“How are you? “ Yeah good. Busy, you know, but good. How are you?” While you answer your friends question on the Saturday morning during your coffee date before you quickly – especially quickly – need to go to a winter festival, take a selfie for Instagram – also quickly, before the foam on your soya latte disappears.

Millennials – the generation that is born roughly after 1984 – suffer from stress. More than before: research by Metro has shown that at least 25% of millennials are sat at home with a burn-out. The results from CBS are slightly lower, reported by RTL Z, but 1 in 7 burnt out people in their 20s or 30s is also not low.

It is not only millennials. In The Netherlands there has been estimated that 1 million people have issues with work stress, now the number one occupational sickness.  It is such an important theme that the week of 13 November is now the week of occupational stress. How has it come this far? But more importantly, what can we do about it?

It doesn’t matter is the glass is half full or half empty

Have you ever had problems with stress? Then I’m sure you have a friend, colleague, neighbour in your network that sees it as ridiculous, its something you can very much control yourself. “Come on, it just depends on whether you see the glass half full or half empty.” But that is not what stress is about. Why not, that what this video below shows:

We can easily handle a little bit of stress, but if its constantly present, it starts to eat away at us, until we collapse. The stress becomes unhealthy. To the extent that we don’t even know how to make a sandwich, just like Nienke (one of the participants in the research by Metro).


It is your parents fault. And that of Mark Zuckerberg.

How come so many of us now has problems with stress and burn-outs? I have read multiple articles, seen research, watched documentaries and speeches. Three recurring themes stood out to me:

#1 Your parents

Yeah yeah, nice and easy. Blame your parents. They aren’t the one hyperventilating on the sofa at home? No. Of course this statement is meant to stir up a (healthy) discussion. But the parents of millennials are the people that created, as explained by Simon Sinek an encouraging generation.

Millennials feel – or want to – feel special and unique. That is in the end what they have heard from their parents during their youth. “You are special. You are the best. It doesn’t matter that you came last during your athletics race at school. You are still just as good as the person that came first.” Millennials have become very ambitious due to this, both in their personal and professional lives and want to live their own unique life.

#2 The expectations

What happens when all these really special millennials come together with all the other really special millennials enter the workforce? A massive clash between the reality and their expectations. Working at a fantastic start-up seems to be a large deception in reality, your manager does not see what a great and talented colleague you are, the person that is 5 years younger than you gets the promotion to a higher position. That is completely not what you have imagined.



Its not only on the work that the unrealistic expectations don’t match up with reality. As soon as a millennial leaves their trendy office with beanbags and free lunch, the outside world is also different than expected. The difference between reality and expectations determines, for a large part, how happy or unhappy you feel. The unhappiness is one of the most important brewers of stress.

#3 Image crafters

What causes this difference between reality and expectations? This is where the 3rd factor comes in: the image crafters. The what? The image crafters. You are probably also one, even if before reading this blog you had never heard of it. Image crafting means that we portray ourselves in the social media world as a #happyperson with a #perfectboyfriendorgirlfriend and our #awesomefriends with which every moment is #memorable. That you love to spend your whole Sunday on the sofa in your 7 year old tracksuit bottoms with a large bag of chips does not fit into your #healthylifestyle so you don’t share that in story or snap.

As we collectively take part in image crafting, the feeling that every minute of your life has to be perfect has been created. Et voila, in creeps the clash between reality and expectations.

And… action

The figures don’t lie. Stress and burn-outs are a real risk. The question is: what can we do about it?

In my opinion there are 8 essential elements:

#1 – A little bit of stress is healthy

It is important to realise that a little bit of stress doesn’t have to be unhealthy. It for example helps are driver to brake if a child suddenly runs in front of their car. Stress sets people up to be extra attentive. It also helps to focus on a difficult task or exam. As long as stress is not constantly present – as long as you don’t have to hold onto it non-stop – there is nothing wrong.


