Of course, this is not even remotely interesting to you, but it did encourage me to finally start writing again. So, here it is!

The topic: stress takes you back to your childhood and your family. Why?

The autopilot

When there we’ve got more work than we can handle, we build up stress, and when we’re stressed, we revert to running on the automatic pilot as much as we can. Going on autopilot saves us energy. However, the autopilot is not always pleasant for people around us:

  • It’s locked in on the goal
  • It hates distractions
  • It believes it’s always right
  • It’s quickly on the defense
  • It’s irritable with what- or whoever irrelevant for our goal

That type of singular focus is a survival mode. And when we are in survival mode, we depend on our earliest learnings.
Oh yes, we made incredibly important decisions on how to survive at the well-established and mature age of 0 to 3 years old. How to get ourselves fed, a clean living environment (read: diapers), care in case of injuries, cuddles
and the right clothing to keep us warm or cool. We learned to influence our mom and dad to get us the basis of the Maslow pyramid. And, possibly, we learned to manipulate our older siblings into being accommodating as well.

Not many of us have had reasons to revisit the adequacy of our survival methods afterwards. So, with a reptilian built-in function, further socially developed at an age when we were not much beyond little mammals, no wonder our survival
mode is a bit basic.   

So, what mattered in your family for survival? With that I mean: what was appreciated, what was frowned upon? When did you get that pat on the back and when were you sent upstairs to go to sleep without your dinner?

In my family, I felt I had to be brave, strong, grow up fast and work hard. No complaining, no crying. Asking for help did not seem to be an option. Guess how I deal with stress…. I tough it out till my body refuses further duty – even then, not asking for help. My willpower and mind want to keep going.

For many of you this may be similar: your independence and drive makes you successful. Managers and leaders usually have this quality in common. They learned to take care of themselves – and others – at a young age.

Being in charge feels safe and familiar. Normal. Normal is good.

So you default into that instinctual behavior under pressure:

  • You may take on more instead of less. Because then you’re sure it gets done, correctly.
  • You may want to protect others. Because they’ve got so much and you know you can handle it.
  • Your manager asks you to go the extra mile. Because they have this indefectible feeling for your skills in this area.
  • Or worst case scenario: while you’re taking on your boss’ work, your staff also knows how to manipulate you into doing what you’re great at, but which is actually their task.

Now, even if this is your “normal” autopilot, it’s probably not the most effective or efficient for the company, for your team, for you. A tad bit close to burn-out.

Solution #1 Soft shells

Knowing how you do this – stress – will help you become aware of how your automatic pilot works. And when you are aware … guess what? You’re no longer on automatic pilot. You can now choose to do something different.
It will be outside your comfort zone. Not familiar, not normal. It may even give you a feeling of shame or guilt. That would be your family conscience speaking. It’s telling you that “this is not the way we do things around here…”. However, remember: what worked in your family may not be the most effective at work.
So, catch yourself. Know when you’re going on automatic. And do something different, anything else will do till you find the ways that work better for you. 

Solution #2 Hard nuts

One step beyond is to understand the system you came from, your family situation.

Give some thought to the following questions.

  • Are you regularly asked to brainstorm strategy with the boss or the leadership team a level above yours?
  • Are you regularly requested to mediate in conflicts?
  • Is hierarchy such a non-issue for you that it leads to comments and remarks by colleagues?
  • Are you judging your boss’ or your boss’ boss performance? Making statements like “If I were his or her boss, I would …..”.
  • If you’re a man: are you more connected to your mum or did you have a sense of responsibility and caring towards her because your dad wasn’t home or readily available for support?
  • If you’re a woman: are you more connected to your dad or did you have a sense of responsibility and caring towards him because your mum wasn’t home or readily available for support?

If you’ve said “yes” to a couple of these questions, you’ve put yourself in the shoes of one of your parents to help the other one, or you were even taking care of both your parents.

That’s a lot of responsibility. Which is fine when you’re solving kids’ problems. Which is wonderful when business is running smoothly. Everyone loves you because when they give you something it always gets done, and then some.
Not so fine when you already have too much going on at work, and you’re on the automatic pilot, and this nasty little pilot needs to stay socially adept to fit into a hierarchy with a lot of stressed people.

Going overboard

Suddenly, it becomes remarkably easy to step on someone else’s toes. Suddenly, you’ve done something wrong in their eyes. Being blamed for charging ahead.
While you were trying soooo hard to make it work! Are they freaking crazy?!

No, actually…
You are.
Sorry about that.

Because what worked well in your family – with one parent being unavailable, it was great that you were there when your mum needed a friend or your dad wanted someone to speak with as an equal – doesn’t work in business. You’re
not supposed to step out of place into your boss’ seat, or some other department’s seat.

And you wouldn’t… if you weren’t stressed.

Get what I am saying here? This was a tough one for me.

However, once I knew… what a relief! That it isn’t my place to have an opinion about what my management is deciding. That another department’s business is none of my business.That my boss’ business is none of my business.
That if my boss isn’t functioning well, it’s up to his or her boss to decide to do something – or not. It’s not my job to do their work or sit on their seat.

Wow, not spending time on those things leaves a lot of space and energy that I can use for my actual work!

Now, what I described above is called triangulation and parentification in psychological terms. I don’t need you to know that. I only ask you to consider if some of this is true for you – or, in fact, for some of your staff.
If it’s true for you, to take the next step. Get out of your comfort zone to do something about it. For your own good.

