COMPLETING 2013 and CREATING 2014 New Year’s Reflections and Intention Setting for Expat Success

Open DoorWelcome to 2014! The door has opened to a whole fresh year! What do you see as you peer through your door? What thoughts come? How do you feel? Maybe anticipation or excitement. Overwhelm or fear. Perhaps there’s a sense of numbness or grief. Joy or peace. Whatever it is for you – it’s ok. I’ve felt all of these at a new year or another, depending on the season I’m experiencing. Wherever you’re at, join me in looking at the ritual of reflection and intention setting.

Why not resolutions? Honestly, I’ve never liked New Year’s resolutions! They tend to be promised plans for self-improvement – to do something “more, better or different”. I then fall flat on my face in failure by the end of January, having me feel worse about myself and the start of a new year. Not a good way to open the door to 2014!

There’s no magic formula that says the last day of December is for reflection and the first day of January is for intentions. I like to take my time, well into January, because I’ve learnt that pondering and preparing infuses passion to carry through on what I choose. I encourage you to take time for both reflection and intention these next weeks. Seems following the Christmas holidays we’re either:

a) … in an “I-ate-way-too-much-food-and-am-exhausted” state, joyful from wonderful celebrations and fun times with family and friends, or
b) … on a sugar high, feeling down with the holidays exaggerating losses and grief. A sense of emptiness as you rear view peer and perhaps dread as you look forward.

This can change, because you can choose to reflect, then move on, letting go of the past and pressing on to what lies ahead!

ReflectionHow can this play out in your personal life? [Read more…]

5 Ways To Nurture Your Spirit This Holiday Season

Out of nowhere, a sudden and deep longing… a kind of emptiness appeared.

December is a time of anticipation – lots of preparations for the holidays. Whether you believe in the Christ of Christmas or not, there’s cultural, religious and family traditions and celebrations to get ready for.

Kuwait ChristmasLast week I was getting that last present for my husband. With cheerful Christmas music playing on the radio, I was in high spirits, feeling great about the pace of my preparations so far: baking (accomplished with my adult daughters) was neatly stored in plastic containers, now daily disappearing from the freezer! That’s what happens when baked too early, with a teen and husband! Ok, I’m sneaking them too! Since our years in Cambodia, malls and shopping in Canada overwhelm me, so I purchase and wrap gifts early. Our tree is hung and decorations being enjoyed. We’ve given time to new immigrant families and packed Shoe Boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Yup, I felt prepared and ready! Then the Christmas carol “Joy to the World” started playing. I gustily sang along:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Out of nowhere, a sudden and deep longing… a kind of emptiness appeared. A feeling that there is something more, coming from the depth of my heart. And suddenly it was made clear: preparing for the holidays is really preparing my heart! [Read more…]

Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for every Expatriate Family (Part 2)

Last week we looked at the “why’s” of gratitude (READ HERE). It’s a recognizable ingredient for resilience at a personal level, in a partnership, and family. It aids in well-being spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally and mentally. It lessens stress, opening us to joy, and freedom. Gratitude gives us an empowering perspective no matter what we’re facing and reminds us of what’s most important in life. It’s a perfect partner to grief and recalibrates our happiness set point.

Gratitude Can Transform

Today we look at the practice of gratitude on a personal level: [Read more…]

Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for Every Expatriate Family (Part 1)

 PART ONE: WHY GRATITUDE?

Having seen the devastation and chaos from typhoon Haiyan in Central Philippines this past week, my heart aches for the people. Many dead and injured. Others lost. Families torn apart and in shock as they try to survive, get help for the necessities of life, and keep going. My prayers go out for them. And may we never take life for granted- but choose to live each day to the fullest, loving deeply and giving our best. Would you respond to help our Filipino brothers and sisters, so that one day they can look back, be grateful and say “People around the world were generous and kind”?

hands linkedTragedy connects us. It brings out a depth of love and understanding that compels us. Maybe because none are immune to life’s crisis’. We’ve been through hardship ourselves. Maybe not to this magnitude, yet we’ve all felt the pang of loss, security stripped and a sense of hopelessness. I’m all about resilience – facing hardship with a strength of spirit and rebounding stronger and more resourceful. You can’t have resilience without pain.

And that brings us to the topic of gratitude. It’s November… about that time in expat life when things are:

Girl SmilingRootless still, if you’ve just moved abroad and settled your family into a routine. There’s still a sense of aloneness, a disconnect between who you are and where and what you’re living.
Routine, after returning from home leave some 3 months ago, adjusting the kids back to school and now you find yourself pretty much at “same-old, same old.” Or,
Restless if you‘ve lived here for a while and sense you want a change. Likely not a move (!), but a sense of deeper contribution, fulfillment and aliveness in your expat life.

