Appreciative Inquiry: A walk with Dagmar Lettner

Appreciative Inquiry: A walk with Dagmar Lettner

5 minute read

Dagmar suggested that we meet at Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin, where she promptly gave me a walking tour pointing out the layers of history around us, hidden in plain sight. Dagmar Lettner is a geographer, a social rights worker, a poet and above all a supremely optimistic inspired human being. Being around Dagmar makes me want to slough off all of my own negativity and see the world through her refreshing perspective. I hope through this read, you'll feel that desire too. 


Viv: What is your native language? 

Dagmar: German. 

Viv: What are you working on right now?

Dagmar: In a bigger sense, I'm working on my… perfect life, on how I want to live my life. This is what I'm very interested about because I'm 52 years old now and I think, how do I want to live? With whom do I want to spend my time? And why don't I live my life the way I want to live it right now? [and] What do I want to work? What is the meaning of my professional work? What impact does it have?  

And so, the one thing is the impact of my professional work, and the other thing is that I admire a lot of things. … I want to point this out and add a little bit more of the beauty to the whole beauty of the world. I think it's about the inspiration you get and about showing this. I felt very inspired that you asked me about my Instagram account because I think, oh, I love taking photos of something, [that] perhaps other people don't see … but I'm a little bit shy, and so it was very
flattering and very inspiring for me that you say that you like it.

“I think the way we dress and we present ourselves to the world it's an expression of how we want to shine maybe, or what we want to tell about ourselves.”

Viv: I think what really draws me to your Instagram is that it's always so unexpected when I'm scrolling through my feed and then I come across your posts. It's so different from everything else that I'm following. It usually takes me a minute to recognize what it is that you photographed. It's kind of abstracted or it's so zoomed in that I don't quite know what's happening, and it's like a little picture of  your brain, and then I get the caption, which is a couple of words, which  completely changes, what I thought I was looking at. It feels like such a pause from everything else that I'm looking at. I really appreciate that.

Dagmar: I'm not a professional photographer. I don't even have a good camera on my phone, my children say, oh, no, what´s this? 
 it's just about how it feels. I think some quotes I have [in the captions are] because I have a lot of music in my head … and sometimes there are quotes of some music, songs, or something.

Viv: In what way does the art that you create / the work that you do translate into how you dress yourself?

Dagmar: I think I've found my dressing style and I think we have, when we are living in Berlin, we have to commit something to the city. And I think, yeah, I love looking at other people and I like it when they're dressed with care. I'm not dressed in a high fashion level, but I love some details. I think over the years I found my way of styling and I sometimes get compliments for my dress and  I like to give compliments to other people:; I think this is something very sweet in this cold world.
I was on an escalator at the S Bahnhof Potsdam with a very charming elderly woman. And I said, oh, I like your jacket, and she said, yeah, I remarked you as well. I was so glad, I think this is something that we can give and take. I love to give, I love to smile at people. So in a little way, I think the way we dress and we present ourselves to the world it's an expression of how we want  to shine maybe, or what we want to tell about ourselves.

Viv: Yeah. I love that. I feel like you've, you've mastered the art of looking around and seeing beauty and I'm envious of that.
You have this space for paying attention, and a positivity, that's not [just] paying attention and also finding what's wrong, you know, you're looking for what's beautiful and you find it. How do you do that?

Dagmar: I think I have a positive mind. There's a German expression, Susie Sorglos, Susan without sorrow, something like this, and I think I  hardly ever experienced something badly. I'm very happy about this, I think maybe it's a little bit naive, but I feel blessed that I'm often in a very, very good mood. I'm blessed that I can see this, that I can get up and feel happy and cherish what I have. I think this is what I have been given; To see the beauty, and to know that it's a privilege. Something like this. 

Viv: It's a privilege to recognize it?

Dagmar: No, to recognize it, to live at this time at this place, [to be] the few privileged [people] that we can live here and just bike around. Life is maybe very short.

And what I love, very much is how the city communicates with you. if you are a little bit spiritual, maybe, if you're looking for an answer or just looking around, you always get the answers from the surrounding. This is what I love very, very much. When you walk through the city and have a question, or just think, oh, I wonder what will be about “hu-hu-hu”. And you look around and see, oh, that´s it? and you get it on a sign or you find it on a sticker. I love those paste ups on the poles for example.

I wanted to put some stickers as well. I think I have to do it and add some stickers or posters or something like this. This project is sleeping in the moment, because you have to get out of your comfort zone. because maybe somebody's watching you, maybe someone is asking, what are you doing there? Are you allowed? It takes a little bit of courage... But sometimes I wonder what the people would like to tell me when they put [out] those stickers. 

Are they talking to me? …what does this have to do with me? Why does it appear today? If that's the quote for the day or something like this... It's just about opening your eyes and see, and maybe take a photo or just enjoy.

Viv: Do you have a favorite or a recent favorite sustainability swap?

Dagmar: Yes, I'm very much interested in zero waste to food. I don't throw any food away. And I love making recipes out of old bread, I think I could easily survive with this. It's something like less is more…and don't waste anything. 
 I'm thinking about this a lot, because I think I'm very much concerned about what is happening now and it's getting worse and worse. I [was] studying environmental management in 1994 and I'm so shocked that we … knew things 30, 40, 50 years and too [little] has changed.

Viv: Yeah. It's, it's wild to me, how much my own perspective has changed. There was this organic grocery store near my house [growing up], but I always thought, oh, that's just for rich hippies. 

Dagmar: Yes. And it's about an everyday decision. You can choose everyday, will I do this or that? It's always a decision you can make in every little step… It's about the big political decisions and it's about everyday decisions.

Viv: What advice would you give to yourself a year ago?

Dagmar: Stay brave. Just stick to it. You made a decision and stay on this track and be patient. It will all turn out well.

Viv:What influences you more in Berlin or living online? 

Dagmar: Living in Berlin.
It's a great place to be here. I think

Viv: What does adventure look like for you?

Dagmar: Adventure? About the unexpected. I think adventures are different things for different people. I am a geographer but, I'm not so much interested in going all over the planet. I'm happy where I am and I think adventure means doing the unexpected. …For me, it's going somewhere alone [that’s] very adventurous.

Viv: what was the best thing that you saw recently? 

Dagmar: You told me you love photo exhibitions, and so do I. I think the best and most touching exhibition I've seen [was two or three] years ago, it was Ren Hang, the Chinese photographer in C/O Berlin. This was something I won't forget.


I want to give a big thank you to Dagmar for sharing her spirit and perspective of appreciation and gratitude towards life. You can find her musings every now and again on instagram

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