Why Gratitude is the Best Answer for Difficult Expat Emotions

hands in mittens holding warm hot cup of coffee with gratitude written in bold

Five years ago when my middle child was suddenly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we left everything behind from our life in Antananarivo, Madagascar and headed to my parents house in Texas for 6 months.

It was an incredibly emotional time, full of ups and downs and doubts about what our expat life would look like from then on. And, it was also a time of reevaluating and refocusing. We started to see that we could live quite normally even in the face of challenge and that our international existence would actually return, more or less, to normal.

It was also one of the most wonderful times for my children to reconnect with their grandparents. For just a little while – we saw what our life would have been like had we never left Austin. Baseball and soccer, tacos and live music, Barton Springs and fire ants.

Within a year of our 6-month stay in Austin, however, my step-dad was diagnosed with cancer. He died just shy of 2 years from our emergency evacuation from Madagascar.

There is a part of me that will never fully be able to accept my stepdad’s death. It seems he was too young, too healthy, too much a part of our lives to be gone so suddenly. It seems so wrong to have befallen a man that was so universally loved, a person that seemed to want nothing much more than to love the people in his life…and go fishing…and drink an ice-cold Corona on a sweltering Texas day.

Never in a million years would I wish to repeat the chaos and upheaval of our departure from Madagascar. If I could wave a magic wand, I would take my son’s diagnosis any day so that he could go on living as carefree as a 10 year old should. And yet, because we were in Austin, we had those precious 6 months with my stepdad. I can’t say I’d change it.

The deep, deep well of gratitude I feel for having had that time in which every day my kids got to know their PawPaw offers a sense of peace and acceptance about the way things turned out. My gratitude for those unexpected days in Texas provides a sort of balm that softens the sting of the loss and reminds me that having been loved so unconditionally by this one person is an incredible blessing, even if he wasn’t in our lives as long as we all wanted.

Gratitude serves this purpose in our lives. It’s not that by being grateful we suddenly erase the shittiness of bad things that happen. I strongly disagree with the idea that in our most difficult emotions we should simply apply a little gratitude and everything will be okay. What we can see, however, is that gratitude offers us the chance to see our experiences and our emotions in the context of the larger picture.

For expats, one of the biggest gifts of practicing gratitude is that it’s so portable. You can step into a grateful mindset no matter where you are – from the airport security line to the first loving embrace of a brand new friend. Learning to engage with gratitude provides unique ways in which to deal with many of the difficult emotions that plague our unpredictable international lives – not so that we can always feel exactly the way we want to feel, but so that we can better address the very real emotions that sometimes knock us flat.

Gratitude requires reflection, insight and mindful awareness and these are all traits that help us get a handle our difficult emotions. It helps us to see ourselves at a distance so that we can make clear, thoughtful decisions about how we want to embrace and honor the ways we feel.

Moreover, more than being simply a state of mind, gratitude inherently offers us a chance to take action. We can feel thankful with our thoughts or our hearts (and sometimes that’s enough to help us address our emotions), but gratitude also compels us to act. It encourages us to actually say thank you – to write the letter, to make the phone call, to rephrase the complaint, to offer and to receive the support we need.

If you’re feeling helplessness, sadness, envy, anger, rejection or grief, it can be helpful to process those emotions by seeing them as part of your complex life – a life that also includes good things…even good things directly related to the challenges you’re facing.

If you find you’re in a rut, try these gratitude-centered, self-coaching questions. They might get you started in gaining new space to see, move through and heal from the difficult emotions you encounter in your expat life.

  • What uncomfortable emotions am I feeling right now?
  • What might I appreciate about these difficult emotions? What might they be trying to tell me? What gifts might be hidden within these emotions?
  • Who in my life has been the most supportive and understanding during this challenging experience? How can I acknowledge my gratitude to this person?
  • What skills or abilities do I possess that have helped me to move through this experience? What person or situation has supported my cultivation of these abilities? How can I offer gratitude to that person or situation?
  • Who have I witnessed overcome challenges? In what ways am I grateful for the opportunity to learn from this person?

How has maintaining gratitude helped you deal with difficult expat emotions? Based on your experience, what questions would you add to the list above? I’d be honored to hear more about how gratitude has supported your expat journey in the comments.

Throughout the month of December 2018, I’ll be posting more self-coaching questions on gratitude on my Facebook page. Like the World Tree Coaching Facebook page to join the conversation.

