When I first heard the news about COVID-19, I felt overwhelmed. I had just spent two weeks in utter bliss in Bali, and arriving back home in Holland, I found out that the government was requiring citizens to stay in lockdown until further notice. My holiday vibe was gone in just seconds. Clients called me to cancel their appointments for the time being. Thankfully, I had enough clients who wanted to continue working with me via video calling, but I suddenly had huge gaps in my calendar. I was in shock, but not because of the cancellations. It was the way my lifestyle changed so radically.
It took me a week to go through all kinds of emotions to finally arrive at a new adjusted state of mind. Soon I found a new routine and started to love the easy pace of my days. This slower pace gave me a life similar to my years living in Bali, where I had space and time to digest and check in with myself to feel what I need. There were no appointments to rush to, and my calendar had lots of space, just the way I liked it.
“It is a profound life experience when you learn how to listen to what is inside of you and learn to create space for yourself.”
This was an important reminder of why I made such a drastic leap five years ago. My life used to be that of a 'normal' Dutch life. I had a 9-5 job and a full calendar. I was just busy, but not satisfied with my life. It's not how I wanted to live. I didn't know what I had been longing for until I moved to Bali in 2015. It was there that I learned what it felt like to live life in the present—allowing it to unfold moment by moment. The Balinese lifestyle has a way of forcing you to live in the moment. You make appointments, and 99% of the time, they change. It forces you to become flexible and appreciate every moment and interaction. It was different from what many of us in the 'western' lifestyle are used to in our lives, where being busy is seen as a sign of being successful and productive.
This new 'go-with-the-flow' lifestyle forced me to unlearn everything from my old way of living. It wasn't easy, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me! What I learned was to be in the here and now. I learned to live a life where I could spend a lot of time alone, without the need for constant distractions to keep me occupied. Back in Holland, I had been consistently on the move, always distracted by everything I needed to do and everywhere I needed to be. To be social, and to be seen as productive. Because if I wasn't, I didn't fit in with the busy pace of the Dutch lifestyle.
The kind of lifestyle I then adopted in Bali, was seen as slower-paced, and even seemed 'lazy' to some of my family and Dutch friends once I continued it back home. But it was this lifestyle, one with room to think, and grow, and live in the moment, that I realized suited my soul. It was what I had been longing for in my life.
I learned that slowing down and taking the time to just 'be' (as opposed to just 'doing') can be frightening when you have never learned how. When you are used to being busy and always have a list of things you are trying to do, slowing down can be uncomfortable! You are confronted with yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, your body. You may feel guilty or unproductive doing 'nothing,' by just being with yourself.
But my dear reader, giving yourself this kind of space is not 'nothing.' It is very much 'something.'
It is a profound life experience when you learn how to listen to what is inside of you and learn how create space for yourself. Once you learn to be comfortable with slowing down and being with yourself, you realize that you don't feel lonely as you might fear. In fact, it's the opposite. You start to connect with and build a relationship with yourself.
In time, when you have passed the uncomfortable stage of quieting the noise and distractions of the outside world, you begin to hear your voice. You see, when we fill up every space in our schedules, we are always surrounded by noise. It may be in the opinions of others, in the expectations of society and our families, in social media. Noise is all around us. And this leaves us without space to hear our own voice and the wisdom that comes when we take time to listen.
Quieting the noise and taking time for yourself allows you to hear your inner voice and realize just how wise it is. This inner wisdom becomes a teacher. It can show you what you need the most, your true desires, which direction to go, or which decision to make. When you spend time nurturing this inner voice, it becomes easily accessible and acts as a compass in all areas of your life.
The events this year have caused so many of us to slow down, whether we felt comfortable or not. Let us use this change to create more space in our lives. To begin to hear our inner wisdom. The world is showing us that even the greatest leaders do not have all wisdom we can rely on.
I genuinely believe there is greater wisdom in all of us, but we forgot how to use it. Let us listen to the signs given to us to start becoming leaders in our own right. Now is the perfect time to make that change!