Life as an expat can be a lot of things. In one sense, it’s an invigorating way to broaden your horizons, explore a new culture, and make lifelong international friends. In another, it can be overwhelming and leave you feeling trapped between two worlds. This can impact countless areas of life, such as your career, relationships, and overall health. You may find yourself asking questions like what am I even doing here?
At AnGel Coaching International, leadership and balance coach Anne Gelebart helps expats from all over the world who want a fulfilling career whilst have a satisfying life balance. An expat herself, Anne has a strong background in multinational corporations across Europe and coaches in French, Spanish, and English. All of her programs encourage growth, self-belief, and empowerment in a way that’s tailored to the individual. As well as being an ICF accredited coach, Anne is also a Pilates instructor and volunteer at Empower Amsterdam – a foundation supporting unemployed international professionals living in the Netherlands.
As part of her practice, Anne uses a tool known as the “Wheel of Life” to help her clients understand which areas of their life may need improvement. Ultimately, it’s a way of finding direction and focus through learning about oneself. It can even come to redefine what it actually means to be successful to you.
The Wheel of Life
The “Wheel of Life” works by rating your levels of satisfaction in 8 different areas:
- Friends and Family
- Significant Other/Romance
- Fun & Recreation
- Personal Growth
- Physical Environment
Each score is mapped onto a wheel and gives an immediate view of your current life balance. This allows you to prioritize certain areas that could use extra attention. We sat down with Anne, who ran us through each of the wheel’s 8 components and discussed the various ways expats can find balance and fulfillment in their everyday lives.
Friends and Family
One of the hardest aspects of the expat life is being away from family and friends. When things such as work and kids take over, it can be easy to lose touch with the people closest to you. What value do you place on your relationships with friends and family? How satisfied are you with them? What can you do to maintain or improve these connections? “Think about what you want from your relationships”, Anne suggests. “Prioritize certain people in your life and set a goal to call them once or twice a year for a catch up”.
What about making new friends? There are lots of great ways to meet fellow expats, such as our very own upcoming events, sports matches, social media, and language classes (get a head start by checking out our 8 ways to learn Dutch fast). Still, feelings of alienation can linger. Integrating yourself into Dutch circles can be challenging, yet it can do a lot towards making the Netherlands really feel like home. You could be planning on staying here for a long period of time, for example, in which case expat friends will likely come and go.
According to Anne, “the key is to be inventive and not be afraid to put yourself out there. If you connect with someone at the school gates, invite them for a coffee or a walk around the neighborhood. You’ll soon notice how this affects other areas of the “Wheel of Life”, like confidence (personal growth), fun & recreation, career, and health”. Who knows, you might even find a little romance along the way too.
Remember, we’re all different. If you’re happily married, you’re going to rate your satisfaction level high in this section of the “Wheel of Life”. The same goes if you’re career-focused yet enjoy a little “fun” on weekends (see let’s talk about sex in Dutch and thank us later). It all comes down to what romance means to you.
In terms of dating, Anne comes across plenty of people in her practice who are nervous or don’t know how to go about it. After all, learning the do’s and don’ts of dating the Dutch can be a daunting process. “It’s all about trial and error”, she tells us. “Be open to trying out different ways of dating and accept that you might not find the perfect match the first time you get out there. Relax, have fun, and sooner or later it will happen naturally”.
Fun & Recreation
“A lot of the time, people feel as though fun & recreation is missing from their lives because of a lack of time and money”, Anne explains. “What they don’t realize is that it might just be the very thing that can help you be successful because your life is more balanced”. Sure, you’ll have a hard time taking up flying lessons if you can’t afford it. If woodwork classes are taking up a whole Saturday away from the kids, it might be worth trying something else for the time being. The point is to be realistic and manage your expectations.
This doesn’t mean giving up on your dreams of flying or woodwork. You can always figure out how to save money in the Netherlands or wait until the kids are older for that. Still, there’s no reason to give up having fun in the present. There’s always a way around things. Download a flying simulator for the computer or watch woodwork tutorials on YouTube and practice at home.
It also helps to think about what else might interest you. There’s so much out there to do for free, like online language classes, walking tours (great for learning about your new city), or park gyms. If time is an issue, consider how you can incorporate certain hobbies with the family. Maybe it’s going fishing with the kids or exercising with your spouse. How can you work around your work schedule? If it means getting up earlier than usual to get in some creative writing, so be it. If it’s significant to you, it’ll be more than worth it.
