You have heard me say this a lot in the past few years but especially in the last 18 months: The time has come to change how we work, how we design our lives and what values we base on each of them – and ourselves. It’s time for a new era of work culture and lifestyle design.
Most of the times you have heard me talk about it from the perspective of statistics coming out about generations going through burnout, or work culture in companies that obviously make us sick, or also the sheer amount of work that’s not necessary anymore that keeps us stuck in a hamster wheel – running us more and more into frustration, burnout, feeling unfulfilled and empty.
Today I want to share a different perspective – one you may have not heard from me so far, one that may stifle you a bit at first, or maybe even repel you. I dare you to stick with me through this, I promise it’ll be worth it. If you don’t agree by the end you will at least take something away to think about, something that may shift a perspective for you that you got trapped in and didn’t even realize you need this shift.
Stay with me – and you will take away something valuable, I promise.
The Beginning of the End – My wake up call
A word up front: I won’t tell you the whole story, because you can read in my book about it in more detail and I have also published an article about it should you want a more in-depth version of this.
My wake-up call was one of those that I have been denied to talk about, own and heal from for many years. 12 years to be exact.
It wasn’t one of those where you are really ill and finally realize you need to turn your life around – no. I was in pain all my life, was born with a life-threatening kidney failure that has caused me recurring infections and other troubles for most of my life. I was also born with a neurological disorder that has been the cause of consistent excruciating pain for all my life.
But that was not it.
My wake-up call started with one of those days where I was determined to do it all – as usual.
I was 19 and I worked full-time in 3 jobs besides my high school and now university degree for 6 years straight. By this time I didn’t know about lifestyle design. 2 hours of sleep a night (or in the afternoon between the university and the first job of the day) for more than 6 years, but I didn’t need more. I had plenty of coffee, red bull, and snicker bars. Sometimes I had a full meal, too. Or just ham & cheese toast. I didn’t like sleeping anyways, I guess that’s why I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours since I was about 12 – the dreams and nightmares were way too visual, too painful, too enduring.
So on this day, I was out and about by 4 am. By the time I was home for the first time that day, it was evening. But something was different that day. I didn’t feel very energetic, my vision went blurry, with black dots showing up right in front of me and my migraines started to knock me out in an instant.
By the end of the night, I had a cardiac arrest, being surrounded by my parents, an ambulance team, and a lot of yellow in my apartment. I was clinically dead for about 25 seconds, as my neurologist and cardiologist diagnosed me the next day.
You see – my wake-up call was not the disease, or the overworking, or the death of someone close.
Somehow – it was everything in one, except I died myself. And talking about it, owning it, just doesn’t fit into what society believes about how our lives should look like.
I want to share a bit of this experience with you because this is the beginning of the end for my extreme hustle & grind mentality (no worries it took another 8 years for me to actually learn the lesson, phase-out of that mindset and stop hustling). It was also the beginning of my understanding of the toxicity we have perpetuated in work culture for decades now and how it impacts us on an individual level – but also as a society. It was also the beginning of me learning about lifestyle design and moving my life more and more into a whole new direction.
But it has especially been the beginning of my dedicated mission & work to bring about a new era of work culture & lifestyle design.
And that is what I want to talk about with you today.
The bright white light that changed everything
You may have heard of near-death experiences or out-of-body experiences before, and many if not all have this one thing in common: The white light. In some shape or form, there is always this white light involved that appears in front of the person and is later usually identified as ‘the source’.
For me, it appeared as a light that I personally couldn’t appreciate at the time. It reminded me of these super bright white LED hospital lights, and frankly, I had enough of hospitals. It was so white I couldn’t possibly look right into it or I felt like I’d go blind.
The light radiated through all of space, the space where I was floating in. I left my body, the moment my heart stopped beating. I was hovering in the top right corner of the room, watching my parents, the ambulance team, and my lifeless body.
None of the others around me seemed to recognize that that body was a shell – a lifeless one.
Everyone was busy with their own sh*t – the ambulance team followed their routine, my parents sat there, my dad didn’t say a word while my mum couldn’t stop talking. As usual.
I was gone already, but watching from afar. At one point it wasn’t worth watching so I turned around and was drawn into the light. It was so bright, so white, almost purifying. But it did have a golden-yellowish circle surrounding it, which felt really inviting. So I floated towards it.
On the way, a lot of life memories came up. I was 19 so surely I had a collection of them.
It was almost expected to see them as if that was ‘the last movie’ I got to see before I’d say goodbye.
But what I saw was far off from the memories I would have wanted to remember.
