The Ice breaker that helped me to re-discover my drives and motivations

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams (attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt).  I found this quote in one of my mother journals, after she died 30 years ago. You know what I always wonder? What kind of dreams she had when she found this quote? What kind of dreams she had when she was a child? When I was child, I used to dream about traveling around the world, studying abroad. But most of all, I used to dream about having a better life.

This is the introduction of my first speech at Loki Toastmasters Club, they call it Ice breaker. This year, I decided to work in my public presentation skills. From February I started the Presentation Mastery path, which consists in 5 levels and lots and lots of presentations. I am so excited with this project.

Since I joined the club, I started to think about this first speech. They said: Tell us about yourself in 4 minutes (max 6 min). That day my mind went into overdrive… What should I say? How much? Where to start? After a few days the idea was clear: How I came to Sweden! Literally, I started to work on it every single day. And that was a good thing because every day I re-discover something that helped me to come to Sweden.

After I started thinking about my dreams, I asked myself what kind of background to give. The first hint is about my mother. Second thing I mention is about my country, Honduras. How beautiful it is with sunny beaches in The Caribbean and the Pacific, Mayan Ruins, cacao, bananas and perhaps some of the best coffee in the world. And then, about how dangerous and poor it is (second poorest country in Latin-American, a low-middle income economy) according to the World Bank. And of course, I mention that I was born in a low-middle income family.

But I had these dreams and they have been inspired by my father and his own story. I included my father’s story and how he left poverty behind to become an engineer far away from home. And then how he was a professor for 35 years and now has a much better life. His story always fascinated me and while I was preparing this speech I came back to him several times to confirm details of his story. How was his childhood, his years as a student, when he started to work at the university? I had so many questions.

My father encouraged me to study and in his own way helped me to come this far. He used to tell me and my sisters that his parents could barely read and write, but he managed to become an engineer and even achieve 2 Masters Degrees in foreign countries. He used to ask us if we could do better. He also told us that we should have a career and be independent; don’t depend on a man to support you, he said.

But he was not the only one who helped me.  Before I came to Sweden, I met great people that made me work hard, but also became my mentors. When I was 24 years old I met the vice minister of health. In our first meeting he told me two things: “At your age, I already had a PhD” and “I heard about you but I care about results”. After working for him he became my mentor. The second person I mentioned is the Head of the department, while I was working at the university. She asked me if I wanted to come to Sweden. I was surprised, because only top students were coming to Sweden and I was a bit far from being one. But she said that they believed in me. So, I came originally for the Licentiate. Thanks to my Swedish supervisors I continued to the PhD and then to a Postdoc. My dream about studying abroad was fulfilled.

Now comes the most difficult part. If only this was an easy journey. But this is the key of my drives and my motivations. When I told people about this speech they mentioned a couple of things. The first was that 4 minutes was a long talk about you, probably 30 seconds was more than enough. Yes, 4 minutes is a long talk about you, but if you prepare it is possible.

There were three important things that helped me to prepare those 4 minutes. The first was  training. I participated in an online course in Dynamic Public Speaking from University of Washington, a seminar by Andrew Hennigan in Lean Speaking – Pitch More Effectively with Less Effort organized by Impact Hub, The Power of Storytelling // Weekend Workshop organized by Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship and KI-Unit for Bioentrepreneurship (UBE)  and Loki Toastmasters Club, who offers the opportunity to see others present themselves. The second was  vulnerability. What I was going to say was too personal. Who wants to go into personal details? I recommend you to watch Brené Brown Ted Talks: The power of vulnerability and Listening to Shame. Thanks to these talks I can talk now about my vulnerabilities: my mental health issues and the traumatic experiences that I lived after my mother died. For years I have been dealing with the aftermath of those events and visited different professionals in mental health. What we have been discussing together is that thanks to resilience and grit I have come this far. The third thing that helped me was a workshop recently organized by KI Career service on Mental Resilience for Success & Overcoming Adversity with Ted speaker Dominic Soh. While listening to Dominic I realized that both resilience and grit are key for my drives and motivations.

Motivation is usually discussed in terms of setting and achieving goals. When I was a child I had dreams and these dreams became my goals. I worked hard to achieve those goals but many times I had to pause. After some traumatic events I had to rethink my life and take decisions that affected not only me but the people around me. Here is where resilience is so important. We need optimism to continue when times are so tough that others see continuing as futile or impossible. And grit, is the motivational drive that keeps you on a difficult task over a sustained period of time.

This Ice breaker allowed me to reflect a lot about myself. In one of my first meetings with my career coach she asked me about my drives and motivations. I have to admit that I was clueless at the time. It took me more than a year and an Icebreaker speech of 5:30 minutes to re-discover my drives and motivations.  Now that I remember why I came to Sweden it is getting easy to see where I am going. I still dream about traveling around the world… having a life. What do you dream about?


Irina Jovel-Dalmau, PhD in Malaria

KI Alumni

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