Five Ways Mindfulness Helps Me Find Home

It’s no secret that I’ve found a daily mindfulness practice to be a key ingredient in my ability to manage the ups and downs of our international life.

Despite common misunderstandings about mindfulness practice, it’s really not all that complicated. Mindfulness is quite simply the practice of paying attention and seeing clearly what’s happening while it’s happening.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that, in the unpredictability of expat life where pretty much everything can feel strange and unfamiliar, becoming more mindful can help us navigate our experiences with increased ease and resilience.

Here are just a few of the ways that’s played out for me.

Mindfulness allows me to practice feeling homesick…and also not homesick.

I make a point of reminding the people in both my personal and professional life that there are no “good” and “bad” emotions. Emotions are neither positive nor negative. Sure – some feel better than others, but ultimately, everything we feel comes from somewhere and serves a purpose in helping us navigate our experiences.

Mindfulness practice enables us to pay attention to what we’re feeling without trying to:

  • change it (what we often try to do when we’re feeling emotions we don’t like),
  • chase it (what we like to do when an emotion feels good) or
  • judge it (what we do when we feel our emotions don’t align with how we’re “supposed” to feel).

When it comes to living life around the world, practicing mindfulness by developing a more reflective and compassionate relationship with our emotions can support us in learning how to deal with whatever comes our way.

Mindfulness helps me see home as a state of being created in my own mind.

Another key element of mindfulness practice, is learning to see things as they really are, not simply as we want them to be. Mindfulness inspires us to ask questions about what we’re witnessing and examine what we find there. While this isn’t always easy, being able to tune in to life as it truly is is a huge benefit of mindfulness practice.

What does this mean practically speaking?

Imagine I’m telling myself, “I hate it here! I’m never going to fit in. There are no work opportunities. This is a disaster!” Mindfulness doesn’t eliminate our ability to feel lost or overwhelmed, but it does enable us to stop and examine our perceptions. I can then start to ask questions like:

  • How much of this is really true and how much of this is a story I’m telling myself?
  • Is there anything that is working right now?
  • What can I learn here?
  • Are there things that I don’t hate?
  • What previously unnoticed options do I have in this situation?

Now, that doesn’t mean you suddenly start loving a place that just isn’t working for you, but it does help you get more creative, offering you the opportunity to make decisions based on a clearer, more thoughtful way of seeing.

Mindfulness reminds me to notice the details.

One of my most treasured benefits of maintaining a daily mindfulness practice is the way in which it has deepened my ability to pay attention to the “small” things.

When we move from place to place, it’s so easy to think that we should be unfazed. It becomes common, I think, to feel that we’re able to adapt at a moments notice and that our unbelievable flexibility means we can make these shifts with little or no disruption to our body or our mental state.

When we develop basic, everyday mindfulness skills, we engage the practice of slowing down and seeing the little bumps in the road. Sometimes small disruptions – the noise outside your new apartment that causes you to sleep poorly, the times you spend hungry because you’ve yet to stock your pantry, the frustration of slow internet connection that means your calls to your best friend are mess of static, feedback and silence – can actually have a huge impact.

When we take a moment to be still and really pay attention, we may notice the physical sensations, the emotions, or the discomfort of uncertainty that live in that space. We learn from seeing those places of unease and becoming mindful of them enables us to make much-needed adjustments.

Mindfulness encourages me to practice ritual.

Before we started our international life, I wasn’t really someone who stuck to a routine. Sure, I attempted to create positive habits (going for a run, reading before bed, etc.), but I never felt much pressure to really keep up with them.

Moving from place to place has made my healthy habits all the more important and my mindfulness practice supports me in staying awake to their significance in my life.

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation inspire me to establish rituals and routines because the habits themselves (whether seated meditation or simply performing tasks with attention and care) foster dedication. In other words – by committing myself to being more mindful in my choices, actions, observations and interactions, I’m laying the foundation for commitment to other positive health habits as well.

Morning meditation, a daily jog, cooking healthy meals, taking frequent work breaks throughout the day and reading before bed are habits that I rely on during transition to create a sense of inner balance during upheaval. Additionally, when I notice these habits slipping, it’s my commitment to everyday mindfulness practice that helps me return to these supportive rituals.

Mindfulness supports me in building relationships.

A great deal of mindfulness practice is about developing an awareness of our inner dialogue – our thoughts, emotions, and judgments. However, it’s important in mindfulness practice to recognize the way in which our relationship with ourselves (and this internal dialogue) relates to how we connect with others.