What does it mean to you to be healthy at this point in your life? This section of the “Wheel of Life” covers different areas surrounding health: emotional, physical, and mental. It could be that you want to lose a few pounds. Perhaps you’re struggling emotionally due to stress. You may be feeling tired because of a lack of nutrition. Whatever it may be, you can do something about it. “It’s a little bit like venturing into a forest”, Anne tells us. “We often stick to one path, when what we really need to do is pave the way for new ones”.
Indeed, the more you think about health, the more it becomes apparent how working towards it can have positive implications for other components of the “Wheel of Life”. Imagine you reach your target weight loss through a basic exercise and nutrition plan. You’ve learned a lot about these subjects on your journey. Your self-confidence has grown in abundance. You feel more comfortable asking your crush out on a date and hey, to your sweet surprise they say yes. You’re upbeat. In a better mood. This gives you extra motivation to perform better at work and it’s not long before you get a promotion. Now, you can afford to take more trips home to see family and take up that hobby you always wanted to try. As a whole, your mind, body, and emotions are far more balanced than they once were, all because of one small change.
Of course, real life doesn’t always work this way. There are always going to be bumps in the road. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to think about how you’d like to improve your health and visualize how it could benefit you in other areas of life.
Note: If you are particularly concerned about your mental health, there are great psychologists, therapists, and counselors in the Netherlands who can help you further.
The value we place on money depends on a variety of factors. Do you have a family to support or are you single? Do you need money to be happy or is it something you can live without? At what point are you going to be satisfied with the amount of money you have? Again, it’s all a matter of perspective and where you are in life.
“I come across a lot of people who rate their satisfaction with money based on limiting beliefs”, Anne says. “They think they’re not good enough to earn money or perhaps believe that their friendships will not be genuine if they have lots of it”. Many also prioritize family and don’t really think about their own financial satisfaction. Others simply aren’t good at managing their finances, in which case they may benefit from this list of financial advisors in the Netherlands.
It goes without saying that the more money you have, the more comfortable you are. But how much does this really contribute to your overall happiness and success?
There are no limits to the amount we can learn, either about the things we’re interested in or ourselves as individuals. As Anne puts it, “the more we know, the more we can develop our confidence and grow”. The first stages of becoming an expat are exciting. You’re learning lots of new things, challenging yourself, and getting to know how you operate in unfamiliar circumstances.
As time goes on, however, we can begin to feel stuck; like we’re not really flourishing anymore. “We don’t see certain opportunities or engage in introspection. We have tunnel vision”, Anne says. This might be down to a busy work schedule or being a little too embedded in your comfort zone. “What can you do to continue growing?”, she asks. “Understanding the things around us, who we are and why things might not be working anymore is key to our personal growth”.
The environments in which we live and work are influential to our overall happiness and success. Unfortunately, you cannot do much about the weather, but you can learn how to deal with noisy neighbors in the Netherlands. Decorate your apartment or office in a way that feels right for you. Make it a place where you can relax, focus or create. Understanding what is bothering you and finding a solution can do wonders for your mindset. There’s no need to settle for how it is. A little goes a long way.
For many people, a career is the main reason for becoming an expat. If you’re willing to move countries to further your professional goals, it’s probably an important aspect of your life. There’s no doubt a career is a great way to build on your skills, networks, and international experiences, but maintaining a work-life balance is equally important.
We can be so driven to succeed in our work that we lose track of other things like family, health, and romance. As Anne says, “we need to create balance while achieving our career goals. Developing our leadership skills, for example, could be one of them. I can help you to understand your impact, grow in your competencies and lead in an engaging way, but neglecting other aspects of life will lead to imbalances”.
On the other hand, you might find yourself as an expat without a career at all. Your spouse may have landed a job, for example, and you decided to leave your own to move abroad with them. “A lack of career direction can often lead to frustration and feelings of worthlessness, but being an expat presents a wealth of opportunities”, Anne tells us. If you’re looking for a job, you only need to explore these ten companies hiring expats in the Netherlands to see why.
“What can be done to better your career? Are you making the most of what your company offers, for example taking courses or attending conventions? Do you want to change what you do completely? If so, what do you want to pursue?” According to Anne, these are all questions you should be asking yourself if you’re stuck or unhappy in your career.
The “Wheel of Life” components interact and affect each other in an infinite number of ways. We all lead separate lives, have different goals, and hold certain mindsets that change over time. With the guidance of AnGel Coaching International, the “Wheel of Life” can shake up your idea of success and what life really means to you in the present. All while offering a glimpse of how things can be in the future.
Book your 30-min free intake with Anne or join her at the Centrum voor Mindfulness in Amsterdam for Awaken Your Potential – an in-depth exploration of mindfulness, self-compassion, and the “Wheel of Life” across the 8th and 9th of October. Gain an invaluable insight into the relationship between body and mind, spread your wings, and unleash your true potential.