If you are feeling miserable or ‘lost’ on an international assignment and feel like your nose is up against the window watching life go by – try my 10 Point Success Plan. Follow me over the next ten weeks as I take a look at the challenges and how to go from struggle to success. Hit the ‘follow‘ button at the bottom right of the page to get the next ten weeks delivered straight to your inbox.
Expatriate Life. Like a window on the world it can be opened, peaked into, jumped into with both feet, a wing and a prayer, closed, have a nose pushed up against it or be slammed tightly on itself in disgust. At first its mystery and exotic nature can lead us to believe we are about to have the most amazing experience in our lives, we feel lucky and a little bit special.
Our arrival at our new destination is a flurry of newness and differences within which our host location enthrals and amazes us. As we move around we feel like we are truly exploring not just another part of the world but another part of us and we feel alive and fulfilled. Living the dream. This continues…until it doesn’t. I’m sure you know only too well what I’m talking about here so rather than dwell on the shit sandwich you’ve been feasting on recently, let’s just sort this out.
What the heck happened?! Well – possibly a mix of things. Our expectations have not been met. In our fantasy of how we would respond to the challenge of a foreign posting, we haven’t measured up. We’ve learned stuff about our limits and we’ve probably made-up some stuff about ourselves to which may not be true. We perhaps underestimated the amount of effort and focus which is needed to create a new life for ourselves. We underestimated the cultural differences. We thought we didn’t need to change ourselves in anyway. We spend a lot of time alone so we talk to ourselves a LOT and not always in a kind, supportive and loving manner. Suddenly, the idea of going home back to what we know is like an oasis in the desert – deliciously mouth-watering and tantalising.
Don’t panic. It’s all completely NORMAL. It’s all a part of the Expat ‘journey’ – especially for those of you who cannot or have chosen not to do paid work, and it’s going to be OKAY. This is your inner ’emotional GPS system’ inviting you to get to work and start building the inner resilience and adaptability you are going to need in order to make your life abroad a success. It’s a moment of truth for you – an opportunity to sink or swim and I know that because you have created this situation in your life that you have all the resources you need to make it work, you just may not know it yet. Some of you may feel exhausted at my words. You have expended a massive amount of energy to even get here, and now you are running on empty knowing there’s more work to be done. Relax. A lot of this work can be done in bed, in a café or wherever else you need to be in order to start filling your tank up again. So, get that latte and take a seat.
Here’s the bottom line. You have a choice. You are actually ‘choosing’ right now – choosing to stay miserable or choosing to do something about it and get back into a full life. You can either sit inside with the windows closed hoping someone will see your struggle, hiding from the world, being angry at your husband or wife or whomever else you decide is to blame, or you can commit to yourself and your life right now. Today. In this very moment.
10 Point Success Plan To Get You Through The Window
1. Commitment. Commit to something better. Commit to yourself like you may never have done before. Commit to you with every fibre of your being. Mark your commit with a silly ceremony or by doing something out of the ordinary (naked dancing in the living room anyone?).
2. Self- Care. Don’t make yourself wrong for everything that has contributed to this so far, instead be gentle with yourself and focus on your self-care (good sleeping, eating, rest and exercise). Note any negative self-talk and find new positive and gentle ways of communicating with yourself. What would you say to a child or a loved one? How would you encourage them? Trust and know that your situation will improve will focus, action and time.
3. Get some Perspective. Choose a sustainable, loving and exciting mindset you want to adopt. Is there a metaphor that seems right for this – will you go at this success plan like ‘a panther/rhino/quarterback/pilot’? Find a metaphor that feels strong and creative for you and create a mantra or affirmation that supports this chosen perspective. Keep it simple and easy to believe for yourself (if ‘I have an amazing life abroad’ seems way off the mark, start simple with ‘I choose to create the life I want’). Ensure all the actions you take are aligned with this perspective, support it and enhance it.
4. Acknowledgement. Acknowledge yourself and your courage for even being here and having this issue. Many never make it out of their own home town. Acknowledge yourself everyday in the mirror – you are doing really well, even if some days it feels very differently. Think about creating rewards for yourself when you make progress or expend effort in the direction of your goals – that’s acknowledgement not only for progress but the time spent moving towards desired results.
5. Routine. Create a strong and sustaining routine for yourself to fall back on – it’s a bit like being unemployed (when looking for a job becomes your job). Your job now is to set yourself up for your own personal success. A good routine is self-nurturing, low on ‘shoulds’ and high on things that bring joy into your life. Eat, sleep, exercise and rest sufficiently to support your body, mind and spirit. Try a daily grounding practise like 15 minutes of meditation and prioritise getting trusted childcare if you have pre-school aged children – you need time to keep your tank full in order to give to them.
6. Find Your Purpose. Take it seriously and do whatever it takes to get you to where you want to be. Commit to having not only ‘a life’ but an amazing life for the duration of the assignment. What is your purpose whilst you are here? How does this fit with your vision for your entire life and how can you really get the most out of it? If someone gave you two years to yourself in your home country, what would you do with the time? Imagine creating the kind of life that you would be sorry to leave behind at the end of the assignment, what ingredients would be needed for that? Write it all down.
7. Get Curious. Get curious about everything. Really curious. Why? Real authentic curiosity is a wonderful energy to evoke – it takes you away from knowing, judgement, being right and angry and into openness, expansion, love and non-attachment. Be curious about your host environment, culture, language, norms, yourself, your reactions, your decisions, your desires. Spend a little time each day simply being curious about something. What does it bring into your life?
8. Make a plan. Set three goals that have meaning for you which once completed, that will take you to (or closer to) your vision of how you want to live your life. Make a list of daily tasks /menu of activities for each goal that you can pick and choose from depending on mood and do one thing for each goal per day – at first it might seem like incremental change but at some point things will snowball and you’ll end up where you wanted to be before you know it. Take action.
9. Get The Help You Need. There are no medals for going it alone and struggling with only your martyrdom for comfort. Ask for help and support – if you are on assignment with a multi-national what support are they able to give? If you are an independent expat consider hiring a coach or even enlisting the support of an online expat network. Get a mentor – who seems to know their way around here, and who might be able to fast-forward your local knowledge in some way?
10. Take one day at a time. Pause for a moment to think about something you are incredibly proud of creating and think of how much time, love and effort it took to create it. Your wisdom from creating that can be applied here and help you get to where you want in less time, but it will still take time. Spend that time wisely, doing things you love in alignment with your purpose. Take photos, write a journal or a blog – have things you can look back on so you can re-live your journey and enjoy it all over again at some point in the future. This could be your defining moment, so let’s record it for posterity.
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today”. – Dale Carnegie
Join me next week when we look at Commitment in more detail, and why a lack of commitment to yourself leads to failure.
Don’t struggle on your own! We are running the first in a series of group coaching and mentoring programmes ‘From Struggle To Success’ for trailing/accompanying spouses and partners who want to turn their expat experience around. The programme pilot starts in May 2013 and runs for 12 weeks. Please click HERE if you would like to receive more information. Hurry, places are limited so act now!
Have fun, grow and flourish, wherever you are!
To book a free 40 minute session with me to work on creating your personal expat success plan, you can either email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0)20 7193 7251 or Skype me on amandawilby.
Please leave your comments and stories here – I’d love to hear from you!