Tag Archives: Public Speaking

Looking back at my experiences and achievements in 2015

In the beginning of this year, I formulated no less than ten New Year’s Resolutions. For me, the end of the year is the natural moment to look back and review what I experienced and achieved throughout the year.

This is how I did:

  • Live together with the girl I feel in love with last year

Yes! And it is a very special experience. Moving in together comes with some challenges. But these challenges are insignificant in comparison to the wonderful pleasure of being together every day.

  • Track and improve my sleep

Fairly well. Especially in the beginning of the year, I used sleep-tracking apps. They helped me somewhat improve my discipline in going to sleep and getting out to bed on time. But I haven’t systematically used them all year round. And my sleeping habits still can improve.

  • Expand my blog

Not bad. Especially after summer, I’ve opted for a somewhat slower frequency. I’ve taken the chance to take on some speaking occasions presenting my work in this field. But maybe most importantly, I’ve visited two ‘happy countries’ this year: Denmark and Bhutan.

  • Work on my health by running or by yoga

Could be better. I regularly do yoga, but not every week. And while I ran a personal best at the 5k (22 min 20 seconds!), I have only ran in training for that race, not all year round.

  • Celebrate my 30th birthday

Yes! And I celebrated it well, spending a weekend in the Belgian Ardennes with a group of friends.

  • Continue to do well at work

I think so. My role within our team has grown this year. And in the last week before the holidays, I won a new promotion (yeah!)

  • Travel to two new countries: Portugal and Bhutan (finally!)

Yes! I spent two weeks in both of them, discovering different towns and landscapes and learning a lot about their culture. And apart from these two, I also visited Denmark for the first time and made stopovers in Nepal and Qatar en route to Bhutan.

  • Watch at least one new TED talk per week

Almost. I’ve had a good amount of inspiration in watching TED talks this year, with topics ranging from basic income to indoor plants to improve air quality in house and from the strength of Muslim women in peace processes to cold-water surfing. While I saw many, I don’t think I got to one per week. And unfortunately I did’t attend any TEDx events this year.

  • Read novels and books about happiness

A little bit! A quick glance at my current happiness bookshelf suggests there aren’t too many additions: books on the November GNH conference in Bhutan and The Power of Negative Emotions being the exceptions. Still, (un)happiness was also a theme in other books that I read, such as Haruki Murakami’s title Norwegian Wood. And reading A History of the World in Twelve Maps also made me happy!

  • Become a better public speaker

Yes! Two and half years after joining, I finished Toastmasters International‘s Competent Communication programme. And I undertook some public speaking opportunities to talk about my discoveries on happiness.


Especially in the beginning of the year, I occasionally took a glance at the list to remind me what I wanted to achieve. But as the year progress, I took more and more distance. And now, I don’t even understand why I needed ten goals.

Goals are helpful to meet objectives and develop yourself. But if there is one goal I have for 2016, it is to have less goals…

What my TEDx talk taught me about happiness

Picture 3It doesn’t happen every day that I make one of my dreams come true.

6 March 2013, a little over a year ago, I realised one of my bigger dreams. I gave my very own TEDx talk. For around 150 visitors of TEDxLuxembourgCity, I shared my ideas about personal and collective happiness.

Even though I was proud and excited about the opportunity, delivering the talk on the big day didn’t make me  happy. Why it happened is a different story, but my slides changed automatically, and faster than I spoke. I got distracted and more nervous than I already was. Parts of the talk are almost embarrassing to watch. I recall that I felt very frustrated after the talk. I fled to the bathrooms and needed some time to calm down before I could speak to people.


Later that night I noticed the irony.

In the talk, I spoke about one of the great powers of the brain: imagination. Imagination is a force that can both have a positive and a negative effect on our happiness. On the positive side, our possibilities to foresee what the future could be like help us to set goals and ambitions and realise a brighter, happier future. But there is a catch. If our expectations are too high, the reality of our daily life is nothing but a pale reflection of your colourful imagination. This is crucial. When we get something new – say a job or a car – we compare our life with the situation we had before. If our old car was slow and ugly, we’re better off with a new one.

But we also compared with what we imagined. Say that I imagine that my new car allows me to go on a ride in the countryside, wonderful landscape and wind blowing through my hair. That’s the ideal vision I have. But pale daily reality might be different. It might be raining. I might get speeding fines. I might need to go to the garage all the time. In those circumstances, it’s more difficult to appreciate the car and to be happy.

Turning bad things into good ones

What does all this have to with my talk? Well, it’s simple. I was a victim of my imagination. I though my talk had to be brilliant, exactly as I rehearsed it. When it wasn’t, I got upset.

But something interesting happened. I surprised myself. Something different and unforeseen happened. The key moment of the talk is the point where I accept the fact that the slides change. I acknowledge the problem. And I improvise – with my dry Dutch humour – by saying something spontaneous about it, commenting that the road to happiness, like my talk, sometimes makes some strange deviations.

It is true. In this way, the speech becomes more authentic, and more powerful. I’m not sure whether there’s a real message in it. If there is one it might be about one of the challenges of public speaking, happiness and life alike.

Turning bad things in good ones is possible.