Archive for May, 2009
Less than a week left to sign up for World Blog Surf Day!
If you are an expat blogger, you definitely want to join in the WBSD fun.
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Image: NASA, Public Domain
Not that I want to end Happiness Month on a downer (now that would be a paradox!), but I thought it would be unfair not to tell you about the happiness mistakes I see most expats make.
I am not talking about the obvious stuff, such as being completely clueless about the local culture or refusing to learn the language. You will find that kind of advice on any expat website, so you donâ€™t need me to tell you that (but seriously folks â€“ do learn the language!)
As you know, here we mostly look at the emotional and motivational impact of expatriation, so here are the 8 most common expat stumbling blocks in that area:
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I think we all agree that life overseas can sometimes be challenging, overwhelming or downright hard. When things get tough, wouldnâ€™t it be great to have a range of happiness-booster tools to choose from?
Throughout Expat Happiness Month at Winning Away, you have been gathering tips and techniques to build your own expat happiness toolbox of sorts. Now you can add another two resources to your box, and they come from two of my favourite bloggers/writers:0 comments | Leave a comment
As an expat, chances are that your exercise routine has been affected by your move. You left behind your favourite gym and the friends with whom you used to exercise. You do not know where to find a reputable trainer in your new location, or maybe there are no teachers available for your favourite form of exercise.
That would be enough to make anyone fall off the bandwagon!
Today, we explore ways to make exercise part of your expat lifestyle again, or how to shake things up a little if your current routine is not entirely fulfilling.
Happiness tip: regular exercise is not only good for your body, it will also boost your happiness levels. You may already know that physical activity lifts your spirits by generating endorphins, which is why exercising is recommended in the treatment of depression. The good news is that it also has several long-term benefits:
– Stress reduction – something all expats can use!
– Opportunities to socialise and meet new people – a key happiness booster in its own right;
– Sense of personal achievement as you master new skills â€“ all the more important and rewarding when other aspects of your expat life may feel baffling or overwhelming.
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You may remember this recent post about the #1 challenge for expats: being far from friends and family. The first few months, or even years, in a new country can be lonely. Our innate need for connection makes finding new friends, and finding them fast, a top goal for many expats.
If you leave it all to chance, it might take you a long time to start making new friends. So take matters into your own hands and try the tips below!
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â€śWe act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements in life, when all we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.â€ť – Charles Kingsley
I like this quote a lot. Of course you do not want to be exposed to extremely uncomfortable living conditions, but ultimately the level of comfort you live in will not impact your long-term happiness all that much. I have met expats who lived in pretty rustic accommodations, some without running water or electricity, and who seemed very happy with their new life.
As a less extreme example, my very first apartment here in Vancouver was small, dark and rather shoddily builtâ€¦ and I could not have been happier during these first few months â€“ I was living my dream and I definitely had enthusiasm to spare!
The million-dollar question, of course, is where do you find something to be enthusiastic about when expatriation has turned your life topsy-turvy and you are a little overwhelmed by all those changes?
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Being in a state of flow is one of the most powerful happiness tools at your disposal.
You probably have experienced flow before, even though you may not have called it that. You were so engaged in an activity that you lost track of time. Your thoughts and actions were perfectly coordinated, one step flowing seamlessly into the next. You were focused, efficient, in control. You were â€śin the zoneâ€ť.
This kind of experience is not only gratifying in the moment, it also has a lasting impact on your general happiness levels. Flow reduces stress, increases productivity and reminds you to fully enjoy the present moment. In other words, flow provides you with a peak experience of being in control, fully engaged and grounded in the present.
Wouldnâ€™t it be great to experience flow on a more regular basis?
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As mentioned yesterday, identifying your life purpose is one of those worthy, ambitious projects that can elicit a fair share of resistance and quite a few objections.
Knowing your own purpose in life is such an important foundation for your happiness, though, that I want to take some time here to look at the most common objections.
Objection #1: I am not worthy!