There is an easy way to solve it.

So easy that it took me 6 months just to get started. When my coach and trainer told me I had to do this, I laughed my head off. Found it ridiculous and unimaginable. Yes, I was a hard nut to crack.
Maybe you are too, but then again, maybe you aren’t.

The trick is to put up a photo of your parents and bow to them, while thanking them for what they’ve given you. Every day. Till you believe it.  

Ridiculous? Right? Funny? Unimaginable? Unfair? Easy?

What you’ll get

Now, there are some consequences when you do this.

  • You’ll probably stop trying to save the world all on your own.
  • People around you may not like that you’re no longer doing everything.
  • You may feel more connected to that “other” parent (alive or dead, this is your internal autopilot process).
  • You’ll definitely feel less stressed when you switch off the autopilot with its guilt and shame factors.

No worries if you need more than 6 months to get that picture up there. I know some of you are still laughing, but you’ll get to it in the end :-)!

I love to hear if what I described is an issue for you. If you recognize the family pattern (it’s probably going on since generations).

Or let me know if you face another type of stress entirely.


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”894″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Stress at work… A corporate, project or change management role is a challenge. Performing at the higher levels is top sport. Like an athlete, you need to keep yourself sharp, in shape, react instantly, be strategic, predict what the next steps need to be and act accordingly.

Athletes work a lot on state control, keeping their mental game together – even when things start to look bleak. They have to stay cool as a cucumber.

What do YOU do to manage the stressors in your life? Are you able to maintain your high performance state at all times, or do you sometimes find yourself lacking energy? Lashing out to your loved ones? Jumpy and on edge like a scaredy-cat?

What distinguishes people who are resilient, who seem to wear their Teflon-coating at all times, from those of us who bring work stress to our family and homes?



Stress is a given. How we deal with it is not. A lot is learned behaviour, habits. Learned behaviour means we can change it. We can bring the stress reaction down with practice.

What do unflappable people use as defense mechanisms?

They have four important skills:

1. They distinguish professional dispute from personal attacks. If someone disagrees with them, that doesn’t say anything about them. They stand squarely in their shoes, own their attitude and have a positive view on themselves.

2. They are confident they can deal with the issues. They reframe each situation into something positive, a learning opportunity. Or, they realise the other party is under a lot of pressure and is not behaving as their normal sophisticated self.

3. They keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, they put the stressful situation in a broader context and keep perspective. You will not find them blowing an event out of proportion, instead they are optimistic and hopeful that tomorrow will shine a new light on the situation.

4. They are able to ask for help when needed. They open up to others. This allows them to get support, to vent emotions and get someone else’s perspective. In addition, giving help to others, being focused on another person’s bigger problems, helps reframe one’s own issues.



What does that tell us? What can we do to be more like them

1. Replace judgement with acceptance

When you take criticism personal, on some level you resonate with what the other is telling you. When someone gives you ridiculous criticism, you simply laugh, don’t you? So, only when you judge yourself, you’ll get upset. The trick is to learn not to judge. Accept yourself: good and bad. Nobody’s perfect. Who cares?

The easiest way to clear self-judgements is by learning compassion. Just 10 minutes – 10 minutes! – loving-kindness meditation a day for 8 weeks will visibly change your brain in scans. I recommend to start with Positive Psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson’s Self-love meditation on

When you’ve worked on your self-confidence and self-love, you become unf*ckwithable, as Vishen Lakhiani from Mindvalley likes to call it. You’ll know when someone is right and you hear yourself simply answering with self-confidence: “You’re right”, without emotion or judgement. Or, when they’re wrong about you, you’ll notice that you shrug you shoulders and walking away, untouched.

2. Visualise what you DO want

Visualise what you want, rather than staying focused on what you fear or don’t want. Practice becoming toward-happiness driven, instead of away-from-fear. Catch yourself everytime you start a worrying cycle and tell yourself “STOP!”. Then start an internal dialogue on what you DO want instead. Positive focus is a great help to relax.

Stopping the anxiety pattern consistently will re-wire the brain neurons into a path towards positive self-actualisation. At the same time the neurological worry track will fall into disuse. It’s like when you suddenly find a quicker way home: you can still use the long & winding road, but why would you?

3. Accept reality

Assess whether you can change the situation or not. If you cannot, there is no point getting upset about it. Stressful events happen in everyone’s life; our only choice is how we interpret and respond to these events. As Byron Katie puts it: “When I argue with reality, I lose – but only 100% of the time.”

Find meaning in adverse events by asking yourself what you learned from them. What is it that you’ll no longer do now that you know this?

When reality hits you like a brick wall, keep yourself going by setting small, achievable targets. The only way to eat an elephant is bite by bite. “What’s one thing I can accomplish TODAY that helps me move in the right direction?”.

And celebrate as you achieve these baby steps! If you’re not yet able to celebrate your achievements, practise doing so by pretending to be happy, until you really become it. Funnily enough, your mirror neurons don’t really know the difference between imagining and being. This is also the way top athletes perfection their performance: re-running the essential moves in their brain until it is hard-wired in.

4. Social connections

Our social network is essential for happiness and stress release. Look for growth and self-development through making connections with others. Did you know that we have a 6th sense for people who are like us? In a room full of strangers, we can perfectly seek out the people who we’ll be more comfortable with, with whom we connect at an unspoken level. When we exchange we often find that we have more than one thing in common.

