Change your expat life
Forging Your Own Path
A few weeks after we arrived in Harare several years ago, new Zimbabwean friends invited us to come along with them to the Zambezi River. I’ll never forget the dramatic red sun setting over the water. I’ll also never forget the moment when I was asked the all-too-familiar question: what was I going to do here?
It happened while the kids were collecting rocks along the river. One of my new friends simply turned to me and asked me what I intended to do with myself while living in Zimbabwe. I remember telling her that somehow jobs found me wherever I went, and it was true. That had long been a part of my expat experience. And a few weeks later this is exactly what happened: an opportunity came my way and I just started working.
It was fine, but I didn’t feel in control of my own destiny.
Crafting a vision despite the fear
There is one major difference between my life now and my life when I first arrived in Zimbabwe and shared that sunset on the Zambezi River: I have taken my life into my own hands. And it changed everything when I made this shift. I no longer just let life happen to me.
This is not to say that I regret any of what happened before—the jobs I took, the experiences I had. Quite the contrary! Change can happen when you are already at peace with your life, your body, the people in your life. In fact, you cannot fight yourself to change. It is exhausting and it does not last.
But when you decide to go after your dreams and create a life that is really aligned with the one you want to live, this is when you will feel alive and fulfilled. And this is what happened for me. I was at peace with the life I was leading, but when I took control of my life and create a proactive vision for what I really wanted out of it, I was able to start dreaming big and actually start pursuing these dreams.
Overcoming the fear and naming your dreams
The reason why most of us do not take the driver’s seat in our own lives is because it is scary to fail. I often hear things like, “What if I don’t make it?” or, “What if I can’t manage?” I hear these phrases from my clients a lot. In order not to fail, we often treat our lives like a bonsai project: clipping and shaping ourselves—our dreams and lives—to stay small.
Instead, let’s imagine that you can live a life as plentiful and as big as a Baobab tree. What would it look like? Notice if your brain is telling you to be reasonable—to be happy with what you have. If so, your brain is almost certainly trying to prevent you from being disappointed.
Following your own path is scary. It is risking failing. But it is what makes you live a big life.
What are your 100 dreams?
Just for a minute, park the voice inside you that wants you to keep going as you are, doing what you know. If you pump up the volume of that other voice inside you — the one who wants you to dream and have goals — what is it telling you?
Listening to that voice does not mean dropping the life you have created. It might simply mean that you need to make some adjudgments, either internally or externally. Perhaps it just means you could balance things in your life differently.
Write down your dreams. Where are you in relation to them? If it’s time to create some shifts in your life to start directing your own sails, I look forward to helping you do just that.
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