Transcript of an interview with Workbeast Festival organizer Isabelle Hoebrechts

Nick: How do you define wellbeing?

Isabelle: I have a slightly different perspective on this than most. To this day, I observe that everyone views well-being in terms of physical and mental health, which should fall under the purview of HR in an organization. This approach has become even more imperative after the wake-up call from the pandemic; it’s almost an obligation now. For m, well-being is much more than that.

Ultimately, I see well-being as ensuring that during the most challenging times in our lives, whether personal or professional, we can navigate through these periods as swiftly as possible. It’s about managing negative experiences in the most positive way to live a happy and fulfilling life, both at work and in our private lives.

Nick: What personal experience shaped that definition and interpretation of well-being for you?

Isaebelle: Yes, I can pinpoint a specific moment when the concept of well-being truly crystallized for me. To me, well-being isn’t just a fleeting state; it’s a continuous, positive way of living that spans both personal and professional realms. It’s about actively steering oneself toward positivity and knowing how to navigate back to that path, no matter the circumstances.

My upbringing played a significant role in shaping this perspective. I grew up in a household that valued liberalism, guided by my father, a humanist and atheist. Back when I was young, following moral principles wasn’t the norm, but my father’s unwavering commitment to his values left a lasting impression on me. His work as a moral counselor in prisons underscored the importance of integrity and compassion.

However, when I was seventeen, my world was turned upside down. I discovered that my father was involved in a relationship with a girl my age, despite being a teacher and a pillar of moral guidance. The fallout from this revelation was devastating; my parents divorced, we had to sell our home, and my father relocated abroad to marry the girl.

Faced with this turmoil, I confronted a pivotal choice: succumb to despair or take charge of my destiny. I opted for the latter, embracing resilience and making deliberate efforts to safeguard my well-being amidst adversity. While I forwent college, I prioritized self-care, recognizing its fundamental role in nurturing well-being.

This ordeal taught me that cultivating well-being requires resilience, the ability to surmount obstacles without succumbing to despair or perpetual trauma. It’s about actively engaging in self-care and refusing to be defined by past traumas. Confronting this challenge at a young age instilled in me a sense of pride and determination.

Nick: What’s one small change that you’ve gradually adopted that practically everyone could immediately embrace to enhance their well-being?

Isabelle: I’ve encountered my fair share of challenges, particularly in my youth, but one lesson I’ve consistently adhered to is the importance of acknowledging and expressing emotions in a respectful manner. Simply put, it’s crucial to embrace your feelings and communicate them thoughtfully. Experiencing emotions doesn’t necessitate anger or strained relationships. Personally, I’ve found that being open about my feelings, accompanied by explanations, fosters understanding and reduces conflict.

The moment we resort to judgment, our well-being suffers. It triggers the release of stress-inducing chemicals in our brains and bodies, undermining our overall happiness. The key is to prioritize feeling good because it serves as the foundation for everything else. Dwelling on negative emotions only harms us. Therefore, it’s essential to stay attuned to our inner selves, acknowledge our emotions, and avoid prolonged engagement in activities that don’t align with our well-being.

If something feels off, it’s crucial to address it promptly, whether by finding a solution, distancing oneself, or taking proactive steps. This proactive approach forms the bedrock of well-being.

Nick: Let’s delve into WorkBeats. What inspired the creation of this festival, and why did you opt for a festival format?

Isabelle: Well, I’ve always been drawn to unconventional paths in life, prioritizing social change over financial gain. Money isn’t my driving force; I’m driven by a desire to make a difference in society.

As for the festival concept, it’s all about doing things differently. While many events focus on sustainability and health, they often take place indoors, serving rich, non-eco-friendly foods. I saw an opportunity to push the boundaries and offer a more holistic experience. That’s why I chose the festival format, taking inspiration from and collaborating with Paradise City, which unfolds in a sustainable outdoor setting. From renewable energy to eco-conscious food and beverages, every aspect of the festival aligns with my values. Creating a vibrant atmosphere and memorable experience are paramount to me.

