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I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: Sibylle Leon Of Wild Spirits Coaching On Why So Many Of Us Are Feeling…

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: Sibylle Leon Of Wild Spirits Coaching On Why So Many Of Us Are Feeling Unsatisfied & What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Drew Gerber

Our society is chronically sleep deprived. You may know that sleep is healthy and important, but you don’t realize to what extent it affects both your physical and mental health and, yes, your capacity for happiness. Check out Matt Walker’s TED Talk for pointers.

From an objective standpoint, we are living in an unprecedented era of abundance. Yet so many of us are feeling unsatisfied. Why are we seemingly so insatiable? What is going on inside of us that is making us feel unsatisfied? What is the brain chemistry that makes us feel this way? Is our brain wired for endless insatiable consumption? What can we do about it? In this interview series, we are talking to credentialed experts such as psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, brain science experts, as well as spiritual and religious leaders, and mind-body-spirit coaches, to address why so many of us are feeling unsatisfied & what we can do about it.

As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sibylle Leon.

Sibylle is a qualified Personal and Executive Coach with over a decade of experience. In her work, she helps busy employees prevent burnout and do more of what they love, without sacrificing career or family. Focusing on passions, life purpose, and joy, she’s an expert in what makes people feel “meh” — and how to turn this feeling around. Sibylle is currently based in Croatia and also regularly spends time in Ireland and Austria.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

Around 20 years ago, a year of depression whilst trying to build my first business left me in quite a bit of debt. I spent several years working my butt off and being extremely frugal to pay back every last cent and got my act together — I learned everything I could about managing my money and got coaching, which basically saved my life. I was working full time and on the side, got a recognized qualification so I could pay it forward and start coaching people, both on their personal finances and on creating lives of joy and passion, rather than working themselves into burnout (which I by then had personal experience of).

Eventually, I gave up the job, got a much nicer, work-from-home role and moved to the West of Ireland, my soul’s home. I began healing, slowing down, eating whole, gorgeous foods and focusing on doing what I love — I’m a multi-passionate and have lots of interests, and I threw myself into them after the years of deprivation. My soul lit up. I had endless energy. In parallel, I built up my coaching business and went full-time a few years later. Now I live in Croatia (my 5th country) and radically focus on my passions, whilst helping wild spirits — my clients — inject the same joy into their lives and find their life purpose.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

Money is only important when you don’t manage it. So learn how to manage your finances and then focus on what matters: love, the joy of doing what lights you up, and the people in your life.

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?

There are so many people I owe a lot to — my friends and basically every coach I’ve ever worked with (I try for 3–6 months of coaching every year), especially the first one. I got set up with her on one of the money management seminars I visited at the time, and she guided me through the hardest days of my life, keeping my mind focused not on the mess I was in, but the beautiful life I now knew I wanted to create, and helped me take the right actions to get there.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?

I’m constantly working on upgrading and improving my videos that I publish every week, on living a simpler life and focusing on passions without sacrificing success and career. I’m also looking into scalable programs — currently, I only work 1-on-1 with individual clients, and while that’s incredibly powerful, it means I can only help a limited number of people. So I’m considering an online course, or a high-end offering such as coaching retreats. I live in paradise, after all!

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about feeling “unsatisfied”. In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. What has led to us feeling we aren’t enough and don’t have enough? What is the wiring? Or in other words, how has nature and nurture played into how humans (in an otherwise “safe and secure” environment) experience feeling less than, or a need to have more than what is needed for basic survival?

Well, it’s more of a human thing, rather than being specific to the Western world, to be unsatisfied with just the material basics. Maslow’s famous pyramid might be a little outdated, but it’s correct in that there are needs beyond just survival and safety. We have social needs and crave intellectual and creative stimulation as well. What’s unique about our current situation is that we have more opportunities than ever to fulfill all these needs, every last one, and in manifold ways, but we’re still often unsatisfied and feeling “meh”, rather than ecstatically happy.

Actually, I take back what I said: It’s not only a human thing, because animals get bored, too, and crave company, challenge, play. In my opinion it’s almost all of it nature, not nurture, at least where the needs are concerned. In contrast, the way we have so many opportunities and still feel unsatisfied is firmly in the “nurture” category: It’s because of collective trauma and some deeply un-human environments we’ve created for ourselves to live in, that we “can’t get no satisfaction”.