It takes courage to share in intimacy, however, vulnerability in sharing gains you respect and friendship. Because when you are yourself, it gives your friends and colleagues permission to be themselves, without wearing that – sometimes too tight – corporate mask.

Last but not least, following these practices will ensure that you push yourself less and take better care of yourself. You’ll care enough to allow yourself down-time to meet your own needs, to do stuff you enjoy in order to re-boot and improve your health.

Enjoy your practice![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Weird concept:”The Happy Few”.

Honestly, to me it seems The Happy Few are usually not so happy. And besides, thanks to Positive Psychology we know exactly what to do to be happy!

Happiness is 1. a muscle that you can practice and 2. a choice you make.

Let’s start with 2. Yes, I no longer have to adhere to any rules but my own, so I can start with 2. if I like!


2. The choice you make

Say, you are not making the choices that are at your heart’s desire.

For instance: you tell yourself you are safe when you’ve got 500K on the bank.

I promise you, once you’ve got that 500K, you realize you’re only safe when it’s 1 million. Safety is a feeling you have inside – that feeling cannot be bought with money. Like you would go to the supermarket and pick safety off the shelf.

What you have to do is deal with the feeling that’s underneath the need for safety. Something happened at some stage in your life that made you decide that you needed to be safe: what was it? Were you frightened by an event, did you grow up with lack of money or fights over money? Did something happen in your life and you do not ever want anybody around you to have to feel that way, ever again? Not on your watch? Only you can tell. Only you can fix it.


Or: you tell yourself you have children to take care of.

My question back to you is: what are you showing your children today? That life is about being unhappy and dragging yourself to work you hate? Being responsible at all costs? That grumpiness is a state of being? Or would you like to teach them to find a way to do things that bring you satisfaction and joy? That leading a fulfilled life is more important than status, or owning the latest BMW? Maybe to you the material stuff matters a lot, it’s not up to me to say what makes you happy! In that case, stop reading here. I don’t want you to waste your time!



This concept that you have to be useful, or that you need to keep up with the Joneses, or that you are not safe: it’s a BELIEF. Does that belief serve you? Does it make you feel good or bad?
If it makes you feel bad instead of good, how would it feel if you would let go of this belief? What would your world look like without that belief? How does it sound once you stop telling yourself this story?

Honestly: who would you be without that belief?

Though there is more to this, I do not want to keep you here all day, so let’s jump to:


1. The happiness muscle

This is easy! Loads of research since Positive Psychology was invented by Maslow and further built out by Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson.
Prof. Fredrickson has a free course on if you’re interested to know more.

You’ll want to develop your muscle for happiness through the following methods:

  1. Flow:

    When you do what you like, at a level that is pleasantly challenging for you, you will get into a state of flow. This means finding activities that enhance your personal mindset & heartset. In my previous blog, I talked about knowing your core values and going back to childhood activities. This will help you define what it is that makes your eyes sparkle. Key is that you can be absorbed, fully focused on your activity.

  2. Meaning:

    Finding meaning, as described by Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. We all need purpose, belonging, meaning. Developing a spiritual sense for what you would like to do with your time here on earth has proven to be very useful to achieve a higher level of happiness.

  3. Gratitude:

    O, yes, this is a big one. Every day, morning or evening, or morning and evening, make your list of 5 things you are grateful for. For quicker results, make it 3 times 5, with an increasing level of difficulty: things you are grateful for in your life, what you are grateful for in your work, things you are grateful for in yourself, personality or skills.

  4. Compassion:

    Developing greater compassion for self and others means less (self-)criticism, means less negative emotions. And the ratio of negative versus positive emotions changes, guess what?
    Loving-kindness guided meditations work really well to develop compassion. Check out for instance. Begin with the meditation for Self-love.

  5. Forgiveness:

    Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and hoping for the other person to die. You’re the only one suffering physically and mentally from the anger you contain. It’s simply not healthy. You have a choice: let the anger, the grudges, the sadness about this person or situation go. Release it. It does not mean that you condone what was done or what happened, or that you will ever see eye-to-eye with the person concerned. It means that you release the emotions about it through a mental exercise imaging telling that person or people that you forgive and ask to be forgiven for your share and then imagine them telling you the same – you do not (need to) do this for real. The reason you do both sides, forgiving and be forgiven, is that sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, at some level, we feel guilty ourselves, e.g. for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After doing this, you will find that, instead of letting the other person off the hook, you’ve let yourself off the hook.


The journey

Now, this could become a rather long story. And indeed, it has been a journey.
Unfortunately, you do not fix a life-long practice of pushing yourself to ever further horizons where there may or may not be a beautiful sunset and green grass in 10 minutes at the end of a work week.
However, if you would like to get support on that journey to learn how to take the shortcuts, feel free to get in touch! Many of these practices we cover in my Emotional Intelligence for Managers course.

Learn more through this on-line, on-demand course:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column css=”.vc_custom_1536398006361{border-top-width: 10px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”841″ img_size=”full” css=”.vc_custom_1536398068554{border-top-width: 10px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”1028″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]So, I was sitting at my desk, with Mont Blanc view, in my dream job, leading a great team, interesting projects. Happily married, a lovely house, dear friends, bucket loads of money and …. I was freakin’ unhappy. What the heck?! Impossible! Embarrassing! Unthinkable!

To cut a long story short, I found my way back to happiness with positive psychology. Rainbows & roses. Let me tell you about it… or am I the only one with luxury problems?

