Ikigai - positive mental health and well-being

Interview with Christoph Spiessens – Ikigai Coach & Speaker on Spirituality

In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Christoph Spiessens in the studio who is an ikigai coach and also a speaker on spirituality and mental health in the workplace.Christoph Spiessens in the studio who is an ikigai coach and also a speaker on spirituality and mental health in the workplace.

Interview with Christoph Spiessens at Unity Radio – The Real Sound of the City.

Lee said: Each week here on the Logros show we invite guests from the world of entrepreneurs, health, wellbeing and sport to share their stories of inspiration. Today we have got Christoph Spiessens in the studio who is an ikigai coach and also a speaker on spirituality and mental health in the workplace. Good afternoon Christoph, how are you doing?

Christoph said: Good afternoon Lee, I’m very well. It’s great to be here, thank you for having me.

Lee said: First of all before we figure out ikigai coach and also talk about spirituality in the workplace, tell us a little bit about yourself please.

Christoph said: Originally I’m from Belgium. I was born and raised in a small village near Antwerp and I came to the UK about 20 years ago, and that’s where the crossover accent comes from. I have a Manc twang which kicks in at times!

Lee said: Okay so you do speak in a Manc accent as well?

Christoph said: Apparently!

Lee said: Okay Belgium Manc that’s good. I know you have got a coaching and consultancy business. Tell us a bit more about what that business does please.

Christoph said: I’m a firm believer that there is a great need to support people better with regards to their mental health. I thoroughly enjoy going into workplaces and do inspirational talks on that topic based on my own life experience and help employees lock onto the authentic version of themselves. I believe that when we are authentic and we show up as we are the whole organisation benefits from that. It’s a positive ripple effect.

Lee said: We’re deep already. It’s a Tuesday and we’re already into the authentic self! Okay we’ll ease into that one. First of all coaching, so elite sports stars, they have coaching all the time, some chief executives with big companies have coaches. Coaching now is becoming more popular in the workplace from a wellbeing perspective. What would you say is a good take or definition for those who are not sure what coaching is please from a wellbeing and workplace perspective?

Christoph said: Let’s keep it simple. It’s going from A to B but with more awareness. You know you are in a certain place, you know you would like to get to a different place. You may not be clear on what that destination looks like, but you work with someone who can help you explore what that destination could be and what the best way forward is. A coach will guide you on that path.

Lee said: What are some of the impacts or benefits of working with a life coach?

Christoph said: I’m going to drop in another concept here. Self-awareness, because that is the start of everything really and the more you understand who you truly are, the easier it will be for you to get to that destination you are trying to get to.

Lee said: Why do you think health and wellbeing is becoming such a talking point? What is happening around us?

Christoph said: First of all I’d like to say great that it has become such a talking point. It’s very necessary. Unfortunately we have many stats to back up as to why it’s necessary. To answer your question I think life is just moving too fast for many people and there is the obvious ones of, such as work pressure. Little or no work life balance. Social media pressure is also a big driver of unhappiness and mental ill health. All sorts of social and family pressure, they are some of the obvious ones. The less obvious ones and the ones that I think we should talk about more often would include, not living authentically. Like I said at the start we don’t quite know who we are so there’s a bit of an identity crisis going on for many people. Perhaps we don’t know how to have conversations that would benefit us and we don’t know how to reach out for help. We know something is not quite right but what’s the next step?

Lee said: So for a lot of people listening sometimes we turn to the NHS for support. Some people read self-help books. Some people will do simple things like exercise because they know it generates some form of serotonin or dopamine level. You are suggesting that traditional tools for motivation and resilience are sometimes failing us. Can you just tell me a little bit more about what you mean by that?