How are societies different? For example, capitalistic societies trade differently than communists. Developed nations trade differently than developing nations. In your opinion, how does society shape a human’s experience and feelings of satisfaction?

This is a great question, and it’s hard to answer it without writing a dissertation! In very broad strokes: The tendency seems to be that the more “developed” a society is, the more highly individualized it gets. The values change from working for the collective good (which is, at least on paper, the idea behind communism and is actively lived in many tribal societies) and putting the group first, to succeeding as an individual, with iconic and almost universally admired stereotypical “hero’s journey” stories such as rags to riches, success against all the odds, the underdog ends up winning through willpower and hard work, the hero saves the world. Look at Hollywood blockbusters and you’ll be surprised to see how many of them fit one of the categories I’ve mentioned.

This is problematic when you consider that people very much depend on a community. We are, as the saying goes, social animals. The hyperfocus on the individual also results in other problematic behaviors, such as compulsive comparison, competition and the need to keep up with the Joneses. This directly plays into consumerism and the constant need to be and have more, to get the latest, best, and most expensive of everything, the biggest house and car, the thinnest, most trained body, and the brightest, most successful children. It leads to a constant striving for more which is one major reason for the general dissatisfaction many people feel with their lives.

With a specific focus on brain function, how has the brain and its dominion over the body and beliefs been impacted by the societal construct?

First of all, I would dispute the brain’s “dominion over the body”. The brain is part of the body, and a lot of what the brain is and how it functions, is affected by the body — for example, nutrition or exercise can dramatically affect brain function, and trauma manifests in the body and the nervous system. Body posture and gestures can have a profound effect on our thoughts and feelings (check out Amy Cuddy’s work). The idea that the brain rules over it all is, in part, behind the widespread misunderstanding that mental illness is somehow “all in the head”, i.e. imagined, when that’s far from being the truth. Trauma, for example, is in the nervous system and manifests in completely involuntary physical reactions when triggered.

I’m pointing out these things because trauma is the main thing that has impacted the way we feel about work and “free time” and our general satisfaction — or lack thereof — with life.

There are extensive studies and academic publications — such as by German economist Holger Heide — that have shown how historically, the majority of people had a lot more time, worked less and were happier. It was with the advent of industrialization and work “on the clock” that a more rigid, non-cyclical work ethic was needed and demanded — and forced on workers by the use of threats and considerable violence. Obviously, the above is a very shortened and summarized account of the process, which in reality was a lot more nuanced, but the majority of people have been collectively traumatized into internalizing “hard work” as a virtue, something that’s decidedly not in human nature, but a learned behavior. Today, we accept these values without question: We idealize hard work and feel guilty for resting or being “lazy”.

This is where the brain function comes in that this question is about: The internalized trauma makes it very, very hard for us to slow down and relax enough to actually enjoy ourselves.

The effect can be felt everywhere: Our lives should be easier than ever before (just compare how quick and easy laundry is these days, compared to just decades ago before washing machines were introduced), and yet we have less time than ever. That’s because we voluntarily, even subconsciously, seek out situations where we’re forced to work hard, and even our free time is planned to the last minute, with exercise, social obligations, clubs and societies, healthy eating, “lifestyle”, keeping an impeccably clean home, and of course, having to look great. If we get too burnt out and exhausted to do anything, we’ll at least occupy our minds with endless TV, Netflix, or scrolling through social media. Stress, adrenaline, is addictive, and much as we hate it, we can’t find a way out because we’re too caught up in its addictive qualities (adrenaline creates a “buzz” in the brain which is similar to what happens when we take stimulant drugs).

We’re never lazy or, heaven forbid, bored. I mention boredom because it’s been proven to be a necessary prerequisite for creativity, and creative expression is proven to make humans happy. It’s one of the things that can cause the state of “flow”, of forgetting time and just existing, being completely absorbed in the present moment. Incidentally, in terms of brain function, Flow is the exact opposite of doomscrolling or stress addiction.

Is it any wonder we’re not satisfied? Do you think the way our society markets and advertises goods and services, has affected people’s feelings of satisfaction? Can you explain what you mean?

