Culture Shock

September 15, 2011

Culture shock doesn't need to be so shocking! Three qualities to bring into ANY interaction with individuals/groups when faced with varying backgrounds.

Culture shock is an issue that arises not only for people/groups who are doing business in other countries or interfacing with different nationalities and backgrounds, but also for anyone who is transitioning from one environment to another (even if it is a career move to a new department or moving across the country). It can also become an issue in interpersonal relationships.

There are certain people who seem to move effortlesslessly from one culture to another, from one setting to another. They are more able to fiind a connection with people who come from very different backgrounds from themselves and they just don't seem to experience as much "shock" as others when placed in unfamiliar territory. Why is that?

In my travels and in my personal and professional interactions with people of different cultures, backgrounds and careers I have noticed some similarities in those who seem to transition easily and those who do not. Some people focus only on learning about the "new" culture and trying to "fit in" (this happens in some HR departments who focus training on helping their new employees learn about their "new" country). This actually works... for a while, but isn't sustainable. Eventually (and the timing can be very short for some people, longer for others) feelings of frustration, irritation, lonliness, and even depression and anger can set in. This is the moment when you are ready to go home from a trip or the moment you start to seriously question why you moved yourself and your family to another country for your job!

The good news is that there ARE qualities you can learn to develop in yourself (if you want to) that ARE sustainable and can substantially improve your experience with culture shock. So, whether you are an expat living in a foreign country, someone traveling and/or working around the world with people from other cultures, or maybe just developing a personal relationship with someone from a different background, check out these qualities and see how developed they are within you:

  • Open-Mindedness (How curious are you about the world? How able are you to let your judgements go about yourself and others? How open are you to learning about different ways of doing things?)
  • Flexibility (Without giving up who you are at the core, how flexible are you in your behaviors and thoughts? How adaptable are you? Remember Darwin, in discussing survial of the "fittest" actually referred to a high level of adaptability being a core part of the term "fittest", not just strength-the bird does not try to BE a mammal, it just adapts and becomes a bird more likely to thrive in the changing environment)
  • Ability to see the BIG PICTURE ( How easily can you take a step back from the situation and remember the big picture, the reason you are exactly where you are right now? What is your overall intention for what you are doing? Perhaps this is a friendship you do not want to lose, perhaps you know it is what you want for your bigger career goals, perhaps you really want to learn about this other country/culture. The more you can do this, the more easily you can stay open-minded and flexible too!)

In our increasingly global world, these qualities are becoming more critical to people who live/work/travel outside their insular world. The more you can incorporate these qualities into your life, the less likely you will experience major culture shock and the more likely you will be to have a greater sense of ease in any transition. Try it out and see if anything changes and feel free to post any comments!

Have a great September! And join my mailing list (below) if you haven't already.

What Are You Waiting For?

August 08, 2011

"Not now", "Later", When I finish...", I can't because..." What we are usually saying is "NO".

Sometimes we are putting off responding to a request because we feel uncomfortable just saying "no" (that's another topic!). Much of the time, we are saying "no" to ourselves, to our dreams, to our plans that we actually WANT. We are so caught up in the day to day tasks that we lose sight of our journey, our mission.

When we get pulled off our path, when we lose our connection to what really matters most to us we often have the following emotions: frustration, fear, confusion, despair. We feel unmotivated and have a sense of going through the motions day after day. Our bodies feel achy, our energy is low and our mind is foggy. There is a sense that something is missing and life feels flat. Why do we stay in this place? Most of us are waiting for it to change and we somehow think this will just happen some day. However, when you feel this way it is actually an indication that it's time to get back on track, it's time to reconnect with what serves our greatest happiness, it's time to take action! YOU need to take the first step.

When we take action that brings us more in alignment with our mission, our purpose, we feel a sense of mastery over our lives and a sense of ease. Our emotions shift to feelings of peace, joy, gratitude, excitement, success... We become more efficient in our work and in our homes. Our bodies might feel lighter and more energized and our mind is very focused. Everything just seems to click into place and details seem to take care of themselves. Life is fun and fulfilling and we make things happen!

So, what are you waiting for? Here is a quick and simple process you can use NOW to get back on your path TODAY:

  • Write down EVERYTHING you have to do (you can take longer if you need to:-)-empty your mind of all the "to-dos",obligations and committments you have in there.
  • Now make a list of the people, dreams and goals that are most important to you in your life. Do this with intention. If you meditate, meditate for a few minutes then write them down
  • As you go through the day and you have choices to make about how you spend time, money, energy etc... Ask yourself this simple question: "Does this support the projects, dreams, goals, people that (who) are most important to me in my life? If the answer is "yes", you know you are on your path. It the answer is "no", time to readjust...



Five Steps to Use During Any Transition

June 30, 2011

  Are you noticing that when things change in your life, you might not be handling it as well as you would want to? Do you wish you could transition more easily so you can move forward and not get stuck in the past?

A transition means we are experiencing some sort of change in our life. This could be a promotion, a death in the family, marriage, divorce, a job loss, a move to another country, retirement, a new project, an injury or illness in oursleves or a loved one or any one of a myriad of possibilities. Sometimes the transition is within our control (i.e., we choose it) and other times it is out of our control. Research shows that even if we want the change, we still experience a certain level of stress with it.

When we experience a transition in our life we often feel anxious, scared, worried about the future, frustrated that things didn't happen the way we had anticipated and we feel like we are losing control (or we are already out of control!) The strange thing is that these emotions usually trigger us to respond in ways that make the transition even MORE difficult and can lengthen the adjustment period. I work with people to make the most out of these transitions, no matter what they are (join my mailing list to learn more

For the moment, follow these 5 steps to decrease the stress surrounding transition and to speed the adjustment period:

  1. Be clear about what is within your control and what is out of your control
  2. Write down the stuff that is out of your control and let it go! (I know you might not want to, but try it)
  3. Look for the opportunity in the situation (What can you create from this new situation?)
  4. Write down 2-3 specific actions you will take to use the transition to your advantage (look for the good, the positive and the opportunities)
  5. Do it!

This may seem very simplistic, but the fact is that most of us spend WAY too much time on the stuff that is OUT of our control. When we can let that go and focus on that which is within our control, identify specific actions we can take that will position ourselves to take advantage of the transition, we will regain a sense of purpose and direction even when parts of our lives are undergoing major change. Within each transition is an incredible opportunity to grow and push ourselves to our limits. I'd love to hear how you do this in your own life!

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