Mindfulness helps me to take time with people. It supports me in active listening so that I can better understand how the moving experience affects my husband and children. It enables me to slow down and see better the ways in which those around me may be suffering or the ways in which they’re brought to life by something new in our world.

Moving is almost always a time of great stress. It’s a time when our tempers are short and we’re more likely to lash out at those around us. Mindfulness doesn’t always prevent that from happening (we’re all human after all!), but it can give us the skills to turn back to generosity and kindness when we realize we’ve behaved poorly towards others.

And, mindfulness helps us make friends. Research says that our ability to understand our own emotional experiences makes us better at understanding the experiences of others. That, in turn, makes us better friends – and that goes for the friends we’ve left behind and those we’ll make in our new home.

What about you?

Do you have an informal mindfulness, meditation, or spiritual practice or other ritual that supports you in practical ways as you move? If not, what would it take for you to start something like this?

Share with me in the comments what’s worked for you or what’s sparked your interest in reading this post. Click here to learn more about how I can help you bring these skills into your own life.

Everything’s a Shade of Gray: The Perfection of Imperfection in Expat Life

I remember when we were heading to our first overseas assignment as a family. It was 2009, my husband and I had both lived abroad before, but this was our first time exposing our children (ages 3 and 1 at the time) to the world outside the United States.

I was so incredibly excited to be moving to the Dominican Republic. I’d done a school report on the DR for my high school Spanish class and had been friends with a Dominican exchange student at our school.

It felt like a dream come true. It was our first choice of assignments, I speak Spanish and had high hopes of finding meaningful work and all of our family members are beach-lovers so I knew we would happily bask in the surf and sand.

I felt like it was one of those places that called me, that I was destined to go. It was all meant to be.

And then I remember riding from the airport to our new home. “This is it?” I thought. Old Nissan pick-up trucks held together with duct tape, piled ten feet high with mattresses rumbled past unscathed, perfectly spotless Lamborghinis. Donkey carts full of piña competed for space against motos carrying five or more members of a family, oftentimes the baby dangling happily to the side. Black spilling exhaust, the thumping of merengue behind blasting car horns and screeching tires, potholes and stray dogs and precarious power lines, open sewers all under a blanket of sun and humidity that burned my face and saturated my nose.

Nothing was as I had expected.

And in it’s shocking imperfection, it was perfect. Somehow it already felt like home. Like “a” home.

As with anything – this awareness is not a uniquely expat experience. It’s not something that only those of us living between cultures can see. But, because we live between places we’re made deeply aware of the shades of gray that makeup the world.

It’s the reason that a place with human rights violations can also be a place where we fall in love.

It’s the reason that walking among soaring skyscrapers and pulling up a chair to endless dishes of perfectly crafted foods, doesn’t remove from our brains the knowledge that women are being made to shut up and pour tea in the hallways of those same buildings.

It’s why witnessing staggering poverty breaks our hearts and leaves us feeling helpless, but also enables us to see laughter and happiness on the faces of people who’s lives we know could be much better. And then we ask, “Well, who’s really to say what’s better?”

Of course, it’s also the reason we never fully go back to our passport countries. Because now we see them in all of their never-ending gray. And then we start to see ourselves as part of that. Perhaps we’re gray too. Nothing’s all good. Nothing’s all bad. It simply gets complicated.

The truth is – the only real sign of perfection, is imperfection. Imperfection is the norm (whether we like it or not). Imperfection is what’s real – in the places we love and the people we are.

So why does this sit so deep in the awareness of those of us who move?

Because that dichotomy – of seeing all the imperfections in the places that bring us so much joy and of finding the perfection in the places we never expected to love – gets us closer to the truth about the world.

Living with the truth is so much more fulfilling. It’s what makes a life lived around the world so compelling. We can love somewhere and see its pain. We can recognize how drawn we feel to freedom and mobility, while also acknowledging the deep loneliness that comes from being so far away.

We stop seeing in black and white. We live right smack in the middle. We live both places. We are both places. Maybe it’s not even really gray in there. Perhaps it’s where all the color really lies.

We can never un-seen that…ever.

No wonder we can’t go “home.”

What Does it Take to Practice Mindfulness?

This past week I had so much fun creating a series of Facebook live videos where I answered the question, “What does it take to practice mindfulness?”

