How Digital Is Your Life?

In the mid-2000s, I was teaching in a Master’s Program in Helsinki, where students from around the world participated. One of the participants, who was from a non-European continent, began dating a local resident. When she was about to graduate, I asked if she planned to look for employment in Helsinki. She replied, “I don’t want to spend my life on Skype.”.  


Interesting perspective!” I thought. In work matters, my colleagues were a few offices away. Office communication was either face-to-face or by email. However, in my personal life, I was one of the happy users of Skype, daily being in touch with my family back in Romania. The temporary nature of my research contract didn’t make me overly concerned about relying on Skype. So, I assumed that, sooner or later, I’d return to my origins and desired face-to-face personal interactions with family members. 


Fast forward over 15 years later, and I find myself having stayed longer in Helsinki, raising my children in the Finnish culture. Not only do the majority of my personal interactions occur online, but also my work-related activities are predominantly conducted in the digital realm. Throughout these years, we have witnessed remarkable technological advancements, including AI-enabled technologies, AR/VR/MR, robotics, and blockchain, among others. We have developed our prefered platforms of remote communication, social media, video sharing and online courses.


From time to time, I reflect on my former student’s dislike of a Skype-centric existence, wondering, “What’s wrong about a life where the boundaries between physical and digital merge?”. 


Personal life


This April, my family and I visited our friends in Ireland. During the stay, one of the kids got sick. Naturally, my first instinct was to whatsapp my cousin, who is a doctor relocated in Sweden. She comforted us with an initial online consultation. 


For individuals like me, who have families and friends scattered across Europe and beyond, the internet connection and communication platforms enable us to share significant moments in our lives, though remotely. When my grandmother passed away, my cousin, sister and I couldn’t attend the funeral. Instead, we cried for hours online, reminiscing about our grandmother’s fascinating personality. Grandmother was the person who brought vitality and smiles in people’s hearts. 


Of course, family moments are most meaningful, soothing and energizing when everyone is physically present in the same room. Think of the latest anniversary you spent with your family. What makes it truly unforgettable? Isn’t it so that being gathered around the cake and sharing in the excitement as the birthday hero blows out the candles is one of the best feelings? 



Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, I could not fathom myself sitting at home, conducting Zoom workshops for professionals residing in the USA or China, individuals I had never met before. The technology was there before the outbreak, but I couldn’t think of the possibility of working remotely from Finland with professionals located in other countries. 


Now, I can clearly see that emerging technologies have empowered us to transform the way we work. For instance, Chat-GPT is a reliable assistant I can converse with when I feel blocked at the outset of a writing project. I ask questions, I read the answers and my creativity is back in flow. 


The main limitations are our imagination, creativity and flexibility. If we were to embrace emerging technologies, how would we approach our jobs differently? To what extent are we willing to allow technology to reshape our professional identities?


Navigating our way through a digitalised life


What’s wrong with a life where our smartphones and laptops become our closest companions? Sometimes, I panic. A lot. A part of me rebels against the life I have. A sense of warmth fills my heart, ending in a whirlwind of emotions, as I revisit treasured childhood memories from a time when all the people I held dear resided within an area of 60 km. And yet, times have changed and the people I care about have chosen to live in different cities and countries where their needs are fulfilled. So, for some of us, digitalisation does something rather meaningful – it helps us reconcile the various facets of our identities – personal, social and professional. 


Now and then, I think of my former student who didn’t want a life centered around Skype and with whom I stay connected through social media. We occasionally write comments on each other’s posts. In the past, Nokia connected people while today, it is digital platforms that bring us together. Instead of pondering, “What is wrong about a life where the boundaries between physical and digital blend?”, we can reflect on the following four questions:


  1. “What is the lifestyle that makes me feel comfortable?”
  2. “Which digital platforms, if any, do I favor, and in what ways do they contribute to my personal growth?”
  3. “What am I willing to do outside my comfort zone to invite new perspectives into my life?”
  4. “Where do I draw the line when it comes to embracing a digital life?”

Whatever you choose to do next, I hope you see the meaning of your choices.


This article was initially published on Linkedin.

