Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine about bringing out the child in us. We joked and pretended that we were young children again. There were lots of “what if….” and “just pretend that…”, but then I was being confronted with a huge surprise. “Thank you so much Dirk”, she told me after a while. “For what?” I asked. “For reviving me, and bringing out the child in me again. I am in awe.”
The child in you is always alive
Although my friend somehow knew that this little child was not completely forgotten, she could have never envisioned that it could be coming alive so quickly though. It took her completely off guard and woke her up, from years and years of being in some kind of sleepy state. Not feeling fully alive. Not feeling playful and light. This seriousness and sense of responsibility had crept into her life over the years, without even realizing it. But by being playful, something was triggered inside her—her inner child woke up!
From personal experience, I know that many grownups prefer to ignore to listen to the child within them. Many of us often feel that it’s childish to think that way: “What can a child offer us?” But they forget that this child is who they really are. This child once was in awe when watching the first snow flakes coming down. This same child loved to play outside all day long. Wasn’t hungry when mum called for dinner and wasn’t tired during the 3-day school trip. We were fully alive!
So what has happened then?
We are expected to grow up. School suddenly becomes more serious, and high marks make our teachers and parents happy. We apply for admission to a respected university. Mostly, not because it’s our passion, but because our parents think this is the best choice to secure a good future career. Do I need to go on? You get it, right?
I will share a secret with you that I kept completely to myself up to a year ago or so. When I was fourteen and in high school, I had to choose the subjects I wanted to focus on. I had no clue what I wanted to do after school, I was only fourteen. My dad was getting concerned and had me sign up for a career test. I was not motivated at the time, but went through almost a full day of psychological tests. The end-result was not very helpful to me – I could listen well and I was very creative, and some career options were being presented. I was not impressed. But about a month or so later, I found the official test results somewhere on my dad’s desk and started reading. I was in shock! They basically concluded that I wasn’t very smart and they found it hard to come up with a good advise for Dirk.
I had always been a happy kid and I was doing pretty well at school, but reading this report changed my life for the next twenty years. I started believing that I was stupid and school became a struggle. At some point, I felt so bad about it that I wanted to prove I wasn’t stupid. About twenty years later, I was working as a CEO for American Express. I had built an amazing career and was very successful in what I did. But I wasn’t happy… I just wanted to prove to myself and to my family that I wasn’t stupid. How sad.
When you become disconnected from your heart, you’re not living. But when you’re connected to your heart, you become like a child. You’re a spark of divine energy. I can tell you, that I am deeply connected to my heart now, and I am very grateful for this traumatic experience. It was my teacher!
The medieval mystic Mechthild von Magdeburg said it beautifully: “A fish cannot drown in water, and a bird does not fall from the sky. Each creature must find its God given element.”
I was therefore touched by Paulo Coelho’s words in the movie The Power of The Heart – The child says: “Hello I am here.” But we are grown up now and not going to listen to this child, because this child has childish dreams, and so we forget the child. The moment we forget the child, we think that the child is going to forget us. But the child is not going to forget us. This child will always be here and says again: “Hello, I am here. I am talking to you. Can you listen?” You will then say: “Shut up, I don’t want to listen to you.”
But the day that you’re facing death, this child will be there again, and will ask you: “Why didn’t you listen to me?” You then have to answer. And your answer will be your hell, or your heaven.
3 simple ways to connect with the child in you
It would be easy for me to tell you just to do fun stuff. Things that you are really passionate about. Although that is definitely important, I believe there’s something more to this. Below are three simple ways of teaching yourself to connect with the child in you.
1. Becoming aware of now
Science shows us that we are pure energy systems. We are for over 99% energy and the remaining 1% is matter. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? So if we are virtually pure energy, we need to make sure that we tap into this energy, if we want to connect to our deepest self, our soul, the child in you. There’s a law in science that says: “Where the attention goes, is where the energy flows.” So, in stead of always being focused on everything outside of you, which will cause you to disconnect you from yourself, start becoming aware of what you are doing in this very moment — feel what you feel right now, become aware of the flavours of the food you put into your mouth, truly enjoy the sounds of the instruments and voice when you listen to your favourite music and take in all the beautiful elements of nature when you go outside. And when thoughts do come up, just ignore them and ask yourself: “What is it that I feel right now?”
You’ll start noticing that the many thoughts that go through your head on a continuous basis, won’t be so intense anymore. You literally start creating space in between all of your thoughts, and it’s exactly in that void, between your thoughts, where your creativity (your inner child) can be accessed.
