Change your expat life
How to Start Over
Recently, I was chatting with a friend who is moving to Ethiopia with his family. He is the expat partner in the equation, he explained to me that starting over was really the worst part of the experience for him.
Curious, I asked him why, and he explained that it was because it takes so long to develop an activity in each new location. Stopping what he’s doing now and starting from scratch in Ethiopia was really not something he was looking forward to.
Unpacking the “I have to’s”
“I have to” seems like an innocent thought. But in reality, none of us has to do anything. Yet, when I say that, people usually roll their eyes. “What do you mean I do not have to?” they ask. “Of course I have to go grocery shopping, pick up the kids, make them go to school, etc.”
But it’s true: you do not have to do any of it.
Would there be consequences if you didn’t do some of these things? Yes. But are there alternatives? Absolutely. Think about it: you know that you do not have to do the things you feel like you should. So, why do you do them?
Usually, when we feel like we have to do something, it creates the feeling of obligation. And obligations are not particularly empowering. This is not when we become creative, find amazing solutions, and go out of our comfort zone to see what we can make of our new life. When we feel obligation, we tend to ruminate about the things we would prefer to be doing. Some of us even indulge in self-pity or rebel. In the end, none of these behaviors take us closer to what we want.
Dig deep for another perspective
It’s important to pay attention to thoughts that start with “I have to.” It’s important not to take them for granted.
This is what I invite you to do: every time you hear yourself say or think the phrase “I have to,” ask yourself whether it is absolutely true. You can even take it one step further by asking yourself, “What if there was nothing that I have to do?”.
These are questions that will force your mind to dig deep to find another perspective, one that will serve you better. In my case, when I question my “I have to” thoughts, I actually come up with the realization that I want to do most of the things I feel I should. But, if I do not want to do what I feel like I have to, then I’ve already started the process of freeing myself from the obligation of doing whatever it is I’m considering. The question then becomes, “What do I do instead?”
What would it look like in your life if you believed there was nothing that you had to do? What would change? What would remain the same? What would it feel like to be free of the sense of obligation?
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