It has definitely affected them, although advertising is both cause and result of the problematic development I’ve outlined above. Basically, we’re wired to want more and better things all the time, to compare ourselves and feel superior, and advertising and marketing latch into this by suggesting that we’re lacking something, that something is wrong with us, and the fix is the product or service being advertised. Of course this is once again a simplified description, but it describes the vast majority of today’s advertising fairly accurately. And in showing or suggesting our failings, the things we lack or the ways in which we aren’t up to — imagined or real — standards, that reinforce our feelings of inadequacy and/or missing out.

How is the wiring of the brain, body, and beliefs shaped by marketing, language, and how humans trade?

Again, it’s a mutual process. Advertising doesn’t create these processes in the brain from nothing, they’re already there and advertising reinforces them. Marketing appeals to our subconscious need for improving ourselves all the time.

To avoid misunderstandings: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve! In fact, that’s one of the most fundamental needs anchored in the brain (and therefore in the rest of our bodies as well). Many, many studies have shown that humans are happiest when they strive for, and advance towards, goals, steadily improving and making progress. This is great for maintaining a healthy interest in one’s work and continued joy and inspiration in pursuing our passions, hobbies, and interests.

The problematic part is that our modern world has perverted this healthy need, by associating it with a) competing against others and b) unrealistic expectations of perfection. Both these aspects are strongly reinforced by the modern media, and latched onto by marketing and advertising, thereby hijacking our traumatized brains into constantly wanting to work, stay busy, and strive for the perfection we believe we can and should achieve.

I work in marketing so I’m very cognizant of this question. In your opinion, how do you think marketing professionals can be more responsible for how their advertising shapes humans’ health and experience of happiness overall?

This is a tricky one, and incidentally, it’s a question I’ve been struggling with myself. As an online entrepreneur, if I don’t market my services, my videos, articles, and my website, nobody’s going to find me. But how to do this without exploiting the exact trauma wounds and vulnerabilities that my work helps to heal?

I’m going to say straight out that in order to be more conscious, considerate and perhaps ethical in our marketing, we’re probably going to have to sacrifice some of our beloved optimization. In other words: The numbers just won’t be as good. Personally, I believe it’s worth it for the peace of mind and feeling good about my work, the impact I have and the legacy I’m creating.

As for the exact methods: I’m trying to steer clear of some of the usual practices, such as creating artificial urgency or scarcity (“Discount disappears tonight! Buy now or miss out!” or “Only 3 spaces left — sign up now!”). I try and treat my clients or potential clients like adults and make offers once, rather than bombarding them with daily emails. I respect their decision. My newsletter appears once a week, that’s it. When someone talks to me about potentially signing up for a program, I do make a special offer if they decide to join on the spot, but I leave them until the end of the following day to decide so they can sleep on it. I never try to talk anyone into signing up for a program either, and that also has selfish reasons: I don’t want to be stuck working with a half-hearted client for six months!

Clickbait is another sore point with me. I do adapt my YouTube-video’s and articles’ titles according to SEO, keywords etc., but I try to stay away from the more blatant headlines in the style of “You won’t believe what happened next!” Again, it comes down to taking my potential clients seriously and treating them as adults, not as a pack of Pavlov’s dogs who are made to salivate at the push of a button.

For you personally, if you have all your basic needs met, do you feel you have enough in life?

If by basic needs you mean physical needs, I’ll say no. I very much have needs for intellectual and emotional stimulation and self-actualization. However, I’ve been working on overcoming burnout, stress and work addiction for several years now, and while I’m far from perfect, I manage more and more to truly relax and feel content. I enjoy the so-called simple life, a slower life with much shorter work days, plenty of rest, walks in nature, offline time with people I love, and my passions as a top priority. As a result, I feel my capacity for joy — a true, bone-deep happiness — expand all the time. I feel so bloody lucky and I love, love, love this life. So much.

Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 things we can each do to address the feeling of not having enough.”

