Milano Event – Who are you? Part 1

Milano Event – Who are you? Part 1

In Milan, Jean-Claude Chalmet explains why we should be thinking more deeply about ourselves

When Jean-Claude Chalmet, founder of The Place Retreats centre in Bali, gave a lecture at the Kenta Foundation in Milan on mental health in business and society, he started by asking the audience, “Who are you?” Not to elicit names or exchange pleasantries, but to invite those present to think more deeply about themselves.

In this two-part blog, we explain why.

In part 1 we look at the connection between heart and mind, how opening the heart is central to a journey of self-discovery and the disconnect between our emotional and intellectual maturity.

Connecting the heart and mind

In order to achieve a state of emotional well-being and good mental health in today’s world, Chalmet argues we need to first find out who we truly are.

He asks, “How do we connect as human beings at work, in the office, at school, with our children, and with our partners?”

We live in a world dominated by information overflow. Our busy lives dictate that we are on a permanent fast track. We have created a set of masks that we wear.

But in creating different personas, have we lost the connection with who we really are?

We are one person in the family, a different person in the office, another person with our friends. Chalmet explains that in this situation it is very difficult for a person to know their true self. There is a disconnect between heart and mind and it affects how we behave in all aspects of our lives, including the vast amount of time we spend at work.

Chalmet says, connecting the heart and mind is both the most difficult and the easiest thing to achieve. Importantly, it requires that we look more deeply within.

Self-discovery begins with opening the heart

The one thing Chalmet has observed working with people from all walks of life, whether they are business owners, industrialists, bankers, or people who are simply drifting in life, is that opening the heart is a challenge for all. To anyone wishing to begin a journey of self-discovery, he starts by asking these questions:

“Who are you? What are you? What are you about? What is your purpose in life? How do you want to connect to yourself? What are you interested in? What makes you, you?”

Many people struggle to answer these questions when they are first asked, but they are central to the process of opening the heart and finding out who we really are.

Chalmet teaches that opening our hearts to who we are is one of the biggest challenges we will experience in life, but also one of the biggest joys we can experience too.

He asks: “Can you remember the child, the 5-year-old, the 10-year-old, the 20-year-old version of you? Where along the way did you start to disconnect from yourself? How did that happen?”

Most people are unfamiliar with the concept of opening the heart. We don’t fully understand what that means. Our masks have become so familiar we are disconnected from our true self. But for many, this equates to an empty and sad space where we function below par.

Chalmet says it is our ability to show vulnerability which helps us to connect with each other. Yet, in the workplace, a kind of machismo still exists. Employers haven’t learnt how to support vulnerability at work, so workers hide their true selves away.

To be vulnerable, Chalmet says, we have to open our hearts.

“If we open our hearts, the most amazing things start to happen – people start to smile at you.”

In business, the link between employee well-being and productivity is being recognised, and that includes our mental health.

We work with computers. We sit at desks. We sit in the car. Everything we do in modern busy life is closing our hearts. That is why we have to work harder to open them. Employers need to understand that this is paramount for good mental well-being at work.

The disconnect between emotional age and intellectual years

who are you Milano Event - The Place

To help us understand how disconnected we have become Chalmet poses two questions:

“How old are you emotionally?”


“How old are you intellectually?”

Initially, he says, people aren’t sure what is being asked. Elaborating, he says:

“If I asked your partner how old you are emotionally, what would they say?”

The point is most people, when asked, will place their intellectual age significantly above their emotional one.

If there is a discrepancy between our intellectual and emotional age, how do we draw a better balance and why does it matter?

If in the office you interact like a 35-year-old on the intellectual level, but react like a 15-year-old emotionally, throwing your toys out of the pram, the people around you aren’t going to be very happy. This incongruity is just as damaging in the workplace as it is at home.

Chalmet argues: “If you can bring those ages more in line, you get a better partner, a better parent, a better human being in the office. Anything that happens around us affects us. If each one of us can generate 1,2 or 3 per cent more openness and understanding of ourselves, think what an amazing atmosphere we can create.”

In business, this alignment brings more connection between employees, leading to better teamwork, happier more motivated staff and as a result, increased productivity.

So where do we begin?

See our next blog (part 2) for more on peeling back the mask – giving ourselves permission to show our true selves – and how to go beneath the noise and connect with our inner child and quiet our inner critic.