What if the job you loved makes no sense to you now? You had energy to run marathons before but now you ask your love to kick you out of bed each morning. All your life you were convinced that you must add value, work hard, rise to the higher echelons. You’ve pushed yourself day-to-day like a top athlete. Is turning your life around really an option? Retiring early? Going down another path? What to do with the rest of your life?  You may fear the lack of status. Because who are you, if not the VP of xyz, the partner in this firm, the director at this company? Who will want to know you if you are no longer moving within your professional network? You may fear not having that regular income, not convinced you deserve to live so selfishly, choosing to do only what you want. This is not what your parents taught you. Who are you to live only for pleasure & freedom? Not earning that income, losing that status, no longer measuring your success by a big car, a job that impresses, being useful to society in a way you believe is right… If becoming a rat-race drop-out is your dirty secret desire … I’ve got some tips.

If you already know that you want to become rat-race drop out, jump to section B) below.

If you’re not sure yet, let me ask you: do you frequently tell yourself “O yes, I’m OK, but I’ll be really happy when…..”?
Far too often we project our happiness into the future, to the moment we’ve achieved x, y or z.
And then when we achieve x, y or z, happiness is again postponed, because now we realize that what we really need to be happy is a, b or c.


A) What’s keeping you?

I was personally chasing the top jobs for two reasons:

Status: if people respected and admired me I would feel good about myself. Or so I thought. Until I realized that even if I was highly respected in my field of work, I felt the same inside as I had always felt. Which was “ it’s never enough” . I was always chasing the next achievement, the next promotion, the next project completed, higher numbers in earnings and cash than last year.
Do you recognize this? That you cannot celebrate your achievements? That it’s never enough? Or you celebrate for about 5 secs and then you move on to the next peak to climb?

Hide my introvert nature: as long as I had a role which allowed me to reach out to people, or people had a reason to speak with me about my work, I didn’t have to worry about how to start a conversation and about what. I was my job, that defined my role in life. I didn’t have to wonder who I was without the function.
How do you introduce yourself? “I am [name] and I am [function] at [company]?”  Is that your identity?

You may have other reasons to keep chasing the dream

  1. I NEED to be useful, add value, because … well… eehm…
    I will become an outcast if I don’t, people will reject me, I will die, …. Or something like that?
  2. I CANNOT feel safe unless I have € x,xxx,xxx on the bank.
    What if I, my spouse, my children get an accident, become seriously ill, lose their job, the house is destroyed by a fire, ….?
  3. People WON’T take me seriously without this job, this money, this house, this life style.
    And who am I if people do not take me seriously?
  4. I WON’T be happy without this job, this money, this house, this life style.
    Forgetting that you are not happy now, as it is….
  5. I MUST keep growing, learning, achieving, because standing still is like dying.
  6. ….

If you’ve got other reasons, please do let me know – comments are welcome!

This becomes a problem when you feel you don’t have a choice or you’re not considering other possibilities, as showing in the “one ought to”, “must”, “should”, “cannot”.
We have our conscious and also unconscious reasons to keep going, without stopping to realize we have that choice to simply be happy now. That you have everything you need, right here, right now.

“But…, but…, but…” you say?
All nonsense, there are people happier than you, living a way worse circumstances. The question in the end is: do you want results, or reasons?


B) Leaving the rat-race … for what?

Maybe you don’t know what’s at your heart’s desire, you only know it’s not this you’re doing now.
Go back and remember: what did you love to do as a child? What puts a smile on your face? Wouldn’t you still love these same activities?
What have you lost along the way that you’d want to recover?
And, have you ever done a Values Exercise to find out what is really important to you? You can drop me a note for instructions or find it on the internet. Basically, it comes down to writing down the most important life events, what you learned from them and why they matter. Keep asking yourself what lies beneath that is important , till you come to your (current) core values like freedom, safety, creativity, compassion, learning. Does your job tick these boxes? What kind of role will tick them? Get in touch if you would like to having a sparring partner for how to find security, and a solid base to start living your (new) dream.

Top job = top sport

When you’ve been in the corporate game at a high level, you’ve played top sport. High levels of adrenaline, performing under pressure or stress, with big responsibilities. This is not child play. You may have loved the game, you may still love it, or possibly it has worn you thin.

In any case, when you switch or retire you will need recovery time. It may be that you need to let go of the stress levels slowly, like a former athlete who’s building down their sport’s heart.
We all know (about) people who dropped the moment they retired. My granddad was Corporate Controller at Unilever and did exactly that, my father-in-law was a VP at Solvay and did exactly that.
I retired at 46 and was ill during 6 months. I just came off the phone & the friend I was talking with needed 8 months to get back in shape.  So, what I learned is that it’s better to make a plan – you may want to build down slowly, or ensure you give yourself time to recover while keeping the carrot dangling in front of you: creating an enticing plan for the future.

That plan you can create and bring to life with visualization exercises. Close your eyes and dream: what does your life look like, sound like, feel like, smell like in 3 years from now?
Who’s with you? Where are you? What time of day? Is there a soundtrack to this? How do you feel when you look around you?
How do you know you’ve got what you need, right there and then? Then what are the steps you took to get there?
For all I know, it might be a sunset on a beach, apero and dinner with some friends and family, celebrating that 2 years ago you took the leap to finally start with ….

Let me know!