  1. Downsize. The last thing you need is stuff more things into your already-overfull schedule. Think more in terms of what you can leave out, where you can slow down. Basically, Marie Kondo your schedule! Could you leave work on time (or mid-term, look for a kinder job)? Cancel some social obligations/clubs/participating in your kid’s school bake sale? Just cause you enjoy something, doesn’t mean it should take up space in your life. Set the bar higher. Leave only what you truly love. People often don’t do what they love although theoretically, they have time, simply because they don’t have the headspace. They think they’re lazy, when really there’s simply too much going on — humans aren’t meant to fill every minute with activity. Every time one of my clients radically downsizes their lives, they suddenly find plenty of motivation to pursue their passions.
  2. Sleep. Our society is chronically sleep deprived. You may know that sleep is healthy and important, but you don’t realize to what extent it affects both your physical and mental health and, yes, your capacity for happiness. Check out Matt Walker’s TED Talk for pointers.
  3. Do a screen-detox. Whatever your drug of choice is, the TV, the computer or your smartphone: Staring at a glowing box overstimulates and fatigues your brain, hijacks your emotions and stifles your creativity. Since these things are created to be addictive, it’s not your fault and you’re not weak for struggling. Create clear boundaries that are easy to stick to. I tried for years to reduce Facebook and email to three times per day, and failed. It was only when I introduced radical cut-off times that I succeeded. See what works for you. Some possibilities: Turn off notifications on your phone, other than calls, and set recurring alarms twice a day to check all your messages and emails (keep email closed on your computer, too, except for those times). Create a cut-off time in the evening for media consumption, such as 9 pm. After that, you’re only allowed human interaction (talk) or offline things such as reading. Regularly spend a day, better still a whole weekend, offline.
  4. Prioritize joy. Find, or rediscover, what lights you up. I meet so many people who don’t even know what their passion is. Think: what did you love doing as a child? Don’t dismiss anything, even if it sounds strange. A passion doesn’t have to be an art or craft; I’m into historical swordfighting (you read that right), a friend of mine nerds out over Star Wars. It’s not silly, it’s life-giving and brings them joy! Try out different things, dare to be a beginner and absolutely awful at something. You’re allowed. As long as it gives you joy, it’s worth doing, even badly.
  5. Find community. Once you know what lights you up, find other people who share your passion/hobby/obsession/field of interest. There’s absolutely nothing that’s more inspiring. I used to slack off in practicing the piano, even though I loved it. Then I joined an online forum of hobby pianists, and I got so much inspiration! Talking, laughing, sharing stories and frustrations with like-minded people was like medicine, and regular practice was no longer a drag.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?

Barbara Sher has sadly passed away, but her work remains and I can’t recommend it enough. Watch her TED Talk — she was hilarious, as well as profoundly wise and intelligent — and read her books. You can’t go wrong.

As for books, I’d recommend Oliver Burkeman’s “4000 weeks”, which is the most astute take on our overfraught lives and insane expectations that I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot on the subject!).

For creatives, Steve Pressfield’s “The War of Art” is a must. He’s such a wise soul, and speaks from experience in everything he writes. His other books are just as good.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Oh, that one’s easy! The movement I’ve started is to radically prioritize joy and doing the things we love — without compulsively trying to make everything “productive” or a source of income. Meaning that if painting lights you up, there’s no need to be great at it or become a pro, or a famous artist, or make money with your painting — it should be a priority in your life simply for the reason that it makes you happy. Resist the urge to turn everything into money, as though that’s the only measure by which something is deemed worthy of pursuing, or worthy of being turned into a priority. Joy, passions, love, friendship are what matters! Happiness, laughter, even silliness are important.

That doesn’t mean you need to neglect your job, it just means there’s no need to get married to it or base your entire self-worth on it. We live in a society where people wither away and die after retiring, because they feel useless and as though their life had lost its meaning. There are even people suggesting we shouldn’t retire at all to avoid this. That’s insane! Instead, how about basing your life and sense of self on something other than working for an income?

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

The best way is by signing up for my weekly newsletter, Wild Spirits News. You can sign up for it on my website, I also have a small YouTube channel you could subscribe to, called Wild Spirits Coaching, as well as a Facebook and Instagram presence.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

Thank you, it’s been a pleasure!

About The Interviewer: For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. Drew is the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., a full-service PR agency lauded by PR Week and Good Morning America. Wasabi Publicity, Inc. is a global marketing company that supports industry leaders, change agents, unconventional thinkers, companies and organizations that strive to make a difference. Whether it’s branding, traditional PR or social media marketing, every campaign is instilled with passion, creativity and brilliance to powerfully tell their clients’ story and amplify their intentions in the world. Schedule a free consultation at

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: Sibylle Leon Of Wild Spirits Coaching On Why So Many Of Us Are Feeling… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.