#2 – Recognise too much stress

“It only happens to others and won’t happen to me.” Wrong! If you don’t see the signals on time, you can also have problems with too much stress. Think about it, do you have a lot of issues with:

  • Neck or back pain, headaches or a dry mouth
  • A lack of sleep
  • Can’t make decisions
  • Negative perspective, everything sucks
  • Dissociation, you don’t feel connected to anything

Realise that stress is also not the same for everyone. There are multiple forms of stress.

#3 – Balance

Create a balance between stressful and energizing factors. There are at least 5 positive experience – also known as enablers – needed to get rid of the negative experience (disabler). What are your enablers, both in your private as well as your professional life? A coach can help you find the answer to these questions. Next to that, make sure you also take the time to relax. And no, you don’t necessarily have to do yoga or meditate, relaxing is different for everyone.

FocusLab Personal leadership

Do you want to work on truly sustainable change? Do you suffer from stress, the feeling that you are not in control, do you want a better balance between work and private life, become more assertive, gain more self-confidence or finally turn your dreams into action? Then come to our unique Human Capital FocusLab on October 29. In this interactive masterclass you get started with your path to personal leadership.

#4 – Centering

This is a exercise so you can learn to be in the here and now. This might sound floaty, but it isn’t really. Even animals do it. A rabbit quickly runs back to its hole when it sees a bird of prey. Once it’s safe the rabbit first shakes it off. This is a method to reduce stress and go back to itself.

We as people don’t centre ourselves often enough. Think about a situation when you received an angry email or had an aggravating discussion with your manager. You often go straight back to your work. Consequently: the stress remains.


#5 – Miracle morning

How you wake up in the morning and spend the first hour of your day can determine the mood of the rest of the day. If you snooze 5 times, then you have to get changed in a rush, then you quickly eat your sandwich on the go and you continue to have the feeling that you are running behind. You start your day very differently than that you get straight out of bed, take the time to have breakfast, maybe read the newspaper, do some exercise or meditate before you really start your day. Create your morning ritual and bring peace into the first hours of your day so that you can take that into the rest of the day.

#6 – Exercise

Perhaps not news to you, but it has been proven that a minimum of 30 minutes a day can help for both your mental and physical health.

#7 – Go offline

Is checking social media the first thing that you do when you wake up? During the day you frequently get distracted by incoming messages, often from image crafters. Our smartphones are on 24/7. Give your brain a rest and you will realise how relaxed you become. This can be by going offline once a week or not looking at messages after 20.00 for example. Also here you can create your own ritual.

#8 – Practice, practice, practice

In the same way that stress slowly builds up and creeps in, dealing with stress also takes time. And especially requires practice. That’s why Doors Open regularly organises the training session “ Stressed? Not you!”  We also offer specific coaching’s packages or customized coaching for those who want to learn to deal with stress. Have a look at all the coaching possibilities here or contact us.

The best mistake of: Svenja Vollmer

“My gut feeling said it. My colleagues said it. I ignored all voices and ended up hiring the wrong candidate for the job.”

Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action. Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…

Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again.They have told us about their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.

In this edition

Svenja Vollmer

Residence: The Hague

Profession: Team Leader Youth and Women Empowerment, Division for Peace, United Nations Institute for Training and Research

An important part of Svenja’s job at the United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR) is to recruit both consultants and interns to support her team to implement training and capacity building projects. Not too long ago, she was in need for a new team member for a specific project. She knew upfront that a hectic schedule in that part of the year wouldn’t allow for the same sort of mentorship and guidance she usually offers to her team members, so she needed someone with experience, a steep learning curve and the ability to work independently. She ended up hiring someone with none of those skills.

What did you do wrong during the selection process for this particular candidate?

When I am recruiting, I am always faced with some sort of moral dilemma. I feel that it is my role and that of UNITAR – I mean, we are a training institute AND part of the United Nations – to offer empowering opportunities to people and to embrace diversity. The aspiration of the UN is to portrait the whole world, so I always pay attention to this in the recruitment process.