More on the happiness journey to rainbows & roses here:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”1031″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Emotional Intelligent Leader Raymond Palmen


Emotional Intelligence is an essential skill for any leadership function.
The topic is often snubbed as “soft skills”, but a.o. HBR, McKinsey, Korn Ferry research shows that these skills are in hard demand by the companies for any leadership function.

Several recruitment agencies reported that they are now being instructed to value “soft skills” above “technical skills” for leadership searches.

Certainly for service companies, people are the most important asset and losing important talent can cost the company dearly.

So, you’ll need to work on your emotional intelligence. And it’s not something we get trained at in school. Our attitude towards these skills often resembles the way we drive our car… we all think we are highly skilled and it’s the others on the road that are the idiots and the maniacs, aren’t they?

Do you have concerns about keeping your talented team members on board? Are you working effectively with other functions and businesses in the organization? Would you like to keep growing and learning, so you become eligible for your next promotion? How can you increase your influencing & persuation skills?

To tackle these concerns, join me for the next round, starting end of September,


Module 1. Leadership & Talent Development
Module 2. Strategy & Vision
Module 3. Communication & Negotiation
Module 4. Relationship Management

Your time engagement: ~2-3 hrs/wk
This is an on-demand, on-line training. You are supported by weekly coaching calls with me, so you can directly discuss your questions and concerns. Also, there is a Master Mind discussion group for the exercises.

This training allows you to relax & simply get the training you need. Stop wondering what “emotional intelligence” effectively means, just follow the logic of my toolkit developed especially for corporate leaders. I have 20 years under my belt, with global corporate leadership functions in my last two roles. I know the drills & will get you the skills.


In July I ran the managers’ training as a summer course “Summer of Emotional Intelligence” – check out the testimonials on via this link

The video interview with emotional intelligent business leader Raymond Palmen you can find here was a bonus video in that training round. Password: intervitalize

ENJOY, let Raymond inspire you! And, see you inside the course!

What are you waiting for?Sometimes we find ourselves holding on, with our nails digging in, hoping to maintain security, safety, certainty.
For me, this usually happened when I was holding on to relationships that had died 6 … 9 … 12 months earlier.
Utterly unhappy, without the guts to end it. Because the devil you know…

Well, one thing was certain, I maintained the security of unhappiness till the bitter end.

That bitter end is usually when the universe throws you a curve ball and you are forced to do something, anything.
And then finally, you go through the shouting, the tears, the grief, the pain. Only to come out on the other end, a bit shaken but still in one piece (surprise! surprise!).
And there the “epiphany” awaits you that you should have done this months earlier. That yes, you feel guilty. That yes, you disappointed people. That yes, this was painful. But YES!!! IT WAS WORTHWHILE! Because in taking the guilt, you’ve grown up and grown taller at least 2 inches.
Reality comes with the unexpected – can you believe that that curve ball the universe throws at you is for the best?
When will you start to have trust that your life leads you down the path that was meant for you?
Oh yes, I have been there, fighting with reality… haven’t we all? How about you?

#coaching #inspiration #inspirationalquotes #artlife

Poem by RumiWhen we are fighting with reality, it hurts. As the Buddha said our suffering comes from our thoughts, desires, convictions about what life should be. Suffering will cease as we let go of this clinging & craving. The unthinkable suffering Victor Frankl experienced left him with wisdom where death was close.

Our consciousness is relative. We can learn from this – happiness stems from the immaterial, material items give little and certainly no long-lasting satisfaction. Our “existence” is not defined by our physical being: most cells in our body get replaced within days or months. Our brain is malleable.

As we stop trying to change reality, as we let go of our thoughts of how this world ought to be for us… That’s when we gain happiness in return.

The path of the Buddha may speak to us, but how do we achieve this, in our daily lives?

If you are looking for a practical entrance to this kind of thinking, check out Byron Katie at
For me, her “judge-your-neighbour” worksheet is THE FOUR-FOLD PATH of the Buddha: it frees your thinking, helps you release convictions, cravings and clinging to what’s not useful.

And, you’re very welcome to connect with me if you are looking to add some tools to your toolbox for a good life.

#inspired #impact #change #transformation #coaching #quotestoliveby

There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in

We all have our rough edges… which allow our beauty to shine even more!

This may be the song Leonard Cohen never wrote, but in my head it fits right in there with “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” No day without night, no good without evil, no up without down. We know joy all the better because we know what sadness is. Sunshine without rain blisters the earth. Feel blessed that you can have this all-round human experience – it is the meaning of life!

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars

Mike Mandel, Afke van Mansum, Chris Thompson
Mike Mandel, Afke van Mansum, Chris Thompson

These two guys, Mike Mandel & Chris Thompson, have been part of my life since 4 years now. When I decided to train on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I looked for info on-line and found their podcast. Hilarious infotainment, great content, so I was hooked. Often their explanations made the theory I was learning come to life. And equally often, I find myself laughing out loud!

Normally I listen to them when I run or hike my (almost personal) forest trail behind my house.
And, yes, that is an anchor now (I do invite you to train with me, if you do not get that anchor statement).

I couldn’t make it to their Toronto trainings due to my 3-year psychology post-graduate. However, right after my graduation, I went to HTL in Las Vegas & trained with Mike Mandel on Ericksonian Hypnosis – see photo above. Some of the quotes that are posted in my blogs are from them – they call them empowering questions. Browse through and see how these questions make a difference in your life.

