One of the thing I find the most difficult about being an expat is probably to find a balance between two personal needs :
- Being open-minded in order to make the most of this experience ;
- While standing by my core values.
But it would probably apply for anyone who land onto a new territory : new job, new town, new in-laws' family....
When I moved from Paris, I very soon realized how much I had been staying in my comfort zone : same job for 10 years, same friends for decades with a few exceptions, same hobbies (diners with good wines basicaly !), but mostly same discussions, opinions, culture, references. It doesn’t mean that I was surrounded by people I always agreed with, but we shared the same mind frame.
At first, it felt exciting to question everything. I enjoyed a lot being an empty vessel, being able to change my own narrative, to take a fresh start. I really enjoyed being amongst individuals from different countries, different cultures, and stories. And I still very much enjoy it.
But two years later I also realize that my friends are my friends for a reason, that my opinions are self-anchored for a reason : because they fit with my values.
I learnt a lot from chasing this balance.
First, I had to get a clear view on what is a value. It’s not a goal ; willing to become the best coach on earth is not a value, tenacity may be one. Values are not your life’s rules or principles; being on time at any appointment is not a value, respectfulness may be one.
And then, obviously, I had to be able to identify what my own values were.
Today, it helps me to distinguish what I can accept, as a new perspective, new idea, nourishing the expat experience, and what I can not incorporate in my life without compromising my values.
Being aware about what are our values is not only critical in expatriation of course, it’s paramount to identify them to feel aligned and balanced at work, at home, in our relationships. Especially if you pay attention to this fact : when we navigate through environments (work place for instance) that don’t match with our values, naturally our brain reevaluates those values because we can not stay in this cognitive dissonance status. We start to undermine our values with an inner dialogue which sounds like « well, it’s more complicated that I thought » ; « Is it really that important to me ? » « they mst have their reasons »… It may enable us to escape from the current internal conflict, but it will probably catch up to us later, and stronger.
Being aware of our values enables us to make decisions through this filter.
You know how if you’re thinking about having a child you start to see pregnant women everywhere, when you’re thinking of buying a certain type of car, you start to see this car everywhere. This happens in a part of your brain called the « reticular activating system ». When you load new information, car or baby, into your conscious thinking, your RAS will note that you have a new interest and will remain alert for relevant sensory data.
It works the same way with values, once you are aware of them, they will be in your RAS and then will start to trigger new awareness. You will be able to understand why you were so angry at the end of the last meeting, why you were so sad hearing about this story. Probably because one of your values was hit.
To help you identy your values, I can suggest you this very simple, recreational but still efficient exercise : « The Diner of Values » (credit to my wonderful former mentor coach : Rossella Pin).
Here is how it works :
- Write down the names of at least five people (known or not, living or dead, famous or not) who inspire you, and you would like to invite to a special diner.
- Alongside each name, identify at least one positive quality that they embody and make them so special.
- Look at the result : what do you see ?
- Acknowledge that in order to recognize these qualities, they must be in you. They are already « yours », they are your core values !
Who would you invite at your table ?