This August was all about reflecting and structuring how you think about planning your life abroad. Whether you are only planning your first abroad adventure or have lived abroad for a while now, the below steps can be helpful. If not now, then in a couple of months when you find yourself at a crossroads!
Summer, next to the beginning of the year, is the busiest time in the world of global mobility. A lot of people become expats and start assignments abroad, or follow their partner abroad, or just decide to change locations. Whatever the reason for your move – you need to know that you are not alone!
During the last month (Aug 2018) we have been going through some steps to take you from reflecting on your needs and dreams to actually fulfilling your goals, one small step after another.
You can go back to this month’s publications both on Project Abroad Facebook and Instagram if you want to learn more. Below is the summary of the topics we have been working on, for those of you who couldn’t join in real time.
Step 1 – Identify what is most important for you at the moment
For a good start, I want to encourage you to discover what is really important to you.
What are your values? What are your biggest life roles now? In this step, you will establish what is of most value for you at the moment and create an affirmation which will remind you of your key focus every day. I would love for you to share your affirmation with us as well!
It’s best to start with the Discovering your Expat Identity article – it guides you through the process of self-discovery briefly. But if you really want to do it right, sign up to the newsletter. You will then get access to two great resources, one of which will be the exercise booklet. It will walk you through the steps to discovering what is truly most important to you at this stage in your life and give you space for writing down your thoughts and reflections.
You can also go back to the previous article on the blog about my experiences, how I nurtured the interest in other cultures, how it evolved into wanting to live abroad, steps I took along the way.
In this article I also share some tips on what I think helped me have a successful move abroad.
It is really important to realize the reasons behind wanting to learn more about other cultures or moving abroad. Is it because you are in this intercultural environment already and have to find ways to adapt? Is it because you genuinely enjoy any intercultural interactions? Is it because your work requires you to? Or a completely different reason?
Only after you are honest with yourself about the ‘WHY’, you can start working on nurturing a successful intercultural mind, work and life.
Step 2 – Set clear goals and next steps for the months to come
Step two is all about using the knowledge gained through reflection in Step 1, and putting it into some more actionable items on your to-do list.
Tool that I wholeheartedly recommend to you, as it helps structure the thoughts well, is the second download you get access to after subscribing to the newsletter – the Move Planning Card.
Go ahead, print it out together with the instructions, and set aside at least 30 minutes to think through where you’d like to be and what you’d like to achieve in the next couple of weeks or months (completely up to you what time frame you choose).
There are two articles that I think you will find particularly useful for this purpose:
Step 3 – What cultural knowledge you need to gain to make your plan a success?
If you look at the move planning card, at the bottom you will see four boxes. One of them is a space where you can write down all the cultural things that you think will be useful for you to learn about to make your plan a success.
I know that sometimes it is hard to know what you don’t know. The article on the blog called Improving your cultural intelligence without learning about the whole world can come in handy for you in this step. It organises the different types of cultural knowledge into four categories. This can help you decide which group is the most useful in your context. The categories are:
- Economy, legalities, administration
- Language and communications
- Leading with cultural intelligence
- Values, norms and beliefs
In your particular case, think about:
- What is it that poses the biggest challenge for you?
- When you look at your goals and plans, is there something that you don’t quite know how to approach?
- Which of the above categories of cultural knowledge might be helpful for you in working on your autumn plans?
Step 4 – Keep your motivation to achieving your cultural goals
It’s great that you have all those goals and you have them nicely planned and all. But the planning itself won’t make things happen… You need to take action.
Sometimes though it can be really hard to keep up the motivation you have started with. Usually after a couple of days or weeks the “real life” kicks in and doing laundry or shopping wins over your own development and growth. I think you can do both, as long as you are clear on your motivations.
Step four is all about establishing what is it that really got you thinking “I should probably learn more about this culture/language/[insert your own relevant word]“.
- Is it because you genuinely like learning about other cultures, and enjoy intercultural interactions?
- Is it because you want to adapt better and understand people’s behaviours? Or maybe because you know about this upcoming assignment abroad and that you will require some more knowledge to work there effectively?
- Or maybe it’s a positive loop where you feel confident in the intercultural interactions and therefore you want to have more of them and learn more, despite any challenges?
Whichever the reason, just be honest with yourself when thinking about your motivation. You might as well be motivated by more than one thing! That way when one motivation decreases, the intrinsic one for example, you can rationally say “right, but I’m not just doing it because I like intercultural interactions, I also want to be more efficient in working across cultures. I will read this one more article or book on the topic!”.
You can find more details on the motivation topic in this context in the How to find motivation to learn about other cultures article.
Is there a Step 5?
Well, not only step 5, but also step 6, 7, 15 and 100! Next steps are all of the actions you are going to take after this reflection month. It’s the end of just saying that you are going to do something. It’s the time to actually finally do it!
You can start by focusing on the knowledge piece you identified in step 3. Knowing you don’t know something is such a great start! It is a natural step in the learning and development process!
There are more articles coming up in September which focus on the cultural knowledge and how to make sure you are learning things that you will find helpful for fulfilling your goals. Make sure to stay up to date! The newsletter is a good way not to miss out on any new articles 🙂
Remember, working towards your goals is a process. It doesn’t happen in one day. But one step after another and you will see the progress, increase in the confidence around the chosen topics. It’s like with stretching. They say you need to stretch every day, even for a little bit, to get more flexible. Then one day suddenly you will find yourself doing splits although you’ve started from not being able to touch your toes. Baby steps!