It’s more than you think

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting on the floor with an A3 sheet in front of me. There is some music playing in the background and all spread over the room are all my teammates doing the same exercise as me. I picked dark pink and dark green to write with and congratulate myself for this wonderful choice. It looks awesome! Ok, back to business, I’ve just written down the idea and goal of my project. Now what are my learning goals? That’s an easy one for me: I want to grow more self-confidence, learn that I don’t have to be perfect before starting something and learn to network, to talk to people about my ideas to see collaboration possibilities because this scares me. I start smiling. I have chosen the perfect project for myself! By challenging myself to create a training program which I will facilitate myself, I really have to brand myself and put myself out there. I created the perfect environment to learn what I so dearly want to learn. This is also the challenge I am encountering right now. I have to go out there, do it and talk to people.

Right now I want to look back at my previous blog posts and see what I’ve done with my reflections so far.


I’ve written more than once about my learning goals because it is the challenge I keep encountering. I want to learn to do without controlling the situation. As I wrote in “Knowmads Welcome Home”: ‘The fear of not being in control of the situation which might result in me failing freezes me.’ I experience two counteractive feelings. On the one hand my deep wish of thriving, of putting myself out there, of contributing and helping others with my talents. On the other hand my deep fear holding me back and a deep pain of not seeing myself bloom. During Phan Y Ly’s last session I noticed these dichotomist feelings coming up strongly when we were asked to write our names in the air, using our whole bodies, while everybody was watching us. Only now I manage to put words to these feelings I observed then. It feels like these feelings are not on the surface, they’re not always easy to reach. But they are always present and influencing my behaviour. Or should I say my non-behaviour, since they freeze me most of the time, preventing me from doing anything. It feels as if I need to break through something in me. The many things we do with Knowmads help me see this more clearly because every time I encounter this challenge I recognize it because I freeze. It becomes especially clear for me during my personal project. I find a thousand reasons not to start contacting people and continue perfecting my ideas first. Yet, I feel ready to break through these feelings. It hasn’t happened yet though. All this makes me wonder. I observe these contradictive feelings of me with some curiosity, trying to recognize it each time, welcoming it as were it an old friend, so that one of these days it feels safe enough to show its’ true face enabling me to look it in the eyes and smile at it. What has happened with my difficulty of asking questions during workshop sessions?

I have tried to be aware of the questions and comments I have in mind. And I have always shared them with the whole group. There were moments where I felt nervous about it and needed to push myself to raise my voice. Usually these moments occurred when I hadn’t clearly formulated my question or idea in my head. However when I started speaking it always turned out fine. There were also moments where I didn’t feel nervous about saying what I had to say. The result of my practice: I have participated a lot more in discussion than I usually do!

Moreover I see how these discussions and active participation have helped a lot in clarifying my own thought patterns and opinions. I had no idea it works like that. By asking questions or contributing with comments, hearing the responses and observing my own approval, surprise or disappointment I learned. I learned what is important to me, when I seem to be an exception with my ideas, or when I am in line with other people’s thoughts and opinions. I see now that actively participating in discussions is a way of testing my own thoughts. It starts feeling like a fun game to me now.

Critical thinking keeps being on my mind. I was always convinced that I’m bad at it. In high school and during my first years at university I gained little experience in critical thinking and debating skills. Simply because in France there is not much discussion in classrooms. When I moved back to the Netherlands I encountered difficulties participating in classroom discussions. Observing all the discussions at university in Berlin and Amsterdam gave me a feeling of how important critical thinking and debating is in the academic world.

I have however developed system thinking a lot more and I see how valuable it is to me. I realize now how much I benefit from mindfulness practice, because that enabled me to really open my mind and see connections between things that are not necessarily so obvious. I think this is a skill that should be added to critical thinking and debating skills.

Being out of my usual circles of friends and colleagues shows me what I have started to take for granted. It makes me aware of how other people think. For example, green and sustainable living awareness is so normal in Europe. Here in Vietnam it is not that evident at all. So this requires me to communicate differently about it. It was also an eye opener to see how many young people are interested in self-development and mindfulness practice here. I didn’t expect that at all. For many it is very new. The reasons why people are interested in it are slightly different. This also requires me to reflect on my communication around it. Finally, the past few years I’ve been surrounded by people who are real system thinkers. Obviously not everybody is or has learned about this. It is good for me to be faced with that reality.

After writing my last blog entry about Educating Changemakers, in which I connected different ideas from different places, and after noticing my passion about system thinking these last two weekends an idea came to mind. For me it’s all about linking our various past experiences and gained knowledge in a way that is meaningful for us right now. New input in form of the workshops we have at Knowmads can do that. For instance last week, when Mr. Don Tuan Phuong talked about social enterprises and NGOs, thoughts were triggered in me about GNH and how that could link to social entrepreneurship. What we measure as success of a country or a business determines the direction we will take as a country or business. Later on I also connected this to the importance of measuring time use of people in a society and the science of sustainable behaviour change.

Mr. Luu Duc Hiep was doing just that during his lecture. He convinced us by using figures and facts (science and statistics) followed by touching our emotions by sharing his personal story (story telling). I think he could apply this interdisciplinary approach more into his business. Connecting different approaches and disciplines could help him achieve his purpose even better: making businesses greener. He comes from an engineer perspective, if he adds a behavioural approach to this, it would strengthen his methods and results. Combining technologies that make a business greener with sustainable behaviour change of the employees working there can be extremely effective.

He was pretty grey in his vision, he said it himself. He wasn’t very positive, saying it is difficult to make a change and make people understand. And that’s true. However, for me this also showed that separate thinking limits our vision for possibilities. Interconnecting and system thinking, opens up possibilities. And this is exactly why I think system thinking is so important to me.

Another example is sustainability. What is sustainability? Is it simply living in a green way to preserve the planet? I think it means a lot more. It means a long term vision and business. It means sustainability for yourself, sustaining yourself financially but also making sure your motivation and energy don’t disappear by keeping your passion alive. Sustainability means that a business is also economically supportive of the community it is situated in. How can you effectively implement green ways of living and doing business if you can’t nurture long term passion in yourself to continue doing this work? How can you continue your project when you burn out or go bankrupt personally? How can you call your own business sustainable when it destroys the community you are living and working in? And how can you say you work for a sustainable world if your business will only survive for two years? Sustainability is itself an interconnection of different fields, disciplines, dimensions of work and attention.

Everything that exists in this world is made up of so many different elements that interrelate with each other: our projects, a cake, social issues, environmental issues, a flower, you. So take a closer look at it, you might be surprised. 😉

1391744_245541038938165_1609853366_n week 4 (1) week 4 (2) week 4


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