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Archive for October 2018

Breaking Down Our Mental Barriers

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Le penseur de Rodin

Le Penseur – Rodin

Few months ago, I was diagnosed with a serious health problem. When the doctor told me that I should consult a specialist, it was a bit a shock for me, as I never had any health troubles during my whole life. The information collected on Internet about that problem was not to reassure me, as the statistics of that disease were not very good. Only 15% of people survive within the 5 years. The chance I had is that a member of my family talked with me about his brother who was diagnosed with the same disease more than 3 years ago, and who has a normal life. These comforting words made me think that it was senseless to panic before to have more information and a detailed diagnostic from the specialist about the situation.  After consulting the specialist and further medical investigations, the doctor announced me that the diagnostic was done just in time, and that I could hope to a complete healing.  Of course, it will be only the result of a medical treatment and a surgery, but at that time, I was thinking that I had to create the condition to succeed in that process. I was surprised by myself, about my resilience capacity. I was thinking the only thing I could do was to face the situation  and to reach the goal. Because I have no choice.

That experience, and I prefer to talk about experience than hardship that sounds negatively, make me thing about a metaphor I use when I doubt to start a project or to take a decision. I imagine I am at the edge of a swimming pool and I hesitate to dive in the swimming pool because I am not sure there is enough water in it. Probably that most of us are hesitating every day to take a decision because there are constraints and we are wondering how to deal with or if we want to assume these constraints. But here, in my present situation, I was thinking again about that metaphor. I was no more at the edge of the swimming pool but already falling in the swimming pool. In this case, the question was not to make a choice between an option or another, because you have only one option, but to take a decision. The decision to do all what is possible to succeed in my healing. And at this stage, I am still facing the situation, my moral is always on the top. I discover my capacity of resilience, and by this way empowering my self-confidence. But I also notice another important thing: I crossed a mental barrier.

In certain cases, our mental barriers are totally irrational. For instance, when an airplane crashes, some people hesitate to take one, or say that airplanes are dangerous. In the meantime, how many people die on a daily basis in car accidents? Much more but the difference is that most of the time, the information is not related in the media, and the number of victims in a car accident is lower than in an airplane crash, so less spectacular.  Statistically, you have more chance to die in a car accident than in an airplane crash. And who can predict that tomorrow, you will receive a roof tile on your head when leaving home? Nobody knows.  In fact, life without risks doesn’t exist and some risks levels are so low that taking a decision to change something in your life will not put you in bad shape.

Other mental barriers are more rational. For instance, people hesitate to change of job or to launch their own business, because they have loans to reimburse, they have to pay school fees for their children, etc. If they could have more certainties about the potential success they want to reach, they will probably make a faster choice. Does it mean that having to deal with constrains, transforming dream into reality is impossible? Certainly not. Having to deal with constraints is probably an opportunity to review your priorities in life. The desire to change can be intense, but change needs time, it doesn’t come overnight.
You probably think, for instance that entrepreneurs like more risks than other people and are taking decisions more easily. This affirmation is not necessarily true. Entrepreneurs are people who are more inclined to take risks, but they often first try to measure and evaluate risk, they are considering also what they are ready to lose.  What you should do to foster your decision is to consider all the constraints you have to deal with, and that are a part of your mental barriers, are essential in your life. Do you really need to have a big car? Do you need to have the last version of smartphone? All these things that weigh in your budget, that make you no more happy, and that are reducing your room of action. If you have a smaller car, a smaller home, but you the job you really want to do and not the one that pay a better salary to pay debts, you will be more happy, spending more time with your children, doing activities and hobbies that are opportunities to meet new people, to open new doors. In few words, reconsider your priorities in order to remove all these things creating mental barriers.

It is obvious that how bigger are our dreams, how impossible it seems to realize them. As already said, change doesn’t come overnight. Before considering ambitious challenges, consider first small challenges, like some habits you could change in your daily life. To use a metaphor, before to climb the Mount Everest, try to climb first a chair.  Each small challenge you will face, each small change you will do, will be an opportunity to learn, to discover new things, hide talents, or what else. Small changes will empower you step by step, and maybe guide you to more ambitious challenges. Considering big challenges first is sometimes the best way to do not start, or to hide the fact you are scared to start, by claiming that the task is not easy.