For this specific role, I had 3 possible candidates on the short list, all with different cultural as well as educational backgrounds. I ended up recruiting one of the candidates. She wasn’t the one that was the most qualified, but she met my values of diversity and empowerment. However, by putting these values upfront, I was putting my own needs and the needs of the organization at a second place.

“It turned out to be a mistake that affected both parties in a negative way.”

For my team member, who was not familiar with the UN context and not used to our way of working, it was quite a frustrating moment, as she didn’t get the time, dedication and mentorship that she needed. On the other hand, I was still faced with a deadline and a job that had to be done.

What did you learn from this?

It showed me that it’s important to be realistic when making a choice for a new team member, looking at your own time and resources. And of course that you need to balance your emotions and rational thoughts, as well as your values and the needs of the organization at that moment. My trainer’s heart almost always roots for the underdog. I am a very compassionate person and when I see someone with potential – and this woman certainly had that – I immediately think: “I can empower this person”. And if I would have hired this particular person for the same or another position in a different moment, I am sure that things would have worked out much better for both of us. So for future selection processes, I will make sure to be able to respond both to the needs of the organization AND the team member.

Is there something you could have done differently?

Yes. My colleagues were quite frank with me and expressed their doubts about my selection and the reasons for it, from the beginning. And honestly, my gut feeling also told me that I wouldn’t be able to give her the guidance she needed. I based my decision too much on my values, and in the end, no one was benefiting from that.

I also have the tendency to believe that the easiest choice may be the wrong one. That it’s wrong to hire the person who doesn’t need any guidance, because then you just make it easy on yourself. Now I know that sometimes, in everybody’s best interest, it’s best to go for this kind of solution. Don’t be too hard on yourself!

The best mistake of: Cees Juffermans

“I remember thinking: “what am I supposed to do now?” This was my dream. This was what I had been dreaming about as a young boy. And that one chance was gone because of my own stupid mistake.”

Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action.  Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…

Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again.They have told us about their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.

In this edition:

Cees Juffermans

Residence: Stompwijk

Profession: former olympic athlete, Chief Marketing Officer at the Invictus Games 2020.

On 12 February 2006 Cees Juffermans has the chance to write history in Dutch sports during the Olympic games in Turin. He was in the semi-finals of the 1500 meters short track. The final in sight, chance of winning a medal, never before has a Dutch shottracker gotten so far. Although in that moment the sport was relatively unknown in the Netherlands, on this sunday all of a sudden Cees became known worldwide. But not the way he was hoping he would…

Before the lenses of hundreds of cameras, thousands of spectators in the stadium and millions of viewers on TV, the Stompwijker was taken down by another skater in the last curve. In short track this means an automatic free pass to the next round. The finals. But it only counts if you complete the full round. And that is what Cees doesn’t do. Just a few meters before the finish he steps off the ice. In sports, this is counted as resignation, as a “did not finish”. Gone was his spot in the final, the chance of winning a medal. This mistake makes Cees fall back to 18th place in the final ranking and shatters his childhood dream.

What did you do when you realized what had happened?

“I only realized what has happened when I was in the changing room. I know the rules. Even worse: during my training the rules where always emphasized.  Whatever happens, always make sure you cross the finish line. I have no clue why I stepped off the ice early. I must have had a complete black-out.”

As a top athlete you are certainly not alone, you have a whole team around you. Even so Cees does not blame anyone else but himself. “Of course I can think “why did nobody warn me that I had to finish the race in that moment?” But in the end the responsibility lies on my shoulders. Therefore, shortly after my mistake I walked up to the media and made this clear.”

What did you learn from this incident?

“A lot. I still make mistakes, every day. We all do. But this is one of those mistakes you won’t ever forget. It sounds crazy, but it has done a lot for me. It made me realize that so often we are focused on the end result, even though the process to get there might be way more important than the goal itself. If you have dreams, chase them. Don’t let anyone stop you. And yes, at one point you will fall flat on your face. In my case literally. So what? You get up again. The world is not going to end.”

“Mistakes only make you stronger. Suddenly I was standing in the spotlight, everyone had an opinion. I chose to put the negative critics aside.”

