Last month, I wrote about acceptance of your life as it is today as the starting point for creating a fulfilling life overseas. In this month’s article I’ll be discussing building from that foundation and I’ll be focusing on three key elements:
If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. ~ Mary Engelbreit
MINDSET – MAKING A CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO MOVE FORWARD
Of all the variables which affect an accompanying partner’s happiness in an expat assignment, mindset can be one of the most powerful. Simply put, if you think you are going to be happy, you will most likely be happy.Thinking that you will be miserable tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy too. Though the Mary Engelbreit quote above is a favourite of mine and aptly describes what I am talking about here, a change in mindset is not as straightforward as making a simple choice (if it was, wouldn’t everyone choose to lead happy fulfilling lives?) A change in mindset requires that you not only decide to move forward but that you engage in some self analysis to discover what beliefs you are holding that are preventing you from moving forward. Ask yourself these questions:
• What do I believe (about myself/my situation) that is preventing you from seeking fulfillment?
• How are those beliefs affecting the way I act?
• How would it feel if I didn’t hold that belief?
• What actions would I take if I didn’t hold that belief?
By discovering the (often subconscious) beliefs that are preventing you from moving forward and by contemplating what it would be like to hold a different belief you can turn your mindset around
When you are ready to commit to moving forward, its important that you choose activities that will be energising and fulfilling. When you are new in a community, feeling the loss of your life pre-move and perhaps feeling a little lonely, being asked to do something or be part of something can feel like a lifesaver. But before you make a significant commitment to a job or an activity, a committee or an activity ask yourself whether it is something you really want to do. Many accompanying partners find themselves with commitments that, after the initial relief of having something to do has worn off, turn out to be draining and a chore (I speak from the position of one who has learned the hard way!) Take some time to think about the following:
• What activities have been energizing for you in the past;
• What activities have been a drain on your energy in the past;
• Are there activities that you have always wanted to try but have not had the opportunity?
• What makes you happy?
• What kind of people do you like to spend time with?
Evaluate those elements that positively contribute to your fulfillment and those that are negative and consider all significant commitments against those elements. You may not be able to find occupations for yourself which contribute only positives but by being aware you should be able to focus on finding a fulfilling purpose and avoid making commitments that will ultimately become a burden.
Armed with a positive frame of mind and self-knowledge you can start taking action toward creating the life that you want. While the actions you will want to take will depend on whether you are seeking paid employment, voluntary work or new hobbies, a few principals apply:
• If you are seeking either paid employment or (even very specific voluntary work) seek help from professionals who can help you with resume preparation, understanding of local practices, networks and negotiating strategies
• Take advantage of any support that your partner’s employer offers. If you are not sure whether they offer any support, ask. Support for partners may be available but may not be offered up front.
• Ask expats who have been in a community for some time what they do, and what other activities might be available.
• Consult expat publications for ideas and opportunities
• Don’t be intimidated by your absence of network and connections – you are not the only one and most expats are willing to help others.
If you started out in expat life feeling like you made the wrong choice, please share your experience – Were you able to create a fulfilling life for yourself? What helped you to turn your situation around?
Evelyn Simpson is a personal development coach who works with the accompanying partners of expats helping them to transition to expat life and to find happiness and fulfilment in their lives overseas. Evelyn has spent almost all of her adult life living as an expat on 3 continents and in 5 countries. She’s been a working expat, an accompanying partner and has founded her own portable business, The Smart Expat, while overseas. Evelyn and her Australian husband have two children who have yet to live in either of their passport countries.
You can learn more about Evelyn and her work at www.thesmartexpat.com where she blogs regularly about expat life.