Our mental barriers are often the results of the environment we are living, where we try to secure everything. The only thing that is certain is the uncertainty. This uncertainty does not prevent us from doing things, taking decisions every day that make an enjoyable life. Time to time, we are facing failures, difficulties.  It is unavoidable, but it doesn’t mean that our entire life is a failure. A failure is an opportunity to learn and to progress, if we decide to face it on a positive way. Life is a journey, where each experience will drive you to the next one. It is the difference between living and only existing.


Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

October 30, 2018 at 08:53

The Motivations Of Change

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IMG_2272After times of reflection, I decided to sale my car and to use alternative transportation modes. I am the owner of a car since nearly 30 years and to take such decisions doesn’t come overnight.  Such change is never obvious, as the car is a comfortable way of transport. There are multiple reasons why I decided to take this decision. Some are evident, other are less so.

The first reason why I decided to use other ways of transport is the cost that represents the car for the usage I have of it since few years. Like in many cities, Brussels where I am living, is facing problems of mobility. The traffic is increasing every years, and when you calculate the average speed of movement, you are nearly going faster by walking. I am a bit joking, but for instance, during my last assignment as freelance project manager, I was spending more than an hour in the morning to drive 18 km to join my customer office. Considering this as senseless, I decided to take the metro, and I noticed that it took me a bit less time than with the car, but the difference was that I can use the time spent in the metro to read a book. I was feeling less stressed and had the feeling to have learned something by reading, avoiding to waste time. One of the consequences of using less my car is that the fixed costs are expensive for a low usage.  Insurance and taxes represent expensive charges for a car parked 99% of the time along the sidewalk.

Despite the possibilities of other transportation ways (metro, car-sharing, bicycle), I was still hesitating for a while to do the step, considering that it could be possible that I could need my car a day for a reason or another.  The reason was that I never know in advance where my next customer will be located, and if it will be possible to go there in a reasonable time.  And then, I started another reflection. I have several activities, and to do them on a regular basis and in relaxing mode, what you need is….time. So I was considering if I would still ready to lose hours in traffic jams or in a long distance on a daily basis, to work for a customer. The answer was clearly “No”.  Brussels and around is a city where most of the economic activity is concentrated, offering enough opportunities, and to spend hours and hours on the road is not the best way to make your day profitable.

Then, by considering the way to work and the constraints I was ready to assume, the argument of the transportation cost was a key element in my decision. After evaluating the cost of a bundle of transportation modes (metro, car-sharing, train), I evaluated that it would represent nearly maximum 50% of my car budget. When you buy a new car, you have an increase of depreciation costs, you contract an extra insurance premium, and it means that you need revenues to cover these costs.  And then, another reflection started in my mind. By reducing the transportation costs, it would allow me to get more choice of opportunities. I would have more freedom of choice, by working for an interesting project matching with my expectations and my values, instead of working only to earn money and pay invoices.  And it is probably the real question that must be asked: why am I working for?  As freelancer, am I working to pay a car or am I working to be happy by building my own project?

By writing this article, I remember a conference of Luc de Brabandere, a Belgian consultant specialized in creativity. Luc De Brabandere mentions that each change needs two steps to be effective. The first one is to change the way we are doing things, and the other one is the way we perceive that change.  In my case, when I started to take the metro, and when I found the opportunity to read books in the metro, the question was not how long will it take to reach the office, but what can I do during that time.  So the perception of time and the perception of moving is different. This is an interesting point and somebody was telling me recently that philosophers and neurosciences specialist are in opposition. Philosophers say that everybody is able to change and that it is only a question of will. Neuroscience specialists say that it is more complicated than that. They say that when we are doing something, there is always an associated emotion, and that emotion is printed in the reptilian brain. As far as that emotion is not replaced by another emotion, the effective change process is difficult and will not happen.  Here, in my experience, the pleasure to read books and to learn was higher than the pleasure to the comfort of a car, and so a new positive emotion has been printed in my brain.

Change is complex process that doesn’t come overnight. It implies another way to think and to represent things, to consider the direct and indirect advantages that the change provides.  A change has to be desired and not imposed, and there is a time needed to integrate it. But you will notice that to start such process is a way to discover new opportunities and to move to a more enjoyable life. The key is to find the deepest motivations of your life.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

October 20, 2018 at 14:53