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  • Nele Clüver

From perfection to wholeheartedness - how I found out that I'm a fish.



“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (ascribed to Albert Einstein)

I always thought I had to climb that tree. No! Correction: I always thought I wanted to climb that tree. The tree for me was perfection and performance. Because that is what makes you successful and success is desirable. Right?!



I was fairly good at climbing that tree. Good in school, got into a great university, good grades there, landed a job in a management consultancy and was also thriving there - at least in the beginning. But over the years, somehow I started struggling more and more to grow into and fill the roles I was supposed to succeed in, despite my drive for perfection. There was a disconnect between something inside me, that I couldn’t name yet and the external voices telling me what “good” has to look like. I was seen for my performance and skills, but not necessarily for my strength and personality. I am grateful for the opportunities I got, the growth I experienced and all the tools I learned that are still so tremendously valuable to me. But in retrospect, I can say that I was one of those women who had followed a path that was informed by external beliefs and expectations about what a good life is supposed to look like rather than my own values and vision.

It might sound easier than it was, but I took that leap of faith and quit my job after eight years in management consulting and made room to listen to that inner voice, to get aware of my inherent strength. I call myself lucky, to have people in my life who gave me the space to do that, who encouraged me to go on that journey of self-reflection and who were there to guide me and act as a sounding board. I call myself lucky, because I know that this is not a given, that it is hard to make and find that space to explore, to set all external expectations aside and blend out that noise.

I was amazed by the fact that so many women I talked to started lowering their masks and armor once I started sharing openly my journey and showing vulnerability myself.

During my journey of self-reflection (others call it a sabbatical), I was amazed by the fact that so many people I talked to started lowering their masks and armor once I started sharing openly my journey and showing vulnerability myself. But more importantly how many admitted that they also feel “stuck”, that they don’t know what they want to do with their lives, that they miss purpose and meaning. And I could relate. These people were operating either in the same sector I was in or similar circles I moved in - in a surrounding that is - and yes, I am overgeneralizing here - driven by performance, by status, by a “work hard, play hard” attitude. I was always aware that I am in that bubble, but eventually realized that you can only really get aware of what that bubble does to your beliefs and your learned narratives once you step outside of it.


It needs a community to hold and guide you, to challenge you and to cheer for you

I believe quitting your job is not the only way to take this step outside. But it needs room and it needs a community to hold and guide you, to challenge you and to cheer for you, to show you the strength you might not be able to see yourself and point you to opportunities that are not visible to you right now. Having found my own way to start living more wholeheartedly, I want to create these safe spaces for others to thrive, to explore their potential and get clarity on their path.

That is why, my beloved partner in crime Arjanna van der Plas and I put together Thrive! - a 3-month group coaching program to find your purpose, overcome your mental barriers and achieve your goals. We created this program with people in mind, who might be at a similar stage in their life, that are longing to find their unique purpose in life, understand their inherent strengths and values, create their own personal compass that can guide them in big and everyday decisions and to overcome those inner critic voices in their heads and make that (bold) next move. All while being held accountable (in the most loving way ;)) and in a group of individuals who share the desire to go deep and live life to the fullest. For me, this is a wonderful opportunity to create those much needed spaces for people to step out of their bubble, into a supportive group that lovingly lets everyone discover, share and explore their own journey.

I knew tree climbing was not an option anymore, but I also knew that I had the whole ocean at my fingertips to explore and conquer

It took quite a while, some hard work, lots of self-reflection and courage to finally realize that I am not a monkey. I am not supposed to be good at climbing that tree. I am a fish. That is actually the hardest, but also the most important realization of all. Because once I was aware that I am a fish, I knew tree climbing was not an option anymore, but I also knew that I had the whole ocean at my fingertips to explore and conquer. I feel at home in the ocean, I feel that this is my element - because I am built for this, because this is where I can bring my strength to bear. Where I want to swim and what part of the ocean I want to explore, is an exciting journey that lies ahead of me. But I already know that creating spaces like this is my Atlantis, a wonderful, magic place to feel at home.


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Want to experience yourself what this safe space feels like? Find out more about Thrive! Program here or just reach out directly. We can’t wait to hear from you!



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