It made me realize that people close to you,  do not judge you for the mistakes you make. The negative reactions were primarily from people that were not as close to me. Not only when I made this mistake by the way. Being a professional athlete can be pretty lonesome. When others my age met at the bar during the weekends, I was training extremely hard. Of course people had their own thoughts on this, but I chose not to listen to them. That is also what I really want to advise others: don’t let what others might think or say about you influence you. It is YOUR dream, and they are YOUR choices. Do what you love and remember what you are doing it for. What is the reason you get up every day? Even if you make mistakes, don’t give up and try to do it a little bit better than yesterday.”

What did you change after this mistake?

“I started looking at my athletic career differently, as a whole, instead of that one goal alone. I might not have won an Olympic medal, but I still feel like I got everything I could have out of my dream. And I am still benefiting from the experiences I had and the network I built in those years. I have also changed my perspective about what is really important to me. What do I want to “leave behind”? How can I make a change in society? The misstep in Turin really made me think. How terrible would it be if you look back on your career and you realize that you’ve only done things that others expected you to do, instead of chasing your own dreams?”

Do you want to share your best mistake? Share it to info@doors-open.nl! Maybe you are the next feature on our blog!

Doors Open - Doelen stellen - waarom lukt het niet

I spoke to an old classmate last Friday during a New Year’s drink. The same classmate I spoke to last year whilst enjoying a glass of Chardonnay.

A year ago she told me: “I’m going to do things completely different this year! I have decided to finally start my own business.” She couldn’t wait to get started and with a twinkle in her eye, she told me about her ideas of starting her own web shop for children’s clothing. At the time I had just taken a leap of faith and become a fulltime entrepreneur with Doors Open, and I had just opened the doors of Doors Open Female Hub. So I completely understood her enthusiasm.

When I asked her this year how her web shop was going – by the way, with a glass of water due to this year’s resolution of no alcohol in January – she told me that she hadn’t gotten round to it. But this year I’m really planning to get it up and running!”

My old classmate is a telling example. Because even though Instagram is full of successful, laughing goal getters, the reality is that goals more often than not end up in the trash.

Why does this happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it? I notice during my coaching sessions and when setting my own goals for the year that there are 4 questions that are essential to answer if you want to achieve your goals successfully.

Doors Open - Doelen stellen

#1 What is my  “why”?

When setting goals, we often stay on the surface too much. We only look at the outcome, at the action and not at the underlying motivation.

“I want to go to the gym more often this year” is a popular example. The gym is not a goal in itself. The goal is to feel fitter and healthier and we think that we can achieve this by going to the gym.

A turnover of € 10,000 per month is not an objective in itself. The goal is to create financial security and we think we can achieve this by a turnover of € 10,000 per month.

We often make the mistake of seeing the steps we need to take as the ultimate goal rather than looking at the underlying motivation. Why do you want to go to the gym more often? Why do you want that turnover of € 10,000 per month? Why do you want to start your own business?

I fill in this free workbook every year to find out what motivates me and which direction I want to go.

#2 How do I make it concrete?

From your “why” you will have to take concrete steps. Motvation alone is not enough. Amongst other things, I wanted to have freedom and be able to make choices. That was my underlying motivation to become a full-time entrepreneur with Doors Open and Doors Open Female Hub. But how do I make that concrete? I want to feel fitter and healthier, that is my underlying motivation. But how do I make that concrete?

In this article they cite a study in which people who want to feel fitter and healthier (motivation) and therefore go to the gym (action) increase their chances of successfully achieving this goal by one simple trick:

  • They write down where and when they start exercising.

Non-commitment is a pitfall, which is why so many goals end up in the trash. By making it really concrete, making a plan of action, you will see that the chances of success increase significantly. When I had the idea of Doors Open Female Hub, I made a concrete plan of action, including a timeline. I go to the gym twice a week at an agreed time. There’s a reason that personal trainers are so popular. You can’t stay in bed if you know that someone is waiting for you on Tuesday morning at 08.00.