Gratitude can be your solution. It opens the heart and activates positive emotional centers in the brain. It soothes stress and broadens creative thinking to develop a more expansive view of our lives. It shifts our focus from what’s lacking to the abundance that’s present. It’s the awareness that whatever we have is exactly what we need – be it people, circumstances or challenge. It doesn’t mean everything in our lives is great, but rather that we CHOOSE to count blessings. Giving thanks makes us happier, more resilient and strengthens relationships. It opens us to freedom and generosity. How? [Read more…]

What Haiti Teaches Expats About Resilience

I’ve just returned from teaching and coaching in Haiti. As the plane descended, I intently peered out the window, eager to know what had changed since my last visit. Three months after Haiti’s earthquake, I spent two weeks near Leogane, the epicenter of the quake. One could see devastation high from the air – crumbled buildings, earth buckled and split, people wandering like ants. Once on ground, I saw shock from tremendous loss. Haitians were lost and homeless; helpless and in survival mode. Not only have they had to rebuild their country and houses, families have had to rebuild and individuals redefine who they are.

On this, my fourth visit, I was encouraged by what I saw. Major roadways are paved; tented communities, previously filled with thousands of people, have dispersed; garbage and rubble has been cleaned up; most buildings have been restored or torn down; parks are being built and more people have jobs. There was no mention of the earthquake. Haitians have moved on and they’ve survived with resilience!

There are times in expatriate life when the landscape feels buckled, torn apart and gaping. We feel reduced to ant size with the magnitude or number of challenges we face. What allows us strength to push through, so that we come out the other side with renewed hope and a greater ability to live well? Haitians showed acceptance and resourcefulness.

[Read more…]

6 Steps to Exchange Panic with Peace in Your Expatriate Experiences

I woke refreshed and energized, having had a night of uninterrupted sleep – a rarity at this stage in my womanhood!  Life was good! Walking downstairs, I saw my husband sitting in the overstuffed leather chair, face in hands, leaning forward.

“Good morning” I said cheerfully. He looked up, brow and forehead furrowed in concern. “Munchy Crunchy Bar (endearing name of child #4, teen-age son) didn’t come home last night”. We aren’t talking ”sleep over”. Our attempts to text him home from 9 p.m. on, as it was a school night, went unnoticed. I went to bed at 11. He cut off contact with his dad around midnight. He was out with less than desirable people (our judgement). This is our child with a history of trauma.

My heart went from 72 beats a minute to 140 pounding beats in less than a minute. Mind racing, I pictured all the worse of places he could be and all the things that could be happening to him. My head felt like it would explode. My stomach was a twisted tangle of knotted anxiety. My throat tight. I was in the grip of fear! You’ve been in this place too.  To deal with panic: [Read more…]

Intentional Questions To Ask Yourself…

During Relocation and/or Challenging Times

  1. Who do I want to BECOME through this experience? What am I becoming?
  2. What are my STRENGTHS and how can I build on them during this time and beyond?
  3. What/who are my SUPPORT systems? How can I utilize them in the best possible way?
  4. What are my NEEDS right now? Where do I take responsibility for them?
  5. What do I need to LET GO of? EMBACE?… in order to manage and sustain myself [Read more…]

Expatriate Life Coaching

Greg* and Terry* anticipated their international assignment. Both desired to live cross culturally, wanting their children to be globally minded. Once in Singapore, life began to unravel. Greg, immersed in work, was expected to sustain a high level of business performance and develop complex business relationships. Terry had chosen to put her career on hold to ‘make things work’. The kids began school – different routine, a collage of peers and cultures, different academic levels (you know the deal). They longed for friends and family. They missed the familiar. Terry especially missed a sense of fulfillment and contribution. Greg wasn’t around much; when he was, he didn’t like to see her sad or hear her frustrations. Home life became conflicted. They didn’t feel like they ‘fit’ the expatriate community, though they tried to connect with others. Terry wanted to take charge of life, process her feelings, and move into the rich, exciting life she dreamed of. Coaching was their answer.  [Read more…]

Culture Stress

hands holding a small globeCulture stress is the often painful process of adapting to a new culture. It’s also known as ‘culture fatigue’, ‘culture shock’ or ‘culture disorientation’. It ranges from mild irritation to trauma and describes the stress brought on by all of the changes moving to a different culture. There is not one way to experience culture stress. We all go through it differently. It may be acute or barely noticeable. You may find it returns after you thought you had already passed through it. You may find you breeze through at one stage of life and at another, find it more difficult.

There are 4 normal stages of culture stress: [Read more…]

Cultural Clashes and How to Handle Them

As an expat, you need to effectively interact with the local people and with team members who come from around the world. It’s a challenge, because it means crossing cultures. We’re all different and hold tightly to our different beliefs about what’s right, good and normal. So whenever there’s cross cultural interaction there’s a big chance for confusion, misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Not all cross cultural encounters go wrong, but when they do, they can have us stewing in negative thought patterns!

Here’s how a collision of cultures typically occurs:

EXPECT: We expect other people to be like us and to behave like us. But they aren’t and they don’t. We’ve been taught that what we do is right and it’s the way people should behave.  [Read more…]