So you have this crazy idea that someday you’re going to live in another country. You’re not sure which one yet but you’re going to make it happen somehow, someway, someday. In this post I want to talk about how belief can make or break your dreams to experience another culture and how you also need to balance it with rational thinking.
As in most of my posts, I have first hand experience in the challenges that can come from this subject. I was a bit like a dog with a bone when it came to believing in our move abroad, whereas my wife was the rational one who (she won’t mind me saying this) over-thought everything. You can find out more about her view on our experience via her post ‘Moving abroad and the trailing spouse – my wife’s view point‘.
You should get the following out of reading this post:
- An understanding of how important belief is in making your move abroad a reality
- An appreciation for the need to balance that belief with rational thinking
- Some techniques to balance belief and rational thinking (potentially avoiding conflict with partners and family members)
Let’s get started
The importance of belief in making your move abroad a reality
Now this actually applies to pretty much everything in life, or at least things you’re looking to achieve. It’s as simple as this – if you tell yourself you can’t do something then it’s fairly certain you’ll never be able to do it.
Let’s put it into a real life situation. Somebody asks you if you want to run a half marathon with them in a few months time. There’s time to train and you’re at a stage where you can already run a couple of miles comfortably. It’s completely reasonable that you’d be able to train to compete a half marathon in a respectable time between now and the race so technically there’s nothing stopping you. But then there’s the ‘what if my time is rubbish’, and ‘how will I make time to train’, and ‘I can only run 2 miles at the moment’. As the doubts trickle in we put ourselves off doing something that is well within our power to do.
I know moving abroad is a totally different goal but the same thing happens that can put you off taking action. It’s human nature to have doubt, but you have to believe in something enough to overcome the doubt, or find solutions to potential problems that you’re already thinking about. Example doubts that will likely come up are things like:
- I don’t speak the language so how would I get by?
- What if I don’t make any friends?
- What if I don’t have enough money?
- Maybe I’m not the right sort of person to move abroad.
- I don’t want to upset my family.
All these are totally natural worries but the difference between people who move abroad and people who don’t (but want to) is that those that do have enough belief to overcome the worry. They believe they can make it work and that they can get around the challenges to make their dream come true. Notice the difference in this way of looking at the challenges:
- I can’t speak the language so I’m going to look at mobile apps that might help, sign up to duolingo for free and start understanding the basics. When I move abroad I’ll also aim to buddy up with someone who can help me practice.
- I won’t necessarily have any ready made friends in my new country so I need to start talking on forums, following people on twitter, looking for groups to join and go at it with a positive attitude that I can do it.
- Money is a concern for me so I really need to make sure I’m on top of my budgeting before I go. I need to look for some tools that can help me understand different countries and the costs of things (take a look at my post ‘Resources I wish I’d known about before moving abroad‘). I also need to leave myself a buffer just in case of emergencies.
- I’m worried that I’m not the sort of person that can pull off moving abroad. Then again, I really want to do it so it must be in me. And actually I’ve read plenty of other people’s experiences where they thought the same and then went on to achieve their goal. Perhaps I just need to change my mindset slightly and stop putting myself down.
- My family might get upset or worry about the experience. For those I want to take with me (spouse, children etc) they’ll need reassurance, planning and my full support. We will need to talk in detail about it to make sure everyone is happy. For those staying behind (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc) I need to show them how passionate I am, and how much research and planning I’ve done to make it a success. I just need to communicate and listen effectively.
Basically, rather than focusing on the problem, you work it through with some solutions. Not too difficult right?
So belief plays a massive part in making any of your dreams a reality. If you don’t believe it can happen then it probably won’t. You have to believe you can do it to set yourself on the right path of problem solving and taking action.
Why you need to balance belief with rational and logical thinking
As I mentioned earlier on, I was the one with a slightly blinkered approach when we were going through the decision process of our move to Barcelona. I let belief (call it passion or whatever you want) completely overrule my rational thinking and I purposely blocked out potential negatives to suit my belief.
