Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Before the Year Ends

The rush into the holiday season as a western expatriate in Shanghai, doesn’t feel quite the same. Christmas is but a commercial holiday here, though nonetheless a time to put up some decorations and lights. Second, it is merely the beginning of an extended holiday season with multiple (and seemingly unending) New Year celebrations – first by the calendar, and then with the Lunar New Year. Finally, while Shanghai provides untold shopping opportunities – if you like silk, cashmere, Chinese antiques, “fake” clothes, purses, etc – it is certainly more difficult to come up with the books, games, toys and clothes that would normally be found under our tree.

Nonetheless, it seems wise to reflect on 2006, long before the magazines are filled with articles on New Year’s Resolutions and the habits of this year will likely follow us into the next.

To take charge of your expatriate life in 2007, consider using some of the following steps to evaluate 2006 and set goals based on your values for 2007.

END THE YEAR WITH GRATITUDE: Look back over the past year and identify what you are grateful for.
  • What people came into your life?
  • Who brought you joy?
  • What learning experiences did you have as an expatriate?
  • What challenges did you overcome and what new skills have you acquired?
  • What choices did you make that were right for you?
CLEAN UP: Identify any events or experiences that hold a negative charge. Use one of the following techniques to begin the shift to neutral or positive.
  • If it’s a loss, have you allowed yourself to grieve? Moving away from home and having friends move on to their destination are times of loss. Have you identified and acknowledged those things that are now missing from your life?
  • If it was a challenging experience, can you identify what you have learned from it? What would you do differently if you could do it again? If a similar situation presents itself, how will you handle it?
  • Can you look back and identify steps (big or small) that you have taken to move forward from the event? If you can, congratulate yourself on seeing ways to move on.
  • What have you learned about yourself, the source of your emotions, what triggers you possess, effective and ineffective responses? How can you put this to use in 2007?

CREATE A BASELINE: Use the Wheel of Life to evaluate how 2006 has been and create a baseline for measuring personal change. Using the diagram, rate each area of your life on the scale of 0 to 10 (0 being completely dissatisfied, 10 being completely and fully satisfied). In your evaluation of satisfaction, consider all elements of this area:

  • Is it working for you?
  • Are you fulfilled in this area?
  • Do you need more or less of this?
Plot your ratings on the chart (feel free to ignore any areas that are not relevant to your life) and connect the dots.

Assume that the connected dots represent the wheel of the vehicle of your life. How smooth has your ride been?

GOAL SETTING: Identify the one or two items you would like to look back in a year and say that you have accomplished. Remember that the bigger the goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. Examples might be: starting a business, improving your relationship with your partner, increasing your savings level, losing 10 lbs, running a marathon, changing jobs.

MAKE IT CONCRETE: A goal without specificity, a vague direction, will lead you to precisely what you have defined – nothing specific, vague movement.
  • When you have reached your goal, what will your wheel of life look like?
  • Write down the specifics of the goal – who, what, how much, when, where.
  • Identify and write down the benefits that you will gain by achieving the goal. Go beyond the first (easy) answer to something very tangible. For example, by increasing my savings to $10,000, I will be able to take my child out for ice cream once a week, reduce my overtime by 5 hours per week, spend more time with my partner, and sleep until 9 on Sundays.
  • Create a dream map of what will surround you when you have achieved your goal – what type of vacations will you take, what will you live in, what “toys” will surround you, what will your office look like, what kind of people will surround you?

MOVE INTO ACTION: Brainstorm a list of all of the steps – big and small – that you could take to reach your goal.

  • Pick your first 3 steps, make them specific and give them a timeline.
  • Identify the 1 or 2 steps that you can begin to take before 2006 even ends
  • Create a structure that will support you in achieving your goal – put it in your holiday notes to everyone you know, enlist your best friend in holding you accountable, create a calendar or checklist to post in front of you.
  • Post your dream map where it will be most effective in supporting your change.
    Commit to taking a step (even a very small one) toward your goal every day for the next 21 days. By the end of day 21, you will have begun to develop a new habit.

How would it feel to start 2007 already on your way to your expat goals?

Coaching provides a strong support structures to achieving your goals. Your coach will assist you in recognizing your strengths, clarifying your goals, identifying opportunities to move forward, changing habits of thought and action that are holding you back, and holding you accountable to your commitments. With experience in corporate and human resources, having been on assignment, repatriated and now as a trailing spouse, I bring a broad perspective to the challenges and changes associated with expatriation. Visit my website to learn more.

Copyright 2006 Sherry L. Read, All Rights Reserved

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