2. A picture of you
One of my favourite things to do is to grab an old picture from when I was 4, 5 or 6 years old. Then, just sit down at a place where you won’t be disturbed, and just look at this picture. Can you still feel how you felt at that moment? Excited, silly, happy, curious? What did your days look like? What kind of fantasies and dreams did you have? What did you like the most? Whatever comes up, and without thinking or using any judgements, write this down on a piece of paper. Now just look at yourself, sitting in the chair, 20, 30 or 40-something years later. You’re still this same child. Your body might have changed, and you might have accumulated more experiences, but this little child, with exciting dreams and passions is still there.
3. Heart focused breathing
This is the most powerful step – the heart focused breathing. The healing power of breath has been used over thousands of years already, but seems almost insignificant in our fast paced life with continuous, external stimuli. In this exercise, you will shift your attention (and therefore your energy) to your heart, energetically the most powerful organ in your body.
STEP 1: Focus your attention in the area of your heart. Feel your breath flowing in and out through your lungs, and just breathe a little slower than you normally would.
STEP 2: With each breath, draw in the feelings from your childhood memories and feel them in your heart while breathing.
STEP 3: Set a genuine intent to anchor these memories throughout your day, and use them while working on new ideas and projects.
Please let me know how much fun you had in trying the exercises, and how it changed your perception on your current life. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to follow me on Facebook or on Twitter.
Why are so many of us often searching for the perfect work-life balance, while we are actually trying to find a meaningful ‘work-work balance’? And why is it so hard for us to find true satisfaction in our work and how come that so many of us experience stress, often leading to a burn-out?
Working in a large corporation for example can generate stress, because we are expected to meet deadlines, achieve targets to keep the shareholders satisfied and thus, living up to many people’s expectations. It’s not new to me. I’ve done it myself for about 15 years.
If you run your own business it can be even more stressful: Making ends meet, wanting to be successful, more growth, even more responsibilities.
It doesn’t sound like much fun when you think about it, does it?
And that’s why we love to close the door behind us at the end of a stressful workday. The ones who are fortunate find time to relax while spending time with the family, but many of us can’t stop worrying about the challenges in our work. It can put stress on our private lives.
Suffering from stress is a very unhealthy situation.
A MORE SATISFYING APPROACH?
When I open my twitter account, I see an overwhelming number tweets about ‘how to’ this and that.., ‘the top 10 of …’ and ‘do’s and dont’s…’.
When I watch the news I hear headlines like ‘Muslim danger’, ‘on the brink of nuclear bomb’ and ‘start-ups fight back’. Think about it, how does that make you feel when you read this, day in day out? In most cases it creates ‘fear’. And what does fear do to us?
We start seeking approval from others, we need more power to suppress that fear, we become unkind and start worrying all the time. We are now heavily dependent of external factors in stead of relying on our ‘true self’.
Our true self is un-fearful, feeling beneath no-one, it is immune to criticism and it is fully relying on our personal and unique talents.
HOW TO CONNECT TO OUR TRUE SELF?
You could start by spending some time in nature and realize how perfect the flowers, trees, birds and rivers are. Being tuned in to the creative mind of nature, makes you independent of things and people. You will also realize that you are part of this wonderful creation. That same creativity of nature is already inside of you. You just have to tap into it.
It also helps if you stop judging other people around you. In fact, what you’re doing is merely judging yourself, and you block the access to your own insight and creativity. Judging is, again, fear based. Let it go. Fear is an illusion, because it is just an anticipation of what might happen in the future.
You might have heard of the ‘law of attraction’; what you focus on, is what you attract into your life. I would call it the ‘law of the universe’.
So what happens when we begin to realize that if we start trusting our own personal values, stop fearing anything and ignore the ‘how-to’s and ‘don’ts’?
We will start enjoying the process as we won’t be focused so much on the results. We see more opportunities in stead of obstacles and more and more, we will begin to rely on our personal talents and know that our own potential is infinite.
In the beginning, you might have a hard time managing this new process. Just be quiet, look around you and see everything that is already perfect and listen to your heart that always tries to tell you the right thing, but we have forgotten to listen to it or take it serious enough and we rather listen to what our mind tells us.
Don’t let your habits overshadow your creativity. Why not take another route to your work or hook up with some different colleagues, you will be surprised about the impact this will have on your mood and creativity.
Slowly you will start managing the above and slowly you will also start feeling more balance between your work and your own self. You will also notice that you will be more productive, more creative and more energetic.
And by the time you come home, you will still feel much better and continue using these principles at home in your personal life. You won’t need the urge to start balancing work and personal life. You are already balanced!
