Joy was the last thing on my mind when I moved abroad. Instead, I wrapped myself up in the all of the “should” tasks. I should be getting a job, I should be contributing to my household, I should quit drinking, I should lose weight, I should learn Dutch… and so on. Problem was, I assumed too much before I moved. My expectations of my European lifestyle were clobbered by reality. When it didn’t line up, I resorted to adding more pressure to living my dream life.
Lack of patience held me back from experiencing goodness. Joy was not around, and if it was, I kept it away from my one-window studio apartment. I was a total grump. Socializing was difficult, friends were scarce, and the only thing I could keep my mind on was the open bottle of wine sitting on my kitchen counter.
Joy, Not Just Goals
Focus your energy on cultivating joy instead of chasing unrealistic dreams. Yes, it’s important to learn the language of your new home and pursue your financial goals, but this stuff is hard. Don’t expect to be frolicking like a local overnight. Don’t expect to find work (if you’re traveling with your spouse’s work visa) right away. You’re not perfect, so instead, strive for progress.
Rather than measuring progress to match your living situation, measure progress to align with your joy. However small or large it may be, each success puts wind in your sails to keep you afloat. Get your butt online, like it is now, and find out where you nearest mountain bike trail is, or (like a friend of mine did) join the kayak club. Get in a yoga studio. Join the online expat group on Facebook and get suggestions on where they go (these expat groups are amazing – it’s the most helpful community of complete strangers you’ll ever meet. They’re just trying to get by, in a strange land, like you).
Simple Steps to Start
To get started, break down your joys into small steps. First, join an expat group. Next step, post on the page. The third step, research their suggestions… each step is a progress marker. Celebrate your progress and at the end of the day, write it down or think about how it brought you closer to your joy. It’s progress. Doing something is a hell of a lot better than sitting and thinking about doing something.
Make goals that are aligned with things that make you happy. Keep your living situation goals in mind, you’ll need these too. We consume ourselves with getting everything right, just the way we wanted before we even landed in our new home, or started the new job, or joined a gym. It’s our focus. Then, when we get burnt out, we throw everything away and resort to negativity. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I can’t do this.
When you align success goals with goals that bring joy (not just goals we think will bring us joy) then we can focus on our journeys in the bigger picture. We’re less likely to get burnt out. We can enjoy the little things like making friends, laughing at ourselves when we make mistakes, and we move on.
Questions to Ask Yourself
What brings you joy? How can you find your joy?
Think about a time recently when you were extremely happy. What were you doing? What about that moment made you happy? Who were you with? What were you seeing? What were you smelling?
How can you transfer that into where you are now? How can you incorporate it into your routine? Is this a passive activity? A weekend hobby?
What is your favorite time of year? What makes it different from other times? Do you do something special during this time (baking, knitting, running, swimming)? Is there a way to do this now?
Keep joyful goals while you’re working toward successful goals. When the waters get rough, resort to joyful activities to correct your mindset to reset your intentions. Take a little time off successful goals, it’s OK. This is sometimes easier said than done, but when you’re working towards goals in the wrong mindset, without joy in your heart, it downgrades your work to a task instead of a dream.
Keep it up, peeps. You got this.