Fights with the ex-boyfriend, being scolded by a family member. The bullying at work, the endless hours I had been busting my ass for bosses that didn’t even know the words ‘thank you’ but instead knew how to scam you out of your well deserved (and still not enough) pay.
It was, frankly, a sh*tshow to watch. And suddenly, I felt like I shouldn’t actually go into the light. I felt like I deserve much better, but more than just for myself I felt this whole culture needs to change. I didn’t quite understand it by the time but the anger and frustration and the sheer outrage I felt floating through my own former experiences of work & life while I was out of the body, made me realize how surely I can’t be the only one and… how fucked up is that?
Honestly, I was 19 and ALL I get to remember was toxic, harmful moments with people in my life and at work? Say what?
THIS IS NOT WHAT I CAME HERE FOR, TO BEGIN WITH.
I decided it wasn’t my time. Just close enough before I hit the light, something bigger hit me: The strong will to get back.
And so I started fighting – fighting my way back into my body, my way back to life. Until my soul slammed back into this empty shell and – (inhaaaaaale) – I started breathing again.
What my wake up call has to do with You
We read a lot about how our work culture has become more toxic, how productivity is being misunderstood and/or misused in many ways and how our new won awareness and language is now uncovering the harmful ways of work environments we mostly have all experienced.
But what does my wake up call has to do with all of this, and specifically with you?
Despite the fact that I truly believe that our current working generations sooner or later work themselves to death (literally or figuratively), there is something much deeper at work: The spiritual part of this very toxic work culture and lifestyle design, aka how we live our lives .
Let me explain: While I was on the way into the light there were a few messages coming in, that didn’t actually unfold their meaning until I committed myself to let my soul do the work and “take over”. The main message behind all of them is this: As humans we have created all of these tools, techniques, methods, technology … we have developed our minds, studied science, answered foundational questions … and yet we are doing things backward.
Can’t you see it?
We create technology to help us, but become obsessed with it, falling prey to it until it makes us sick.
We are finding out about meditation but instead of using it for peace, we want to use it for more performance.
We are uncovering ancient wisdom, studying century-old traditions and indigenous knowledge only to destroy it, and with it the intelligence to save our planet.
The message we all need to hear
There’s a clear message behind all of this for us, and we need to hear it: The more we try to “optimize” our human experience on this planet, without actually going deep inside of us, and the more we keep outsourcing all of our being, the more we will be and feel disconnected from all of who we truly are.
Do you understand what that means?
That means that we have perpetuated a work culture and lifestyle that is driving us away from who we truly are. We are upholding systems that keep us under control versus giving us the freedom we truly crave. We keep running in hamster wheels to fuel the engine of the corporate economy … while we are buried under the burden of working harder, faster, better, stronger to no one’s benefit (other than a few).
This cycle has kept us stuck so deeply that even the people who are trying to leave this matrix, being entrepreneurs and doing their own thing, creating their own rules, are still trapped in the bigger picture of the systems that run so deep.
Let me be more clear: The work culture and lifestyles we have created specifically in the past century have cost us our spiritual well-being. Even though you may not experience the rather toxic site of work culture, you experience the harmful & painful effects of it.
The reason why you are working all day in your business, making big money, having a wonderful team and great friends, and YET feel so empty is, that you are disconnected from your soul.
The reason why you are working in your dream job, have wonderful colleagues and you can work from home and YET you feel like something is off in your life is, because you are disconnected from spirit/the source/universe.
The reason why you are successful, have a beautiful family, own a house, the expensive car, the business or high paying job and YET you feel like you are not enough, you never do enough and you will never ‘get’ to the end of the achievement ladder is because you are basing everything of your life outside of you!
The Big Shift
If by now you think this is about religion or some sort of crystal magic, please keep reading. ‘Cause, you are wrong.
For years now I keep talking about how the ways we work and live are not doing us any good but create more harm. Big cities have shown to be great for the economy and harmful to our mental and physical (as well as spiritual) health in many ways, especially during the pandemic.
When I say we are doing things backward, I mean we literally develop ourselves away from everything that is good for us and towards everything that is causing more disconnection in so many different ways. But what is the solution? Maybe you do live in a big city now, maybe you have a job there and/or moving is currently not an option. Maybe you do have a business and can work remotely but you do not want to leave your family behind to move into the woods, and you don’t necessarily have to.
The first time I truly understood how disconnected from myself I was, was when I started solo traveling the world in 2007. I slowly started to learn about lifestyle design and traveled to many different countries, always solo which also meant I spent a lot of time by myself. Sometimes I went on a 5-day hike alone to volcano tops, sometimes I wandered the streets of multimillion inhabitant cities alone, and sometimes I sat by the ocean for days watching waves. That doesn’t mean you need to pack your bags and leave everything behind. It just means that traveling (particular by myself) helped me gain an awareness that many people do not have i their day-to-day lives.
