This quote is by Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch designer, and someone I admire.
Studio Roosegaarde is responsible for the development of the SMOG FREE PROJECT, which encompasses a Smog Free Tower, a Smog Free Ring and the -coming soon- Smog Free Bicyle. All examples of fantastic designs that help fight our biggest environmental health problem: air pollution. This is something I feel very passionate about; indeed I actually moved to the mountains because the air pollution in Amsterdam was damaging my lungs to the extent that I felt the need to move to a different country.
So yes, I’m passionate about his designs and what they aim to do, but what inspires me the most is his attitude. Which I think is summarized best by means of one of his own quotes: ‘Let’s not be afraid, let’s be curious‘.
Curiosity is obviously a necessity if you’re a designer like Daan, but it’s just as vital to everyone else, because we are, in fact, all designers…of our own lives. Yes, I know this sounds super cliche, but bear with me…
How do you approach the (health)problems in your life? Do you approach them with fear or curiosity?
Do yourself a favour and ask yourself this question. You might gain a few interesting insights. As for me, I feel I’m getting better at approaching mine with curiosity, but it’s not always easy and once upon a time things were very different…
I got ill when I was 15 and for years I’ve approached my health issues from a place of fear: I ignored the pain, I didn’t want people around me to know about my illness, I did destructive things such as drinking alcohol which made my condition worse.
In my case there was an internal war going on in the sense that my mind was bossing my body around. I was angry with my body for not working with me. There was no dialogue. And I think that’s key; you have to be ‘on speaking terms’ with your body if you want to start the healing process. There’s a reason why people say that you should ‘listen to your body’. I’ve heard this phrase lots of times in the past, but it took me years to actually get it. I think it’s great advice and a good first step. The second step, if you ask me, is to be curious. This asks for a more active approach.
What does curiosity look like in the realm of our health?!
So, when I’m not writing blogs, I’m in sales. Sales is all about communication. And whereas a lot of people think sales is about talking and persuading, it’s actually about listening and asking the right questions. It’s essential that you are well informed about the needs of the person or business that you’re involved with, otherwise you might try to sell them something they don’t need/like. And that usually means: no deal.
I think it’s actually not that different in relation to how we communicate with our bodies. If we’re not listening properly we might ‘sell’ our bodies the wrong lifestyle (for example in terms of food and/or exercise).
So if you want to improve your health, you need to start by finding out what your body needs/likes/dislikes etc. Since our body communicates non-verbally, the best way to do that is by adopting an experimental lifestyle. We’re the designers of our own lives and also of our own health to a great extent. Designing means: trial and error.
Creativity = our capital
As Daan pointed out in his great TED talk before the World Economic Forum, creativity is in the top 3 of essential ingredients for personal success in modern day society.
Problems, and especially health problems have negative connotations. I guess it doesn’t need explaining why. At the same time, every new problem that arises carries a magical opportunity with it. It calls on our creativity and gives us the opportunity to transcend ourselves. This holds true for enormous problems such as air pollution, but also for health problems on an individual level.
I for one would probably never have moved to the wonderful Austrian Alps, had it not been for my lung issues. But by doing so I have not only significantly improved my (lung)health, I also gained an enormous amount of self-confidence. Until this big bold move, I didn’t deem myself capable of moving to another country all by myself and setting up a new life from scratch. I know now that I can. That’s priceless information and it empowered me to explore more unknown territory. You can read more about that here.
If you have a problem and you don’t know how to fix it, get creative. Maybe there isn’t a straighforward solution, but that doesn’t mean there’s no solution. I sat idly for years, getting more and more frustrated, and hoping that doctors would eventually ‘fix’ me. But they didn’t so in the end I decided to take matters into my own hands… The way I see it you can either be a passenger, simply observing from a distance and hoping that something will happen, or you can decide to become that driver and shape your own future.
Back to our biggest environmental health threat: air pollution… Some people say that you get what you can handle. I definitely think there is some truth in that and it might also hold true for global problems such as air pollution. Air pollution is a huge problem that seems almost insurmountable, but if you look at the incredible developments and technological inventions of the past 25 years alone, one can only conclude that we posses the knowledge and the skills to turn the tide.
…and this applies to everything in life, we’ll have to go out and DO it! One step at a time. Just like Daan Roosegaarde and his team. It’s easy to come up with an idea. Most of us come up with multiple great ideas every day, but you have to go out and take action.
Action is what set sets successful people apart from the rest. And no, you don’t have to be the strongest or the smartest person out there to be successful. The only thing you need is some common sense, curiosity and the willingness to get back up again after you fall (because that’s what’s going to happen when you start experimenting).
Oh, and have FUN!
The main reason why I’m so action-driven is because I feel very strongly that we can’t afford to remain silent and wait for others to fix things: whether that’s leaving it to future generations or to doctors whom we expect us to heal us. But there’s another reason why I’m an advocate for taking responsibility for your own life and health; because overcoming obstacles can be really fun and it gives us purpose in life. My impaired health has taken me to great places so far; from the beautiful Austrian Alps to vegan cooking courses in Italy and walking around ice cold Iceland in my bikini.
So, what’s your excuse? Look your (health) issues straight in the eye, grab them by the balls and don’t forget to have fun while battling them 🙂