This is such an important topic to me and I love to support people as the learn simple, easy-to-access skills to engage more fully, live more deeply and connect more authentically to themselves and the world around them.

Mindfulness can be an everyday practice – something we do throughout our day in small ways that can lead to big change. These skills take commitment and patience, but they’re actually quite simple and completely doable within your daily life.

Everyone can practice mindfulness!

Below you’ll find the entire Facebook live video series. Day One is an introduction to the concept of mindfulness and the subsequent videos outline the 6 mindfulness practices offered through the Personal Leadership model.

Heads-up: If the videos are muted when you click on them, simply right click to unmute.

If you’d like to learn more about what you see here and get support in putting these skills to work in your own life, here are some ways we can work together:

Day One: What does it take to practice mindfulness? Intro.

A couple of notes for this video: Here is the book I mention – 10% Happier by Dan Harris (ooops, I say Dan Brown in the video). Also, this video cuts a bit short – apologies, but nothing missed other than me signing off.

What does it take to practice mindfulness?

What does it take to practice mindfulness? *The first video of a 7 part Facebook live series. Join me over the next 7 days to learn about the 6 mindfulness practices I use in my coaching and mindfulness programs.

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Tuesday, January 23, 2018

 

Day Two: Attending to Judgment

Be sure to check out the book Personal Leadership: Making a World of Difference.

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 2 – Attending to Judgment

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Wednesday, January 24, 2018

 

Day Three: Attending to Emotion

This is the resource I mention for expanding your emotional vocabulary.

What Does it Take to Practice Mindfulness? Part 3 – Attending to Emotion

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 3 – Attending to Emotion.

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Thursday, January 25, 2018

 

Day Four: Attending to Physical Sensation

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 4 – Attending to Physical Sensation

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 4 – Attending to Physical Sensation

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Friday, January 26, 2018

 

Day Five: Cultivating Stillness

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 5 – Cultivating Stillness

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 5 – Cultivating Stillness

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Saturday, January 27, 2018

 

Day Six: Engaging Ambiguity

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 6 – Engaging Ambiguity

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 6 – Engaging Ambiguity

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Sunday, January 28, 2018

 

Day Seven: Aligning with Vision

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 7 – Aligning with Vision

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 7 – Aligning with Vision

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Monday, January 29, 2018

Don’t Let Disruptions Get You Down

I’m sitting here with a quickly cooling cup of tea and hoping to bust out the tiniest bit of work tasks before my children come home early due to snow and my husband (likely) comes home early having been furloughed from his job until…well…Congress.

It’s days like this when I often start thinking I need to throw in the towel and just call this day a wash. As anyone who works from home (and I’m including ALL expat spouses whether their job pays them or not because it is work!), one little wrench in the plan can leave you scrambling to rework your schedule. Alternatively, you simply curl up and watch movies.

But – it doesn’t have to be that way. Disruptions big (a serious illness in the family) and small (snow days) – can actually be perfect opportunities to learn. When we’re breezing through and everything seems easy – we may find ourselves on autopilot. That feels good for a while, but sometimes having our environment a little disrupted gives us the opportunity to stop and re-evaluate.

What sorts of lessons is disruption trying to teach you today?

There’s more than one way to do things.

I go to a semi-regular networking coffee in Shibuya. The walk is about 40 minutes from my house. I always walk because it’s pleasant and I enjoy the time to think. But today – with snow threatening and an early release from school pending – I knew I needed to think again about the timing of my day. A couple of shifts (namely taking the train and committing myself to leaving the coffee by 11:00AM) means I’m home in time to get a bit of work in.

Disruption breeds creativity.

Okay, so this is kind of similar to the one above, but it’s really a layer deeper. When we’re out of our regular routine, we may notice things we hadn’t seen before. Take a different route, rework a familiar pattern, see a different angle. Disruption helps us notice new things and that gets our creative juices flowing. Take this blog post for example – definitely the outcome of an unexpected disruption!

Pay attention to your emotions.

The natural feeling of frustration that comes from being interrupted in our planned activities is a cue for us to tune in and pay attention to how we’re feeling. Instead of forcing ourselves into a preconceived box (“I was going to do this. It was going to be this way and I was going to feel like X.”), we now have to ask, “How am I really feeling here?” We may even find the disruption was exactly what we needed to slow down and really see what’s going on inside our hearts.

It’s easier to be mindful when things look different.