Their podcast contains excellent reminders for a better approach to life: more fun, more fitness, more mindful of what you do. So check it out: podcast Brain Software & MMHAwesome Instagram filled with tips by these two AWESOME trainers, hypnotists & podcasters…

As Mike’s credo goes: “My life has to be effortless, fun & slightly annoying to other people”

#MMHAwesome #nlp #hypnosis

Who were your childhood heroes?
Halfway point for my 4-week summer course, the Summer of Emotional Intelligence!, I asked the students this question.

And now I am asking you. Who was your childhood hero and what specific skills did you admire in them?

Write them down & think about it for a moment.

The fun thing is: the skills that appealed most to you, you’ve probably integrated in your personality by now.
Ask your friends if you do not believe me!

Just like you are aiming to become like any role model you admire today… who are your heroes? And what aspects of their personality are you living? And what aspects of their personality are you still learning to integrate?

If you do not have any heroes, get yourself some! They will inspire you to grow & before you know it, you own the characteristics you admire.

#SOMBAsummerschool #emotionalintelligence #leadership #inspiration #transformation #nlp

Angels of sleep
Angels of sleep

Late at night when really you should sleep, you find your head is spinning with thoughts, and hours slip by.
Or you wake up after your first sleep, 3 am or so & there you go…

There are solutions, easy ones to learn, to stop that worry-train.

You’re welcome to give me a shout for tools to help you let go. Sleep is close if … you …. just … allow… yourself… to … float….

So, I totally broke through my perfectionism! Happy release! This is so powerful…

My perfectionism was very specific: for me it meant that I could not fail, not that I would do everything perfectly.

Well, what does it mean “to fail”?
For everyone, these words mean something different, while the consequences can be fairly similar.
Self-torture, pushy for others, taking too much time for things that are not worth it.
In the end, it can thus bring you the opposite effect of holding you back from being the best you can be.

What is the underlying purpose of your perfectionism?
If you ask yourself that question, it could be something along the lines of: to ensure I succeed.
So then be brutally honest with yourself:

  • How is this busy work I am doing now to dot all the i’s and stroke all the t’s helping me in my long-term vision of success?
  • What do I really need to do to be successful?
  • What are the people I consider successful doing that I am not yet doing?
  • What other ways & examples are there to succeed without messing up myself or the relationship with others?

Or, you ask yourself that question, and the answer is: to ensure I am safe.
Again, be brutally honest with yourself:

  • How do I know this busy work I am doing now to dot all the i’s and stroke all the t’s is really keeping me safe?
  • Let’s stop those films and audios I run in my head when I do not feel safe: they are not real.
  • When is it that I feel safe and what other ways are there to feel safe more often?
  • What are the people I feel safe with doing that I am not yet doing?

If you need more help, come over for training or coaching with me – the New Code NLP games bring powerful shifts, allowing you to let go of unhelpful states and bring you high performance states instead.

If you want train with the NLP guru’s:

New Code NLP Life Coach certification day in Sesimbra end of June 2018, working with co-student Emanuele.
The 8-day Life Coach training by John Grinder and Michael Carroll was life-changing, eye-opening and, honestly, exhausting!
These guys have unbelievable energy: most days we worked for 12 hours.

A lot of practice, demonstrations by our teachers, explanations on the New Code NLP processes.
The practices include high energy games to bring yourself into high performance states. Those states re-wire you brain to get rid of your problem states. The science behind shows that you can get rid of OCD, depression, through the NLP meta-process.
Easy to deal with smaller issues therefore – in the group, we blasted many of them!

Oh yes, I worked on myself as well. And I swam in the 15 degrees Celsius ocean there in order to get my body to release my food allergies. Does that sound weird to you? Well, it is a real “Ericksonian” intervention, one of the greatest and most successful therapists of the past century. Daunting tasks shift your perspective and change your state into a high performance one.
You get a choice: get a kick out of it, or suffer. The “kick” choice is more fun. Those of you doing edgy sports will know this.

For me as an NLP adapt it was a real honor to be 6-step reframed by John Grinder himself. 😉
And speaking about living on the edge: as a 78-year old he still practices rock-climbing, horse-riding, ice-climbing: check out his hands and strong physique on pictures! Definitely a role-model, for us mere mortals.

After an intense week, I thought I was done coaching and left for a couple of days off to Lisbon.

However, early the next morning, upon taking the metro to the old town… I found myself doing a Heimlich on a lady who was choking. One of those moments that seemed to last a life-time, while taking probably only a minute.

She came out shaking all over, and breathing freely.

Life Coach indeed! 😉

PS if you are interested in a.o. NLP Practioner, Life Coach or Master Practioner training, see
I warmly recommend their trainings.

I don’t know about you, but I do sports regularly, eat healthy and make sure I rest well.
But it wasn’t until a couple of years back that I realized that I was forgetting something….
And I think most of us are in the same place.

We do sports to keep our body in good shape, we go on holidays to spend quality time with the family, we take vitamins to support our immune system. Maybe you even do your calls standing up these days, since you heard “sitting is the new smoking”?
So, would you consider yourself to be fit?

Whether yes or no, let me ask you another question: what efforts do you make to ensure the fitness of your magnificent brain? Most of us treat our laptop better than the wiring of our internal computer: virus protection, defragmenting, removing the cookies,…

Scientists now tell us that mental aspects heavily influence all kinds of (auto-immune) diseases, with a positive mindset having a tremendous impact on recovery.

Mental fitness matters greatly, so why don’t we initiate regular upgrades?
How much better would your life be with a brain wash – clean out the cob webs?

