Tag Archive for: personal leadership

how to reach your goals

As the end of the year is approaching, I am often thinking back about this old classmate I spoke to, about five years ago. At that moment she told me, with twinkling eyes: “I’m going to do things completely different this year! I have decided to finally launch my own business, a webshop for children’s clothing”. At the time I had just taken a leap of faith and became a full-time entrepreneur with Doors Open, and I had just opened the doors of the Female Hub. So I completely understood her enthusiasm.

A year later, we met again – at Bubbels & Babbels – and when I asked her how her webshop was doing, she told me that she hadn’t gotten around to it. “But this year I’m really planning to get it up and running!”

My old classmate is a textbook 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?

In order to achieve your goals, there are 4 crucial elements.

#1 Find your 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?

Centering – a somatic exercise I often practice with my coachees – helps to really focus on your purpose and why you want something. What are you longing for and how does it make you feel? Is it truly what you want, or is it something you think you want, maybe even – unconsciously – influenced by others?

#2 Embody your why

Once you’ve found your why, the next challenge is to really embody the change you want to make. Motivation is crucial, but even the most motivated people – often – fail. A very useful exercise is to write down your why. What is the change you really commit yourself to? Repeat this commitment – by saying it to yourself in front of a mirror, by writing it down, by saying it to your partner, whatever works for you – everyday. That’s when you start making the transformation from finding your commitment to being the commitment.

Now, you know what they say: if something sounds to good to be true, it usually is. That’s true here too. Writing down your commitment ain’t gonna do the whole trick. It’s just a start. In order to really embody your why, you need to practice it 300 times before it becomes muscle memory (I cannot repeat this enough: the brain is a muscle) and 3.000 times for it to become your automatic response.

If you are ready to embody your why, the Tiny Habits method is a very recommended resource.

#3 What stops me?

In the fifteen years that I have been working as a Learning & Development expert and coach, I regularly meet people who exactly know what their why 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.

The most common reason: fear. 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.

There’s an explanation for this. We are biological beings and because of that we are looking for safety, belonging and being seen. Change, the unknown, is something that biologically sparks fear. Our brain automatically wants to go to something that is familiar. When experiencing fear your body goes into contraction: we avoid the change, we go back to your old habits, we continue to plan and plan and plan, but never really take action. All of these behaviours are signs that we are looking for safety.

Recognizing your fears, and naming them – name it to tame it – is a very useful exercise to overcome those fears.

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

At Doors Open, we often use a somatic exercise when someone experiences fear:

It starts with centering (if you want to know more about this essential somatic exercise, feel free to reach out)

Place your hand on the part of your body where you feel the fear. Is it in your back, your head, your shoulders?

Describe what you feel: is it warm, cold, moving, does it have a certain shape or color?

Experience how – slowly – your fear will become less

Now say your commitment out loud again

#4 Find an accountability partner

Especially in December and 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 (following the Tiny Habit method).

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 is not there. Then you know that money isn’t what offers you security. In other words, you know that you have to go back to (re)discover your why.

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. An accountability partner is very valuable here: someone you can share your commitment with and a person who can keep you ‘on track’. This can be a professional coach, but also a friend, colleague or family member. We too often feel we have to do everything all by ourself.

I hope that next year – you’ll come back to this blog to share the wonderful progress you made in achieving your goals. If you need any help along the way, feel free to reach out to our team.

“Are you sure you can handle that project? It’s quite challenging”, one of your colleagues questions, casting doubt as you volunteered to take on additional responsibilities at work. “I’m not sure if you have the right expertise for that role, my dear” another colleague chimes in.  

Does this scenario sound all too familiar? Sadly, even in 2023, these deeply ingrained gender-based limiting beliefs persist, acting as roadblocks on the path to women’s progress and stifling their full potential. 

In our last blog post, we explored the transformative power of somatics and embodied learning, and the benefits they bring. Today, we dive deep into the challenge of overcoming the limiting beliefs that undermine women’s growth in a professional environment. And here’s the secret weapon we unveil: somatic practices. 

The Persistent Struggles 

It is an unfortunate truth that women continue to face significant barriers solely due to their gender, particularly when they aspire to occupy leadership positions. Demonstrating assertiveness often leads to being unfairly perceived as unlikable or even aggressive. 

Their proposals for process improvement are met with dismissive advice to ‘calm down’ or patronising explanations about why their ideas won’t work—an all-too-familiar occurrence known as ‘mansplaining.’ Additionally, job interviews and promotion discussions become battlegrounds where inappropriate questions about family planning overshadow their qualifications for the role. 

Take, for instance, the discouraging remark my friend received from her manager when she requested a training course to develop herself: “Isn’t it better to focus on your home situation now?”  This occurred two months after her return from maternity leave. 

If you are a woman reading this, I am sure that you, unfortunately, recognise these examples. Whether through personal experiences or stories shared by friends, co-workers, or family members, these examples strike a painful chord for women.

The stereotypes and limiting beliefs about women are not only frustrating, they are hurtful and have a significant impact on women’s mental well-being and self-confidence. 