What was important though was that I was by myself, alone with my thoughts, processing experiences, and going through many different challenges, from small to catastrophe. The difference was, there wasn’t anyone telling me what to make of this. There was no one to project their sh*t onto me or to influence me with their biases.
It was just me, my own biases and thoughts to process every moment of the day.
Why was that such a breakthrough? Well in a world full of media, whether social or mainstream, full of information overload, opinions, drama and fear-mongering, there’s barely space to just sit for long enough and figure out your own train of thoughts about something. About anything.
And if we do have that space, we will fill it with toxic productivity, or some self-improvement work or better, some validation requests to the outside world in some shape or form. Are we afraid to hear what our brain has to say? Probably. Or maybe we wouldn’t know where to start thinking and processing all of the things at the moment, without our therapist at hand. I get that.
For me, that was a process by itself I wanted to learn. I had things I was experiencing that one day I felt was the most amazing thing ever and the next day I cried because I realized it could have been extremely harmful to the animals and environment around me.
And then I went through an endless amount of thought trains, and processes and ended up somewhere I felt was in tune with my values. Sometimes that meant I had to admit my behavior and experiences haven’t been as ‘ethical’ as they have been promoted to me. And that’s ok.
What I am trying to tell you here is this: The answer to our problem of being disconnected is SPACE.
The big shift is to go from
über-busy -> more rest without the need to self-improve
super producing -> creating quality output in whatever we do or don’t do
doing -> being
wanting -> appreciating
searching -> creating
…and the list goes on. In fact, as I said the answer lies in this one thing: We need more space.
Space for us to connect back with ourselves, with our soul, with the universe, and the innate wisdom we keep burying under the asphalt of our cities, streets, and skyscrapers.
To be clear, we need to get back to who we were born to be. Now, before you ask me “but who was I born to be?” – that’s the whole point of this article: I don’t know. Only you know. And you also only know for yourself!
You don’t know about your family members, your neighbour, or that kid in school that’s so different. You don’t, which also means you do not have the entitlement to tell them how they should – or should not – be. We can only ever know for ourselves.
Now the question is how to get back to this connectedness?
And the answer is simply: By creating space.
Space in the form of time.
Time for us to sit and be with our thoughts. Actually create thoughts for ourselves rather than have thoughts come in and be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of them and their often rather negative approach to life as a survival mode. Work through our biases, find out what we value – and what we don’t – and go deeper into the process of processing. Experiences, memories, questions, and more. All of this takes time, which we say we don’t have. What we are really saying though is “This is not my priority”. So we need to make it one, and to create the time for this.
Space in the form of energy.
It takes energy to go within, to sit by yourself, to be alone under millions of people, and not get distracted. It takes energy to be by yourself and not fall into deep dark rabbit holes of self-depreciation. It takes energy to think through systems, processes, foundational questions, or simply ponder life. It takes energy to try to and want to understand things we don’t know about in order to create change. Creating energetic space is one of the fundamentals of lifestyle design.
Space in the form of peace.
Creating peace in the middle of your hectic day-to-day life is a form of space. It’s a practice and we need much more of it. Peace to let things outside of our control be. Peace to let go of people who don’t want to see us win, will never genuinely cheer for us or defend us when someone else is a dickhead towards us and we simply don’t have the energy for it. Letting go of things and behaviours that weigh us down, don’t bring us joy, make us feel heavy, or even worse: ambivalent about them. Make peace with the fact that we can’t be it all for everyone and that most certainly no one has the time to ever think about you as much as you think about what other people may think of you. Everyone thinks about the same stuff, and it’s not. It’s how others may perceive them, why or why not, and so on. Make peace with all of this. Create the space to bring in peace without having to fight for it.
Space in the form of an actual physical room.
We live in big cities, and they keep taking away more and more room, our apartments and houses are getting smaller & smaller and nature is moving away from us, violently trying to show us that we are the ones who have taken all the room.
It’s time to make space for nature again, bring plants into your apartment, bring fresh air, water and light into your day-to-day experience. Make room for you to sit, be, dance, scream, and move. Go away from people, so you can be by yourself. Make space for yourself in places where you feel tiny. Take up space without feeling ashamed and guilty, even if that means people have to watch their steps more. Honour the space you live in more by keeping it clean, decluttering, cleansing it, and appreciating it.