Take the edge off. Stop the tiring energy drains. Work more freely and easily with your co-workers. Alleviate strong memories that only cause recurring tension between you and your spouse. Lift the anchors and get more excited about challenging targets. Reach them halfway the year instead of scrambling at the end. And why not: have your bonus increase accordingly?


How does one achieve “the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”?

I’ll tell you about my experience. You don’t have to do the same, just consider this.

In the economic downturn of the early 80’s, my teenage years were less than spotless. My father’s business went bankrupt due to bad business partners and a worse economy (or vice versa), and he spiraled down, lifting depression with alcohol. My mother, responsible for the maintenance of 4 children and a spouse, didn’t have much energy left when she came home.
I got to stand on my own two feet fast and early. I made sure to keep my distance, never ask for help, shun intimacy lest I would embarrass us all by exposing the family secret.
That was the unconscious bit – the conscious teenage me suffered most from walking around in my older cousin’s out-of-fashion clothes (yes, really, even with 80’s fashion! :-)) and torn trainers.

Since challenges bring wisdom, in the end I came to realize that intimacy is good, rather than something to avoid and I reinvented myself clearing all the limiting ideas from my brain. With what I know now, about communication, better cooperation, how to lessen frustration and stress, my earlier working days would have been smoother, promotions might have been quicker.

This is not me crying over spilt milk – thanks to my overarching goal to become independent my career definitely meets the standard definition of success. It JUST could have been SOOO MUCH EASIER … which is why I am sharing this: I would love people to realize that it can be easy. It does not need to be hard. Really. Promise.

Today, I defragment my mind regularly. I’m simply happy and in charge of my own thoughts and emotions.
People tell me I look better, more relaxed: the inside work showing on the outside.


So, how can knowing this help YOU?

Your intention and attention forms a positive or negative energy, which is immediately picked up by others. Remember that speaker who was just not getting the message across? Their stage presence not authentic, incongruent, their posture and energy level not in line with their words?
You do the same. If your brain is engaged in other stuff, if your thoughts are not aligned with your actions on a real level, it stops you from winning, and thus from hitting your targets. At home. At work.

There are good practices for a “Spotless Mind”. No, I am not talking about erasing your memories like in the movie. Just that you don’t have to drag the emotional anchors of your past. You will speed ahead like lightning once you’re running a virus protection regularly to remove the inevitable corruptions that life brings.

These practices are easy to do and only take a couple of minutes – play with them to see which one works best for you.


1. Integrating your subs

You know these moments when you’re arguing with yourself? One part of you wants to eat the cookie, another part of you is telling you off since you just decided on a sugar-free day? Annoying, draining your willpower. The weird thing is, if you’d really let the two voices in your head talk about their intentions, you’ll find that both subparts want the same thing for you: give you a good life. Take some time with yourself to conclude such internal conversations, ask yourself what’s the purpose behind the superficial yes/no discussion and you’ll be amazed.


2. Focus on the positive

Set your intentions with positive goals only.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said before, but let me give you some examples.
It means replacing ”I don’t want to be overweight anymore” with “I am ready to be thin”.
“I don’t want to feel this stressed, I can’t take it anymore” will become “I’ll feel relaxed today, tomorrow, and the day after”.
Instead of “I have to stop drinking this much”, think “I am happy with one drink”.
Visualize yourself, hear yourself, feel yourself as you’re reaching your positive goals, every day for 20 days, and find yourself a changed person.


3. Your little masochist

Change the words you use in your thoughts and conversations.
Replace sentences with “I have to …”, “I should…”, “I must…” with three different sentences: “I will…”, then “I can…”, then “I want to…”.
What impact does each rephrased sentence have on you?


4. The critical voice

That voice that’s calling you names when you forgot something. That talks to you about what you should have done, could have done. The one that’s presenting you feedback on failures like running a slow-motion rewind of a missed goal in a soccer game.
You know it? Useless, right?
Going over the past as if that’ll change the outcome of that game.
Now hear that voice and notice where it comes from. Left ear, right ear, somewhere above your head, behind you? What tone of voice is it speaking in? Once you’ve registered this, replace the words consciously with positive phrases, same location, same tone, same volume. Use sentences like “you are doing great”, “you’re an inspiration to your team / your children”, “I’m impressed with you” until you realize that it’s impossible for the old critical voice to come back without you laughing at it’s words.


There is more where that came from

These are some examples of tools to upgrade your mental capacities, clean out negativity and gain GB’s of energy for other things – maintain your brain.

You can find these and more complex ones on the net, if you look for NLP, that is, neuro-linguistic programming, if you like to do more self-help.

However, you’re very welcome to drop me a note or a call for us to work together on a concrete toolkit tailored to you and your circumstances. Or you can subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and some great discounts.

On the left: the comic book made based on the children’s book.

Childhood dreams – for me this was certainly not 10 children like the Afke in the book. I preferred the writer’s feminism – she wrote a book about a strong woman in an era before women even had a right to vote!


Afke with the comic book "Afke" and the original book "Afke's tiental".

Two – honestly! – life-changing points to make on this quote.

