Your new life abroad stretches out in front of you like a glorious blank canvas – deliciously blank and full of possibility. Well, not always. Waking up to a blank canvas every day can be quite daunting – overwhelming even. Too many choices, new experiences and ideas to process leads to fatigue even for the smallest of activities (is this why we always sleep so much more on holiday I wonder?). The chaos life in a new country brings is a real challenge – more so for those who have no corporate office to attend, team to join or paid work to provide structure. We have to function within the chaos.
Artists and writers have a general reputation for living in chaos, unreliability and mess, and this has become almost synonymous with creativity. In actual truth, the most prolific and successful artists and writers are ones with a strict routine and structure. Many of these successful artists and writers have also been successful expatriates too – Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein to name a few. In Picasso’s routine he would only work for the early part of the day and spend the rest pursuing leisure activities – even so, at his peak this he was able to produce up 8 canvasses a day plus sketches!
The artist’s routine seems at odds with creativity, yet neuroscience gives us important clues as to why this works. To give this a car driving analogy; in our brains we have an area called the ‘Basal Ganglia’ whose job is to sweat the small stuff (where’s the gear stick? which one is the brake?) leaving our frontal cortex free to do the cool bits like deciding where to go and at what speed to drive. If we constantly have to think about where the indicators are or how to turn he engine on, we soon get really tired (remember your first driving lesson?). Leaving us only performing at a very basic level. A strong and sustaining routine can be worth its weight in gold to you whilst attuning to your life abroad, where all the newness and learning can be really daunting. It frees you up to spend time doing the stuff you really want to do.
What Makes A Good Routine?
Jazz hands! No – only joking (although jazz hands are ALWAYS a part of any good routine). This is the cool bit – you get to design it! For maybe the first time ever, you get to consciously craft the days to encompass elements and activities of your choosing. What if you were to design your weekly schedule around the simple task of creating joy for yourself? What would that look like? Consider these questions as a place to begin designing your supportive schedule:
- Well, what makes you happy? What makes your heart sing and dance? What energises you? Start there. If you have small children your routine may mainly be based around them and creating joy with them, AND you will probably find your spirit and mind improves ten-fold by adding-in elements to your schedule that are just for you and that finding trusted quality childcare for a few hours a week will bring you untold benefits.
- What self-care do you need to do, what values would you like to honour more? Put it all in!
- What elements of your week de-energise and ‘drag you down’? Consider the following actions: a) outsource it, b) create a different perspective and ‘just do it’, or c) forget it.
- Tip – create your structure in an online calendar that is accessible via your phone – add-in time for planning and remember things like ‘self-care’, research, telephone calls etc. Sometimes its the little things that makes the difference too.
For more ideas and support on creating a sustaining (maybe radical) routine for your life abroad, book a free consultation session right here by clicking on the button below:
Tune-in next week for Part 7 of the ‘From Struggle To Success’ series when I look at Finding Your Purpose – it’s a big one so make sure you get access to it by hitting the ‘subscribe to this blog’ button on the right hand side of this page.
HURRY UP – ONLY ONE PLACE LEFT!!! We are running a free group coaching and mentoring programme for trailing spouses and accompanying partners starting in May for 12 weeks. This is the only time this programme will be free so sign-up now to get more information. Places are limited – the quicker you register your interested the more likely you are to win your place on the programme!
Take care, 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, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0)20 7193 7251 now.