Think about all those places you drive without thinking or the tasks you mindlessly complete because you’ve done them a thousand times. When our plans shift because of unexpected circumstances – we have to stand back and pay attention. Problem-solving mode requires us to really focus and to evaluate the whole scene. We can then ask ourselves – Do I scrap this or simply make a small adjustment?

You’re really good at disruption!

Do I need to tell you this? You may hate it, but you’re amazing at it because (assuming you’re an expat) you do it all the time. So, while you may not always feel like a breezy-go-with-the-flow sort of person – it’s in you. Maybe today you don’t need to sweat the disruption all that much. Maybe you could even lay back and put on a little Netflix. No matter what, past experience confirms that it’s within your power to plug along or make a change.

What else can disruption teach you? Are you awake and listening? Are you staying curious, asking questions, coming back again and again to see a different angle?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear how you handle disruption.

Coaching Opportunities in 2018

In the past two days I’ve had the incredible pleasure to conduct “get-to-know-you” sessions with the participants in the beta-test of my Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments program. This 12-week mindfulness skills program will support clients in learning the practical, accessible mindfulness skills offered through the Personal Leadership framework and provide coaching support as the participants implement these skills into their daily lives.

It has been so fun to engage in these conversations! Each of the participants is coming to the program from their own unique desire to live more engaged and more connected with the world around them. I have loved sharing with them the details of how we’re going to be talking about real world skills, actual day-to-day practices and ideas that they’ll be able to implement not just in times of balance, but in times of upheaval.

Please stay-tuned for updates (by liking the World Tree Coaching Facebook page or by joining my email mailing list if you haven’t already). I’m hoping to have completed the beta phase and to begin accepting clients for the program in late-April 2018.

I’m also happy to announce that I’m now booking individual coaching clients for 2018. After some time off for the holidays (and to get my beta-testers moving through their program), I’ll begin seeing new individual coaching clients in mid-January.

If you’ve thought about coaching before, but aren’t sure it’s the right fit for you, please click here and schedule a time for us to talk more. This no-obligation session is a great way to see how coaching could support you in reaching your goals, managing transition, gaining clarity and maintaining (or regaining) balance as you enter a new year. Coaching is a true gift to yourself. There’s nothing quite like it!

As a special offer, all new clients who register between now and December 18, 2017, will receive a free copy of my book The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are (a $20 value) along with a voucher for $25 off the coaching program of her or his choice.

Click here to learn more about how we can work together to make 2018 the year you get moving where you want to go!

Meaning vs. Purpose…

For most of us, it’s probably not too terribly difficult to consider and describe the ways in which our lives have meaning.

If we are a parent, a spouse, a partner, a child, a friend – then we can recognize that we offer love and comfort to someone. We mean something to the people we love and they in-turn mean something to us. That creates meaning.

If you care for plants or pets or you’re responsible for the upkeep of an organization or the day-to-day workings of a business – your life has meaning. If you weren’t there, the work wouldn’t get done. If you didn’t have the work or the responsibility you’d feel a lack of a sense of meaning.

Most of us can find that sense of meaning without too much searching.

Purpose, on the other hand, can be more difficult to nail down.

Purpose implies a larger reason for why we take time to do the things that create meaning in our lives. For some people, that reason is ascribed to a higher power. For others, it’s simply the awareness that we have a limited time on this sphere called Earth and there’s probably something we’re supposed to do with that time.

I had a client once describe it this way:

She loves her daughter and that is one of the many ways in which her life has meaning. Her daughter needs her and she feels a deep sense of love and connection in being her mother. However, while loving her creates meaning, it does not, in and of itself establish purpose.

My client feels that her life’s purpose is rooted in helping people, in making the world a better place, in teaching and supporting others. She feels as though, in her relationship with her daughter, she fulfills purpose by modeling opportunities for growth, for happiness, for compassion and for empathy. Loving her daughter would probably always be enough for her to feel meaning, but deepening that love through the conscious decision to model the above qualities enables this client to fulfill her life purpose each and every day.

I think this is a great illustration of the difference between the two and the way in which meaning and purpose support and reinforce each other.

It’s really quite a fascinating idea if you stop to think about it.

I find that separating the two enables us to see they ways in which meaning and purpose are and are not connected. The above description also helps us to see that meaning and purpose are related to each other. They don’t run parallel, they are interwoven – one supports the other and vice versa. They are different, but they matter so much to each other.