So, what do we do? Do we just keep our heads down and accept this reality? Do we just shut up and tolerate these stereotypes because then “At least I won’t get criticised because of my gender?”. No, we don’t want that either. 

Breaking Illusions: Beliefs versus Truths 

It’s crucial to recognise that these limiting beliefs are not mere fragile constructs but deeply ingrained assumptions. While they may not represent the truth, their impact on women’s lives cannot be ignored. These beliefs persist within our societal systems, perpetuating the gender pay gap, reinforcing expectations for women to prioritise household responsibilities over career growth, and shaping how women perceive themselves, eroding their confidence and overall well-being. 

When society repeatedly sends the message that women are not deserving or capable, it’s no wonder that some of us begin to internalise these ideas. These societal norms have become so woven into our cultural fabric that we unwittingly absorb them, leading many to develop self-limiting beliefs rooted in these constraining assumptions. 

The Imposter Syndrome Phenomenon 


Now, let’s delve into one of the significant self-limiting beliefs that women often grapple with: the imposter syndrome. Perhaps you can relate to that lingering feeling of being an imposter, even after securing a job or receiving a well-deserved promotion. It’s that nagging thought that somehow you’ve managed to deceive everyone into believing in your competence, while deep down, you fear you lack the necessary knowledge or skills. Here’s the truth: you’re not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. 

The imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern that affects many individuals, where you start to feel like a fraud, regardless of your accomplishments. However, it tends to be particularly prevalent among women who are confronted with the gender-based limiting beliefs in the workplace. This harmful thinking pattern often gives rise to a pervasive sense of self-doubt and a persistent feeling of inadequacy. 

Harnessing the Power of Somatic Practices 


Do you remember our last blog post? We explained that somatic practices pave the way to creating a mind-body connection, enabling you to become more attuned to your physical sensations and their influence on thoughts and emotions. Well, you guessed it: somatic practices are the secret weapon challenging gender-based stereotypes and the feelings of self-doubt they bring. 

Dealing with pent-up stress 

In our pursuit of professional excellence, many have become used to keeping our personal worries to ourselves when entering the workplace. We take our  emotions and we stow them away in the back of our heads, making sure they cannot hinder our professional performance in any way.  

In our society, we have been conditioned to prioritise our cognitive intelligence while neglecting the rich source of wisdom within our own bodies. We have learned to suppress our emotions and hide our vulnerabilities, believing that displaying them in the workplace is a sign of weakness. This is especially true for women; We want to make sure not to provide our colleagues with ANY ammunition that supports women’s supposed emotional frailty. We don’t need to hear any “I TOLD you so’s”. 

But when we let stress build up like that, negative thoughts will grow. How often have all your worries felt so much bigger simply because you were not able to express them? 

What if I told you that tapping into the intelligence of your body—the realm of emotions, sensations, and intuition—could be the key to effectively navigating the challenges that arise in your professional life? 

Let’s consider an example: speaking up and sharing your opinion confidently in meetings. If this proves to be a daunting task, there is a somatic practice that can assist you in reclaiming your voice and taking up space. By engaging in a somatic practice called “centering,” you can connect with your body’s innate wisdom, allowing you to feel grounded, present, and assertive. 

Empowering Confidence 

Somatic practices emphasise and embrace the power and capabilities of our body. Through movement, breathwork or exercises using the body, women can explore and reclaim their power, cultivating a sense of strength, confidence and agency. The engagement with their bodies in such a positive and empowering way, serves as an antidote for women to the impact of hurtful societal norms and stereotypes. 

Amy Cuddy, a prominent voice on the subject, emphasises the critical role of your body and its intelligence when it comes to building confidence in her enlightening TED Talk. Her insights are particularly valuable for women confronting limiting beliefs and the imposter syndrome. 

https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_may_shape_who_you_are/c  

In summary, somatic practices can serve as a guiding light for women facing workplace challenges every day. Caused by hurtful beliefs that are deeply rooted in our society, impeding women’s growth opportunities and fulfilment, and negatively impacting their mental wellbeing. 


Doors Open invites you to embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and empowerment through somatic coaching. In collaboration with Boudewijn Bertsch, a certified somatic coach with a background in evolutionary biology and neurobiology, we have created the Embodied Leadership Growth Programme – an immersive 7-day in-company experience designed explicitly for women navigating gender-based difficulties in the workplace. No more “You’re too emotional for this project”, or “you should gain more experience if you want to get that promotion”. By the use of somatic practices and embodied learning, this programme equips women with innovative and effective solutions to enhance their leadership.  

Want to know more?

Contact us to find out the specifics the Embodied Leadership Growth Programme. Together, we can shatter the glass ceilings, and embrace a future free from the constraints of limiting beliefs! 

Do you ever find yourself thinking this? For example when you say yes to your manager asking to take on that extra project while you’re barely make your own deadlines? Or when you had the chance to share your opinion in a meeting but decided to stay silent anyways, even when you did have something to say? We all find ourselves doing these things , going along with decisions we don’t really support, or saying “yes” to things we don’t really want to say yes to. And the only person who suffers from these unwanted behaviors, is us. 