Have fun, good luck and let me know how that goes!
Incredibly emerald blue and full of energy. The elements of nature are so wonderful.
We are standing near the beautiful Kootenay River and Sequoyah Trueblood tells us in an inspiring way about the important connection between humans and nature. We are all quietly listening and I notice that his words touched something deep in my heart. An intense feeling of peace comes over me. He is so right. Will our life lessons begin?
Sequoyah takes us out for a hike.
Together with my family I am a guest at the ‘Cross River Wilderness Centre‘ bordering Kootenay National Park, in the west flank of the Rocky Mountains. Coming from the highway, we follow the directions, turn off onto a small forest road which takes us along the Kootenay River to the cozy cabins near the small ‘Cross River’.
What a location!
A rustic cabin in the Cross River Wilderness Centre.
Rob and Marilyn Patenaude treat us on a warm welcome. Since 1996, they share this amazing place with their guests. They both speak proudly about the nature, offer educational programs, and offer 8 rustic cabins for overnight stays. These rustic cabins are tucked away in the forest and all have hot and cold running water, a toilet and shower, fireplace and solar power. This is an experience where Europeans can only can dream of.
During dinner we meet more guests and I can’t help noticing how ‘contagious’ everyone’s friendliness is. Brad, a very kind and motivated chef has prepared a delicious, organic meal for us and during dinner time we meet Sequoyah Trueblood, a 72-year-old First Nations elder who lives and teaches here.
Born in Oklahoma, his father is Choctaw-Cherokee-Chickasaw, and mother German-English. As a young Native boy growing up in the 50’s, like many, Sequoyah was separated from his family and forced into the residential boarding school system in an attempt to civilize the so-called ‘native animal’ in him. When Sequoyah left the boarding school at age of 17, he joined the army. He excelled quickly becoming a Green Beret in Vietnam, running Special Operations in connection with a First Special Forces Group and Military Assistance Command. Sequoyah is also the first to admit that his ‘glorious service’ is darkened by his many insights into the wrong doings of American policy makers at that time.
Since his time in the military, Sequoyah has worked extensively with First Nations youth wilderness programs as well as youth treatment centers for substance abuse. Through Native teachings and practices in the sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies, and vision questing, he is beckoned across this great mother earth to guide those who request his help. As a Choctaw Wisdom Keeper, Sequoyah has spoken at the United Nations, advised top business executives from prominent international companies, counselled numerous celebrities, government agencies, and has held council with the Dalai Lama.
The next morning, after breakfast, we follow Sequoyah to his Konkurra Medicine Lodge in the forest. He manoeuvres his tall and frail, but flexible body over a narrow trail and when you see him walking on his flip-flops you would’t give him 72 years of age.
One of the teachings he has shared with us is that of leadership – how to “work from the circle. In the circle, all are equal… leadership is then from within… all have a voice, no one is more important than another.”
He also explains to us that everything flows from the Divine. “Everything that comes through comes through in its own perfection. We human beings, with our intellect, try to divide it up. When we can get to that place in our lives when we can accept each thing that comes to us as just another opportunity to heal ourselves, we can be at peace with it all. Even though it may not look like that at the time, as soon as we are able to say “I don’t know,” that’s when we are able to allow Great Spirit to work in our lives,” he says.
We then leave the spiritual lodge and head out for a hike together through the rugged Rocky Mountain wilderness, wade through the Cross River and learn about edible plants and their healing powers.
Rob Patenaude prepares the hot tub.
Back in the wilderness centre, Rob asks us if we would like to use the wood fired hot tub. Of course we like that and by the time the first stars appear on the sky, the hot tub measures a comfortable 38 deg. C. And while we watch the bright galaxies above us, Brad prepares a bonfire, gets his guitar and plays a couple of songs for us.
Life is so wonderful and Joe Cocker’s lyrics ‘the best things in life are the simple things’ come to my mind. I then close my eyes and repeat Sequoyah’s mantra:
GREAT THANKS – GREAT PEACE – GREAT LOVE.
Thank you brother Sequoyah!
How beautiful are Manuel Bandeira‘s (Brazilian poet) words about a flowing river:
To be like a flowing river
silent through the night,
not fearing the darkness and
reflecting any stars high in the sky.
And if the sky is filled with clouds,
the clouds are water like the river, so
without remorse reflect them too.
The flowing Illecillewaet River in BC, Canada.
Personally, I love these words. We often have the tendency to ‘fight’ against something or to ‘try harder’.
