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VIEWPOINT: Swedish lessons


I recently got back from more than two weeks in Scandinavia and my time in Sweden was a big unexpected surprise.

I’ve done my fair share of travel, living abroad too. And Sweden was never really a consideration. Too cold, too boring, too not special. How wrong I was!

The Swedes, with their famously high standard of living, know how to live.

The beautiful country and its people left an impression. Sweden hits the annual world survey top lists, year after year. Why is the world not learning from them?

I learnt from it because I wanted some of it. I found five lessons that all of us, irrespective of where we live in the world, can implement and make our own to achieve and experience this:

  • Nature: Swedes look after Mother Nature and are well attuned to the rhythms of nature. During the summer half of them hit their family beach cottages scattered over more than 200 000 islands. Most of these family heirlooms are remote with no mobile reception and have no electricity or running water. A place to be one with nature again.
  • Education: The government (and society at large) promotes an “individual-thinking” society. As young as 7 years kids are encouraged to run their own teacher-parent meetings, defining their own goals, strategies and resources needed to get there. This leads to confident and mature children and eventually adults.
  • Minimalism:  Swedish design is uncluttered. IKEA and H&M are iconic brands that promote affordable, simple lifestyles resulting in uncluttered homes, lives and businesses. An uncluttered mind can focus on and prioritise the important things.
  • Family: Sixteen months of paid parental leave is given annually by government, of which two months need to be taken by dads. Being present is key.
  • Shieldless: Swedes are very comfortable in who they are. For instance, females rarely wear makeup. Their naked-sauna tradition  for example strips you from everything other than your true self – and allows you to be equal to all others.

Go and implement these lessons, be creative and see if you, your family, and your organisation can top some ‘best’ list this year.

Author: Stanford Payne CA(SA) is an ICF-accredited executive and business coach