Changing your behavior is a tough process. Once certain habits (good or bad) are rooted in your system, it is very difficult to stay away from that pattern. Behaviors are automatic responses in your brain, almost like reflexes. Like driving a car… when you first learn how to drive a car, you need to consciously think about each action you take. Which pedals to press, checking your mirrors, shifting gears, etc. Once you’ve been driving your car for years on end, you don’t even think about these actions anymore: you just do them. 

Do you want to establish sustainable behavioral change? Join us for the Embodied Leadership Retreat

Behaviors are created just like this. In response to repeated behaviors, neural pathways are formed in your brain. The more frequently you repeat a certain action, the stronger the neural pathway will become, making it easier for your brain to send the same signal down that pathway in the future. 

As this all sounds a little too science-y, it might be easier to see your brain as a dense forest, intertwined with many different pathways. At first these paths are overgrown and difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it to the other end, and you might even get lost along the way.

But the more frequently you travel down a certain path, the clearer it becomes. With enough repetition, you’ll know the path like the back of your hand, and it will become easy to follow. 

When we repeatedly engage in certain actions or thoughts, the neural pathways in our brain strengthen and become more efficient, making it easier to engage in those behaviors in the future. Eventually, these pathways become so well-established that the action or thought becomes automatic, like a well-worn trail in that dense forest. 

Just like it is much easier to follow a familiar path in the forest than it is to follow an unfamiliar new one, it is easier for our brains to engage in familiar behaviors than it is to form new ones. 

For example, when you’re nervous for a big meeting and you have a smoking habit, it is much easier to have a quick cigarette beforehand to calm the nerves, rather than trying out a 30-minute meditation session you have never tried before. This is why it is so challenging to change certain behaviors: it is like trying to cut a new path through an overgrown forest. 

But we KNOW this, right?  

We KNOW that changing our behavior is hard. We promise ourselves to do things differently each time. This time I will actually say “no” when my colleague asks me to take on a few of his tasks.” But each time we find ourselves in the exact same spot as last time: working hours overtime, thinking to ourselves “If only I had just said “no”…”.  

Why is it so hard for us to break these unwanted behaviors, even when we really really want to? 

Traditionally, when trying to create behavioral change, we focus on intelligence (IQ) and emotion (EQ), and work on these as two separate things. This approach can definitely help you achieve results, but if you really want to make a difference, it won’t be enough.  

That is where somatic practices come into play. 

Somatic practices look at things a little differently. The word ‘somatic’ comes from the ancient Greek ‘Soma’ ( σώμα ), which means body. Somatic theory assumes that you don’t consist of separate parts, but rather that your body, brain and soul are one. And somatic coaching takes your body and its intelligence (BI) as a starting point for creating sustainable change in behavioral patterns. 

For example: remember the last time you had to give a big presentation? You might have known the material by heart (IQ), and you may be passionate enough about the topic to connect with your audience (EQ), but you will still struggle if you’re nervous (BI): your voice will still quaver, your hands will tremble, and you won’t be able to engage your audience as much because of that. 

Your body is much more intelligent than you might think. When looking at the human nervous system , you can see that these neuron connections (the forest pathways we were talking about before), are not only present in the brain, but they are spread out over your whole body. I mean, how often have you had that weird feeling that someone is looking at you? Or the sensation that someone is behind you? 

When you’re under a lot of pressure, like right when you’re about to speak up in an important meeting or before an important presentation, your body is aware of this. You don’t decide to get stressed out, you just are. In these situations you can be fully aware that you’re stressed out and need to calm yourself down. You think to yourself, ‘I know what I want to say’, but it doesn’t seem to help. You’re still trembling, sweating, your voice is all shaky.

Your brain knows that you need to calm down, but your body doesn’t.  

This is why traditional practices – where the mind, emotion, and body are seen as separate elements – don’t work as well as we expect them to when trying to change your behaviour. Somatic coaching, however, still lets the coachee engage in aspects of traditional coaching, but combines it with physical exercises that really make you feel what the different behaviour would be like. This way of learning emphasises the role of the body and the senses in the learning process, instead of solely focusing on intellectual knowledge and information processing.

This approach is called ‘embodied learning’, which recognises that the body plays a crucial role in the way we perceive, process and remember information. 

I think I have made my point very clear that somatic practices and embodied learning are highly beneficial for everyone. It can help you gain the confidence and assertiveness to really tell your boss ‘No’ when you’re asked to take on extra responsibilities when your own work is already piling up. It can improve your communication skills and reduce your anxiety to take up space in important meetings, to help you to finally get your points across.

Do you want to establish sustainable behavioural change? Join us for the Embodied Leadership Retreat

Leaders must not only have knowledge of leadership, they must embody leadership in times of complexity and uncertainty.

Embodied leadership originated from somatic coaching and offers a unique approach by putting the body forward as an advocate for creating change and transformation. Language, action, feeling and purpose are brought together, and it is based on the idea that mind and body are connected. In order for the one to develop, work will have to be done on the other.

You can find more information about this book or order this book here.

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!