Blossoming – Why this was the perfect time to leave my job and move to the countryside

This is probably the last post before we move into the new house. I still can’t believe that this crazy idea turned into reality. You don’t know what’s possible, until you get up and actually do it. Of course there were doubts, caveats and risks involved. We were aware of them, we acknowledged them and set out anyway, trusting that things will all fall into place. And so far they have. Our house is nearly ready now and we’re planning to move in as soon as our household items arrive from Switzerland next weekend. The new home is located between Flensburg and Schleswig, just zoom out of the map and then you’ll see it’s about two hours north of Hamburg, which is actually the northernmost city in Germany that most of my non-German friends know; more than one of them was surprised to learn that the country actually continues behind Hamburg. Well it does, just not as densely populated… and with more rapeseed fields. 🙂

A former colleague messaged me the other day saying that it seems like I had anticipated the recent developments by moving to such a remote location. In fact, the questions that I got most often when I shared the news about our plan for project “house by the sea” (back in October) were along the lines of “But how are you going to make a living there? There are hardly any employers or potential clients in that part of the country, are there?”

The crisis as a catalyst for bringing about different ways of working

The world has changed so much in the past eight weeks that I bet if I had these conversations right now, the question would not come up any more or at least not in first place. Isn’t this amazing as a perspective for rural regions all across Europe? People are discovering that it is indeed possible to work remotely in an effective way. Well, at least if there is a decent internet connection, ahem…

A blossoming of new thoughts gives me hope

Humankind is learning that cities, without disregarding all the advantages that they might have brought, can turn into prisons in a crisis like this. We feel that being surrounded by nature is immensely precious. We also come to terms with the fact that globalized supply chains that were streamlined to maximise efficiency are now the achilles heel of our economies in the western world. More people than before are beginning to re-think their priorities and find that solidarity is more important than profit. At least that’s the notion I get in the conversations I have been having recently, not only in my filter bubble but slowly but surely also outside.

Of course, given the choice, I still have a preference for in-person interactions over remote when it comes to things like experiential learning, workshopping or having dinner with friends. 🙂 But still, through this experience, I’ve come to question if we really need as much face-to-face meetings as we had before. I miss many things these days but business travel is definitely not one of them. I bet the sentiment is similar for many people out there.

So, how do I make a living, now?

I work as a freelance facilitator and coach and I am proud and immensely grateful to say that I am now booked for just as many workshops and coaching sessions as I need to make a living until the end of the year. The first big project that I am part of is about enabling a transformation journey for a big company in Germany – starting with executives and upper management. From mid June onwards most of the workshops will take place in-person, at least that’s what we’re planning for.

Here you see me attending the first video call in the new house. This was in our soon-to-be living room. Internet is working already, yay! In rural Germany, this is still not a given. In our temporary accommodation for instance, the connection is so slow that I cannot even upload a video for you here.

A side-hustle is beginning to develop

In addition to my freelance work, I am joining forces with like-minded spirits to develop an educational program for leaders and facilitators aimed at fostering creativity. Why? It’s not only because I am passionate about the topic; creativity is also regarded as one of the top skills needed in the future. Sadly, it’s also one of the skills that seems to be lacking the most in this efficiency-streamlined world we have built. Ever since the industrial age, we have enginieered creativity, empathy and diversity out of the system in an attempt to reduce “waste” and make things more predictable and controllable so that the economy could grow even faster. Now (not only through this crisis but emphasized by it), we are discovering that:

  1. The twins of “predict and control” that generations of managers grew up with were nothing but an illusion in the first place
  2. Economic growth cannot be endless (at least not if you have only one planet)
  3. The paradigms we established don’t hold true anymore because we realise that we don’t run the world; the world runs us. And might uninstall us anytime it sees fit, no kidding.

Helping others re-learn what it’s like to innovate and play

Much of the system we have built is no longer fit for purpose. We need very different skills nowadays and the good news is: We already have them. For many of us, they are just buried under layers and layers of “professional” behaviours, ego stuff, and insecurities that piled up over a couple of decades through no particular fault of our own. Just by mimicking what’s happening around us and doing more of what we got praised for.

Curiosity, intiative, deep-felt compassion for your fellow human beings, playfulness, the ability to fail, laugh about yourself and start all over again as many times as needed until you’re able to ride that bicycle or sing that song – all that is part of what makes us human. I would like to help people re-discover this very simple fact. I am convinced that this will make this world a more human and future-fit place.

Our house received new “eyes” this week. The arched windows are a typical feature in this region. Sooner or later, all of the window frames shall become white. We’re planning to paint the downstairs ones ourselves during summer.

I also feel bad sometimes – and that’s ok, too

I am writing this piece in a relaxed and joyful mood and with a high level of energy. It may sound like everything is always easy for me. Let me assure you: It isn’t. Last Tuesday, for example, I felt really off balance. Something was weird inside me and people were behaving weirdly, too (no wonder ;-)). There was a row at the building site, two guys were arguing over where a certain cable was supposed to go (or not) so much so that one of them just stomped out of the room grumpily and I felt that I needed to bring my mediation skills in to prevent them both from just walking out on me.

Klaus and I also clashed a couple of times in the past weeks over simple things, mostly driven by our very different needs and ways of working. If one partner values peace and quiet a lot while the other likes stimulation and communication, it’s easy to guess how that can be challenging in a 20 squaremetre makeshift “coworking” space. Luckily, we can laugh about it and pick ourselves and each other up again quickly.

This week’s “Rattelschneck” cartoon sums the issue with diverging needs up quite nicely 🙂

Then there was this day on which I suffered from general overload. I had the feeling of being overwhelmed, having taken on too much, signed up for too many things and spreading myself too thin and then again not really being able to say “no” for fear of letting someone down or appearing unreliable. This is a pattern that I am familiar with and yet I find it’s hard to overcome. I am trying to establish alternative behaviours, continuously learning and developing. One thing that helps me to keep the restlessness at bay is taking regular walks in nature, sometimes in the middle of the day, sometimes in the evening. I would like to maintain this habit going forward.

The beach close by has been a steady companion in the past couple of weeks, and a source of serenity

Wherever this finds you, I am sending you a virtual hug – stay well and positive!

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2 Comments

  1. Hey Sonja,
    ich folge deiner persönlichen Transformation seit dem Start auf linkedin und wolte dir einfach mal in den Norden winken und “Herzlichen GlĂĽckwunsch, Hut ab, wie unglaublich toll, mutig und sinnvoll” sagen. Ich hab nfang des Jahres eine Coachingausbildung begonnen und beschäftige mich gerade viel damit wie mein Berufsleben in ein paar Jahren aussehen soll. Coaching und Sauerteigbrot spielen eine Rolle und dank Covid habe ich kĂĽrzlich spontan begonnen virtuelle Sauerteigkurse zu geben. Dieser Post war super inspirierend dies weiter zu verfolgen. Danke!
    Liebe GrĂĽsse aus Basel
    Stella

    Like

    1. Vielen Dank, liebe Stella! Das freut mich mega, dass du die Beiträge inspirierend findest. Ich schick dir mal ne private Nachricht, das mit dem Sauerteig interessiert mich auch…

      Like

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