When you heard about life purpose, maybe your first reaction was, â€śWait a minute. Sure, people like Mother Theresa and Buddha had a clear purpose in life, but I am a normal person, you know? I am not going to save the world.â€ť
That is a very valid point of view. Looking for your life purpose can sound intimidating, or grandiose, or something that is only for extraordinary people to pursue.
Here are two ways to look at it:
– First, take a moment to notice where your discomfort is coming from. Could it be that the voice in your head telling you, â€śLife purpose? I donâ€™t think so!â€ť belongs to your Inner Critic? That it is, in essence, saying, â€śYouâ€™re not good enough to have a life purposeâ€ť? If so, well, that is a rather crummy thing to say â€“ but Inner Critics are like that, alas. Not really team players. You can take a look here for techniques to get your Inner Critic out of the way.
– Now if it is the words themselves that you find distracting â€“ just change them! No one ever said that that this thing we are after must be called a life purpose. What we are looking for is who you are meant to be and what you are meant to do in this lifetime.
A coach I work with calls it her â€śunique purposeâ€ť. One of my clients defined it as â€śher callingâ€ť. I like to think of it in terms of â€śwhat gives my life meaning and keeps me goingâ€ť. Play with different words until you come up with something you are really comfortable with.
Objection #2: If I had a life purpose, Iâ€™d know it by now!
Another thought that may have crossed your mind is, â€śIf I had a life purpose, wouldnâ€™t I have found it by now?â€ś
Oh, I hear you. I used to think the exact same thing â€“ that a life purpose would surely be such an obvious calling that I would know it by the time I was 4 or something. Then I remembered that the Buddha himself only found his calling at age 29 and I got over it.
Sometimes, callings are subtle – a whisper, a twinge. It is easy to miss them if we are constantly busying ourselves with other things. The good news is that because they are part of your essence, callings are constant and persistent. A little of your time and attention is all they need to express themselves.
Just like some people with no obvious talents as a child find their artistic wings later in life, you can uncover your life purpose at any age.
Objection #3: What if I donâ€™t believe life has a purpose?
This is another perspective that I would like to acknowledge. Maybe you have a more nihilistic take on life and believe that life is without real meaning or purpose. Maybe you are an atheist and the idea of life purpose makes you uncomfortable, because it seems to imply an underlying religious or spiritual angle.
I want to reassure you that we are not looking for the universal â€śmeaning of lifeâ€ť, but rather for the specific, overarching theme that will give you, as a person, direction in life. Another way to put it could be â€śthe most important mission you will give yourself during your lifetimeâ€ť. So everyone, including atheists, can successfully use the tools I gave you yesterday.
On the other hand, if you are religious, one of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is â€śWhat did God/the Divine put me on this earth for?â€ť, as it will take you straight to the essence of your life purpose.
Does this help?
I hope this clears up most of the uneasiness you may have had around the concept of life purpose.
If you are still struggling to find the right words, or if you have further questions, that is what I am here for – leave a comment and I will get back to you ASAP!
Emmanuelle2 comments | Leave a comment
Warning #1: Long post today!
Warning #2: Powerful tool ahead! So powerful, in fact, that it sometimes triggers a bit of resistance when I use it with new clients. Today, I am going to show you how to identify your purpose in life.
This is the first step toward a fulfilling, meaningful life. If your ambition is to thrive, then identifying your purpose is probably the fastest, most direct way to get there.0 comments | Leave a comment
In terms of happiness, there is a huge difference between a pleasant life and a good or meaningful life.
A pleasant life is what most of us would call â€śthe good lifeâ€ť: it is all about the enjoyment of the senses and pursuing pleasure for its own sake. Lots of money, a big swimming pool, plenty of travelling, not a care in the world â€“ that sort of thing.
I know this kind of life may sound very appealingâ€¦ but research shows that the pleasant life does not actually lead to lasting happiness. Think of the people you know who have moved to a beautiful part of the world, or who negotiated a big expat package. As the initial excitement and novelty wear off, those lucky expats soon revert to their previous level of happiness – or unhappiness as the case may be.
So if â€śthe good life abroadâ€ť does not automatically translate into a good life as an expat, what can we do to boost our happiness levels?
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