Doors Open - Doelen stellen - Angst

#3 What stops me?

In the ten years that I have been working as Learning & Development expert and coach, I regularly meet people who exactly know what their underlying motivation is. They know exactly what they want. They also know in detail how to get there, what steps are needed. And yet they do not succeed in actually taking action.

This often has to do with fears. We are afraid that we do not see the desired result, we’re afraid we can’t actually do it. We see worst-case scenarios in which everything goes completely wrong. And these fears lead to a certain type of behaviour that prevents us from achieving our goals.

Tim Ferriss argues in his TedTalk that you should define your fears instead of your goals.

I also dedicate time to fear in my coaching sessions and in my masterclass  “From Dreams to Actions.” By holding up a mirror and analysing which fears stop you and which behaviour you exhibit, you will also learn what you can do to overcome your fears.

#4 I’ve achieved my goal. How do I feel?

Especially in January we tend to look ahead. What do I want to achieve this year? But it’s just as important to look back and reflect. If we do not reach our goal, reflecting helps us in finding out why it did not work. But even if you do achieve your goal, it is important to reflect. I always try to celebrate goals, no matter how small they are. I also take a moment to think: “I have achieved my goal. What am I feeling now?” Suppose you have achieved your target of € 10,000 per month, but the feeling of certainty (the underlying motivation) is not there. Then you know that money isn’t what offers you security.

Reflection is essential to prevent us from pursuing the wrong goals and, in spite of achieving the goals, not feeling the way we wanted to feel. So take the time to reflect regularly, before you proceed to the next action.

I hope that I will speak to my old classmate again next year and that she has managed to launch her web shop. And I am very curious about how she will feel.

What goals have you set and how are they going?

Doors Open - Waarom een compliment krijgen zo moeilijk is

Why it’s so difficult to receive compliments – and what you can do about it

“What? This old thing? I’ve had it for years!” I hear myself saying this more often than than I’d like to when I get a compliment about my outfit. Not only about my outfit actually, even professionally I brush compliments off. Even though, I know that I am a good trainer and coach.

When I receive a compliment I feel awkward, sometimes I giggle and I don’t know how to react. Apparently I am not the only one. After asking a few people in my professional and personal network, and it appears that others also find it difficult. Which is a shame. You do not only fail yourself by trivializing a compliment or brushing it off, but also the one who gives the compliment.

How come there are so many people that find it difficult to receive a compliment? I think there are a number of reasons behind this.

#1 – Modesty

We often learn to be modest. Especially in The Netherlands we have a saying “Just act normal, that’s already crazy enough.” By accepting a compliment instead of brushing it off, you may fear that you will come across as pretentious.

#2 – What do you want from me?

Because of insecurities or distrust we think that there is something more behind a compliment. That flattery is used to get something from us. If a sales person in a shop says that those new jeans look fantastic on you, you immediately think it’s because she wants to sell you something. If a family member gives you a compliment and then asks for a favour, you think “Told you so, they didn’t mean it. They did it to manipulate me.”

#3 – You don’t even know me

Who gives the compliment, also influences our reaction. Imagine you are giving a presentation and afterwards someone that you don’t really know comes up to you and says, “Very inspiring. Especially the part where you talked about the importance of personal leadership.” Because you aren’t familiar with the person, it is more difficult to accept the compliment. We often find it easier to accept a compliment from a close friend, colleague or loved one. Although in today’s era of social media it is completely normal to constantly seek compliments from strangers. The compliments, however, are often casual and there is the safety of having a screen between you. Accepting face-to-face compliments remains difficult, especially if it’s from a stranger.

Receiving compliments – this is how it can be done!

By brushing off compliments, you bring yourself down. But have you considered that it also negatively influences the person giving you a compliment? By trivializing it you give the impression that their opinions is incorrect (as you disagree with it) and you can make them feel bad.

The next time you receive a compliment try the following:

#1 – Say “Thank you”

Rule number 1! No matter how awkward it feels, this is the only reaction with which you can’t go wrong. You are happy and the person giving the compliment is happy.

