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Reflections about life and my personal engagement in international cooperation

September 2023

Work in balance with my mind, emotions, and body

Being a consultant is usually about delivering a clearly defined piece of work. When I feel successful, I am able to work independent and highly efficient, managing tasks and achieving them within a deadline. It requires a number of competencies such as analytic skills, ability of abstraction, reflective skills, as well as a high technical competence (knowing the subject). All these competencies have in common that they are located in my brain.  There is logic behind these competencies, and I have been trained in using them since I started in school.

But there is more to it than just using my mind in the most efficient way. There are days, where thought come easily to me, while there are other days, where I have to drag myself to the office desk and where it is difficult to find the right flow in my work. Emotions have positive or negative influence.

I have learned to listen to the feelings and acknowledge them of being there. Sometimes I can do small things to get into a more positive mood, but mostly the awareness of the emotion is enough for me to move on.

I hear that al basic emotions may have positive and negative aspects. Take anger, for instance; I can sit in front of my laptop, getting more and more angry with myself about not being able to move forward as planned. As harder I try to ignore the anger, as worse it gets. The anger becomes a barrier to move on with my work.

In situations like this I found out that it not only is important to try to understand where the anger comes from, but also to embrace it. I can use my analytic brain to analyse and understand it. But I have to accept the emotion to embrace it. After all, anger is a very strong driver; it is a power that, if looked at in a positive way, can be a source of energy I can benefit from. When I accept the emotion, it changes from negative to acceptable (for instance a constructive steadiness), and sometimes a positive energy that moves me forward.


Now, there is more to a balanced consultants life then mind and emotions. They both influence my body. I have to be physically comfortable.  Fear can for instance sit in my stomach and create pain.

I try to listen to my body. Are there tensions, and where do they sit? Do I feel comfortable, or is there discomfort? And how is the level of energy, too low or too high? When my energy is low I can feel depressed or daydream. On the other side can the energy be too high, making me work like a manic, usually leading to exhaustion at a later stage.  


January 2021 HOW ADULT PEOPLE LEARN I recently completed the elaboration of two self-learning manuals to be used by CSO-leaders in Uganda. In this context I am reflecting about how adult people actually learn.

February 2019 ABOUT NEXUS For some years now the concept of Nexus between development and humanitarian work is increasingly discussed. But what is actually new in the discussion about Nexus?

September 2016 A DAY IN A CONSULTANT'S LIFE I cold wind strives my neck, which makes me switch off the air condition, only to be hit by the heat a few seconds later.

March 2016 WAITING TO FALL APART Reflecting about how I acquired my intercultural competence, it helps looking back to my very first work in international cooperation where I was young and green.

February 2016 THE WOODEN BOX It took about nine months to learn Kiswahili and to understand the pictures behind the words. The breakthrough didn't come till I understood that the language is a mirror of the people who speak it.

Things should be balanced

A little discomfort is necessary for taking me out of my comfort zone, but too much discomfort can be destructive. All should be balanced. After all, ancient instincts do also sit in the body. A high degree of discomfort can trigger the “stay and fight” or “run for your life” mode. A balanced level of comfort – discomfort, as well as a balanced level of energy seems to be the best for my body.

Being aware of how my body is feeling gives me a wide range of options to adjust, like sitting comfortable, keeping the energy level high with a small snack, but also moving back to my mental comfort zone when parts of the work makes me nervous.


The theories are inspired by work from Susan Hart & Marianne Bentson; and thank you to Birgitte Haahr for introducing me to these ideas during a training about managing relations to others. As you can see, I did however describe it as a relation to myself. It works perfectly well for me as a consultant to use this as a tool to check the dimensions of my mind, my emotions, and my body. This way it becomes like a compass in my daily work, helping me with a balanced work-life.

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