When it comes to effecting change, I believe individuals can have a greater impact than politicians. Instead of diving into politics, where self-interest often trumps societal progress, I prefer to take action directly. WorkBeats isn’t just about hosting a festival; it’s about mobilizing government bodies, businesses, underprivileged communities, and educational institutions. Real change in well-being and society requires collaboration and understanding among diverse stakeholders. By bringing everyone together, we can tackle challenges collectively and drive meaningful change. That sense of unity and shared purpose is what WorkBeats is all about.

Nick: Can you shed some light on the specific areas of well-being that will be explored at the festival?

Isabelle: Absolutely. One of my primary aims is to bridge the gap between academic research and practical application. While data and analysis are valuable, it’s equally essential to demonstrate how we can translate this knowledge into tangible action and inspire meaningful discussions. I want attendees to leave with a clear understanding of “What’s next?” after digesting the information presented.

Furthermore, I’m keen to ensure that well-being doesn’t merely become a fleeting trend. We’re currently at a transitional phase in societal consciousness, where well-being is gaining prominence. My hope is that in the future, discussions around well-being will be unnecessary because it will be ingrained in our daily lives.

Now, let’s dive into the specific sub-domains of well-being we’ll be addressing. Financial well-being is paramount, as it forms the foundation for all other aspects. Without financial security, it’s challenging to prioritize other dimensions of well-being. Thus, financial literacy is a key focus for both individuals and organizations.

Social well-being is equally crucial. It’s about fostering genuine connections and humanizing our interactions. Social engagement shouldn’t be superficial; it should stem from genuine empathy and a desire to give back to the community, whether through financial means or acts of kindness.

Mental well-being is a significant concern, recognizing that not everyone possesses the same level of resilience. It’s important to provide support and guidance to individuals struggling with mental health challenges.

Physical well-being involves being attuned to our bodies and avoiding sedentary lifestyles. Acknowledging that excessive sitting can be as harmful as smoking, we aim to promote movement and mindfulness.

Digital well-being is another vital aspect, especially in the age of AI and constant connectivity. Finding a balance between leveraging technology and safeguarding our mental well-being is crucial.

While spiritual well-being won’t be covered this year, it’s a dimension I hope to incorporate in future editions of the festival. By offering participants a holistic view of these various dimensions of well-being, we aim to inspire them to take proactive steps towards enhancing their overall well-being.

Nick: Could you highlight some aspects of the program that you’re particularly excited about?

Isabelle: Absolutely, I’m especially eager for Margriet Sitskoorn’s session. As a professor of clinical neuropsychology, she’s our keynote speaker, starting at 2 o’clock. I’ve been fascinated by the brain since I was 17, and Margriet has a remarkable talent for simplifying complex concepts and illustrating the human side of our brain. Her insights into behavior change through simple tips and tricks are invaluable. I highly recommend everyone attends her session on the main stage.

Additionally, I’m intrigued by the collaboration between Kees Klomp and Rudi Arnout. Both professors, they approach economics with a blend of common sense and humor, which I find refreshing. Kees is a meaning economist, while Rudi combines economics with a deep understanding of human nature. It’s enlightening to witness the intersection of economics and humanity through their perspectives.

I’ve also curated the debate stage to foster discussions that transcend boundaries. Pairings like Annelies Verlinden and Monika de Jonge, along with Carl Foulon and Kees Klomp, promise thought-provoking debates on addressing well-being across different domains and the collaborative efforts needed for meaningful change.

Our interactive sessions will feature personal stories, including Maxime’s journey of transformation, culminating in an ice bath demonstration to underscore the power of behavioral change. Additionally, we’ll hear from a remarkable woman who founded Impact Lawyers and navigated resilience and positivity after a life-altering accident, sparking conversations on inclusion and diversity.

And, of course, I’m eagerly anticipating your inspiring talk based on your book.

Nick: Final question. If you had one tweet that the entire world would read, what would it say?

Isaeblle: Let’s humanize. Our world, our organizations, and ourselves. What does humanization entail? It’s about embracing diverse perspectives, listening without judgment, and upholding timeless values of kindness, positivity, and courtesy. Let’s strive to be more authentically ourselves, one step at a time.

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