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Empower Yourself With A Growth Mindset

Categories: Education

Preparing for life in The Netherlands and taking care of practical issues is crucial. But do not underestimate the psychological aspect of your journey. When you adopt a mindset that allows you to grow and develop it can lead to a successful experience abroad.

I know from experience personal growth can be painful, but worth it for the long haul.

Millions of individuals move abroad for professional or personal reasons.  A growth mindset makes all the difference between your success and your stress.  Think of it as a project you will be undertaking.

A project full of uncertainty with various stages of adjustment.

If the mindset shift is growth-oriented, it paves a brighter path for the “Honeymoon Phase,” when everything is shiny and bright. Followed by the “Newness phase” where everything is better in your home country and onto the “Adjustment of it all Phase”.

If you work on your mindset, you will lay the foundation for the final stage where you can successfully solve a problem and cope with your new culture while maintaining your own identity. You will have a new sense of flexibility. You will then realize how far you have come.

As an expat, you need to find your way in your new country.  You need to cope with adapting to a new culture, learn to articulate and express yourself in a new language that has its fair share of nuances that is not in any textbook. First, grab a bite to eat by trying the typical Dutch diet. That is a slice of buttered bread with a slice of Jong Belegen Cheese and with a no-frills attitude, fold it. There you have a Dutch sandwich. Of course, there are variations to this Dutch lunchtime favorite. But that’s another story.

You probably lived in one place for a long time and surrounded by people who speak your language and share your culture. It’s easy to fall into the notion that you’re well-rounded, culturally savvy and an expert on a broad scale.

Moving to The Netherlands suddenly reverts you to childhood when you needed a lot of hand-holding and your vocabulary was limited. You’re suddenly brought back to a time when you didn’t know enough advanced vocabulary to express yourself. A time when your brain engaged continuously, grasping curiosity and the unknown.

You must push yourself

As an expat, your brain needs to be alert and be able to adapt as quickly to situations in your environment.  Moving to The Netherlands pushes you from your comfort zone, and you find yourself challenged by the smallest of tasks. There is no experience as the move to another county to expose your weaknesses and make you feel distant, stressed and inadequate.  You find yourself wondering why some people are coping better than you, battle the rough road and embrace learning a new culture.

Then there are those who adjust their culture and recreate their home country. Often, resulting in overwhelm, frustration and then a plane ticket home. Being an expat uproots you from your comfort zone, and forces you to confront challenges and these challenges are a test of our senses.  But it doesn’t have to be a struggle every step of the way if you have a growth mindset.

Get your mindset on the right track

What is the difference in achieving success in The Netherlands, or stressed by the frustration to book a flight home?

Having success is not all about being social, attending events and conferences, and make every conversation with a fellow expat about your job search and what you miss most from home. All these things are beneficial, as long as they are coming from a growth mindset.  Some strategies can help you change your mindset to make a successful transition in The Netherlands. Some may seem obvious but putting them into practice may be challenging.

Here are 7 strategies for creating a mindset for success.

  1. Be curious. Replace the fear of the unknown with an element of curiosity in learning about the new culture and the environment. Be inquisitive and curious to understand different practices and understand how things get accomplished in a particular way.
  2.  Be flexible. Surround yourself with cultures other than your own, flexibility is crucial. The Netherlands has a unique way of doing things, and as an expat, you should be willing to accept and tolerate the traditions revolving around them.  Understanding local values and traditions can be useful if you wish to communicate effectively.
  3.  Learn the social customs. Cultural awareness will allow for a smoother transition. Be open to knowing and understanding the culture. The Netherlands has unique local and societal customs, of which you need to learn and practice. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. It’s a process of taking one step at a time. It will enable you to bridge the gaps for smooth communication and mutual understanding.
  4.  Move you’re “comfort line:” When you go past that line where you’re typically comfortable, you see opportunities and expand your capabilities.  Be willing to go beyond your comfort line until it becomes a habit and eventually you will be operating with limitless possibilities.
  5.   A sense of humor.  A sense of humor is tough for some expats to master. Humor comes naturally for some, as well as the ability to laugh at a situation or when to know not to laugh. Keep in mind; humor doesn’t translate well across cultures. What is funny in your home country, is not at all funny in the Netherlands.  It’s not just able to tell a joke but to see other’s perspectives. Acquire an understanding of cultures and its value’s before you can understand their humor. Learn to take things lightly and don’t get offended easily; awkward situations may be due to a misunderstanding.
  6.   Be emotionally resilient. Acquire and build your support network and foster relationships. Being resilient doesn’t happen overnight. As expats, we face turmoil, upheaval and often question our own identity during the transition. Developing emotional and social skills is crucial. Emotional resilience will during each experience during your transition. Be aware of your emotions, and learn to recognize when they become overwhelming. Learn to bounce back and introduce self-care techniques that decrease your stress.
  7.  Be creative. Be willing to see the opportunity that doesn’t appear as you had planned them-but has the potential to be an opportunity when you add your personality. There has been a study from the American Psychological Association showed that people who move to another country- as opposed to people who just travel to a country- can engage with other cultures, forcing them to think in different ways. This environment enables creativity. Maybe start a business, write that book, the options are endless.

The purpose of these strategies are not to look at your life through your native lens and try to fit in, but to realize your old way of thinking in a new environment will point out your limitations and hinder the opportunities to approach your life in The Netherlands from a growth mindset.

Maria Simonetti 2018

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