Space comes in many shapes and forms, and while it is not always possible for us to create space, we can learn to see and appreciate space more and to create it when there’s an opportunity for it.
The day-to-day integration
If you know my work, then you know I am all about the implementation & integration of what we learn – or else, what change is there to see?
So following and to round up the point of this article, I want to give you some tangible action steps that you can take and implement into your daily life, to create space, whether it is physical, mental, energetic or time-wise – so that you can begin the way back to yourself, and start to connect back to who you were always meant to be. Take the first step into the new era of work culture & lifestyle design with integrating these 4 practices:
1| LEAVE FREE TIME IN YOUR SCHEDULE
This is probably the most simple, but also one of the most difficult for people to do.
Instead of filling up your week with activities, tasks and social interactions, leave some room for you to just be. If you now look at your schedule and you really don’t know at all how to do so, you can ask me here for support.
2| SAY NO, MORE
We are taught that ‘No’ is not a full sentence AND if we use it it’s impolite, unkind, will cut you off from opportunities … and so on and so forth.
But does it? What if you have to say No to the one thing that’s in the way of your ‘F*ck yes’ opportunity, but you keep beating around the bush? Your ‘F*ck yes’ opportunity ain’t gonna wait for you until you figure out how to say No politely and without hurting anyones feelings (and whatever else you’ve been told a No will do). You can say No AND be kind. It’s possible.
Looking at your desk and feeling uninspired? I want to take a guess that there’s tons of things on that desk. Declutter it. Get rid of every- and anything you do not use at that moment. See how it increases your energy. Are you around people that keep sucking the life outta you (hopefully not literally)? They keep bringing up drama, only messaging you when they need something from you but never got an open ear from you? Declutter them. Harsh? Maybe. But your energy is so much more worth than to juggle people who drain the joy out of you.
4| MAKE BETTER CHOICES
If you keep looking back at last month, last year, last decade etc. and you wonder “why did I make this choice/decision” or “what happened there?” then it’s time to pause. Pause every time you make a choice. Pause every time you are about to make a decision. For example: That night out you drank too much and now have a 3 day hangover? You can have tons of fun on a night out without alcohol. Don’t know how? Learn it. Don’t want to give up on alcohol? Learn moderation. There are so many options, so many choices. The most important thing is you keep making a better one every time you are standing before the same question.
There are many more of these things I can cover here, some of which I covered in my book ‘The T.I.M.E. Method – a no bullsh*t approach to creating an abundance of time’.
The most important thing is that you start creating space, and in that time, room and energetic space you will create, you fill it with yourself, your pure self.
Why this will create a new era of work culture & lifestyle design
Once we understand that space is what will help us connect to our true selves, we will see that the system we operate in, the culture we created for our work, and the lifestyle we have designed, can not keep up with what our souls, our true selves, need and crave to express themselves.
In other words: We will need to smash the oppressive systems that, on the surface level, may seem to work (but also really just for one particular group of humans) but on the deeper level keep all of us controlled. And I am not talking about your favorite conspiracy theorist’s level of control. I am talking mostly about the control we put on ourselves and others around us, the matrix we have built to operate within a norm, a norm that is not supporting anyone but the few people who perfectly fit in.
So not only will connecting back to ourselves make oppressive systems start to crumble but also we will need to innovate, create and/or design new ways of working and living – and we are already starting to get the ball rolling.
I for sure can see the changes happening faster than ever, especially in lifestyle design. People who feel empty, who feel trapped, who feel so frustrated, angry, and sad no matter how successful they are – because they do not feel like their current ways of work and life are for them. But many are so afraid to step into their true self, afraid of judgment, afraid of being a disappointment to society – and afraid to be canceled. More and more so, they dare to step outside the labels they’ve been given, yet aren’t theirs to carry.
If you have read this far (wow, thank you!) then there is something you feel is resonating, and if it is just one of all of these things then this:
It is time to smash those societal concepts of work culture & lifestyle design that keep us under control, that are draining our energy, and even worse, that are toxic to our souls like the hustle & grind culture, toxic productivity, the need to always be better, harder, faster, stronger, the slandering of victims, the sheer insane definition of ‘weakness’ in mental regards, the cancel culture and the immense shame & blame that’s out there daily…
Instead let’s create a new work culture so people will love to be around others again, thrive in their work with skills that are truly their gifts. Let’s create equity of opportunity and never forget where we came from. Let’s reach up with one hand and down with another so we keep lifting others, while we rise.
Let us design new lifestyles away from shame, blame, guilt, and canceling people based on our biases, limited perceptions, and limitations of how the world can look like. Let’s design our life the way it supports our true self the most and let others design theirs!