Christoph said: I’m very pleased that you used the word sometimes because those traditional tools are very effective, but we can’t just take them for granted. If you have someone on your team for example who needs to be more resilient and you send them to me for a one hour resilience training course, I’m not your guy. I don’t believe in sticking a tape in someone’s head and I know that’s not exactly what resilience training is, but to me resilience for example is a result of something where you look back at a situation and you think, wow I had what it took to get me through that and therefore I am resilient. Can I copy and paste that in the future? That’s how you build genuine resilience. So I think that’s why it’s important to have a different approach to mental wellbeing initiatives because the traditional stuff doesn’t always resonate with people.

I think that’s why it’s important to have a different approach to mental wellbeing initiatives because the traditional stuff doesn’t always resonate with people.

Lee said: We were talking before about spirituality and the word is becoming more of a buzz word again. I would ask you what are your thoughts on what spirituality actually is?

Christoph said: So first of all I would like to share what it’s not in my book at least. It is no relation to any religion. It’s entirely non-denominational and I think that’s important to point out. You can be very spiritual and never set foot inside a church or a temple. You know the analogy I used earlier of going from A to B, and you asked me, what do you believe coaching is or a definition if coaching. The vehicle that takes you from A to B is what I mean by spirituality coaching. If you understand who you are and why you are in this big game that we call life, it’s going to be easier to reach that destination. So spirituality is nothing more, nothing less than being clearer on who you are, what matters to you and how you can leverage that.

Lee said: A friend said to me the other day that life is just one big distraction. I thought it was very profound.

Christoph said: What from?

Lee said: Just from everything! Earlier we were talking about authenticity, mental health and wellbeing. How do you find your true self? So everybody listening now, we are going to do a bit of a therapeutic session on how you find your true self – the authenticity within. We are all going to have a Unity Radio mass intervention. What is the first step?

Christoph said: It all depends on the destination where the client or the person I’m working with or the team I’m working with wants to go. You help improve their self-awareness.

Lee said: What do you mean by wants to go? Is that a goal, an outcome; is it you want to be in Spain?

Christoph said: It’s an interesting one because sometimes people will say to you I wold like to achieve x, y or z and they are very clear on their goal. It could be a career move. It could be something different to their general routine but something specific. Sometimes it’s less specific. It’s a general feeling of something is off and I would like some help getting clear on why I’m feeling the way I do. It’s very important to stress though that coaching is looking forward, it’s going from A to B. Therapy and counselling on the other hand is working with issues from the past. That does not mean that coaching cannot be very therapeutic but it is important to state that difference.

Lee said: Just out of interest do you think some people come to you thinking something is off and then almost talking themselves into believing something is off when actually there’s not as much off as they thought could be, if that makes sense. You are almost becoming self-fulfilling. The more you judge your state of feeling anxious for example the more you can become anxious and it can become a deterioration of your state. Do you find that?

Christoph said: Very much so, you are absolutely right. What happens in a session is reassurance that things are good. They don’t necessarily feel good but at the core of it one is not so far off the path. What is the path in the first place right, that it becomes overwhelming? I would say there is a tremendous amount of reassurance that happens in a session by bringing people back to point zero and helping them to take on a holistic look at their life and realising that things are not as bad as they appear.

Lee said: I notice when I listen to my own language and someone says are you happy – I don’t really want to put a judgement on my state because when you put a judgement of being happy it almost implies sometimes you are not happy. Then you can almost talk yourself back into being not happy. Sorry we’re digressing! Let’s get back into authenticity of the true self. That’s what we were talking about. So someone comes in, path A to B, what do you go through?

Christoph said: Learn to listen to yourself. I cannot give you the steps of becoming self-aware. I can tell you but, I don’t think that manual exists. I think anyone who can give you the exact steps wants to have a long hard look at themselves. What I can tell you is what I find helpful in my work with people and it’s about learning to listen to yourself. Listen to what motivates you, what your values are; get clear on what matters to you. What is your life all about and become more self-aware and stop listening to what the world and his son wants you to do or be.

Listen to what motivates you, what your values are; get clear on what matters to you. What is your life all about and become more self-aware and stop listening to what the world and his son wants you to do or be.

Lee said: That’s quite a challenge to do when you are constantly listening to your mind all the time going round and round. What tools do you share with people to intervene there?