What I think is even more powerful about this is the way in which recognizing the difference between the two can teach us more ways in which we can consciously choose to live our life’s purpose through the things that bring us meaning. This alignment means that each day really does matter just as much as the next.

Think about it this way – how many times have you gotten to the end the day and thought, “What did I really do today?”

If you could begin to see how meaning and purpose are different but related, would it create a greater sense of integrity in your life? Would you have fewer of those moments that seem to just slip away? If you were able to recognize your purpose, would it give meaning to things that have started to seem mundane? If you look at what brings you meaning, is it possible you would see a greater purpose?

I can’t claim to have the answers here, but I can’t help but think this is something we often overlook. It certainly gets me thinking!

What about you?

Are you inspired to delve deeper into this? Check out the questions below. They might shed some light on meaning and purpose in your own life.

Leave me a comment too! I’d love to hear how you see the intersection of meaning and purpose.

Some questions to help you consider meaning:

  • Who do I love?
  • Who loves me?
  • When do I feel joy?
  • When do I feel sadness?
  • What moments do I most look forward to?
  • In what moments do I feel a sense of flow – as though I am completely in the zone or totally in my element?

Questions that might help you look at purpose:

  • What do I want people to most remember about me when I’m gone?
  • If I were to find out today that I only had one year left to live, what would I want to do with that time?
  • What do people seek me out for? When the question arises, “Who can…?” when am I the answer to that question?
  • Complete this sentence, “I am here to…”

Get started on finding your meaning and purpose with one of my self-paced, online courses.

Back to School and Back to YOU!

Let’s face it – you love your kids, but you might…just might…be happy they’re all back at school. Right now it’s possible you look like the lady in that photo…right?

If there’s one thing I hear from friends, clients and colleagues alike right now it’s that a return to the school year means a return to regular schedules, normal bedtimes and a better sense that you can come out from under everyone else’s stuff. It’s heavy under there!

And that means it’s the perfect time for you to turn the focus back in your direction for a bit.

I want you to do that! I love more than anything supporting people in reaching their goals, finding their sense of self and moving forward one step at a time in connecting with what matters most in their lives.

Join me in celebrating this newest transition by taking advantage of my latest coaching program offer.

From now until the end of September 2017, take 20% off your coaching program fees. Click here to see if you’re eligible for additional discounts. Installment plans are available for my 8- and 12-week programs.

If you’re ready to get started – simply email me at jodi at worldtreecoaching dot com.

Have you been thinking about coaching, but you’re still not sure if it’s right for you? Never considered coaching, but now you’re kinda’ curious?

Read what past clients have said here. Or click here to schedule a time to chat with a FREE, 45-minute consult session!

Expat Lessons from my Unexpected Garden

I’ve always loved to be in gardens, but I’ve never really been a fan of actual gardening. This is because my mom used to make us pull weeds in the Texas heat with all those sticker-burrs and fire ants.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate gardening a little bit more. It’s fun to plant seeds and see things grow. It’s nice to feel like you’re doing your part for the world of the globally mobile by putting down some roots, even if they become the victim of forgetful watering.

A few weeks ago, I found myself the reluctant recipient of a community garden plot. I say reluctant because, to be honest, I wanted the plot when I applied for it a year ago, but then realized it was a good thing I didn’t win that lottery because there’s no way I had time to tend a garden. As the year passed, so did my gardening ambitions.

But there it was in my inbox – Congratulations! Welcome to the Community Garden!

Great.

Surprisingly, my reluctance turned, quicker than I had expected, into enthusiasm. Maybe I could turn this little plot into something. Maybe. After a few days of indecision, I went and bought some dirt and some seeds. Then I dragged myself over to the weedy patch of neglected earth and started working….and learning.

And who would have guessed – when you dig in the dirt and think about, “How’d we get here?” you end up with an all new opportunity to reflect on life overseas. Here are few of the lessons that have come to me between rocks and ants and mystery sprouts.

Don’t overthink past decisions.

You’ll do all sorts of weird things in the midst of transition (like apply for a garden plot) that will later seem ill advised. That’s okay. Maybe they will indeed turn out to be questionable or maybe they’ll turn out just right. Either way – it’s how you choose to handle them in the moment and going forward that really matters.

Remember you have choices.

Nobody says you have to do anything forever. What freed me up to finally say yes to the garden plot was the realization that I could say yes now and if it didn’t suit me – turn it over to someone else later. This is a good reminder for this lifestyle. While it’s not always easy (or even possible) to bailout entirely, remembering that we have choices is a nice reminder that we keep moving because we choose to, not because someone’s making us.