When the water [in the river] comes across obstacles, like rocks, it smoothly flows around them in stead of trying to push the rocks on the side.
Birds never try hard to sing, they just sing, and flowers never try hard to bloom, they just bloom. That’s the law of nature, or existence if you like.
And we’re part of that. No, we ARE that!
How perfect is this?
Maybe it’s worth trying to literally ‘go with the flow’. Pretty soon you will find that it’s not a matter of ‘trying’ anymore.
Please let me know how this feels to you.
That sounds like a no-brainer to me. Like ‘the Bike helmet law’ is a no-brainer (but that’s a funny one when you think about it).
My personal experience is that ‘do it right’, or ‘on purpose’ if you like, is not so much part of our culture these days. If you ask me ‘why’, then my answer is simple; ‘we are not proud of what we are doing anymore’.
Steve Jobs was always passionate and proud of what he was doing
Quality professionals know the importance of the phenomenon ‘do it right the first time’. And they often develop complex theories about this subject. We love to make things complex.
It’s not just a ‘quality issue’, as damage repair is usually more expensive than the cost of the original process.
Japanese companies like Toyota follow the Kaizen principle and are highly successful with this. The word Kaizen means “continuous improvement”. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis.
In most cases these are not ideas for major changes. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis: always improving productivity, safety and effectiveness. And that adds up when you think about it.
Tourism is not any different
I am the co-owner of a receptive (incoming) tour operator in British Columbia. This means that we buy products and services, package them in a smart and consumer-ready-for-consumption way. We sell these travel packages to travel agents in Europe. So we’re right in the middle between the suppliers and the travel agents. Managing a smooth process here is key for the success of our business. I often like to tell our people that ‘the magic is in the process’. Although we can have full control over our internal processes, we won’t be able to manage our partner’s processes and work ethics. But I can tell you, there is lots of room for improvement.
If you are proud of what you’re doing, whatever this is, it also means that you care. That you are passionate and doing things on purpose and not merely see it as ‘chores’ that come with the job.
Actually, I don’t care so much about the cause, nor do I buy excuses like ‘this fast paced, ever changing world often outsmarts us’. We ARE the world and therefore we can’t outsmart ourselves. I rather concentrate on changing our personal belief system.
Passion and caring is something that comes from the inside. From the heart. For some this comes completely natural. But you can also learn it. And it’s fun!
It’s never embarrassing to be passionate about what you do
Pain & Pleasure
We as human beings are so transparent and so easy to fool.
Everything that we do, every day, every hour, every minute, is something that makes us comfortable and feel good. This is what I call our hang for ‘pleasure’.
We try to stay far away from something that makes us feel uncomfortable or generates pain. No-brainer? Sure! But it’s that simple.
So, here comes the trick.
If you like to see more passion in your employees and reduce the number of mistakes, then you will have to find out which elements will make them feel good, but also what they tend to avoid, because it makes them feel uncomfortable.
A person might have ‘taught’ himself that it is quite scary to deal with responsibilities. Something could go wrong and then he will be held accountable for it. This can be a cultural or family influence or he might have had a bad experience in the past. In one word, its ‘scary!’
So when you know this, it is really fun to do a brief brainstorm session together (or as a team) and try to come up with the positive side effects of taking responsibility. This could be:
1. that you feel really good when you know that your boss fully trusts you in working on a task
2. that it is pretty cool to come up with some possible solutions on your own and try them
3. by the time you finish the task successfully, you are so proud of yourself and so will your colleagues and your boss be
4. you want more of this!
5. and if you don’t complete the task the way you want it the first time, it is a great learning moment that will certainly help you to do it right thereafter.
Did you notice something?
You suddenly start to care about what you’re doing, because you feel good about working on this task. And when you start caring about things, you automatically WANT to do them right. It’s part of our pride. How cool is this? A sudden shift in your personal belief system.
It is of course very important that you encourage your employees to take initiatives and let them know that you value this highly. That you’re proud of them.
We all know that a compliment and a hand on our shoulder means so much than for example a single pay raise.
You can of course also apply this exercise to yourself.
As you might have noticed, I like to simplify things and situations. It is easier and more fun to work with it and I know it works! Always.
When I was working for American Express in Europe, I used to manage a large team of experienced consultants. Consultants love to make things complex (and then they come up with their solution).
But I don’t believe in complexity. And the ones that were highly successful, were the ones that took a step back and just used their common sense.
I wish you good luck, lots of passion and caring, but foremost ‘fun’ in what you’re doing.
Drop me a mail when you have any questions or feedback. I appreciate it.