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Half time

Beginning of March marks the half time of my Sabbatical. A good time to look back at the past months and think about what to come.

Here are the four main topics that have been on my mind. Of course besides travel experience, which you can read in my other blog messages.

Goal directed versus living in the moment

A dangerous experiment

Stop planning…

This has been a topic all the time. My experiment: I stopped planning, I did not try at all to optimise my time. No bucket list, no checking internet sides of “the best X things to do in Y”.What happens if I let “things come to me” and make spontaneous actions based on gut feeling. Something I had rarely the opportunity in my previous life phases. Being on hiking in Italy, during the van tour in Crete or related to my “live your nature” quest.

What I have found: It is very difficult to stay in this place. After a few weeks, thoughts come up and doubts “am I missing something?” – “what will be my Sabbatical Year story after I return?” But then, after months, when things become still and you enter into a new flow, you find hints from your subconcious mind. Some things appear to be more appealing. Some themes repeat every day. For me, it started to become a sort of an inner mission to contribute something. To society, to nature, to peer humans.

…and focus on what shows up

According to Eli Jaxon-Bear, there are three fundamental inner forces that drive everyone’s actions: The force to reproduce, the force to survive and the force to contribute. From an anthropologic point of view, this sounds logical to me. As my kids are grown and my personal probability of longer term survival goes down and down, the third force comes up stronger.

With the choice of living more in the moment, the focus and energy spend on my quest will increase. How large will it become? It sometimes appears to me as a somewhat dangerous experiment. Am I taking a too high risk?

My Quest

“Live your nature”

I am spending quite some time and effort into the continued training to become a coach for people who chose to go out on a “Vision Quest” or similar nature-based walks.

My motto for this year “a while away” is pretty much in line with these. In a vision Quest retreat, you stop doing what you normally do, make an inventory of your life, surrender to nature and look for completely new insides, beyond your intellectual capacities, maybe even beyond you intuitive capacities.

My offering NaturSein has taken place three times, and the feedback was very overwhelming. And even better, I really enjoy this type of workshops. Before COVID-19, online seminars were hardly an option for people who were not into home-office. Now, this has changed, and even better, lockdown times are perfect for making these nature-walks on your own. Last but not least, I truly believe that only a closer connection to our roots will help us as the human species to get out of the pandemic. I am planning to extend the series of seminars and hope the interest will continue or even grow.

Together with other peers, I am planning further multi-day seminars of vision quest type are planned (For leaders, for youg people, and my traditional man/boy weekend) but those will depend on the COVID-Situation. Of course I hope for the better.

I am incredibly grateful to have so much time to focus on these activities.


My thoughts on a big change

Locked down

I am living the luxory of being hardly affected by the lockdown at all. The only thing I miss here in Crete is the ability to go out for tavernas, but this is not rally a problem and there are some take away restaurants that offer good Cretan things. I have to repeatedly give permission to myself to enjoy being here and now while so many colleagues, friends and family members are locked down in their home offices, challenged by kids at home, missing their social and cultural lives, or affected in other ways.

What will happen when we are let out of our rooms

The world is at a strange state. I hear many peple who are at their emotional stress boundaries. Of course. My mother who sufferes from dementia and lives in a nursery home, just does not have the capacity to reflect on what she is missing and why, making the suffering even worse. I wonder how this world will look like when the pandemic is declared ended (and “mother earth let’s us out of our rooms again” as a friend phrased it). Will mankind have learned that we need much less air traffic and traveling? Will we have another perspective on matters of life and death? Will we ever get physically close again with our bodies, shaking hands to strangers, kissing cheeks, hugging friends, sweating together in concerts? Will hospitals and other essential services be better equipped and personell be better paid? What role will online conference calls and home office plac in future and how will this affect business organisations?


Many people think about these times as a transformational interim stage. Others hope that we can return to what life was before. I think this pandemic is a master piece to observe the principles of change management. We are in an interim stage, out of our comfort zone, not knowing what is coming but the old way of being has gone away. Also called the liminal space. What we know from transformational changes is that only when we can let go the previous habits (and accept they may never come back), we create room for the new things to come. And an example of what happens when you can’t let go things we can now observe in the US election drama.

Corporate life

A bird’s eye view

There are some things I really miss about my job.

Working with a team to make accomplishments. Sparring with peer colleagues to personal growth and create broader impacts on the organisation than anyone can do on his/her own. Working with cool technology which is constantly improving and exploring and testing new ways of working all the time. Coaching my team members. Apply strategic and organisational systemic thinking to realities. Arguing and fighting to making my ideas or the conviction of the team influencing the next steps of where the company or parts of it go. Working with all the various departments – HR, Finance, Research, Medicine, Marketing, Legal, Works Council together, integrating and learning from the various perspectives. And the best: all of this with the ultimate goal of producing meaningful therapies for human and animal needs.

Wow, this sound like a marketing campaign for the perfect place to work. Hold on, there is another side. Let’s try to recall the difficult situations and mudes I have been in:

Trying to move something ahead but there are just so many other teams and perspectives to integrate that thing moving very very lowly. Projects tend to slow down to the pace of the slowest link. You may try to make up for it bu this is at the cost of frustration, useless meeting times, frustrating feedback from seniors. Fighting with Egos as big as whales. Countless hours spent on weekends preparing for executive slides which at the end even may have never been used. Reading tons of useless emails, some just butt-protecting, some based on limited insights, some with “alternative facts”: Day by day, week be week. Reading and committing to Company processes and standards of non-rewarded complexity, redundant forms to fill for simple activites. I estimate that about 50% of my working time was spent on administrative-type workload. The other 50% is usually filled with meetings, out of which only half of that time is well invested. At the end of 3 out of 5 working days, I felt exhausted, empty, mentally tired.

Overall, I have to say I am deeply grateful that my company Boehringer Ingelheim enables this Sabbatical.

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  1. Hi Dirk, I am just about to join some of your colleagues in IT Ops this afternoon so it was a perfect time to read your reflections on corporate life as I am taking as one of my themes “the misery of the Google Calendar” which was a phrase Sergio Nasi mentioned to me in a conversation. The talk is inspired by a quote I read recently which is engaging me:
    “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and God-like technology”. It’s by EO Wilson, one of the giants of 20th century biology. The other quote I’m using is from the poet David Whyte – as a true storyteller, I’ll make you wait for that one but it points to some ways forward.
    I’m trying not to be jealous about your Cretan sojourn but not succeeding! I just have my fingers crossed that I will be there in September for the 3 week course I’m teaching in the mountains.
    Go well, enjoy exploring your boundaries – until the next missive, best wishes form the UK, Sue

    1. Hi Sue, thanks for your comennt. I like the quote, it really is to the point :). Just (again) reading Ken Wilber, and it fits very nicely what he is saying about human development stages. If we do our development journey well (as invidviduals, as societies, as species), we can all integrate these levels. Otherwise, it gets messy.
      Keep my fingers crossed for you as well 🙂 Hope the UK rules allow me to come to see you and Kate some time in summer!
      greetings – Dirk

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