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Changemaker Check-in: Leading the Future, with Bella Shahsuvaryan

Changemaker Check-in: Leading the Future, with Bella Shahsuvaryan

A contemplative reflection from Bella Shahsuvaryan, a Global Destination Sustainability Movement Changemaker, inspired by the 2022 GDS-ICCA-CityDNA Certificate in Regenerative Destination Management.

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“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein


When speaking about the future, we – more often than not- may imagine a timeframe that begins fairly far into the future. The truth is, the future is every next breath we breathe.


Understanding this truth is essential when identifying the need to move into a new era of leadership.


Climate change, war, extreme poverty, and injustice are not self-created phenomena. They are the direct result of a leadership model based on egocentric, materialist, and consumerist attitudes. From small companies to big organisations and governmental structures, the tagline for the majority is the same: “The more, the better”. What we fail to see is that “more” is not always “better”.


When constructing the future, we have to say au revoir to old tools and frameworks and find ways to restore balance to society by making human value its heart. To do this, we have to enter a different paradigm where environmental, social, and economic development are guaranteed without compromise.


In other words, we must move towards a regenerative mindset.


What is a regenerative mindset?


“A “regenerative” mindset is one that sees the world built around reciprocal and co-evolutionary relationships, where humans, other living beings, and ecosystems rely on one another for health, and shape (and are shaped by) their connections with one another. It recognises that addressing the interconnected social and environmental challenges we face is dependent on rebalancing and restoring these relationships.”

Source: Josie Warden, Head of Regenerative Design, RSA

How can you develop or enhance a regenerative mindset?


Different people might have different ideas about how to make this change.


This is my recipe based on personal experience (and keep reading if you’d like to discover the original story).


First, pause, un-learn what you know, and be ready to accept a holistic approach to seeing people and planet as a single system. The shift in your perspective will make you feel one with nature and see life through a different priority lens.


My recipe has the following ingredients:


– Presence

– Connectivity

– Spirituality

– Empathy

– Surrender




To start a regenerative journey, we first need to learn how to slow down.


The intense rhythm we are so used to living with these days keeps us from being fully present. We are often stuck either in the past or in the future while it’s every living moment that gives us a true sense of vitality.




Given today’s technologies, we perceive being connected 24/7 as reality. In truth, we are running away from our own selves by being in this state of distraction most of the time. To restore personal integrity, we must rediscover the thread which connects ego to soul and therefore to the universe.




Once we re-establish an inner connection, we might begin to search for spirituality. Even though it can come in many different forms, all spirituality teaches us that we are not alone. Understanding that we are a small part of a bigger picture lowers our selfish ambitions and encourages us to choose collaboration over never-ending competition and control.




In my personal experience empathy may be a natural tendency, but becoming more spiritual can make us more aware of the beings around us which then translates into a higher level of empathy. While IQ has been the main indicator for measuring human intelligence for decades, it is high time we start valuing EQ (emotional quotient) as much (or more) as IQ. Only then will human values have equal or greater importance to the practises and profiteering that support the unsustainable “more” mindset.





And finally, a further step could be to learn how to let go of the desire to control. And this is especially hard for those who like to be in charge. Our false perception of having control over various events in our lives distorts reality. We let the feeling of ownership panic as soon as things develop in a different way than our pre-written scripts “permit”. While what happens in these scenarios may seem like a catastrophe to us, it might also be the natural path life is hinting for us to take, which eventually will bring us to our true destination. So, maybe, sometimes, all we have to do when leading is shape events as they unfold by stepping away. And it’s surrender that has space for “maybe”.



Going Forward


The future can be as bright as we imagine it to be, but, looking at current stats, it isn’t possible without a global paradigm shift.


Changing your mindset might feel uncomfortable at first, but as soon as you see the benefit it brings to yourself and others, including generations to come, the effort you make will come more naturally and the regenerative journey will become the only rational, future-looking path.


To finish, I’d like to quote Maya Angelou emphasising the change one must undergo to arrive at a new state of beauty:


“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”


My Wake-Up Call


I was 22 at the time, a young, ambitious girl who believed the world was ready to be conquered. While most of the people my age around me were busy “partying”, I embarked on the journey of my life.


I knew I had to work hard to achieve the goals I had set. But little did I know that my explorations would bring me to a much more distant harbour.


I was convinced that hard work, discipline, and persistence were the only necessary elements to succeed. So, I worked hard, really, really hard. Until one day, I got sick. It felt strange, definitely; being sick was not part of my plans. Spending days in bed made me contemplate life. I started listening to Sadhguru (an Indian yoga guru and proponent of eastern philosophy) who later became my virtual coach, guiding me as my journey deepened. Eventually I decided to go on a solo trip to South-East Asia to explore myself and the world around me.


The trip was an eye-opening experience which was my first step to regenerative thinking. This was when my personal perspective shifted and I began seeing the world through a different set of eyes.


Arriving at one of Malaysia’s remote islands, I decided to learn more about local life. So, instead of flocking with tourists, I made some local friends (which was considerably easy given how friendly they were). We cooked, ate, wandered around, and laughed together.


Once one of my new friends recommended booking a boat tour at sunset. I liked the idea and followed his advice. There were a few passengers on the boat, and the captain, his wife and an assistant. While being mesmerised by the beauty of the Andaman Sea, we were surprised to find a feast of 10 dishes prepared local products by the captain’s wife. After a fantastic dinner I got to speak with the captain. Originally from Tasmania, he spent most of his life on the water. He was a wise man, with a long beard, and he had lots of stories to share. While he kept us entertained with the stories of his adventures around the world, he said something which stayed with me.


“Whatever you do in life, do not get so busy that you forget you are a part of a great universe in which everything and everyone is interconnected. Be kind to yourself and the natural world around you. And always remember, everything happens in its right time”.


Hearing these simple words of wisdom opened my mind. Once we got back to land, I looked around. I saw people who did not have much but who were truly happy. People who lived in complete harmony with themselves and nature.

And the answer to this was simple: they were nature…


* * * *


Of course, theory is easier said than done. I am not always able to be faithful to the regenerative philosophy. I am human, in a human-made system is not designed to be regenerative, but extractive, and as species we are not built to be flawless. Hence, despite knowing the right patterns to think or the right things to do we sometimes choose the paths which lead to less flourishing than others might.


Therefore, do not judge yourself too harsh the next time you miss a step in the regenerative journey. Many small steps can lead us to great achievements (Lamine Pearlheart).


And just like we say at GDS-Movement, remember to choose “Progress over Perfection”!


Want to Learn More About Regenerative Thinking?  


Join the Certificate Course in Regenerative Destination Management! 


If you are eager to learn how to manage destinations: 

– through regenerative business models, 

– destination stewardship approaches, and 

– stakeholder engagement methodologies 

then this course is designed for you. 


Embark on a regenerative journey with the GDS-Academy! 


Join the course 

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