Nobody knows what you like except you.

Plant whatever you want to. I knew we would be traveling a lot this summer and I dreaded the idea of a bunch of herbs and vegetables growing wild and crazy so I just bought some flower seeds. This is an important point to remember when we’re setting up home somewhere else. There’s value in listening to the advice of those who’ve gone before us, but ultimately our responsibility is to creating a home that feels right for us, not for the Jane-expat next door.

Mistakes are part of the process.

Accept a certain degree of “failure.” Something’s eating the leaves of my sunflowers. Part of being a gardening novice is not-knowing. I really have no idea what I’m going to end up with or, frankly, what I’m doing at all! As expats, we benefit from accepting that we’ll make mistakes along the way, learn from them and grow to do better next time.

Surprises can be the biggest delight!

Getting this garden plot was not on my list of things I wanted to do this year. Last year it sounded great, but now I am in a completely different frame of mind and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to care for it. But in saying yes, I found the little moments that make the garden worth it a million times over – watching over the growing flowers with my daughter, picking weeds and getting dirt under my nails, watering in the quiet space of the late afternoon as people wander home from work or school. The surprise is that it’s become my thing. Totally my thing that I care for and nurture – an unexpected gift hidden in plain sight.

And that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? We think we’ve got this thing all figured out, but then right in front of us are more lessons hiding in the weeds of the everyday experience of living around and around the world.

How are you weathering this latest transition or planning for the emotional ups and downs of the one just around the corner? Check out my coaching programs here and latest seasonal offers here.

4 Reasons Baby Steps Are the Key To Success

When my oldest son was two and a half, we were putting in a new garden. Part of the process included shoveling loads of rocks from a giant pile into the garden beds. Despite his diminutive size, my son shoveled and shoveled all day, dirty sweat dripping from the tips his long golden curls, dust covering his oversized, white t-shirt, smudges of sand in every rolling crevice of his pudgy face. And he just didn’t let up. He had some monster baby steps to take that day.

I like to tell my clients that baby steps count. They usually respond with a shy laugh. The idea, I think, is that somehow baby steps (even if they do count) are not really up to the level of grown-up accomplishment. Perhaps taking baby-steps is for people who can’t quite make it, I can imagine them thinking.

But what I really want them to hear is that baby steps are a key element to success. Referring to something as a baby step does not diminish its capacity for significance or greatness. In fact, just the opposite is true. Here’s why…

The lead-up is huge.

Think about all the time that an infant puts into deciding to walk. She gets up, she falls down, she starts over. She tries again. She thinks about it. She employs trial and error.

The determination that it takes to get up the nerve to try something new is part of the process. You do the exact same thing in preparing for your baby step. All that work – the lead-up, the trial and error, the critical thinking – is an integral part of the process of doing something challenging.

Everything a baby does is badass.

This is a fact. Babies and toddlers accomplish so much in all those tiny steps! We don’t ever tell them, “Not good enough today baby. You were a little wobbly on the sit down.” Never. We recognize that they’re doing something new and that that alone is worth recognizing.

The same is true for you. We all live each day with our own set up hang-ups and baggage. Sure, we’d like to believe that every last thing we accomplish is done with complete confidence and ease, but that would ignore the fact that life is filled with an amazing number of challenges, shifts, changes, let-downs and surprises. Sometimes “just” showing up means you’re accomplishing some pretty amazing feats.

Babies are freakishly strong for their size.

Right?! Like my son with the shovel – they have no sense of what could possibly hold them back. Babies get a lot of shit done from their pint-sized frames. In fact, the higher, the heavier, the louder – the more committed a baby is to taking it on.

You too are stronger than you think. Anyone who’s ever faced a major hurdle and found themselves quick on their feet, anyone who’s taken on an unbelievable upset with grace and anyone who’s sacrificed their comfort for that of a friend or family member – knows this. When you take on something really big – you find strengths you never imagined you had.

Babies go for it, regardless of the outcome.

Babies might learn what to fear, but at the outset – they are amazingly fearless. They don’t worry about falling because somewhere deep down, their instinct tells them that falling is part of the process.

Hey! You do that too! Even when you think you might not succeed, you try. You give it your all because you know that living from your values, connecting to your authentic self and finding purpose means sometimes you have to be daring.

So there you have it. Baby steps. Every single one’s worth it…so start counting.