  1. We tend to think problem focused: “Why does this happen? How can I be so stupid?”.
    As a result your brain comes up with ten reasons why you are stupid.
    Ok, so that was really helpful. NOT!
  2. Your brain does not register a negative. If I tell you not to think about a pink elephant….
    What happened in your mind’s eye? That’s right!
    So, asking yourself: “How do I make sure I don’t miss the deadline” will echo in your brain as:
    “… how to miss deadline… how to miss deadline…”

The short and simple conclusion is to practice the following:

  1. Register your thoughts about a challenge you are facing and ensure you re-write these thoughts into something that is solution oriented.
    “How will I handle this in future situations to be successful?”
  2. Ensure your goals and thoughts about them are positive. “What will I do this week to be ready on time?”.

If you are not yet quite aware of what is happening in your head – whether your internal voice is negative or positive – practice watching your own thought pattern.
At the moment you are facing a problem, have a negative experience, or need to set yourself a goal.
Or while you are sitting in a traffic jam: either to register how you react to the traffic itself, or how your internal voice is filling up time till the cars start to move again.

Then, each time you catch yourself nagging or making a negative statement, search for a positive way to reframe the situation or rephrase your goal.

Early 2013, I read the HBR piece by Umair Haque “How to have a year that matters”. In which he posed the following personal question, among a number of other relevant comments:
“… let me humbly ask: do you want to have a year that matters — or do you want to spend another year starring-slash-wallowing in the lowest-common-denominator reality show-slash-whiny soap opera of your own inescapable mediocrity-slash-self-imposed tragedy?”

OK, maybe that does not speak to you the way it did to me.

But Umair Haque also asked: Why are you here? I don’t mean to induce a full blown heart palpitation accompanied panic attack filled existential crisis in you (or maybe I do) — so let’s keep it simple. This coming year: why are you (really) here?”
Which did induce a full blown heart palpitation with panic attack and existential crisis. Why am I here? What am I doing here? Does this matter, what I do? Why do I really want to be here?

And then he asked: What do you want? Here are some perfectly valid answers, if tedious mediocrity is the limit of your horizon this year: money, sex, power, fame, keeping up with the Kardashians.”
None of those mattered that much now, even if they did before – OK, well the sex one I still dig that, but seriously, Kardashians… who the ^%*& cares? If you do care about them, don’t read this piece – it is not the right timing for you.

So, Umair Haque says What’s it going to take? […] You need to “use” not just your whole mind, but to learn to employ your whole being: mind, heart, soul, and body.”
I sensed that the only piece of myself that I was using at work was my brain, leading me to my next question: “Actually, where ís the rest of me…?” So I spent four years gathering the pieces. And deciding that in order to become a whole being the above list should also specify our gut. As in: gut feeling, as in: intuition, as in: EQ. Gives you so much additional information about the people and the world around you.

Last inspirational question for today: Who’s on your side? […] Who’s at your back, manning your sails, crewing your boat? Here’s a hint: if you look around and your boat’s empty, learn to lead. Challenge, provoke, inspire, connect — and then, harder still, evoke the best in people.”
I picked up the glove on this one and while inspiring my team and helping them to grow, I realized that manning the boats is the true calling, the true north of my life. So, there I go. Four years later including three years of post-graduate in psychology, I am starting a year that matters – and hopefully many years to come still. Let me help you with your crew. Thank you, Umair Haque.

I read Umair Haque’s HBR piece “How to have a year that matters” early 2013. Umair challenges the usual superficial New Year’s resolutions big time “ do you want to have a year that matters — or do you want to spend another year starring-slash-wallowing in […] mediocrity-slash-self-imposed tragedy?

I picked up the glove and started working through his questions – not that I remembered every single one of them, however, once you start considering what it means for you “to have a year that matters” you will work through them naturally.

He asks:  So what’s your true north? […] Does your true north point to consumption, status, transactions — instead of investment, accomplishments, relationships? If it’s the former, I’d bet: a life well lived is going to remain as elusive to you as it’s been to Lance.”

During the 2017 Tour de France, Lance was quoted: “Cycling is still struggling to come to terms with its past”.  He may be projecting his own state of mind there …
Anyway, rather than navel-gazing into eternity on how you ended up in south-eastern direction instead of north,  ask “How do I want to move on from here? ”, not “How did this all happen?”.

Many people I speak with are surprised that I would take this radical decision to leave a perfectly fine career and start something new and uncertain. Our inborn loss aversion often leads us into the sunk cost fallacy (Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow), or an escalation of commitment.  At our core, we prefer to continue the same behavior aligned with previous decisions, rather than alter course – our reptile brain loves a steady go. Even if continuation is irrational, no longer in line with our values and beliefs, resulting in mediocrity or a downward spiral of indifference to our daily work or lives.

Umair asks: What breaks your heart? […]It’s there that you begin to find what moves you. If you want to find your passion, surrender to your heartbreak. Your heartbreak points towards a truer north”

Over the last few years, I experienced real intimacy with people who were willing to open up their hearts and disclose their pain. Who knew they had to push through to save their relationships with partners, children, parents.  Who had the guts to face their monsters. To show their whole being. WOW! That is real. There is no tragedy in honesty, intimacy and openness. And yes, that includes facing my own monsters. Making this journey myself.

I close with the piece of his text that I chose to ignore.
“ And here’s the inconvenient truth: it’s going to take more than the tired old refrains of hard work, dedication, commitment, and perseverance. It’s going to take very real heartbreak, sorrow, grief, and disappointment. Only you can decide how much is too much. Is it worth it? […] The scales of life always hang before us — and always ask us to weigh the burden of our choices carefully.”

We’ll see. I have given myself a couple of years – I know I have no lack of perseverance.  Thank you, Umair.