Three innocent decisions that changed my life forever

volunteer teacher

Sometimes you’re more than aware, that you’re about to make a life changing decision.

Maybe it’s the moment you finally decide to leave this partnership, that’s no longer working. Maybe it’s the decision to quit your job or to move to another country. Maybe it’s the decision to launch your own business. These are all memorable, life changing moments, and usually we prepare carefully for them.

But sometimes those life changing decisions come in an innocent disguise. A chance encounter, an inspirational conversation, a workshop, a trip, a new neighbour, an old friend…only in retrospect we understand, how impactful that innocent moment, encounter, or insight had been, and what it had set in motion in our lives.

For me, this life changing moment “in disguise” happened almost nine years back, when I decided, for the first time, to spend my vacations in a totally different way.

No fancy vacation resorts, no cultural and culinary infused city trips, no teaming up with family or friends. Instead, volunteer work as an English Teacher in North-Eastern Thailand, rural countryside and not a single known face.

That had been my first, significant, out-of-the-box decision!

Daring something completely new, completely unforeseeable, and completely out of my comfort zone. And little did I know it was the start of an unstoppable development in my personal and professional life, and the start of a changing my approach towards my own life, and my own future.

Looking back, this “innocent” decision had initiated a life changing shift from being a Life Planner to slowly becoming a Life Designer.

So what was it, that had provoked that shift to slowly moving towards being a Life Designer?

For sure, there’ve been many elements and contributors to this new journey of mine, but nevertheless, I think I can pinpoint three main ones.

Three solid starting points, for any kind of shift in our lives.

Innocent decision #1: From Taking to Giving

My usual reflections around my vacation planning were always somewhere along the lines of: What can I get out of this?

How can I get the maximum of relaxation, of fun, of adventure, of new new impressions out of a trip or a vacation stay? What’s in there for me? Legitimate questions, especially when you worked hard for those 25 days of vacation per year.

But that one time, nine years back, I didn’t ask that questions. The only question relevant to me in that moment was: What do I have to offer? What can I give?

And to be totally honest, I wasn’t convinced at all that I had to offer many valuable things besides my 9-5-work-force-expertise as a Lobbyist (and I doubted, any of this was needed in a rural Thai village).

Luckily, this one time I didn’t follow my doubts or inner critic, but instead I followed my intuition. And this intuition was proved to be right in so many ways, it would take a book to share them all (well, actually that’s what I’m busy with right now, so stay tuned for the long version of these life changing experiences and learnings ;).

In those few weeks, I was able to give so much: inspiration, laughter, learnings, warmth, kindness and confidence. And without having expected it, I received a tenfold back! In inspiration, laughter, learnings, warmth, kindness and confidence.

Innocent decision #2: From Planning to Curiosity

“If you have no idea what to expect, you’ve nothing to plan! All you have is your curiosity, an open mind and an open heart. More than enough, I would say.”

What felt highly intimidating at first, turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in disguise, and marked the starting point for my new love affair with “The Unknown”.

Everything I’ve lived in those 6 weeks, was so far outside of my imagination, I could only approach it with curiosity. Good old planning wasn’t an option any longer!

And guess what, I loved it! And no one was more surprised about this, than I, myself. Because my very own belief, that I’m not cut out for uncertainty, for the unknown, was exactly that: Only a belief! And finally I was able to prove that one wrong.

Innocent decision #3: From Talking to Connecting

If I had to name one skill, I thought I’d truly mastered during my 10 years of being a Lobbyist in Brussels, I would have named my communication skills. Communication in all its different shapes and forms:

The polite, easy breezy small-talk, the insisting, convincing, fact-based argumentation, the determined negotiation. Yes, I’ve learned to talk, in all shapes and forms. But had I also mastered the one thing, we’re all looking for in our lives: Creating real and heartfelt connections and bonds?

As paradox as it might sound, I had to “mute” myself from this constant talking-mode, to understand that true connections are less the result of refined conversation skills, but rather the result of an inner attitude and receptiveness.

I spent those weeks in a family where English simply wasn’t an option, nor any other language that somehow sounded familiar to me. I could only guess when it was time to eat, but no chance of ever understanding, what we’re about to eat. I could only guess, when everyone was getting ready to leave the house, but no chance of ever knowing, where we would go.

I spent hours with my guest mom in her kitchen, not really talking, but having so much fun. And I started to wonder: Why all those elaborate conversation and negotiation skills, when in the end, all I was really longing for, was creating true, heartfelt and meaningful human connections. And for this, words are not even needed.

So when is your journey starting?

All it takes is one out-of-the-box decision, to set a new life journey in motion!

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