03 Nov The only constant in life is change
I felt so honored to have been invited by the UMIO family and Maastricht University to give this commencement speech during the 2021 MaastrichtMBA Graduation ceremony last September. I want to thank them for having me on the graduation stage and for taking the time to listen to me while I opened up to all 2021 graduates and speak from the heart. In the extend of this, I would like to share my openhearted speech with all of you, which you can read below. Next to that, you can also watch a recording of my speech via this link.
This is my story. It’s a story about change, about transformation.
Change is a topic I deeply care about and I relate to it in every aspect. And today, I want to share with you three main learning points that have guided my actions in the past years and also have helped me throughout this MBA journey which I finished in 2019. A quote that I really like by the Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus is that the only constant in life is change.
But what is change exactly?
According to Google, change is to make someone or something different, to alter or modify. Some synonyms of change are, to adjust, to improve, to reshape, to remodel, to transform, to evolve, to metamorphose. And so on and so forth. Because otherwise if I continue, we will spend the whole weekend here going through definitions and synonyms of change. This is not problem for me, but I know some of you want to celebrate and maybe have a drink or two. But you get my point.
Change can be interpreted in many ways and dealt with differently. It sneaks up on you in different shapes and forms and sometimes when you expect it the least. Occasionally, we seek the change, we crave it, and we do anything in our power to metamorphose. But before we go any further with my story, I would like to do a small exercise with you. Please stand up for a minute and stretch your left arm in front of you. Now bring your stretched arm behind you as far as you can go. Make sure you don’t hit your neighbor tho. Perfect. Brilliant. Thank you for now…
Back to the story about change
And this is where it really began for me. 7 years ago, on a Friday morning in August, I received the saddest news of my life. My father suddenly passed away. It happened so fast, so unexpected, that we did not have time to say goodbye, no time to forgive and no time to tell how much we loved each other. In a blink of an eye, my whole world changed. I didn’t know how to deal and adapt to this new reality, so I stayed strong because I thought I had to.
And then it hit me. I remembered this yogi philosophy that sticked to me which is that the ultimate scarce resource is time. So, I started to deep dive into my own life and to question some of the choices I made and to seek for my own change. I wanted to respect the time my father did not have anymore, so I wanted to respect my time and the time of the people around me. This ignited something in me. But I am not here to make you sad, aux contrair, I actually want to spark joy and to hopefully, inspire.
Learning Point 1: Some changes are unexpected and unavoidable
Propelled by this change, I embarked on this amazing transformation journey. I felt the need for authenticity. I started to look within, to expand my limits, my desires, my dreams, my goals. I started studying self-help and read everything I could put my hands on, about self-motivation, mindfulness, yoga, resilience, purpose, Ikigai and psychology.
I trained alone and ran 3 full marathons, I completed a cross fit competition, I started this MBA, I graduated, I switched careers, I divorced, I changed cities, I lost friends, I reached rock bottom, I created my safe space, I started therapy, I healed, I started to love again, I met new people. I embraced uncertainty and learned so much from it.
I really love this metaphor of peeling yourself down in layers like an onion. Put yourself out there, and peel yourself down like a red onion, layer by layer, leaf by leaf, but not only on the surface, go deeper, go to the core. Learn how to strengthen your core, nourish it, build resilience and remain grounded no matter what comes your way. And you will certainly find your own path. And then, you will be ready to grow new layers back. You can grow these layers from each transformation, each new attitude, new experience, from the person you become.
But this transformation is a continuous journey. So don’t get discouraged by the detours or the roadblocks in your way. You might take the train in the wrong direction, you might miss that flight, you might be hit by a world spread pandemic, but remember that you will always reach that base camp and eventually, reach your peak.
All the inspirational leaders, motivational gurus, monks, mindfulness experts out there, they all say the same thing. That you can design your life. Don’t resist the change. Embrace it. You can train your brain and mind to do anything you want and build the capacity to evolve. But that takes determination, patience, discipline, persistence, perseverance and intrinsic motivation. The good news I that you can consciously train them. Exercise that discipline muscle and expand your circle of awareness.
Learning Point 2: Reframe your thinking. Embrace the change and use it in your advantage
And now, I would like you to stand up again for me. Close your eyes and stretch your left arm in front of you. imagine how elastic you are, how your arm is so light and flexible while you bring your arm behind you and stretch it all the way in the back, like you are reaching out for that change. I can see how many of you reached further. Is just a simple exercise to acknowledge that changes can be reached with the right mindset. Thank you, now you can sit down again.
The founder of Mindvalley said, your brain expands when you transform and from that moment on, it will never shrink back. I repeat, your brain will never shrink back. So, I’ve started to tell my mind what I wanted it, visualised my thoughts and saw how they became reality. I injected discipline in my daily routine, writing affirmations, meditating daily, stretching my body, staying fit, being efficient with my time and energy, designing my dreams. I became the change.
And everyone can instill a new way of thinking starting today. You can be more genuine, compassionate, open, supportive, be of service. Start small, add a small change in your daily routine. Replace a bad habit with a new one, no matter how tiny. Add a micro habit to your day: such as 5 minutes of stretch every morning, 5 minutes of meditation, one glass of water, take those vitamins, do those 7 push ups, or write down what you are grateful for.
It is as simple as that!
But don’t forget to keep the consistency. In the end, consistency builds success. I don’t know what your plans are and what your future brings, but the message I want to leave with you today is, that, no matter the direction, the change, the journey… Approach it with an open heart and mind. Don’t limit yourself. Remove fear from your vocabulary. You have the power of choice.
Take chances, take risks, apply for that job, switch that career, start that company, make those babies, take that trip. Say I love you more often, visit your parents, sell that house, forgive, be empathetic, quit that job, expand your brain, make that change.
Learning point number 3: Don’t wait for a big change to disrupt your world, but trigger your own change
And I know for a fact that you have that mindset. Because I know of a change that you invited into your life. And that is this MBA programme. You went for it, you applied, you studied, you submitted those assignments, you showed up, you wrote that BCP thesis. You triggered it and grabbed it. And now it time to celebrate! Today you are graduating! Such a beautiful moment to celebrate this accomplishment! Enjoy it to the maximum! I am so happy to have met you all! Congratulations and I wish you all the best! To more changes like this one!
Join me and give yourself a big round of applause. You deserve it!
Diana Stan – 2020 MaastrichtMBA graduate & 2020 Student of the Year
This article presents a publication of Diana Stan’s speech on behalf of all MaastrichtMBA alumni during the 2021 MaastrichtMBA Graduation ceremony. MaastrichtMBA is an executive modular part-time MBA programme and exist of two tracks: an On-Campus and Online track. The programme has a Triple Crown accreditation and is aimed for professionals with at least 5 years of working experience.