Saying “yes” opened a whole new world to me – by Pia Kemppainen

I will be returning to my beloved South Africa this February. Two years ago, I spent eleven magical weeks in South Africa and those weeks played a great role in transforming my life. Those weeks gave me the strength that I needed to pursue my purpose, my “ikigai”, in life. Instead of having a corporate career, I was put on this earth to inspire and help people realize their goals.

Ikigai (生き甲斐)

Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”. Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.


For some reason, I became intrigued by South Africa early in 2015. I asked my work manager if I could save up my holidays and work a few weeks from South Africa during the European winter 2015-2106. After the first initial hesitation, she accepted my proposal. After all, I was about to turn 50 and I wanted to celebrate it away from home (I had arranged a big party for my friends when turning 49 – already aware of the fact that I would not be home a year later).

As I was travelling alone, I had anticipated spending most of the eleven weeks on my own, but I entered a “flow” that turned those weeks into magic. Thanks to saying “yes” more than ever in my life, I ended up having fun and meeting the most inspirational people! Whenever a new situation popped up in form of a question, such as “would you like to join us on a hike through the Sand River tomorrow” or, “would you like to take a dip in the freezing Boulder’s Bay at 6 am tomorrow morning”, my standard reply was “yes”. I ended up celebrating my 50th birthday with six ladies that I hadn’t even met a few weeks earlier. At the end of my stay I had to pinch myself to believe it: I had just experienced the most amazing period of my life!

Why do we choose to say “no” although deep inside wanting to say “yes”? Why are we so bound to security that often keeps us from living life? Don’t forget that a risk is often an opportunity in disguise. Saying “yes” might just open a vast amount of possibilities that you didn’t even know existed. If you want to develop as a person, you must become more of a risk taker. If the first thought is that you want to say “yes”, do it. If you don’t use the first few seconds wisely, you end up saying “no” and already when hearing that tiny word slipping through your lips, regretting it. Next time, be faster than a flash and say a big fat “YES”. Trust me, it is good for you!

I cannot really regard myself as a writer, but my story started bubbling up inside me and I simply had to let my fingers do their dance on the keyboard. Out came  Eleven Weeks in South Africa  – a story spiced with sisu


Sisu expresses the historic self-identified Finnish national character. It is about deciding on a course of action and then sticking to it, acting against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity.


Today, instead of working at the largest bank of Northern Europe, I coach tennis players and golfers, focusing on the mental side of their sport. Since I enjoy what I do, it doesn’t feel like a job at all. In a way, I could say that I stopped working at the age of 50. My creativity flourishes and my mind is full of ideas that I want to try out – I just started my own Golf Challenge 2018. I want to use my own life as a test lab and encourage people over 50 to set ambitious goals. Persistent dreams are meant to come true.

Soon I will be back in Cape Town. This time already with planned activities with my local friends like Erica, Alison and Juan: a summer concert in the Kirstenbosch Gardens, a dip in the Boulder’s Bay, “First Thursdays” in Cape Town, a couple of rounds of golf with Juan. Also, there are interesting meetings awaiting with people that I have connected with over the internet before my trip – Lynda, I cannot wait to meet you! In addition, I am expecting the unexpected. So, when the unexpected spontaneous question pops up, I am bound to say “yes” within the first few seconds.

More about Pia:

Version 2Pia Kemppainen is passionate about personal development. After 20 years in the corporate world, she decided to jump ship.  Today she coaches athletes on the mental side of the sport. She is also an inspirational speaker encouraging us to dig deep around our resources within and then putting them into good use – living life to the fullest.

Pia is a licensed mental trainer, coach and nutritionist. She currently lives in Stockholm Sweden with a global online presence.
Skype: piagebain
Whatsapp: +46733214308

2 thoughts on “Saying “yes” opened a whole new world to me – by Pia Kemppainen

  1. Alison says:

    Pia you are such an inspiration to so many people. Your transformation has been incredible and your book was a pleasure to read. So looking forward to seeing you again when you are back in South Africa.

    1. Pia says:

      Thank you Alison! Our early morning swim was an inspiration. Grateful to have you as a friend. See you soon!

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