Christoph said: You kind of need to become your best friend. I know that sounds soft to many people and some of our listeners perhaps but ultimately, life is between you and you. There’s a big smile on your face something resonates with you in that statement.

Lee said: The statement of the day. Life is between you and you! I know you do a lot of work with young people. You’ve been out to India to work with teenagers around motivational speaking and you have a theory called ‘Domino?’ Do you want to share what you do working with young people? Here at Unity Radio we do a lot of youth engagement projects working across Greater Manchester, helping young people so it would be great for us to share your story.

Christoph said: Thanks for asking. So the long story in short is that Domino was the name of a workshop I delivered in India last year to the finalists of the Soca project. Soca means Spirit of Community Awards which is organised by Prudential and Pramerica. They reward young children and teenagers in India and around the world who have become volunteers. They come up with great projects to improve life in their local communities. One winner is sent to America, Washington I believe for a big prize and the idea of me being there was to help them leverage their work beyond the Soca conference and the event. That’s why I called it the Domino so, they’ve got this great project. How can they, once they have claimed the prize, keep inspiring the next generation of volunteers to do something similar and cause a ripple effect. If you know what your Domino is in life – what is your message with this world? So you for example it’s getting people like myself on the show who can help with a certain message. That is your message and that’s why you keep doing it so that cannot not have a domino effect on to other people whose lives you touch. So we can all be a domino to each other.

Lee said: Okay so relationships probably the source of much happiness, or unhappiness in people’s lives. People hold on to negative relationships because of the fear of what is the unknown without this relationship. People will react in certain ways in relationships. For everybody potentially listening now who may have had a little bit of an argument with their partner I think they should ring them up and say I’m going to be there for you.

Christoph said: Sounds like a nice idea. Can’t harm.

Lee said: The key to a healthy relationship. From a coaching perspective we’ve got relationships in the workplace. Often manager and employee, biggest source of why people will leave a business because they hate the manager. The manager is not skilled in how to handle relationships and obviously relationships with partners. What do you believe is the key to a healthy, happy more or less relationship?

Christoph said: Be it at the workplace first of all remember what we said earlier be your own best friend. That’s the biggest relationship you’ll ever maintain in your life and it’s not an easy one. If you have an argument with your manager, first of all if you don’t resolve that so to speak and people resign they take that issue with them straight into the next job. They will find the same issue right there on their doorstep with the next manager because they have not transcended that issue. Things happen not to us in life , but for us so if there is something false in the relationship between you and your manager remember the self-awareness and authenticity , that’s there if you choose to see it to teach you something.

Things happen not to us in life , but for us so if there is something false in the relationship between you and your manager remember the self-awareness and authenticity , that’s there if you choose to see it to teach you something.

Lee said: You hear this all the time people say, why does this always happen to me? With a lot of coaching the idea is that these experiences happen for you and the skill is to be able to turn every negative experience into some kind of growth opportunity or positive experience even. So I think with most suffering in life that’s the opportunity to grow, would you say that’s right?

Christoph said: Absolutely let’s be honest that doesn’t mean that’s its easy or comfortable, it’s far from it but yes, I think it’s a great and effective, useful philosophy and approach to life.

Lee said: With partners, romantic, loving relationships. What do you think are some of the key attributes to success?

Christoph said: That’s the big A word, authenticity again isn’t it. Imagine if you come home wearing ten different masks, so you’re not the real version of you. Every conversation you have with your partner will not be you.

Lee said: If we are talking about wearing different masks and authenticity, how does oneself know when we are the real self? How do I know I’ve arrived at the authentic self, what is my evidence?

Christoph said: You know if you’ve been authentic or not, not just in the moment because it flows and it feels good, but how you feel afterwards. I know full well the difference between going to bed with a clear conscience or oh my goodness why did I say that? Why did I behave like that? It was out of alignment with my true self. We all know the difference. Does that answer your question? It’s important. It saves people from a lot of frustration and the mental wellbeing that we are trying to promote is easier when you focus on the small steps along the way.

