One of the areas bandied about in self-help books is positive thought or positive thinking. It might sound a bit sappy to some, but it is not something conjured by hippies on a commune during the 1960s. (I know some are probably saying, "so what if it did?" Point taken!)
Rather, Positive Psychology is a somewhat new and exciting branch of psychology that is well-researched and documented in the psychological and counseling literature. Highly respected psychologists, such as Albert Bandura (Stanford University) and Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania), have dedicated significant portions of their careers to the exploration of this exciting area.
In other words, don't take it lightly!
But, what does it mean for you as you consider moving overseas or improving your established expatriate experience? More than anything else, Positive Psychology focuses on your strengths rather than any perceived weaknesses.
In other words, consider what do you well, and how can you apply these strengths to aspects of your life you've identified as areas for growth.
Here are just a few ideas to ponder and/or try to get the ball rolling:
1.) What are the activities that bring you pleasure? Do you apply your strengths to your primary activities? How can you if you are not already doing so? Are there new activities you can explore as part of your international living experience?
2.) Here's something to think about - In what activities do you lose track of time? You know what I mean - you start something and before you know it, 2 or 3 hours have passed and it seems like 10 minutes. Positive psychologists call this "Flow." If you can identify these activities, you'll have an advantage in that you'll be able to create large blocks of time in your day, when available, that will be rewarding.
3.) How can you help others? One way we can demonstrate our worth to ourselves is by assisting a worthwhile cause or other people. Opportunities to do just that are frequently found while on an expatriate assignment. Whether it's through your company, an expat club or elsewhere, embrace the chance to use your strengths in some type of philanthropic activity.
4.) Are there some aspects of your life that make you angry, bitter or resentful? If you can find some way to address this important issue, you'll likely find that you spend less time thinking about things that make you feel bad. Remember that just as we have limited physical energy each day, we are also limited to a finite amount of emotional and psychological resources. Do you want to allocate them to anger, or would you rather devote them toward one of your personal goals?
5.) Every evening, write down 5 things that went well during the day. It's important to understand that they do not have to be life changing events, just something positive (our new buzz word, right? Right!) It can be as simple as the weather being nice, finding a new restaurant or having a favorite song play on the radio. If you are living in another culture, try to find those aspects of it that you can appreciate rather than focus only on those that you find unappealing.
Above all, remember that if you want to grow in some way, that means you have to choose to make changes in your personal life, professional life and/or your lifestyle. Nobody can do that for you. Start small, celebrate the little victories and apply what you learn to your choices in the future. Don't get tripped up by what you perceive as your weaknesses. Your strengths can get you there - wherever there is. Find them!