Now although belief is seriously important when it comes to making things happen, you also have to take a pragmatic approach to things. It’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way but something you can avoid. You’ve got to believe it can happen, but you’ve also got to believe that the situation needs to be right and you have to do the groundwork to make it a success.
It might sound like I’m contradicting myself but all I’m saying is that rather than letting your belief control your rational thinking, allow your belief to support your rational thinking to overcome any obstacles that could cause you problems.
Here’s a good example from my turbulent trip abroad. I kept saying to my wife that if things didn’t work out we could simply pack up and head back without too much trouble. Its only Spain right, so not far to get back to the UK. Had I thought through this using my rational mind I would have been much more prepared for the event, which turned out to be pretty traumatic in the end. That wouldn’t have been the case if I’d actually thought through the implications of what it would take to return to the UK. The devil is in the detail, as they say.
As with many things in life, it’s about balance. Be passionate and driven, but be sensible and organised. Its the best way to not only make things happen, but to make them sustainable for the longer term. The key is to not let the detail bog you down and make you feel negative, but to help you feel empowered and on top of your dream.
Tips and techniques to balance belief with rational thinking
If you’re anything like me then the objective will be to bring yourself back down to earth and remember that things don’t just magically sort themselves out. Here’s what I would try (and have tried):
- Write things down and keep lists and add to them with comments and research.
- Ask others for honest opinions and really listen to the response.
- Don’t make assumptions that other people are out to sabotage your dream.
- Think about worst case scenarios and how you’d get through them.
- Work with your partner/family, rather than on your own or against them. I was a bit of a lone ranger during my move abroad and I wish I had been more collaborative.
- Don’t assume that you’ll only get one chance to make it happen. If it’s that important then you’ll get there eventually. Don’t rush in unprepared.
- Believe that planning is one of the best ways to support your belief that you can make it happen.
If on the other hand you’re more like my wife, and tend to think through things perhaps a little too much, then you could try the following:
- Think in terms of solutions, not problems. If there’s a potential issue don’t dwell on it, focus on how you get round it
- Keep your goal/dream in mind, and be clear about why you want it so bad.
- Remember that the chances of achieving something you don’t believe is possible are pretty slim. You have to believe you can overcome the challenges otherwise you’ve got a big challenge ahead of you.
- Consume a balanced diet of positive and negative stories. The internet can be full of negativity. Based on my experience, I could easily be telling people not to move abroad because of the potential failure and challenges. Instead I choose to focus on the positive. I know I could have done things differently to give us more of a fighting chance and so I’d rather try and share these things with you to help you make your dream come true. My point is – make sure your research is balanced. Of course read the stories of people who hated it, but remember they’re not you. Many people make it work so find out how they did it and use it as educational material.
Sorry, the last point is quite long but I feel quite strongly about people trying to put off other people from doing what they’ve done just because they had a bad experience.
I really just want to re-iterate the messages I’ve already covered
- Possibly the most important one is that it’s very difficult to achieve something when you don’t believe you can. If you want it, you have to believe it’s possible and that you can make it happen.
- Next, you have to manage that belief with realistic and rational thinking. Don’t let it tell you everything will be easy as that’s normally not the case. Instead let your belief drive you to find identify challenges and find solutions to them.
- Lastly, don’t be arrogant through your belief. Don’t let it blindside you into thinking nothing can go wrong and that everything will definitely work out for the best. That’s what I did, and I can look back and say I wish I’d been just a little more pragmatic through the research and planning stages of our move abroad.
I’d recommend you check out a couple of other relevant posts I’ve written along similar lines that might help you with some of the planning elements of your move abroad:
- Planning vs in at the deep end – what’s best when you move abroad?
- 8 critical things to consider when deciding whether to relocate abroad
- Resources I wish I’d known about before moving abroad
- Moving abroad and the trailing spouse – my wife’s view point – this is a feisty post!
Focus on positives, believe it’s possible, believe you’re capable, listen to others and take action (even if just starting to research).