Why Everybody Needs a Coach

In the last 3 years since I’ve been a certified coach, whenever I would mention to someone what I do for a living, people would look with a confused face, for few seconds and say,“So … you are some kind of a consultant?”, “I see! You are a cook. ”, or ask with honesty, “What is a coach?”


The coaching profession has been around since 1990’s. In 1995, professional coach Thomas Leonard founded the International Coach Federation (ICF) in the United States with the aim of supporting coaches and helping one another to grow the profession.


A brief history


One year later, in 1996, ICF had 400 subscribers, an appointed president and a board of directors. In 2000, ICF grew at a rate of 130 new members per month, from Europe, Australia and Asia. By 2016, the structure and activities provided by ICF have diversified to support a growing community of professional coaches specialized in fields, such as: leadership and executive coaching, internal and organizational coaching, positive psychology, health and wellness coaching, life coaching, etc.


Thus, professional coaching has a roughly 2 decades history and its development shows how the profession has evolved to match the needs of the clients. So, what is coaching and who needs it?


What coaching is


The ICF definition of professional coaching is that of a “ … partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment…


At the heart of coaching is the relationship between the client (interchangeably used with the term “coachee” from now on) and the coach, which involves a deeper level of trust and intimacy so that the coach can understand the beliefs, values, habits, and expertise of the coachee. Only at this deeper level of understanding, the coach is able to ask questions that provoke the thinking and creativity of the client who is working towards a specific goal at work or in personal life.


The ICF definition continues: “… Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole…


The responsibility of the coach is not to assume or judge anything about the client’s life. The only assumption of the coach is to believe that the client possesses the inner resources for reaching his/her goals. This belief is reflected in the questions that the professional coach asks with the aim of encouraging the client to grow awareness in their thinking and emotional landscape.


The ICF definition ends with, “…Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:


  • Discover, clarify, and align with that the client wants to achieve


  • Encourage client self-discovery


  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies


  • Hold the client responsible and accountable.


This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.”     


We can see now that the professional coach is not a consultant, who is a professional who has knowledge in a specific field and helps the client by making use of that knowledge and providing a recommended set of actions. The professional coach is not a cook either, preparing a meal for the client to fill in the emotional holes.


The coach is not your friend either. Let’s say you are telling to your friend, “I’ve been thinking to change job.

Your friend might answer, “What’s wrong with your current job?

Your friend may have the best interest at heart and want to help you, without realising that she just asked a problem-focused question. This is what the brain is normally doing, it focuses too much on the problem, which makes us feel frustrated and anxious.

Instead, the coach may ask, “How long have you been thinking about this?“. This way, your proactive thinking gets activated and slowly the conversation moves on to empowering you find solutions to your dilemma.

The professional coach respects the client’s view on the world, and through powerful questions, supports and challenges the coachee to update their own view on the world by changing the perspective on it.


Who needs coaching


We go to eat at a restaurant because we feel hungry or want to socialize with friends. We hire an architect because we want to build the house of our dreams. We go see a doctor because we can’t take the physical pain anymore. These needs for food, warmth, water, safety are primary needs, at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs .


The need for coaching is a personal growth need, at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.


Life circumstances and our conditioning dictate how much attention we give to these needs. What’s certain is that many of us experience life changes – such as loss of someone beloved, divorce, being fired, moving to another town/country, company mergers, etc. One of the best ways to manage and enjoy life is to learn how to grow with life. How to fulfil our full potential in line with everything that happens around us.  


In the last 3 months, how many times did you feel that you are standing alone in face of uncertainty? At least I feel this way once in a while. 


The professional coach is the person who is there for you, creating the safe space for you to think about what is it that you can do best, in certain circumstances and take practical steps. The coach is a human being who walks with you the path of life, for a period of three to six months.   


I have experienced how it is to be coached about some personal dilemmas. I’ve been fascinated how good it feels to sit down with another person, the coach, who actually listens to me. In addition, feeling the supportive energy inspired me to look for some answers of my own. At the end of the coaching session, I may not have seen the solution but I felt energised to have some insight into my inner world.


How would the world be if, at certain stages in life, we walked the coaching journey to realise our vision as a parent, partner, co-worker, and kinder human being?