Often it is not the “thank you” that makes the situation awkward, but the silence afterwards. Think: it is not that bad if there is a small silence. Enjoy the compliment that you just received and then continue the conversation.

#2 – Do not compliment them right back

When someone gives us a compliment, we are inclined to give them the same compliment back. Do not do it! It feels forced and sometimes even fake, which also lowers the worth of the compliment you just received. You often also end up in throwing compliments back and forth. “Your hairs looks nice.” “No, YOUR hair looks good.” It’s better to receive a compliment, continue the conversation and to give a (meaningful) compliment back at another moment.

#3 – Take a moment to see what the compliment does to you

Practice makes perfect and you will see that if you train yourself to accept a compliment, this will have a positive effect on what it does to you. The first few times may feel awkward, but after a while it will make you feel good and will give you more self-confidence. By really taking the time to receive the compliment and reflecting on how it makes you feel, the effect will only become greater.

You did great, Suzanne

Finally… compliment yourself more often. No, that doesn’t make you arrogant. There are things that you are good at. You are allowed to say them out loud. Did you know that self-awareness is the first step to personal leadership?

If you want to know more about personal leadership, take a look at our special coaching package for personal leadership!

TedTalks over Leiderschap - Doors Open training en coaching

One of my favourite hobbies on an evening off during the week or on a Sunday morning is watching Ted Talks. I find it one of the best sources of inspiration on topics that interest me. One of those topics is leadership. From all of the Ted Talks that I have seen, I have made a selection of 6 videos that, in my opinion, you should have seen if you are or want to be a leader.

1 – Drew Dudley: ‘Own your title’

A man wearing a funny hat explains leaderships with the principle of handing out lollies. This Ted Talk is only 6 minutes and 11 seconds and is, without a doubt, my number 1 favourite.

2 – Derek Sivers: ‘How to start a movement’

The original video ‘Dancing Guy’ that was shows at the Sasquath Music Festival in 2009 now has more than 14 million views on YouTube. Derek Sivers explains in just over 3 minutes, using this video, that change and movement starts with that first follower. Do you want to bring about change? Find your first follower, embrace him or her as partner and you are on your way to creating a movement.

3 – Simon Sinek: ‘Why good leaders make you feel safe’

With his inspiring approach, Simon Sinek shows why trust is the foundation of leadership. With bold statements like “Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank” and “Would anybody be offended if we gave a 150 million dollar bonus to Ghandi?” I can guarantee you that, just like me, you will watch this Ted Talk more than once.





I am so enthusiastic about this Ted Talk that I created a workbook: “ 5 steps to leadership that creates trust.”

4 – Margaret Heffernan: Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work

Margaret Heffernan explains why hierarchy is destructive rather than constructive. And she does this using… chickens. She shows how an environment with fierce competition (team, organisation or even society) creates aggression, dysfunction and waste. This at the expense of innovation and collaboration. Not something you want as a leader, right? Fortunately, Heffernan also gives insights into how it should be.

5 – Dan Pink: don’t assume money is the best motivator

A large part of the corporate world is built around the idea that employees perform better with financial incentives: bonuses, promotion, commission, shares. In a humorous way, yet backed up by research, Dan Pink shows how this does not work for a lot of jobs in the 21st century. In fact, with tasks that require creativity, problem solving and innovation, it can even be counterproductive and cause a decrease in performance. So what can you do as a leader to motivate people? Pink shares his thoughts on that too.

6 – Itay Talgam: Lead like the great conductors

A orchestra conductor faces the ultimate leadership challenge: creating harmony without saying a word. In this engaging Ted Talk, Italy Talgam shows the unique techniques of 6 of the most important and well-known conductors and uncovers crucial lessons for every leader.

 I am curious to hear what your favourite Ted Talk is about leadership. One of the six above? Or one that is not part of the list? Let me know in the comments.

Want to know more about leadership? Follow me on LinkedIn, I frequently share articles about this topic.