Lee said: Yes it does answer my question. What do you think blocks us or stops people from being their authentic self?

Christoph said: It could be anything. It could be fear of if I do show up as me then there might be repercussions. There could be social pressures. Pressure from family members, peers at work. Shame is another big one. Shame and guilt and I, by way of background very quickly, but perhaps importantly when I was ten years old I was sexually abused for two years by the leader of a summer camp. A male in his late forties. Because of what had happened, yes it put me on the path of spiritual enquiry, why did this happen to me, why do bad things happen to good people? It was also what stopped me from being me for the best part of my later teenage years because I was afraid. How do you break free from that story, from that trauma? I did not know where to go so that was another reason why for a long time I was not authentic because it was driven by shame and guilt.

Lee said: That is then almost like moving from one identity and transforming into another one.

Christoph said: Yes and that time of our lives is already, although it’s supposed to be quite beautiful, it’s difficult for many people very often.

Lee said: At what point did you become an ikigai coach? Tell us what that is.

Christoph said: Ikigai is one of these beautiful Japanese concepts that made their way into the West. Iki means life and gai means purpose. We think, in the West at least that is this big key to finding one’s life purpose. No wonder any books on ikigai and workshops sell like hotcakes because we think it is a magic formula. It is not. I have lived and worked in Japan for two years.

Lee said: What was it like working in Japan?

Christoph said: The reason I came to the UK twenty years ago is because I was cabin crew for the Belgium national airline and they went bust after 9/11. I then joined Japan airlines based from Heathrow airport as multi European language speaking cabin crew. Japan has taught me a lot and can teach all of us a lot, the positive side. There is always a dark side to most cultures and countries too. Ikigai is about learning what fuels you, what is your flame, what motivates you on a daily basis. Not the big elusive white purpose – that’s way too big a destination or a goal to reach. Start with what you can do on a daily basis to be just a little bit happier.

Ikigai is about learning what fuels you, what is your flame, what motivates you on a daily basis.

Lee said: That’s a good tip because when you look through your own social media feeds you always see, what is your purpose, what is your mission in life! You think, I don’t know, what is my purpose? It kind of gets overwhelming and you just go back to your conflicts. But actually doing things step by step and being better every single day is probably easier from a bite size perspective.

Christoph said: Absolutely and then you may or may not find this bigger overall purpose. For those people listening who think gosh is there such a thing as big life purpose, if I can just share this by way of reassuring you – your life is your purpose. Being a father, a friend, whatever your role is in life that is your purpose. You are doing and achieving far more than you give yourself credit for so start with that. If you look at the totality of everything that you do each day and every day from breathing to helping people, to showing someone the way no matter how small it is, that is living with purpose. Too often, and you mentioned social media purpose is this big end goal. No that’s too hard to achieve. You’re almost choking up there Lee!

Lee said: Well, I think you’ve just rounded it off, the big finale of one big purpose. If you are just joining us we have been speaking to Christoph Spiessens. Thank you very much for coming in Christoph. I know you have some workshops coming up and some mindfulness courses. Can you tell us what you have got coming up?

Christoph said: First of all thanks very much for having me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here. You can always find more about me on my website christophspiessens.com. I run workshops in Manchester and pretty much all over the place. The next one is called an Afternoon of Calm this Saturday. You can create calm in your life, so that’s on Saturday. All the details are on my website and so is my podcast called Behind the Scenes of Happiness. So more inspirational content can be found on my website and social channels.

Lee said: Okay thank you very much for coming in this afternoon. This is the Logros Show in association with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and I hope everyone has had a great afternoon, and have a nice evening.

Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno


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Lee Dinsdale

  • Lee Dinsdale

    Lee has over 15 years of experience in professional services as an investment manager and private banker and, since 2014, as a social value entrepreneur. Lee is now an Accredited Coach, Master Practitioner in NLP and trained Hypnotherapist, and was recently awarded a distinction for his MBA.