Meet Elsa 

A project manager who cultivates a rich, inner life and dreams big   

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TURNING POINTS MARKED BY TRAVELLING:

"I was 17 and at the first crossroad of my life. I was struggling at school and my father had an expatriation opportunity in the US. We thought it would be a good experience for all of us. We all struggled during the first months: my mother and I did not speak English, my father didn’t enjoy his work, we missed our friends and family... Instead of supporting one another and creating stronger bonds, we locked ourselves into silence. Nevertheless, I was enjoying school again, I was doing a lot of sports (I learned how to swim!), I was writing a lot. In retrospect, it was a lonely experience that helped me build strength as I fought adversity.

At 22, I was at the second crossroad of my life. I decided to do a gap year. It was an intuitive choice. My masters at university was badly managed and I couldn’t go to Germany for an exchange year as it was planned, so it was a good trigger to make the decision to take a gap year. It was also a reasonable choice. Half of the year, I had no objectives, travelling abroad, following my heart (and my lover), and half of the year, I was really reasonable, working and proving that a gap year would be positive for my future professional life.

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The third crossroad was after my studies when I decided to leave France (and my lover) for a job opportunity in Cambodia. I really wanted to get stronger, emotionally and professionally. It was an incredible year. I was definitely out of my comfort zone most of the time, working in the middle of nowhere with no one who spoke English. I was still able to develop strong friendships over time that helped me cope.

The fourth and my latest crossroad was when I decided to return to France to live with my lover in Marseille. It’s been a year and it is a new life for me: more quiet and peaceful. I have to create my own challenges now!

All these crossroads are linked to the various cities I moved to over the last few years. These moves were mostly impulsive decisions based on certain events in my life, but always weighing the pros and cons of course.

Today, I still operate this way for all major decisions. I have always felt really lucky and rewarded by the choices I've made. I've always thought that if something seemingly negative happened to me, it was meant to happen, and that I have the ability to transform it into something positive. Looking back on these crossroads always gives me a lot of strength. And I'm also a believer that no matter what happens, I will always find my way."

"I've always thought that if something seemingly negative happened to me, it was MEANT to happen, and that i have the ability to transform it into something positive."

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A path to BRAVERY in 3 steps:

"I often find that there are three stages to finding my path to bravery:

The first stage is that I intuitively go straight for challenges. For example, I will apply for a new challenging job or move to a “dangerous” country or I will motivate friends to run a marathon with me… I intuitively really want to put myself out there, to go outside my comfort zone, with a "message in a bottle" that I throw out at sea. I am not sure if someone will read it and say “let’s go” or not. I think I am reassuring myself that maybe this crazy project will turn into something real (or not!). This is my intuitive and adventurous self speaking at this stage.

The second stage of my path to bravery - not so brave anymore - happens when the challenge is right in front of me, really tangible (someone caught the bottle and its message...). This is when I freak out and want to go back in time. This second stage can last 30 seconds (just before I start the marathon) or a week (when I’m preparing for the new job interview…). This is the rationale and scared me speaking (why do I want to put myself in such an uncomfortable situation?!!).

Fortunately, there is a last stage to my “bravery”. A third stage where I reconcile both steps. This is where I intellectualize and realize that taking risks, always moving forward, is what I love the most in life, and is what brings me joy because I always learn something. For example, if I don’t get the job I wanted, I might be disappointed, but I understand that I always learn something along the way (about the company, its management style, and above all about myself…)."

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ON defining AMBITION on her own terms:

"I realized lately that I was ashamed of being ambitious in my professional life. I think this is because in my mind (and I am sure in others’ minds too), ambition can be wrongly perceived. Ambition can be perceived as fighting for a position, looking for recognition, leaving people behind… In my mind, this is not something to celebrate! My perception of professional ambition was not at all aligned with my personal ambitions.

I looked for the definition of “ambition” in the Cambridge English dictionary: 1. a strong wish to achieve something or 2. a strong wish to be successful, powerful, rich, etc….

I really want to achieve something. I want to contribute to making the world a better place for ourselves and for our children, but I don’t really care about success as power and money. It might seem strange for a lot of people, but it is true! I also think I can be ambitious without fighting others and, on the contrary, helping and inspiring others to progress. My experience managing others reinforced this vision: what I like the most is to find new tools or a new pedagogy to help my team build their skills and experiences. You can’t imagine how proud I am when I see them succeed on their own. This is definitely a stronger emotion than when I succeed doing something on my own."

"I really want to achieve something. I want to contribute to making the world a better place for ourselves and for our children." 

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DISCOVERIES THAT HELPED HER LOOK INWARD:

"I started following Gestalt Therapy and reading books and magazines of philosophy, such as Fréderic Lenoir's "The Power of Joy" and the "French Philosophie Magazine n°101 and n°3." I also listen to an English podcast called "The Life Coach School" by Brooke Castillo. Through these different media, I learned (and wish I had learned sooner) that our thoughts and feelings only depend on us. The Stoïcs differentiate between things that do not depend on us (others, the environment, natural events…) and things that do depend on us (our thoughts, feelings and actions). Things that do not depend on us, we should be indifferent to us. However, what does depend on us, we have the capacity to improve and better. Whenever I'm in stuck in a difficult situation or negative thoughts, I always take a step back and think about what I could change. I feel empowered knowing that I can do that. I feel that I can have control of my life and that it will always be beautiful, whatever happens."

"Through thEsE different media, I learned (and wish I had learned sooner) that our thoughts and feelings only depend ON us."

EVERYDAY ROUTINES THAT KEEP HER GOING:

"I bike to and from work. Most of the time, I am listening to "The Life Coach School" podcast. These biking moments are transition times that I really need to feel good. In the morning, it allows me to gently wake up (I am definitely not a morning person). After work, it allows me to leave all my problems behind at the office.

For a while I also tried all the “morning glory” stuff: waking up earlier to meditate, read, write, exercise… I really enjoyed doing it for few months, but as I said, I am not a morning person and I drifted away from this ritual. Maybe I will have the courage to do it again in the fall (I said that I should find more challenges in my new life...)."

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on her dreams as her second reality:

"I am a huge dreamer and I keep most of my dreams for myself. I am sure people would think I am crazy if I shared some of my dreams with them. Most of my dreams do not turn into reality (fortunately!). For example, one of my last dreams was about quitting everything and everyone to live as a hermit in my grandpa’s house in Burgundy until I finish reading all the books in his house (there are hundreds!). Actually, this is one of the most realistic dreams I have had in a long time…"


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