“Just know you’re not alone 'Cause I’m going to make this place your home”
We’ve all heard of culture shock, but how many can relate to ‘reverse culture shock”? A phenomenon that speaks to a global cosmopolitan’s challenges when they return to what once was their so-called home, after a long stint abroad. Having coached many relocating executives on this re-integration and transitory phase, and being able to relate personally, this is much more of an identity crisis than a transition. Not being able to connect to those with whom we once closely identified to, to feel the urge to either censor our new reality or revert to topics of conversation that we might find ‘stagnant or trivial’ simply to fit in, can certainly conflict and challenge our sense of ‘who we are and where we belong? So does a global cosmopolitan ever actually reintegrate fully and re-plant roots? This article suggests that while re-settling into your so-called homeland may seem challenging, perhaps a new approach and mindset may serve this pursuit better? What I find comforting is the growing number of people who relate to the disheartening struggle of feeling left out while at the same time wanting to belong, all the while processing our inner confusion, and other people's comments about our accent, appearance, and overall attitude.
So take it from someone who is no longer Indian 'enough' (left my homeland at the age of 8), American enough, and was never really ever going to be seen as Spanish, English, Nigerian or Chinese 'enough' to connect either of these pronouns to my identity. So where is home for me? Somewhat cliche, but home is where the heart is: where my family is....where what I do matters....where I have a sense of community and for the immediate future that home is in Hong Kong.
Have you ever noticed that a negative event has more profound effect on us than a positive event?
This is because our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative. Negative events and thoughts impact our memory, mind and mood more than positive ones. This “negativity bias” of the brain is useful to our survival in ancient times but not so useful in the 21st century. This negativity bias creates anxiety and stress, it also lowers our productivity, clouds our judgments and affects our wellbeing.
Research found that by practicing mindfulness, we can rewire our brain to be more positive, to accentuate positive experiences and maintain tranquility. Our brains can change, physically, as a result of learning, therefore, practicing a positive habit through mindfulness can predispose our thoughts to be more affirmative. There are two key components of mindfulness: to maintain an awareness of our immediate thoughts, feelings, and surroundings; and to accept these thoughts and feelings without judging them.
Below are some simple steps that we can all practice to incorporate mindfulness in our daily life:
1. Take a short break from work several times a day, to give our mind a break and look at something different.
2. Practice looking for small moments of beauty or kindness. For example, appreciating the colorful blooming flowers or being grateful for having a colleague/friend to go to lunch with together.
3. Learn to search for and comment on the positive qualities and actions of others. Appreciating the good in others creates a ‘virtuous cycle’ that builds positive communication and relational habits.
The Biology of Positive Habits, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2016.
In a 1922 study to understand how ambition shapes our lives, University of Notre Dame’s professor, Timothy Judge examined data that tracked the life of 717 people for 70 years; a period during which the world lived through a World War, put a man on the moon, saw the rise of empires – and the invention of the internet. The study marked participants as less or more ambitious. Not surprisingly, the ambitious ones went on to achieve greater success, which gave rise to the popular belief that ‘a person’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions’.
This however over-looked a vital fact that a person’s worth does not equal his or her wellbeing. For the ambitious ones reading this article, (you know who you are), do you set another goal to pursue, just as you score or ‘get one in’? Do you continue to raise the bar for what you want or need? Be wary of the downside to being ambitious is a constant sense of dissatisfaction with our achievements. Since we are yet to find the one thing that will permanently quench the ambitious minded person’s thirst, perhaps it’s time we shift the conversation from the pursuit of happiness into the happiness of the pursuit?
In 2018, go on a quest to find meaning in your pursuits, enjoy the journey towards your goals, and know that happiness is the by-product of the process.
(Adapted from source: The Little Book of Lykke, by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen).