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Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean

Updated 10 days ago

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Funny and heartfelt, this podcast draws on the realities of expat life to offer you smart and simple solutions so that you can quickly (and painlessly!) adapt. Be successful, find your purpose abroad and stay connected with those who mean the most.

Read more

Funny and heartfelt, this podcast draws on the realities of expat life to offer you smart and simple solutions so that you can quickly (and painlessly!) adapt. Be successful, find your purpose abroad and stay connected with those who mean the most.

iTunes Ratings

16 Ratings
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Best podcast for global mobility & life challenges

By Anna C. S. - Jan 27 2020
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Sometimes solo, sometimes with experts from a wide range of fields but always somehow relevant to Expat life. Sometimes mobility specific, sometimes personal development oriented but always entertaining, informative and over too soon. A must listen to!

Sundae has saved my expat life!

By Brenda in Tanzania - Jan 08 2019
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I've learned so much from Sundae's podcast--about how to thrive as an expat, but so much of her advice is helpful even if you've never set foot outside your home country. She and I share similar backgrounds--growing up in rural mid-America, finding love abroad and now raising cross-cultural kids--so I feel like she really speaks directly to my challenges living oversees. Thanks, Sundae!

iTunes Ratings

16 Ratings
Average Ratings

Best podcast for global mobility & life challenges

By Anna C. S. - Jan 27 2020
Read more
Sometimes solo, sometimes with experts from a wide range of fields but always somehow relevant to Expat life. Sometimes mobility specific, sometimes personal development oriented but always entertaining, informative and over too soon. A must listen to!

Sundae has saved my expat life!

By Brenda in Tanzania - Jan 08 2019
Read more
I've learned so much from Sundae's podcast--about how to thrive as an expat, but so much of her advice is helpful even if you've never set foot outside your home country. She and I share similar backgrounds--growing up in rural mid-America, finding love abroad and now raising cross-cultural kids--so I feel like she really speaks directly to my challenges living oversees. Thanks, Sundae!

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

Cover image of Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean

Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean

Latest release on Jan 17, 2021

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 10 days ago

Rank #1: 159: Bending Reality

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We bend reality when we refuse to accept the way things are, like truths about the world, and being human. We convince ourselves how we’re the exception… those silly rules don’t apply to us… we’re going to do it faster/bigger/better than anyone else. Then, we feel surprised, disappointed, and disillusioned when things don’t work out as planned.

When it comes to our goals and human operational capacity, many of us choose to live in a fictional universe. You know the one I mean? That magical world where everything goes smoothly, and we’re unflappable well-oiled machines? Right, it doesn’t exist.

Instead of bending our reality, we need to see it for what it is and adapt our behavior to succeed with the facts. 

This week, I’ll tell you 5 truths and 2 dangers to bending reality, because continuing to make-believe brings harmful consequences. Let’s unwarp your view, look at the way things actually are, and straighten it all out.

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Cats & cucumbers
  • The 30-hour attention-span threshold
  • How adding in buffers saves your schedule
  • Watching for clues, & replacing the reward
  • Chasing uncatchable goals

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 7 am in New York, 2 am in Johannesburg and 7 pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

“It’s not denial,  I am just selective about the reality I accept.” 

Do Bill Batterson’s words frighteningly sound familiar? How many times are we in denial about what is? 

I know I work with clients all the time who are doing just this and I call this bending reality. Bending reality is refusing to accept the way things are, truths about the world and being human. It sounds so simple when you hear that you’re like “Sundae not me, I’m smarter than that.” But wait a minute, I’ll give you a few signs about bending reality and see which one’s sound familiar to you.

Here are a few signs that you’re bending reality. 

  • You plan to work after the kids go to bed, but you fall asleep instead.
  • You set a goal to meditate every day and then you stopped after you do it three times. 
  • You set aside time to work on that writing you’ve had your eye on for months, only to stare at the screen when you get there.
  • You make a to-do list for the day, but you only get through the first four things and then you’re mad because you didn’t get to the rest of the list.
  • Or you’re disappointed with yourself because you said you were going to stop your Netflix and wine addiction but you haven’t.

Any of these ring a bell? You’re saying, “Okay, I’ve done that, but what does that mean about bending reality? I’m just failing on my goals, I need more willpower, I’m not achieving what I set myself out to do.” And it’s really not that, it’s not that something’s broken with you or you’re not doing a good enough job, it’s that you’re not accepting what is.

Marcus Thompson says “Suffering is basically the minds refusal to accept reality as it is.” So bending reality is denial, we need to straighten reality out so we can accept it as it is. And I’m going to give you a few examples of where I see my clients want to bend things and together we got to straighten it out. 

So the first one is 24, that is the number of hours that you have, just like anybody else. I mean Taylor Swift and Bill Gates also only have 24 hours in a day. So what do you do about that? What are you gonna do with your 24 hours? If you accept you only have 24 hours in a day, it starts with getting creative about what you do with them.

The next thing you need to think about reality is, you need to accept is that you are organic material not a machine. So here’s what I mean by that, most people, especially people who are top performers, people who are ambitious, perfectionist, they treat themselves like a race car. You wake up in the morning and you want to fuel up and then go, pit stop, fix up your tires and go again, done, win the race. But that’s the thing, we’re not a machine. Machines, if they’re given the right maintenance and fuel can continue to go on and on and on, but not people we are organic, we get tired. 

So if you are the reality you’re refusing is that you are organic material, you might have done something like this. One of my clients got up at 5:00 a.m. for a conference call. She worked all day, she did her exercise, she picked up her child, she did dinner time with her partner, tried to connect,  did the dishes, bedtime routine story, “I’m thirsty, I’m still hungry” all of that. And then at nine o’clock was exhausted but disappointed that she didn’t do what she committed to. 

It was like after that kind of day she was surprised she was tired. And in our session together I’m like, “Listen, you’re bending reality. As if you can go from 5 a.m. To 9 p.m. without a break and then have the energy to focus on a presentation? No, that’s bending reality.” 

So think for yourself how many times do you bend reality? How many times do you plan like you’re a race car and then are surprised that you’re actually organic material?

If that’s you, you’re bending reality. 

The next one you might notice is this writer who blocked off four hours to do something and then just stared at the computer. The reality that’s being bent here is that, guess what, attention fades. Just because we have eight hours blocked in our calendar for a project doesn’t mean our attention is going to be there the whole time. Our attention and energy fades, we know that, but are you denying that? 

You might remember from Episode 152 Productivity Makeover with Graham Allcott, he says how knowledge workers, people like maybe you and me, who work with information and content, we max out at about 30 hours a week, after that our brains go wonk wonk wonk, we’re tired. 

So the reality is that attention and energy fades so plan for it, stop bending reality as if it doesn’t. You might want to check out the book from Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit, he’s got this great cycle, ‘The Habit Loop,’ where he looks at the routines that you have and how you can change them so you can really do more of what you want.  

And I came across this because I was bending reality, I remember sitting in my desk and I caught myself watching those YouTube videos of cats who get scared by cucumbers, don’t tell me you haven’t seen them? They’re really funny. So I was like, “For real Sundae, it’s 10:30 in the morning, I have all this to do and I’m watching cats on YouTube get scared by the sight of a cucumber.” For those of you haven’t thought it through all the way, they look like snakes so cats have this natural reaction to jump but like they seriously jump super high in the air when they see a cucumber. It is hysterical. 

My point is, do you really think as an entrepreneur what I need to be doing with my time is watching YouTube videos of cats? No! No! What I was doing was denying the reality that my attention is going to fade, my energy is going to fade in my day, so I shifted it up. Going with Duhigg’s habit Loop, we’ve got the cue which is fading attention, fading energy. My cue was like, “Let’s go to YouTube and watch cats get scared of cucumbers.” That was the new routine and the reward was “Yay, I took a break from work.” Probably not the best habit long-term.

What I have done instead for the last two years is I replaced the cue like, “I’m feeling tired, my energy is fading, my attention is fading.” Instead at 10:30 I went for a run, and then the routine was the run, the reward was massive. The reward was one; way more energy and focus afterwards, my health has dramatically improved in terms of fitness and strength and I feel so much more ready to give my energy to my clients in the afternoon and I’m happier, I’m less grumpy in the evening. The list is long because I finally accepted my attention fades, my energy fades. 

Do you see how this also connects to the podcast that we did about The Perfectionist Recovery Room? If you go back and look at perfectionism, you can see how much these things tie together if we are so focused on our goals and want to complete our to-do list, but we actually bend reality and keep ignoring the signals our body gives us then we get into that trap. So if you’re interested, if that sounds like you, go back to Episode 154 The Perfectionist Recovery Room.

So are you bending reality? Are you ignoring the fact that human attention and energy fades? 

You know, if you look at Graham Allcott’s book in Productivity Ninja, he talks about three different types of attention and we only have active attention for a few hours a day, so plan your day accordingly.

Okay, the fourth thing we need to get really clear at when we’re looking at unbending and streaming reality, is really important. Things will not go as planned, things will not go as planned. I see it all the time, we work so hard at getting more organized and we do all this planning and then we’re really thrown off when things don’t go as planned. And then you’re like, “Whew that was a waste of time, why did I plan on that when it didn’t go as planned.” And then you feel like you did a bad job. But the thing is, things will not go as planned. Especially if you work in a different cultural context, because there are things that happen in that culture that you cannot predict or are not in your default ways of thinking and will come up. Or maybe you have a family, you’ve got small kids, well, they get sick suddenly and obviously you need to pick them up from school. Or maybe you’ve got older kids, teenagers with brand new problems that you’ve never anticipated.

Things will not go as planned.

And that is reality, people get sick, people pass away, accidents happen. So all we can do is accept reality that “This is my plan and I’ve thought some things through but I need to be flexible.” 

So if you want to stop bending reality then plan in buffers, don’t pack your schedule so full that there’s no room for negotiation, plan in buffers. And one of the things that I’ve done with my day, when I do take this run at 10:30, is I plan an hour and a half for a run, a shower and lunch; an hour and a half. I don’t need that but I put it in my schedule, because last week guess who gave me a call from the school nurse? “Hello Ms. Bean it’s time to come pick up your son because he’s coughing.” So that gave me time to go to the school, pick him up, drive back, etc. etc. Without those buffers it’s not this domino effect where everything else gets thrown off. 

So ask yourself right now, how many buffers do you have in your day? How many buffers in your monthly plan? So that when things don’t go as planned you’re ready for it. 

And I just had a day last week where I planned out ahead buffers and it felt so good to know that what I had planned that day was realistic and my buffers were generous enough so that I felt in control of my day. 

So we talked about 24, you have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, stop asking me for more, my clients do it all the time, but you’ve got them. So what do you do with them? Taylor Swift and Bill Gates, same thing, they do some pretty cool things with those 24 hours. 

Two; Accept that you are organic material not a machine.

Three; Accept attention and energy fades, so plan accordingly.

Four; Accept that things will not go as planned, so put in buffers.

And the fifth one, perhaps the most important one; is that you are not alone, but if you’re bending reality, you’ve got everything on your shoulders right trying to do it all yourself.

People who don’t bend reality know they’re not alone and they reach out for help, they get sparring partners, they hire coaches, they’ve got business friends they can bounce ideas off of. And they say “Yes!” when someone offers them help or they look at what all of the responsibilities they have and they look at “Where can I outsource? Who can help me do this faster or better so that you’ve got more time for what matters most?”

You are not alone, really simple, one of my clients had a project that she was working on and she was preparing a document for the people that she serves. She got it ready, she sat there in front of it, first time she’d ever done it and she hemmed and hawed, looked left and right, up and down, “Is it good? Is it not good enough?” And finally I got an audio message from her and she’s like, “Hey, I’ve been looking at this for an hour. Would you just take a look quick and let me know if it’s okay?” So I wrote her back and I’m like, “Sure, no problem.” In three minutes she got feedback from me to different tweaks and she felt better.

You’re not alone, she’s like “Hey, that’s my coach. Why can’t she look at this?” What she got from that by knowing she’s not alone, by asking for help, is she saved another hour of hemming and hawing, she saved an hour of depleted energy from feeling insecure and asking herself whether it was good enough. She tweaked and sent, finished, move on.

So number five, when we’re looking at the reality and when we bend it is we forget that we’re not alone.

These five things are so important. When you’re bending reality you forget them and here is what it leads to if you don’t start paying attention.

The first one is burn out, what I see in my community, what I see with clients that have had old patterns and come to me to finally change them, is that the old patterns led to burn out because they were setting goals that were not matching reality. They attached a plan to that non-reality and then they went for it, they chased them hard. 

So if you have goals and a plan that is disconnected from reality and you chase it hard, you are going to be depleted because you ignore your need for sleep, you ignore your need to connect with people that you care about or if you don’t give yourself a brain break. And as you know for my other episodes that that endurance mindset leads to depletion, it is the opposite of a resilience mindset where you actually pause to rejuvenate. 

So maybe it’s something simple like you’ve been a parent for 12/13 years and you got your routine, but now your kids are teenagers and your plan is not attached to this new reality, so you keep chasing after the family structure that you think works based on the past, but you haven’t upgraded the plan to the new reality.

Or maybe you work in a new culture and you’ve been a leader for years and you’re successful, but you’re working in this new cultural context and the reality you have not incorporated, is that things take way longer or people are very hierarchy oriented and they keep asking you what you should do. So your leadership style is coming crashing against reality and you’re exhausted and it’s going to lead to burnout.

So pay attention to those five things that I mentioned because if you don’t it could lead to burnout.

The other danger really breaks my heart. Burnout is bad, I mean that’s physical, that’s nothing you can coach someone out of, that is physical, you need to go to the doctor, you need to give yourself bodily time to rejuvenate and then you need new strategies to build yourself up. But there’s a little bit more subtle one, and that one is if you ignore these 5 realities what could happen is that you actually give up on what you want. And this is how I see it happen, you ignore the fact that your focus fades and that you actually have help at your fingertips. And you pretend like you’re a machine and not organic material all of the things. And then you chase your goals hard while you ignore your need for sleep, while you really go after the things but never meet the goals that you wanted.

So here’s the second danger when you ignore the reality, is that you could give up on what you really want. And what happens is you are ignoring all of these things that are true, and then because you have ignored the fact that attention fades or that things come up, you missed the mark on your goals. But what happens next is what you make it mean. You make it mean that you can’t achieve your goals, that you’re not good enough to make it happen. So maybe you lower the bar instead of re-looking at your reality, or maybe you stop going after what you really want.

I mean, I see this all the time, I meet people who agree with their partner that their new business should replace their corporate income in one year. And I’m like “That doesn’t match reality.” So when they don’t hit the year mark, they give up on their new business. I see people online who are starting their new business and they’re comparing themselves to others who are making $10,000 a month and they’re saying “I’m not good enough because I’m not getting the same success as this other person.” Or maybe you want to start a blog and you share your first blog post, but you only get a few shares. It’s really only your friends and family that are reading it and you say, “No one’s really interested anyway, so I’ll stop.” 

Because the reality is that things take longer than you plan, you need to use your time and energy in a focused way. Things will come up, instead of giving up on what you really want. And the reason why bending reality is so important to recognize in your own life is because when you stop you start taking back control of your own life. And I mean truly it feels so good when you are able to approach your life with all of these truths about your energy, about time, about creating new routines and around the help that you can ask for.

Remember in Episode 155 The Procrastination Pirate, check out the scratch test versus the pillow test. Are you looking at your life just trying to take off to-dos? Or are you going to look at your list and say “When I put my head on the pillow tonight what are the one or two things that if I get them done today are going to make me feel like it was really worth my time?” 

So stop bending reality and start getting support. And that is what I’m here for. So take a quick look at the ways in which we try to bend reality and look in the mirror and see which ones apply to you. Look at the dangers that it leads to you when you do this and get honest with yourself. Are you headed to burn out? Or you headed straight to giving up on what you really want?

I want you to show up for yourself in ways that are meaningful. And as I said, I’m here to support you for that. So today is the first day of the Up Level Challenge, if you haven’t checked it out already online, it starts today the day of recording that it goes live, which is the 20th of January 2020. 

So if you are around this timeframe, check it out because we are going to come together and stop bending reality. Instead you are going to learn how to stop relying on your willpower to achieve your goals, take baby steps to make a significant impact on what’s really important to you, set better boundaries that serve you not just others, ditch old habits and create space for more purpose and maintain momentum even when things get tough.

So all of this takes place in the Facebook group Expats On Purpose. If you’re not part of it join us, if you haven’t signed up for the challenge do so because you get all of the goodies through that newsletter. 

You can also go to the show notes if you’re thinking “Sundae, I want to skip the challenge. I want to go straight to doing work one-to-one so I can keep myself accountable.” Get on my waiting list on how you can work with me in 2020.

And don’t miss the next week’s episode where we celebrate Expat Happy Hour’s Third Birthday! There will be loads of new surprises coming your way. 

So thank you for being part of this journey. 

You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean, thank you for listening. I will leave you with the words from Carl Jung, “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”

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The post 159: Bending Reality appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Jan 19 2020



Rank #2: 116: Breaking Through The Stay Or Go Dilemma

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Anybody who lives abroad knows the excruciating feeling – indecision that keeps you up at night. Suddenly, for any number of different reasons, you find yourselves faced with a decision, “Do you stay or do you go?” You wonder how your answer will shape the future.

Listen to today’s podcast for three different strategies to get unstuck when you are faced with the dilemma of staying or going.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • Where to start to make a decision you won’t regret
    • What to avoid in times of upheaval
    • The foundation to steer your course of action
    • How you can break through indecision

There are no cookie-cutter answers when it comes to the complex factors that lead you to ask, “Stay or Go?” These three approaches give you tools to move forward so that you can make the best decision for you.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

Download Transcript

Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

Martin Luther says “Nothing in the world causes so much misery as uncertainty.”

“Should I stay should I go? Should I stay or should I go? Should we stay should we go? Should we stay should we go?”

Sound familiar? How many times have you been put in that position? Where you don’t know whether you should stay or go, you know the lyrics from The Clash “Should I stay or should I go? If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double!” You feel stuck, right? And today’s episode of Expat Happy Hour is to help you get unstuck when you are faced with this dilemma of staying or going.

And make sure you stay tuned to the end because I’ve got other resources that will help you in this exact direction in different situations, and something very special that I’ve just announced that will help you work through big questions like these.

Okay, so what we’re going to look at today are people who have been in that same situation stay or go? And I’m going to share with you how I helped them out of it. Three different strategies, three different lives, three different ways. Because one of them might be just what you need to dig yourself out of uncertainty.

Okay, so the first scenario I’m going to share with you today is this; should we stay or should we go? Meaning are we in the country are we out of the country? So there was a message that I got from a Facebook group and the general question was like this. “Hey, I need help. We’re coming up on a few years here and I’ve adjusted to life and you made friends, it’s really nice, but to be honest, I miss my people. I miss my friends and my family back home. And you know what? When we talked about coming here, we saw it as a chance to explore Europe and travel and have adventure and we said sure we’ll see you there for a couple years and then we’ll go back to our home base. But our homebase, honestly when I compare it now, it’s kind of hectic in comparison. I mean the air quality is poor, kids have fewer green spaces and life is just so busy. Now I’m wondering, is home base good enough anymore? We’re in a great position because my partner has a chance to stay indefinitely, but now that my daughter is heading into school I’m worried that she’s not going to know her family back home, her Grandma and Grandpa, her Auntie’s, her cousins. I feel like I’m robbing her of something important that I had as a kid, I grew up going to Grandma and Grandpa’s every Sunday and now her Grandma is thousands of miles away, what should I do?”

All right, this might sound familiar, some of you have been here before. Are we going to stay in the country or move out of the country? Here is what I have to offer; What if you can have both? What if you can live there and make a plan for your daughter to have epic experiences with Auntie’s, Grandma’s and Grandpa’s and cousins over the holidays in winter or maybe summer break. Before you look at whether you should stay or go name your needs. What is the need here? I mean, you probably heard it, the need is for connection with your family. The need that is being met right now in your current location is quality of life for your family, less hectic, higher air quality, more freedom for your kids, but the need that’s not met is this connection. So what do you do get creative? How can you meet that need? There are so many ways that that can take form. So, I grew up with Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, Aunties and Uncles and cousins in my hometown, but I also grew up with the same who I only saw in summers. Both sides I hold dearly in my heart, with both sides I have cherished memories. So if you’re in the same situation as the Mama who is worried about her daughter and not knowing if they should stay or go, my invitation to you is; Why is it so tempting to stay? What needs are being met? And write it down, because when you look at that, maybe they’re trivial or maybe they’re really important, maybe it’s your need for safety, maybe it’s a need for freedom, maybe it’s something health-wise, It’s really important. Okay, then look at that yearning inside your belly that’s making you think “Maybe I should leave.” What is that need? And for her it was connecting with family, all right well how else can you get that need met? I know for me when we decided to stay a bit longer in South Africa. I said one of the needs I have is to connect more often with some of my friends back in Switzerland. So that is the need I’m going to work on nurturing.

Okay, so there you have it, if you are in a similar situation where you are having the dilemma, should we stay or should we go? Something as big as whether you stay in the country or you leave, stop thinking about strategy and start focusing first on your needs because maybe you can have both.

All right, that’s one scenario.

Now, let’s look at another one. Imagine you are living your life abroad, you’ve got the job, your partner is happy and suddenly you get that dreaded phone call. There’s a serious illness in your extended family. And it is so serious that your stomach just drops and you know that you’ve got to make a decision. “Do I keep going on with my life as is or do I do something dramatic and different and go be with my family member?” Maybe it is a serious illness, or maybe it is a fall that an aging parent had, something happens where you get that phone call and you know, things are going to change.

Okay, so when I worked with someone in a similar situation we looked at. “Okay, what do I do? I don’t know what to do, here, I am faced with this dilemma  I feel like I can’t have the right answer.” First piece of advice is; when you’re in kind of a traumatic shock of “Oh my gosh, they had the bad fall” or “Oh my gosh, they’ve got the diagnosis” that is square one of change which is called death and rebirth, meaning everything was going along fine and boom there’s this event that happens and puts you into a new life. Like she was fine before now she’s not walking. Whatever it is and what you want to do when everything changes is you want to be careful not to make a life-changing decision in that moment of upheaval. So if you get that scary diagnosis from someone you love or the fall that puts your loved one in the hospital and you know things aren’t going to be the same anymore. You need to nurture yourself, take care of yourself, make sure that you’re okay so you can think clearly. Go to your family, be with your loved ones in whatever way you need to but don’t dramatically resign from anything before you’ve had a moment to sort of stop spinning from the news.

Okay, then you can ask yourself; “Now what? What do we do now?” So on the call with one of my clients we had that thing of like “What do I do? Should I go? Should I stay? When do I go? How do I go?” etcetera etcetera. Now you’re trying to make a decision. First thing you can do is base it on your values, you’re trying to make a good decision but what does that mean? What’s good? You want to make the right decision but based on what? Based on your values, so think about that in this case, It’s about being close to family, physically close, physically present with family. So then you ask yourself “So what happens if I stay? What’s the worst thing that could happen if I stay? What’s the best thing could happen?” So in this case it was “Well wait a minute, you know after the diagnosis the condition could get worse and if I stay and it gets worse and worse and we miss out on time with each other? Best case scenario the condition gets better and okay I invested some time and money in trips across the world.” Then you look at the other side, What if you go? worst case scenario the condition worsens and you had time together. Best-case scenario, condition gets better and you made a grand gesture of love and you had bonus time together. Right? Looking not just at pros and cons because that’s so rational, It’s not emotional, It’s not value-based. If you look at what is the core value here, and in this case it was being present in the person’s life as they were dealing with the new situation, right? So if you name your value and then it’s worth looking at what’s the worst that could happen and the best that could happen, because it puts everything in crystal clarity. So as a result of this situation, it was clear it was about being physically present to support that was the primary value, but a second one right underneath there was about keeping the person’s career alive. And your career doesn’t compete with family, right, but it’s still important. It’s still about bread-and-butter, It’s still about taking care of your family. It’s also about not sabotaging, decades of hard work for something that could last three months or six months or who knows.

So then what you want to explore is what if you could really be present physically and not sabotage your second value? And in this case it was keeping your career alive, Again what if you could have both? That is such an important question to ask when you’re in that dilemma because we get when we’re trying to make a decision. We’re like yes or no? Black or white? Stay or go? What if we can have both? What would that look like? Ask yourself that. And then you can say “What would help me say yes to, let’s say going with my whole heart? What are the conditions? What has to happen?” And then you might do the other side, what if you say, “Feeling like staying is the right thing, if I stay how can I stay without regret?” And this is a way you generate new questions, new solutions, instead of the simple form of stay or go.

And here’s a quick caveat; There are times when you’re in a dilemma and you don’t even have to think about it, you get that phone call and you’re on the absolute next plane out, you know deep down in your whole body boom, and you’re gone. So trust yourself when it is such a clear case you’re going to do the right thing. When you are in a complex dilemma, deep breath, take care of yourself and then do the work that you’re not trapping yourself in a dichotomy of stay or go, yes or no. That you’re going the extra step to find the most optimal solution for you that’s in alignment with your values.

Okay, so our third should we stay or should we go might also sound familiar. Some of you might be in long-distance relationships, some of you might be in a fly in or fly out situation, some of you might be looking at; “Are we going to make the job change which will impact where we live geographically?” So for this couple, they are in a situation where they were living separately, one of them was looking for an opportunity which was going to limit the amount of travel that was happening. The other was with the kids and happy and adjusted, running their thing. It was manageable, but it was not ideal. Suddenly an opportunity came up, an opportunity they had never thought of before and to be honest they didn’t have a lot of time to consider it. There was a little bit of like an edginess to it where they didn’t know if there would be a risk or not security-wise because of where it was in the world, but still it felt like an opportunity to meet their need of being with each other more frequently. You know, some of you who are listening have been there, where all of a sudden you get the call and then the opportunity comes up and you have to make a decision. I don’t know if you’ve got 24 hours, 48 hours or two weeks, whatever it is you’re completely uprooting your life and need to give them a yes or a no.

Here’s one strategy that worked for this couple. It’s as simple as saying “If we say yes to this what are we saying no to? If we say yes to this, what are we saying yes to?” And then listen in your body to how it feel. There’s no right or wrong answer here it matches for you because what, you know for example, if I say yes to uncertainty that might be a big hell no for someone but saying yes to uncertainty might be a big yes from someone else depending on where they’re at in their life. Maybe they’re bored, maybe they want uncertainty right? So there’s no judgment, there’s no right answer, It’s the right answer for you. So for this couple it looked like this; “If we say yes to this opportunity we’re going to say no to uncertainty, no to the fly-in fly-out family life, no to solo parenting for one person, no to exhaustion. If we say yes to this opportunity we say yes to being together as a family.” If you say yes to this opportunity you say yes to being together as a family, soon regaining stability and a new career opportunity or job satisfaction. So if you’re in this situation, you can see how it helps you or the family see things differently. And then you go further. “Well, what if we say no?” if you say no to this opportunity you say no to your partner’s career advancement for sure and you say no to future opportunities in a new region or the new field depending on your situation. If you say no to the opportunity you say yes to one more year of separation and yes to more time in the home country.

Okay, so it sounds repetitive. Yes, yes, no, no, no, yes, etcetera, etcetera. But believe me if you try it out It will uncover the thing that goes “Wham that is the right answer for me.” You’ll get to one part of the list and your whole body goes boom or you read it and you’re like “everything sings” and that is where you are getting the best information again. Someone else might say yes with her whole body to more time in the home country and think it’s okay with one more year of separation. Another family, that is a big no go. So give it a try when you’re looking at something where you’re like “Should we keep going? Should we stop?” Whatever the Dilemma is just try “If I say yes I’m saying no to this, if I say yes I’m saying yes to that” and then flip it around for the nose because it helps you mindfully make a choice to see what the implications are of your decision and I tell you what, your body is the compass to help, you know which is right direction because your whole body will light up on one yes or one no or it’ll sink and then you are much better able to make a decision. It also gets you out of this pro and con, pro and con is so fixed it either goes only in this column or that column and come on I mean if you ever wrote a pro and con list about having kids or be all these cons on one pro and the pro would be having kids. We all know having kids is a massive joy and is worth it but looking at it on a pro and con list you probably wouldn’t agree with it. So you need to access big decisions differently.

Okay, so what we’ve done today, we looked at three different scenarios from individuals just like you trying to decide yes, or no stay or go. And what I want you to take away for your next big decision is instead of getting stuck on the right strategy, focus first on your needs. “How can we get our needs met as a global family?” Because when you’re living this International life things are not so simple.

Tip two is; When your in upheaval step back and give yourself some time if you know you’re feeling the upheaval, you’re feeling the stress, don’t Make Any life-changing decisions unless it’s crystal clear to you. You can go further and play with best-case scenario, worst-case scenario and how to optimize. And remember to make your decisions based on your values. So it’s like “What should we do? Okay what are my values? and then I can base my decision.” Okay, don’t forget to try out the yes and no combination and listen to your body and what feels right?

Listen, our lives are complicated, there are no right or wrong or easy answers and so many times the only person who can answer that is you. This is the one thing that I’ve learned in 10 years of coaching expats. It’s not as simple as “Should I learn the local language or not?” where you have a pretty easy yes or no based on your circumstance. These are messy complicated things with multiple factors in our global family. Again going back to our original starting episode of this whole series on global families. It is like the mobile, or if you touch one side the whole thing moves. So you’re looking for anchors you looking for alignment and these are a few strategies that should help you on your way.

If you’ve got another kind of dilemma, like you’re thinking “Wait a minute Sundae, I don’t have to change my whole career or whether I’m going to stay in this country or not.” Maybe you are just wondering “Should I stay here for home break or make the trek with my kids to see my family?” Then you can go to episode 45 where we look at “Should I stay or should I go? An expat holiday guide”

For bigger dilemmas in this global family life, I have got something special for you. I know one of the biggest dilemmas that I’ve seen recently after the five day challenge on becoming an even better global parent to your kids, that the desire to give your best your global family without losing yourself is burning. No matter what kind of transition you’re in we are in this place of “I want to do the best for my family and not get lost along the way.’ You want to help them through tough transitions, stay connected with friends and family afar, embrace your cultural values, while also teaching them about the local culture and be truly present so you don’t miss this golden time.

I get that, and that is why I’ve designed a program called Global Parenting on Purpose. It is an experience, me, you and a group of fellow expats who are committed to helping you take back control, be more present, feel less guilty, be more confident in your strategies, create connection and find purpose outside of being a parent or a spouse, essentially making you a priority while you’re serving your global family. So check it out if this resonates with you and you’ve got some dilemmas that are related to your global family we have got your back. Check it out The link is in the blog under global family on purpose.

So you might have started this call feeling a little bit like Tommy Cooper a Welsh comedian and magician. He says “I used to be indecisive but now I’m not quite sure.” I hope that with today’s Insight in our episode you feel like you’re on a new path.

This is Sundae Schneider Bean and you’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour.

Thank you for being here.

I will leave you with the thoughts from Lou Holtz, “You will never be indecisive if you know your purpose.”

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The post 116: Breaking Through The Stay Or Go Dilemma appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Mar 24 2019



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Rank #3: 136: The Sad Tagalong Spouse?

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Dictionary Merriam-Webster defines tagalong as “one that persistently and often annoyingly follows the lead of another.”

I laughed and thought, annoying to whom? 

When it comes to expats, a burden falls on the accompanying spouse. Frequently, they sacrifice their independence, lose their identity, and reside in the supporting role of someone else’s movie. (When they were quite comfortable and capable of starring lead in their own.)

As if that’s not enough, we then roll our eyes when they express their discontent. We scoff and brand them ungrateful and selfish for wanting more than homemaker/parent/volunteer/enjoyer of freedom and adventure. 

This week’s call with Melanie will blow up the cliché of the “trailing” spouse. It’s raw, familiar, and packed with “a-ha” relief.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • “Unless” what? Drilling out your true self-fulfillment must-have
    • The “good mother” vs. the “serious professional” paradox
    • Your behavior as a result of your bruised self-worth
    • How to combat biochemical reaction, and tell your brain that you’re safe.

Gaslighting ends here. Get ready to straighten some stuff out, pronto.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

Download Transcript

Hello, it is 5am in New York, 11am in Johannesburg and 4pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

“I’m the cliche trailing spouse.” She said, “I’ve got no excuse but to be happy because I’ve got everything and we’re financially secure.”

What you’re going to hear from Melanie are probably things you’ve thought and felt but never dared say out loud.

In fact, it’s so common, as the words were coming out of her mouth, I felt like I’ve been hearing it a hundred times over.

This episode of Expat Happy Hour is special because it is a live coaching call with Melanie. Someone who’s been an accompanying partner through five countries, five rotations around the world. Someone who is super accomplished, a wonderful parent and a supportive spouse and struggling. I share this with you, and I have permission from Melanie to share this with you, because I want you to know that you’re not alone. And you might hear something that sounds familiar and helps shift your perspective too.

I’m sharing this with you as well because it’s part of our special series on the expat quicksand, the four areas that so many people struggle to get out of. That means looking for more connection, getting unstuck, purpose and meaning. And this week’s episode really hones in on our focus of purpose. 

If you are hungry for purpose then make sure that you check out the links in the show notes because we’ve got a purpose challenge going on starting August 19th in the group Expats On Purpose and you don’t want to miss it. 

So we’ll keep our focus on purpose by listening in on to what are in her words “Trailing spouse.” And find out what she can do to start trailblazing.

Sundae: So Melanie what has to happen in the next thirty to forty minutes for you to say this was worth your time. 

Melanie: Oh, you start tough Sundae. That I will feel better and not that guilty anymore, but I’m not sure if the session is intended to do that. 

Sundae: Okay, well, we will see what emerges. So when you and I talked before briefly, you were sharing how you were feeling guilty about living in sort of one of those dream countries and still feeling depressed. Can you say more?

Melanie: Yeah, This is my fifth expectoration assignment and I’m in contact with a lot of expats also in my professional career. So hearing from all the stories where people move, how often they move, under what conditions they move. I feel like I have been hitting the jackpot again and again and again and I am in a beautiful country which is supposed to be one of the easiest countries. We’re happy and healthy, we have everything we need, we don’t move sooner than two years, we have no financial worries or anything. And still I’m depressed and this is really hard because if you compare your life to others you think, “Why there’s no reason for that.” I have no reason and no excuse not to be happy. 

Sundae: Oh you sound like so many people that I’ve worked with, this idea of “I should just be grateful.” Here’s the thing, you know, what I hear from you is that you are aware of the privileges that you have, you’re grateful for your health, your family, the security that you have and something is missing. If you’re really honest with yourself, what do you feel is missing?

Melanie: Appreciation, it’s probably I see my own life just passing and having accomplished a lot professionally and financially and being out here and being the cliche of the trailing spouse, it’s just very annoying.

Sundae: Melanie what I think I hear from you is huge grief for loss of an identity. It’s like I’m hearing like you’ve lost a part of yourself that is important to you. Tell me where I’m wrong?

Melanie: That’s probably it, yeah. And as I continue with my learning and academic learning and I have accumulated so many certificates and studies and whatever it’s kind of embarrassing. If I talk to people and I tell them what I’ve done it’s kind of embarrassing. I mean it looks like bragging, but I still don’t have a job. 

Sundae: Yeah, you know, I know a lot of women they’ve got like three master’s degrees or two masters degrees and a PhD or three certificates in some sort of specialized practice and they’re still hungry for a sense of purpose. So here’s the thing Melanie, from what I know, from the research I’ve done and the work that I’ve done with women who are exactly in your same situation, is there’s this sense of guilt like “I should be happy with what I have.” And what’s crazy is that we are biologically programmed for purpose. That in fact people with a weak sense of purpose versus a strong sense of purpose are at equally great health risks as smokers and those who are obese. 

So from my perspective what I’m hearing is, biologically you’re suffering because you’re hungry for a sense of purpose and that sense of purpose and direction and meaning hasn’t been met yet. And at the same time we don’t have any permission, there’s no permission socially for that right? Like people tell you you should be happy, you should be grateful.

Melanie: That also happens. I think that socially it is expected to be happy with my purpose of holding the family together. But that’s not what I expect from my life.

Sundae: Right, it’s so hard to be a woman and I’ve shared this before with others. There was a woman in one of my groups, a trailblazing spouse group, and she talked about how in the market in Burkina Faso and Ouagadougou, when you make a negotiation you offer a price to the merchant and the merchant hears the price and they say, I think it’s going to be bad French, C’est bien, mais ce n’est pas arrivé, which means it’s good, but it’s hasn’t arrived yet, it’s not enough. 

And that’s the thing with motherhood, with being a spouse who’s financial needs are met and can see the world. You have no permission to say ce n’est pas arrivé, you can’t say that it’s not good enough, there’s zero permission for that. 

So what if you had permission Melanie, what if you had permission? And science actually says you have purpose –  that lack of purpose is actually life-threatening. What if you had permission to want more?

Melanie: I have the permission, of course I can go out and look for a job and my husband encourages that. It’s this weird situation where you find yourself, you were always independent and in charge of your life and all of a sudden you see yourself thrown back in the 50s. And then finding a job is one thing, getting the job is another thing and then you know exactly when the call comes and you move again. It’s not my stuff that holds us back. 

Sundae: Okay, so let’s look at this from another perspective. What I’m hearing from you is that based on your education, your professional path, one way to feel that sense of purpose is through your job, and then it’s going to take awhile to get it. Like normally it takes six months, a year, eighteen months to get a job. And as what you said is you’re scared because you might move before then. So I don’t want you to wait. So let’s imagine, just play with me for a second, what will you get when you get the job? How will you feel when you get the job?  Just play for a second with me, what are three things that pop up?

Melanie: Sense of purpose, I’ll be busy, I’ll be out with adults, I can apply my professional skills and I’ll feel needed probably and valued.

Sundae: This is so deep, I don’t think people get that, how deep that need is to feel valued and purposeful. So when you get the job you’re going to feel a sense of purpose, you’re going to feel valued, you’re going to feel needed, you’re going to feel busy, you’ll have adult interaction and you’ll be applying your skills. 

I don’t want you to wait for the next six months, twelve months or whatever it is for you to feel this way. Yes, still do the job search, but let’s get creative, let’s look at ways you can feel more of that now until you get the job.

So I want you to pick one, valued sense of purpose, feel needed, out with adults, apply skills, busy. Where do you want to start?

Melanie: Busy is easy, busy I am anyway. 

Sundae: Let’s scratch that one off the list then.

Melanie: Valued.

Sundae: I’m going to ask you to do something that might feel like a stretch. But we’re just going to play and we’re going to see what pops up, and if you need a second to be quiet, to let it emerge then I invite you to do that.

What could you do now, this week, next week so that you feel valued?

Melanie: Apply my skills in the volunteer work again.

Sundae: Say more? Is that something that you’re doing now? Are you volunteering now? 

Melanie: Yeah. 

Sundae: Okay, I have a hunch, Melanie that you’re volunteering and you’re not stepping back to see the value that you add –  tell me where I’m wrong?

Melanie: I am valued by others, it’s just not the same.

Sundae: Say more.

Melanie: It’s hard to say. Why is it the paycheck that makes me feel valued? 

Sundae: “So in order for me to be valuable, I have to get paid.” I have a hunch that’s the thought that you’re believing. 

I’m gonna go with this for a second here, “In order for me to be valuable, I have to get paid.” Is that true? 

We’re going to do something from Byron Katie called “The work.” All I need is a yes or a no. 

Is that true “In order for me to be valuable I have to get paid? Yes or no?

Melanie: Scientifically, I would say no, but for me personally, probably yes, yes.

Sundae: So is it a hundred percent scientifically true “In order for me to be valuable I have to get paid.” Yes or no? 

Melanie: No.

Sundae: Okay, so we’re going to just keep playing, you’re doing a great job, you’re doing a great job playing here. You can believe this thought afterwards, we’re just gonna for a moment hold that space. 

So, “I’m not valuable unless I get paid.” Or “In order for me to be valuable I have to get paid.” Which one resonates with you more? “I’m not valuable unless I get paid.” Or “In order to be valuable, I have to get paid.”

Melanie: I’m sorry. I’m really messing up this game, but neither nor because although I think I’m not valued, I’m valued by others. 

Sundae: So here’s what I’m hearing, “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” 

Melanie: Yes, now we get there. 

Sundae: Is that true? “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” 

Melanie: Yes.

Sundae: Is that scientifically true? “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.”

I have no attachment to the answer. There’s no right or wrong answer.

Melanie: You are not wrong.

Sundae: Okay, so what I’m hearing up until now from you, what is true for you is “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” It’s not about being valued by others, it’s about valuing yourself. Tell me where I’m wrong?

Melanie: Yeah.

Sundae: Yeah, okay, boom that’s it. There you go Melanie, that’s the thought that is torturing you. “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” This practice of not valuing yourself unless you get paid is causing you pain.

And Melanie, I just want you to know I’ve been there, I’ve been there. I mean 20 years ago when I moved to Switzerland, I was I was paid really well in the US for a consulting job I had, in fact, more than any of my friends and I gave it all up. I get it, it sucks. It sucks, I get it. 

Okay, so let’s let’s keep going there, and it’s not serving you right? So let’s look at that “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.”

How’s that working for you?

Melanie: Not good, not good because I am chasing getting paid. 

Sundae: Yeah, how do you behave when you live that way that “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” Who do you become? How do you behave when you believe that? 

Melanie: Hard to take, impatient.

Sundae: So when you don’t value yourself then you chase money, you’re hard to take and you’re impatient. 

Melanie: Yeah. I’m grateful as well for being perceived as ungrateful because it’s not, I am not chasing money because I need it. 

It’s a different story. 

It’s rather the contrast when I have a job, my last assignment, I had an extremely well paying job, I made more money than my husband. People said, “How can you do that? You don’t need to do that, you’re neglecting your family.

Sundae: I’m laughing because you can’t win either way right?

Melanie: It is so messed up. 

Sundae: In German, they call it Raben Mutter, when in Swiss German you’re a bad mom if you work more. I’m being a little cheeky now, but I’ve noticed when I was working in Switzerland, there’s like this percentage, you can work 50% and still be a good mom, 60% you’re getting to the end, if you were 80% or more, you’re a bad mom, But if you don’t work more than 80% you’re not a serious professional, so you can’t win.

Melanie: The moment your husband has to iron his own shirt you are absolutely bad.

Sundae: Yeah, we need a name for what kind of a bad spouse you are, you’re bad, way worse. 

So you can’t manage at that game so let’s play by our own rules. This is really interesting. So when you don’t value yourself you chase money, you are hard to take, you’re impatient and you’re perceived as ungrateful. When you actually have the money there’s a whole other dynamic that comes out. 

So let’s play we’re going to we’re going to keep going here. Imagine this connection, you’re connecting your value or your self-worth to the amount of money you’re making.  Who would you be without the thought “My value is connected to the money that I make.”

Melanie: Could your phrase that a little differently?

Sundae: Okay, so I’m hearing there’s when you say “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” You’re connecting your value, your self-worth to how much money you make. 

So let’s just imagine I went into your brain and I disconnected the synapses that are firing. The synapses that are connecting self-worth and money that you make. If I went in there with like a magic coaching laser, and I remove those synapses so you weren’t capable of believing the thought that self-worth is tied to money. Who would you be without that thought?

Melanie: Probably more relaxed, it would however go a little bit against my instincts of preserving my future. As this is I think kind of connected, as long as I can keep going and making my money and getting valued and achieving something professionally, I will be independent in the future as well. However with volunteer work, there’s no winning in the long run. 

Sundae: So there’s a few things I’m hearing. If you were suspending this connection between value, your value and money, you would be more relaxed. I’m also hearing, there’s something I’ve heard that’s new to me that’s emerging. I’m hearing something Melanie, that some core values that you have are independence, sense of achievement and sense of security. Tell me where I’m wrong?

Melanie: No, I think you are completely right there. 

Sundae: So this is this is an important part of the picture here because core values, independence, sense of achievement and security, those are things that you hold dearly and what I’m hearing is one way to achieve to live those values is through your professional career. 

Melanie: Yeah.

Sundae: So it’s like how do we get those needs met? How do we how do we create a life that you can live independently, feel independent, honor those values? How can you live your life so you can honor that sense of achievement and honor that security? And what I’m hearing is your security up until now has been very tied to you as an individual, rather than you is as a family entity. Tell me where I’m wrong?

Melanie: Correct.

Sundae: And I have no idea what your family situation is, I’m wondering, your focus up until now has been as an individual because you’re a strong independent woman. So of course, it’s been there. I’m wondering for the moment how we can create more security, sense of achievement and independence. Because when I look at that, it’s actually how we started, you said to be valued, this idea of achievement, appreciation. You talked about that in the beginning. This sense of purpose I hear is tied to your independence. Like “I am doing this, this is my thing.” And then the financial part that we talked about with the money is probably coming up through the security. 

So I’m shifting here, 

Melanie: You’re doing a great job.

Sundae: We’re dancin’ darling, there’s no script here, we’re just doing, we’re going we’re going.

So I want to check in with you right now, what’s resonating with you right now?

Melanie: Yeah, I think it’s probably I don’t know, probably I shouldn’t rely too much on myself.

Sundae: When I hear that, that I don’t, let me be really honest. I don’t believe you when I hear you say that. In your voice I hear a sense of betrayal to who you are. Tell me where I’m wrong?

Melanie: No, that’s correct. 

Sundae: Okay, what I’m hearing is, instead of focus, like in a widening of focus you are relying on yourself, that’s not going to change you want to rely on yourself. I’m wondering, because you know we get into fight or flight, we want to fight and I think you’re a fighter. Tell me I think if that’s how I read you’re a fighter. So what I hear is like it’s almost like you’re in the woods and your adrenaline is going and you’re fighting, but you’ve got more than just you on the team. And I’m wondering for the sense of security, what if you widen your focused and looked at who else is on your team? Who else is on your team? 

I’m hearing now like this tunnel vision of the job, like the job that you have to get the next six months. Instead of “Wow, look at my great professional background, look at the qualifications I have, look at my network, look at my family security through the other job that’s bringing in revenue in the family. I’m seeing sort of tunnel vision. what is there when you widen your vision, what else is there to give you security? Let’s just brainstorm.

Melanie: My family definitely.

Sundae: Yeah your immediate family, your partner, who else is there?

Melanie: Yes, my partner, the rest of my family is far away.

Sundae: It’s like we have to tell your brain that you’re safe, because you don’t feel safe right now. It is scary when you don’t feel safe. 

Melanie: But why?

Sundae: Because I’ve heard you say that you are someone who relies on herself. And what I’m hearing you do is you’re looking through this tunnel, and are scared because that next job isn’t there yet. And if your view is only through that narrow tunnel of just you alone, and where you have to run to is that job. That feels scary. 

And when I zoom out and listen, Melanie, I’ve been there, I remember I had huge sort of, you know, ugly cry with my husband. I think I was pregnant, I was looking for a job. You can imagine that looking for a job pregnant and I was really scared and he didn’t get it. He did not get it, and he said “Sundae” You know our husbands, I hope he’s not listening because he was right. But he said “Sundae, what are you scared of?” He said “Look at your background, look your education, look at your skills, you’re safe.” And I didn’t see that, it’s that whole lie that we tell ourselves that we’re going to be poor and live in a van down by the river. 

What I know from my other coaching colleagues is even people who have a million dollars say that they’re like, “If we just get to 5 million then I’m going to be financially secure.” I think we just want to be safe, it’s a need that we have, and I’m not a psychologist, I’m sure a psychologist could go deeper with that. And if we looked at your background from childhood, maybe there’s more there. But what I know now is what can serve you and this is what I would like to offer you as an assignment, is to help your amygdala. Your amygdala needs to know it’s safe, so we need to give it evidence.

Okay, what I’ve heard so far is what you’re doing is you’re channeling your vision into now, just you, this tunnel. And for me this image I have in my mind is like the super narrow tunnel thats super tight and there’s only a pinhole of light through this tunnel. That’s where that job is and you’re in the dark by yourself in this tunnel and that feels scary. And I’m asking you to open your vision, to create a larger space in the tunnel and just brainstorm on reasons that you feel safe. 

So that is my assignment for you and I want you to do after our session, is to grab a cup of tea, coffee or wine or whatever and make a list of the evidence, the real-life evidence of why you’re safe. And this is because there’s a biochemical reaction going on that your body that doesn’t know it’s safe actually, and we need to give it evidence so that your nervous system can calm down and that you can relax, because what you said is without the thought you’ll be more relaxed.

Okay, how does that feel feel for an assignment? 

Melanie: Okay, I will try.

Sundae: Melanie your biology, your brain is is in fight mode and so we need to help it feel safe again. And that’s the first step, just the first one. So that’s your assignment, I want you to brainstorm all of the reasons why you’re safe. And because your sense of achievement and your independence is so important, list those too.

And I’m going to invite you to open your perspective and mention the other things that are there next to you.

So what we’re looking at is we started talking about how this sense of wanting to feel needed and valued and a sense of purpose is burning in you, and we discovered that there’s a practice of “I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” And there’s nothing to say you shouldn’t get paid, you should get paid, you should have a job, be valued and get paid. But until that happens I’m seeing an opportunity for you to practice valuing yourself.

Okay, and I say that, I share this with vulnerability, with my own journey I began and that’s part of my journey when I first moved to Switzerland, only valuing myself based on if I got summa cum laude or whether I got the great job or how much money I was making. I realized that I was valuing myself based on a very narrow set of “I thinks.” That’s a scary foundation to stand on and I’m hearing you live in a context, your life abroad, this rotational life, that’s scary because that foundation gets ripped out from under your feet every two to four years. 

So my invitation to you is to find a practice or to begin just gently to begin, what are other ways that you can value yourself. And at the beginning it’s going to be like a cognitive exercise where you just like write down answers because your teacher asks you to write a diameter. Be honest like that “Well, she told me to do it so I’m gonna do that.” But after our session we can talk about what are some other ways that you can practice valuing yourself. I have some more ideas on what you can do because this is one of those things, it’s not like it’s you flip a switch and it’s going to change, this is a practice.

Melanie: It will take a while. 

Sundae: It’s okay. It’s a process. So right now I have an image of what you value yourself for has been a floor of achievement and financial reward and it’s like a plank on a bridge, and sometimes that plank gets removed. So I want to encourage you to think about what are some other planks on the bridge of value that are there and that are true that you can teach yourself to see.

So that’s that’s the journey ahead, so that’s what I’m seeing for you Melanie. You’ve done such an amazing job today, showing up and offering what’s really on your heart and mind and allowing for that vulnerability and what I’m seeing is this strong woman who is fiercely independent and a high achiever, someone who values security. In a completely different culture, a culture that doesn’t all automatically have the container for those values. As a trailing spouse, as an accompanying partner you don’t get that container, you have to freaking fight for it. So how else can you be who you are, that independent person and how can you feel that sense of security?

So I want to just check in with you, tell me what are you seeing differently at the end of our time together that wasn’t there when we started.

Melanie: I think you framed it very well, it’s this tunnel vision, it’s to see the larger perspective of what provides security, to see that. It’s a team effort right, our life, not the individual.

Sundae: You’re not alone. And I know your partner couldn’t do it without you, the security that you create, the stability you create, the sense of connection your family experiences is impossible without you and you are needed on that team. 

You know at the beginning we talked about guilt, you said you wanted to end this call feeling better and the word guilt was coming up. Where do you put guilt now?

Melanie: It has nothing to do with where you go, it’s the situation itself.

Sundae: This is you grappling with a challenging situation, with your core values, with your talent. I have a hunch you are just really smart and a go-getter and that feels natural to you and it’s hard in the life that you’re living because it’s like, stop go, stop go, stop go, and you want to go go go go. So I have a hunch that’s hard, like you said it’s going against your instincts. 

Melanie: Yeah, absolutely, independence is very important.

Sundae: And I’m hearing that the Independence, that value sometimes feels threatened by outside circumstances that are connected to this rotational life. 

Melanie: Of course, it starts with easy things, you can’t even get a driver’s license without your husband.

Sundae: Trying to get a bank account, drivers licence, a passport. That’s the tough part. 

Melanie: In some countries you are not even allowed to work.

Sundae: So here’s the thing, I’m celebrating you for how you’ve shown up. How I heard you start by feeling bad about feeling how you feel. A bit of shaming yourself for feeling who how you do, and I’ve watched you drop that and see something else instead. I’ve watched you acknowledge your core values, I’ve watched you open up to the idea that your body is responding to the situation in a way that doesn’t serve you and I’ve watched you open your perspective to new opportunities. 

So I’m really celebrating you and how you’ve shown up because it’s not easy when you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. What are you most proud of you when you think about how you’ve shown up in our session today?

Melanie: Honest.

Sundae: So hard to be honest with ourselves, let alone someone else.

So Melanie, I’m celebrating you and I want to say thank you for your honesty and for showing up and thank you for sharing who you are, because I know that people who are listening are going to see themselves, and because you shared your story they’re going to see themselves and drop their guard, drop the guilt and open the tunnel to a new possibility to do it differently so they can feel differently and show up differently for themselves and their families. 

So thank you so much for sharing your story today.

Melanie: You’re welcome, thank you for the opportunity.

So there you have it, one conversation with a woman just like you who’s processing her grief at a loss of an identity. Someone who went from working at a respectable job making money to grasping at a concept of herself when she was in a new position of the accompanying partner and looking for work. 

Maybe there is something she said that sounded like your own thoughts, maybe some of the things she shared mirrored her own fears, maybe there’s something new for you that you’re walking away with, like we’re biologically programmed for purpose and how hard it is for us because we do not have permission to want more.

This episode has asked you to consider, what if you had permission to want more? What if you accepted that purpose is important and worth pursuing no matter how wonderful other parts of your life are? And what have you acknowledged how deep that need is to feel valued and purposeful?

Today Melanie was grasping with the thought, “I don’t feel value, I don’t value myself unless I get paid.” And we walked through her own process and discovered that her vision was narrowed and her process was to open that to see what else could bring her security. 

But from you it might be different there might be something else that swirling around in your mind and heart that is keeping you stuck and pushing that craving for purpose. 

So I look forward to joining you in this journey to help you find more purpose. 

This is all part of the four-part series on expat quick sand. If you have not yet signed up you are warmly welcome to my purpose challenge that is taking place in the Facebook group Expats on Purpose. 

You have been listening to Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean. 

Thank you for listening. 

I’ll leave you with the words of Suze Ormon “There’s nothing wrong with saying I want to have more. I want to be more.”

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The post 136: The Sad Tagalong Spouse? appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Aug 11 2019



Rank #4: 126: What Every International School Counsellor Wishes You Knew

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Wouldn’t you love to know exactly what’s happening behind the scenes with your kids? What they are really feeling? How they are really coping with transition? How would you like to get the inside scoop from somebody who watches your kids when they are at their best and supports them at their worst?

Our special guest, Eliza Pomiecinska, is an international school counsellor, psychologist, play therapist and she’s privy to what you need to support your international kids.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • The mistakes we often make when we think of transition  
    • Solid advice for both the stayers and the leavers
    • What we often get wrong with grief
    • The unexpected posture we should take when we meet new families
    • And more

This episode invites you to give yourself permission to be real with yourself and your kids. Listen in to find out how to support their transitions and make the most of their international lives.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Don’t miss this opportunity to get coached by Sundae – for FREE.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

So there’s someone that you might know that has a behind-the-scenes view of kids living abroad that we often ignore and the person I’m thinking of is the international school counsellor. Can you imagine what they are privy to. The international school counsellor knows all of the kids in the school, has dealt with so many cultures and watches kids when they’re at their best and supports them when they feel the worst.

Don’t you kind of want to know what they know, don’t you wish that you had their wisdom so that you can support your kids in the best way possible that is exactly why I’ve invited an international school counsellor to Expat Happy Hour.

It is my pleasure to welcome Eliza Pomieinska to Expat Happy Hour today. Eliza is a trained school counsellor, psychologist, play therapist, and she’s worked in both primary and secondary schools on three different continents, North America, Africa and Asia. She specializes in attachment, childhood trauma, transitions, parenting, depression and anxiety.

Wow, it is such a pleasure to have Eliza here today and I want to say something before she joins us. I met Eliza at an event in South Africa and the moment I met her I was impressed. She gets it, this woman is so savvy on international transitions and what we know about third culture and cross-cultural kids. I knew immediately I needed to invite her on Expat Happy Hour.

Sundae: So Eliza, welcome to Expat Happy Hour we are so excited to learn from you today. If you could scream into the void, what are one or two things that you wish every parent at the international school knew?

Eliza: Okay, thank you Sundae. So I think the number one thing that I wish that every parent of an international kid knew, is that your kids are always in transition. So it doesn’t really matter whether they’re moving or whether they’re being left behind, they’re in transition one way or another. And a lot of times as expats we assume or parents we assume “Oh we’re not moving this year, we’re not moving until two years from now or three years from now so that T word, transition word is not really pertinent to our family this year.” But the thing that I would like you to consider as a parent of a third culture kid, is that a lot of their friends are moving.

So for example this week, it was the second before last week of school. I went into our classes, kids classes and we talked about what does it mean to be a Third Culture Kid? And what does it mean to transition? And have you ever moved? How many countries have you lived in? And so forth.

And when I asked how many  of you had your friends move? Virtually half of the certain classes would raise their hands. And how many of you miss your friends? And how many of you stay in touch with your friends? And so forth. And how many of you had friends move unexpectedly and you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye? And how many of you are moving this year and how many of you are staying?

So it’s a very confusing world and even though your family might not be moving, your kids friends are moving.

Sundae: Well, here’s what I want to do, I want to jump in with a story that I think I’ve shared on social media and I’m not proud to share it to be really honest.

So I’m an intercultural transition specialist. I should know this, I should live this.

It was last year, we were moving and I was busy at the end of the year, we were going. And I knew I had to pick up one of my sons and one of his friends was moving, and I know that right? And I was doing all the right things, like we’re going to have a good night sleep over or the double sleepover and all the things, you know, so they can have their transition time.

From the outside it might have looked like I was doing the right things, but I personally did not prepare myself for the transition, because I went to the school, and I walk up and there is, I’m gonna have a lump in my throat just talking about it, there’s like 11 boys clamoring on each other, half of them are wailing and my sons in the mix, all these emotions are there and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is massive.” And I text messaged the mother and I’m like “It is so mean of you to send me to pick up the boys.” And you know, “Why aren’t you here with me?”

And it just took me completely off guard because I felt like they’re transitioning right? Like they’re the ones transitioning, I’m doing a good job of making sure my son has, you know the right raft built for his friend to leave, but I wasn’t personally, emotionally preparing myself. And I honestly wonder if I was doing enough before to have conversations with my son about how he was processing it.

I had set up the events but not as much the conversations. And as I’m talking my throat is tight because that was such a sad scene that I walked into and I was not ready because I felt like “Yay, we’re gold, I’ve got another year or whatever.”

So I think it’s really important, that I’m just going to sort of reiterate what Eliza just said.

If you are in an international school system, even if you live in the local country. Like in Switzerland, I know Swiss who go to national school systems, your kids are still in transition because kids go and they fall in love with their friends and they have to say goodbye and it’s special if you’re the stayer versus if you’re leaver.

So I think that’s really important.

So what advice would you give for the stayers and leavers that you think is missed, you know what I mean?

Eliza: So I don’t think it’s missed on purpose, but I think it’s missed that we as parents always want to make sure that our kids are okay. So we want to solve everything for them. We want to make sure that they’re not hurting. Where in turn I think as parents we have to a, cut yourself a break, because even now you’re getting that tight throat and you did the best you could. And I think that is the thing about parenting we all do the best we can by our kids.

And you know hindsight is always 20/20 so we can always say we would have done it differently. But now you’re going to remember for next time when like this year when your son’s friends leave you’re going to have those conversations with him, and you have done already. So it’s different right?

So I think cutting yourself a break as a parent and also realizing that you are in transition as well, not only your children are in transition. That’s important because feelings come up and transition that we felt that we dealt with. And we often times forget ourselves and we want to make sure our kids are okay, so we want to make sure that we equip them the right way. So we encourage them and we jump in with those, “Oh sweetie, don’t worry, when we move to Switzerland this is going to be the first time ever that we’re going to be living in a snow country and you have no idea, and I’m going to share all the stories from my own childhood and you’re going to learn how to ski and we’re going to do all these things as a family.”

Yes and we encourage, encourage, encourage, without comforting or actually recognizing and validating that emotion of loss.

Sundae: Yeah, that’s what we talked about with Ruth Van Reken in episode 125 about the difference between when we’re grieving, that we really need to work on comforting before we encourage.

Eliza: And I think it’s especially interesting right now with parenting because it’s all about positive affirmation and attachment parenting and really trying to help your children see the bright side and all of that. And it can actually be really developmentally damaging for your kids in their grief process.

Sundae: I actually posted a topic about this in my Facebook group Expats On Purpose, and one woman who grew up as a Third Culture Kid said her parents never gave her space to grieve. So 30 years later when she has her kids, she’s processing her grief from way way way back then. So even though it’s uncomfortable, I think it’s important for us to comfort before encourage.

And I think like you were saying, for us like I’m losing a friend this year who’s moving and have I done a good enough job at throwing myself a pity party? “Like, this is hard, this is going to be sad.”

Eliza: Right I know and I have seen the pity party and that was pretty fun. and I have attended the pity party. I would like to call it, It was an extremely happy hour.

Sundae: No, but I think it’s something we need to do.

So, just to reiterate here, comfort before encourage. So what would that look like? So if I really wanted to say “Oh honey, you’ll have new friends and you’ll find other people and don’t worry that other friend is still here.” That’s what I want to do, and I know that’s not the right thing.

What should I do instead? How can I comfort?

Eliza: So recognizing the feeling, “I know you’re really sad, I know this sucks, I know this is feeling awful. You know what? I am going through my own transition as well, my friend so-and-so is leaving, and you know I can relate to how you’re feeling, It is really sad and I feel your pain.”

Basically, and then just like sit together, you can sit together in silence, you can stroke your kids, hair and just say “I know” and sit in sadness. Allow time to feel sad, because sometimes sadness is uncomfortable and a lot of times as adults we feel like we don’t want our kids to be sad. “Let’s fix it, let’s focus on the future.” Where in turn you really need to allow them and give them that permission and also give that permission to yourself, because I think as much as we want to think positively and be strong we also have to allow ourselves grief time. The grieving, the mourning, the loss, and you know it’s okay to be sad.

Allow them and allow ourselves, and when you allow yourself to be sad and when you talk about it with your with your kid, it allows them to be sad and it gives them time and encouragement comes later.

Sundae: I want to ask the audience, think about how many times have you cried in front of your kids during transition? Like how many times have you missed a friend and hid your sadness right? And what if you were able to create more space for that and say “I’m struggling right now.” And what would that do for your kids? What would that teach your kids?

Eliza: And I think that would be a great thing to do because a lot of us don’t want to appear weak because then we feel like our kids will not feel supported. And it’s actually counterintuitive because through you or me feeling and showing my kid. “Yes. I’m going through this as well, I am upset, I’m having a difficult time.” And of course then not just using our children as our therapist, but just saying I understand.

Sundae: So just modeling it.

Now I’m jumping in here with an aside, because after the interview Eliza grabbed a book from my table. The book is called The Discomfort Zone and she looks me square in the eyes and she says “Sundae this is it, what if we taught our kids to do a better job at sitting in the discomfort? What if we as parents taught ourselves to sit in the discomfort?”

And she’s right.

This is everything that I do in coaching as well when we’re coming up against a feeling that’s uncomfortable like fear or grief, what we want to do is move away from it. Dr. Martha Beck calls it the ring of fire, that we get up to the heat and it burns and we want to move away but the only way through our emotions, the only way to go to the other side is to walk through the discomfort, to sit in it till it burns off and we can transform it to understanding.

So sitting in that discomfort of grief and loss and transition, all of those things are a big part of about understanding that our kids are always in transition.

Eliza went on to talk about the second thing she wishes that every international school parent knew, and that is, don’t assume anything.

She starts off talking about when we as parents meet others that seem like us, we can’t assume that we know how they parent. And she brings up this topic when it comes to child protection.

Eliza: But I would have those conversations, and I think that creates openness in an open dialogue.

We did child protection lessons with our kids, all of our school actually in January and it was just interesting in terms of how different our cultural values are. And we as parents often times assume that our kids friends parents, maybe because they’re also American or maybe because they’re also French or Canadian or whoever they are. We assume often times they have very similar values two ours, and we don’t have those conversations about you know, like for example when you come to my house there’s certain rules. Right, and when I would ask kids “So, you know, are you guys allowed sleepovers?” And a lot of the kids, and you know that is also a very cultural thing whether you’re allowed to sweep over and whose house are you allowed to sleep over. some parents are only culturally similar people. So meaning Americans with Americans, but it’s an international community, you know, like it doesn’t really mean that we have the same values. Some people say only family members, but we don’t have any family members in this country.

So it’s all different, but I think it’s important to have these types of conversations, When you have a playdate in your house, is there an adult present? So I asked that very question in our child protection lessons.

Sundae: So inside my head it’s like of course there’s going to be an adult present, right? And the answer is?

Eliza: And the answer is over half of the students in class and not every class but in many different classrooms from grade 1, actually from grade Pre-K or KG to grade 5 would say “No.” I would say, “Sometimes or not during the whole time?” Because sometimes the parents go out, dinner and they’re just a phone call away. But you know what happens if ….

Sundae: My arm hair is standing up, I am protecting my kids already. I’m not even, this is like a fantasy scenario and I am already ready to jump on something like your rabid tiger. For me, and this is again, it’s a cultural thing, it’s not even in my brain to think I would leave my young kids alone. Even if they can dial a telephone, right? That’s just for me. I just had that physical response, for other people it’s like “Relax, they’re fine., my kids are independent and capable and it’s a safe environment.” And also how safe it is compared to where they have lived? It’s so relative.

So I’m going to just recap here, what we started talking about the understanding of, as an international school counsellor you want to tell people;

“Keep in mind your kids are in transition and also honor that you’re in transition.”

We talked about when we have that grief, comfort before encourage.

And now what I’m hearing you say is that because we’re in an international environment we can’t assume similarity. And what I think is the most interesting is when we can assume, you know, when you’re in this international environment people might look different and sound different from you. So when you find people who look and sound like you, you assume similarity.

And actually what we’ve talked about privately is, don’t assume you understand their background, because you might share a national passport but your cultural values might be totally different and influenced by your religion, your life experience, where you lived abroad, etc. etc.

And what I’m hearing from you is that it could be something as important as child safety.

Eliza: Exactly child safety, and that is verified by the children who I serve as a counsellor. And when asked a lot of kids very openly shared things like;

“Do you know are you allowed sleepovers?”

“Yes, I’m allowed sleepover.”

“So, was there an adult present or how many of you have had a, not even sleep over a playdate afternoon where an older sibling was watching you?”

“So how many you know know that older sibling?”


“So how much older were they?”

I mean I went through, like they’re in third grade, they’re in fourth grade, they’re in fifth grade. So sometimes it would be siblings that are only two years older. So sometimes they’re 10 and the kids they’re watching are 8 or 7.

Sundae: It sounds like 1982, I grew up like that. Sometimes when I worry about my parenting I’m like “You know what we made it.” Like that’s kind of what happened in 1982 with my family. “Mom, I hope you’re not listening.”

Eliza: But did you have a swimming pool?

Sundae: No, but we did play with knives and we did start fires and we did explode blenders. We did light off fireworks with our bare hands.  And I hope my son isn’t listening!

There’s something else about here and we are in a cultural transition ourselves and you might feel so different in your location, that when you do see someone from your national passport or whatever where you’re hungry for similarity and then you miss that.

Another thing I think is interesting is, that I navigated in West Africa, was the nanny culture. I didn’t grow up in a nanny culture, Switzerland doesn’t have a nanny culture. So when we got to West Africa, there was a nanny culture called nousnouss. And there were pools and I remember explicitly saying in this one situation, “No pool, under no circumstances can my kids go in the pool.” And it was in my mind I’m crystal clear, and I came over where the two nannies that were in charge of the families were there, and they had their swim trunks on and they were about to jump into the pool. And I lost it, I was like, “Are you kidding me?” Because it was seriously scary for me with my kids. And one of the nannies was on the phone with the mother to ask is it okay. Because one of the boys was basically bossing his nanny around.

Eliza: So yes, I think that’s another interesting phenomenon just living internationally. Yes the nanny culture, but also who is boss. We assume that the adult is in charge. However in many nanny cultures, it’s the child because they will tell the nanny many times what to do and the nanny is employed and they are many times worried about losing their jobs or your child would say something and the parents would believe that, and they’re just fearful so they allow children.

You thought you were crystal clear, you thought this adult in charge was going to be safe and by being safe that meant no swimming pool because that adult probably, I’m assuming they had swimming trunks or maybe they could swim. But you know, not many adults have been exposed to swimming.

Sundae: No not many of the nanny’s grew up with pools, nor is there a lot of water.

Eliza: Right, it’s just an assumption, I think it’s a fair assumption to make and those children just wanted to do it so the nanny’s went along with it and that’s terrifying as a parent thinking “Wow, had I not gotten there in time to my children, it could have been a disaster.”

Sundae: So it brings up a topic that we talked about earlier, about we need to not assume anything and be really transparent and we even went as far as talking about what if every family had house rules, and we presented them, as if we like literally printed them out and presented them to families, and that is a great idea, love that idea. But also its kind of socially awkward. How do you do that? What do you recommend for international school families? If you do want to be transparent? You don’t want to make assumptions. What can we do to keep our kids safe and to support the development of our kids?

Eliza: So what I would suggest is before any play dates and before either having play dates in your home or somebody else’s home. Getting together as families with the other family because you’re going to be able to tell, and not that you’re doing this like hidden research or secret research on this family, but I think it’s just from the kids interacting with the family and from their food choices and all things that just come out when you’re hanging out. And how they address their parents and what’s allowed and what’s not allowed, are they allowed to drink Coke? I mean your kid might go to a friends house and drink 27 cokes because they are not allowed in their own home, so they’re just like going for it.

Are they playing Fortnight?

Sundae: Are they supervised in restaurants?

Eliza: Exactly, do they go to the bathroom on their own in a restaurant? That’s another thing that came up during my child safety discussion, “How many of you go  to the toilet in a restaurant on your own? Kids raised their hands. “How many of you are scared?” Like kids, you know half the class raises their hands.

Sundae: And I think from a context perspective, I live in South Africa, so I don’t feel comfortable letting my kids run around in a public restaurant not being intended in a bathroom. In Switzerland. I would let my kids do that.

So I think it depends, that example makes so much sense to me being a newcomer in South Africa. So people’s assumptions are based on their cultural context and their experience in the past and where their heightened sensitivity is. Some of our people work in security, so we hear stories or we have friends who had personal experience. So our alertness might be way higher than people who aren’t exposed to that.

So for me, I think it has raised my awareness of this experience being in so many international families and watching examples, some that are totally an alignment with my values and some that blow my mind. It raises my awareness around how transparent am I? Or what questions I ask. But I like this idea of, before we do the sleepover, before whatever, we just spend time together as families. And you can serve and learn.

One thing I want to ask you now, I know you can only speak from your experience and maybe there’s no science to back it up. But I want to hear what I think every parent wants to know.

There’s two questions:

The first one is, when is a good time to move our kids and when’s a bad time? Can you just share your thoughts on that?

Eliza: Okay, I mean I think we naturally assume that the school, sort of the completion of grade 5 and the completion of great 8 and perhaps the completion of grade 12, I mean, obviously when they’re moving to universities, are good times to move.

Sundae: Let me just do it, after 5, after 8 and after 12 because it’s after middle school, after junior high, as some people might call it going into high school and from high school to University. So there’s bridge points, there’s already a transition.

Eliza: So I would say that is not a good time to move your kids in my experience.

Sundae: But listen, I have to stop there isn’t that interesting right? Because most of us, myself included. I’ve thought “Well, they’re transitioning anyway, let’s use this opportunity, it’s a time of change anyway.” Tell us why you see it differently?

Eliza: So again, this is not really, I have not found research on the third culture kids or international kids or I have not looked for research. This is just something that came up in our conversation as we were chatting over coffee.

Sundae: And years and years of experience.

Eliza: Yeah, and just my own observations from kids who transition, I would say that in my experience I would move my child, which I’m not doing, because sometimes you can’t help it.

Sundae: If you can choose?

Eliza: If I could choose I would do it after great 4, because they still have grade 5 to kind of get used to the new environment, the new school. And as you know, grade 5 is still under elementary or primary school and they have one teacher, they have specialists teachers. However, their classmates, they don’t they don’t do much transitioning within the school day. So they transition as a group rather than as an individual.

Sundae: So I’m going to say this is like same same but different right, we’re going to move but we’re going to stay in elementary. So we’re in a new country, new context, but I’m still an elementary. Rather than?

Eliza: Rather than after elementary and before middle.

Sundae: Yeah where it’s like, “Oh my gosh now I’m not only transitioning country, I’m transitioning the way I do school.”

Which when you say it makes so much sense.

Eliza: You know, there was that sense of belonging in grade five, you belong to Mr. or Miss so and so’s class, so you still have that sense of “I’m still little, I’m belonging to this class.” You get it, you know, you can build some friendships, that hopefully those friends are not going to move at the end of that grade 5 school year. So I would recommend if at all possible, moving sooner or after grade 6. So after you have already been to middle school. I mean it’s going to be a transition anyway, but you are then used to.

Sundae: So you’re saying “Okay, I know middle school, I’ve done middle school, now it’s same same but different again. I’m gonna go from middle school to middle school but it is with new people.” I see that right, so it lessens the blow or lessons the complexity.

But what about friends? Like tell us about the developmental side, right, like the side that I don’t know about, the child development.

Eliza: So I would say actually, no it ties together. So middle school, right like every parent’s worst nightmare, you know, we all remember ourselves in middle school, awkward times.

So what I would say is, if you can avoid moving during middle school, I would avoid moving during middle school. However, I would also count 9th grade as middle school. Because 9th grade is just a very very tough year. So I would say 6th grade is tough, 9th grade is tough.

Sundae: So if you can do it all in one chunk 6, 7, 8, 9. So if you have a four-year stint.

Eliza: Yes, I would do that, 6, 7, I would do 5, 6, 7.

Sundae: Keep 5, 6 & 7. together?

Eliza: Yes, keep 5, 6 & 7. Or do like 7, 8, 9.

Sundae: Keep 7, 8, 9 together.

Eliza: Yeah.

Sundae: And tell us why developmentally, why is this important?

Eliza: So developmentally, I mean when our kids live in one culture, kids go through, in your early years you kind of look at the culture. And I mean, this is not a conscious process, right?

So you look at the culture during your middle school years kind of, you test it out, and then you assimilate. When you move a child during middle school, they’re going through that awkward time, and then they’re also going through a transition. So it’s a double whammy and a lot of times going through that awkward time and friendships, they are looking towards their friends for validation, they’re looking to their friends, they confide in their friends rather than confiding in their parents. So it’s very different, then it gets disrupted that developmental time gets disrupted.

Sundae: So Dr. Remo Largo talks about how, what is the age 11 or 12? Your needs and connection shifts from parents to peers. So that’s a really important phase for us to pay attention to.

Eliza: It’s a really important phase because some parents will tell you “I feel like we’re losing touch with our kid, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m not quite sure.”

Now it’s important to remember that’s a very normal thing for kids. They detach from their parents and they look towards their peers for validation. However moving and not knowing those peers, there’s no trust, there’s no safety. So if you have to develop, work on developing those relationships. And I mean third culture kids a lot of times they develop those relationships, we develop relationships quickly. However, the depth of those relationships, we have trouble getting close to people.

So I would say if at all you can, I mean it’s not catastrophic to move during middle school. But if you could avoid it, if you have a choice and some of us have a choice when we move like a year here or there we have that flexibility. I would recommend moving somewhere in 5th grade. Staying then perhaps going through middle school and if you can, if you want to move 8th grade, if you could stay for 9, that’s also good.

But I think building those friendships during those years of middle school is difficult.

Sundae: And so what that says to me is, it’s even more important, because a lot of times we can’t choose that. It’s even more important that we show up with our strategies to support our kids. The comfort before encourage, creating the raft all the things that we know from the books on third culture kids.

It is so much more important for us to show up. And I know this is where we agree, we have to show up for ourselves, make sure that we’re okay so we can support our kids.

One thing that came up for me when I was in the Families In Global Transition Conference. We talked about it before too, that if we are fancy-pantsy we’re savvy about what a Third Culture Kid is right. We’re raising our kids during their developmental years outside of the passport country of their parents.

What we don’t always know is that when we look in the mirror, we’re actually staring at a third culture adult.

I don’t think that it’s in the literature. It’s with us nerds who love to read about this stuff, but not you guys who are cool and listening and spend your time doing other things besides reading academic literature. But if you’re listening to this and you’re raising your kids abroad, the chances are that you’re a third culture adult.

Meaning you have spent a significant amount of your time in adulthood living outside of your passport country and your frame of reference, your worldview has been influenced by that and you see the world differently than those people who’ve never left their passport culture.

Why does that matter Eliza?

Eliza: Why does that matter? Because I think as third culture adults our values. It’s what we talked about earlier our values, just because we meet someone from our passport culture doesn’t mean that our values are the same, or our stories are the same. So I think “never assume,” you know would be a very wise kind of phrase to live by.

Just talking to people and finding out, what are you about? What different countries have you lived in? Tell me about your journey?

Because that is our identity, so I would say no Third cCulture Kids are alike, even if they are from the same family, because remember developmentally they moved during different times of their development. So they would be influenced in different ways.

Sundae: It’s really important, I think you all need to hear that again. Your kids are not alike, even though they’re in the same family. They have moved during different developmental phases. Like my kids are 3 and ¾ years apart, so their moves have impacted them differently.

Eliza: Also the cultures where they moved during the time when they moved right, you’re in South Africa, if you were to move to the Middle East or to South America in a few years and one of your children is in middle school or in high school and one of your children are still in primary school, very different impact.

Sundae: Also language and culture, like my children, one of my children speaks really good Swiss-German the other one not because of when they left Switzerland. So their cultural identity, even their mother tongue is different because of where they grew up.

So I think that’s really important for people to see.

But I feel like I interrupted you that was just so important. I wanted to make sure people were listening.

What else about us as third cultural adults you said that matters?

Eliza: About us a third culture adults. So just learning our own journey, because I mean listening to your prior podcasts I know that also our work is such an important part of our identity, and if you are a trailing spouse or if you have a home business or if you change businesses, because many of us change what we do when we move from country to country. I think just knowing that, that perhaps your identity used to be as a trailing spouse, but now you have a business or you’ve tried something new. I mean all of that is our identity, not necessarily our culture identity. But what makes me who I am.

So we’re all unique and I know it’s such an overused, like “Each person is so unique.” But it’s truly, Third Culture Kids, Third Culture Adults, even if they’re from the same family, we are truly unique. Because there isn’t another Sundae out there who has lived in these countries and moved at the particular time. And there isn’t another Eliza who moved at the particular time and to these different countries.

Sundae: Our stories are our own and our stories are unique.

So what I’m hearing from that is taking the time, I think one, to really see our own story, because I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for our transition to what we’re going through.

And then taking the time to get to know people through their stories and that it connects with this idea of “I’m looking for similarity.”

Actually, what if we look for nuance?

Eliza: For nuance, and you know reading stories, I think what I have sort of grown to over the past, being a counsellor and working with kids in transition.

What I would like them to create is either their storybook of their lives.

And I would typically say “Hey so how many countries have you lived in? And what were some of the things that you miss about those countries? And what are some of the things that you remember?”

And we just chat, and through that they just like to draw and paint and I write, and it’s not like a perfect book with perfected illustrations, but it’s their story and they can always add about the next move, but it’s just like their story as they see it when they’re this old.

Whether it’s a movie, I think also, you know creating a book as a family, would be a great idea just a fun project and then everybody contributes the way they want. Whether it’s pictures, whether it’s drawings, whether it’s “You tell me the story and Mommy will write it for you.” Whether you add things, whether you cross things.

And then also in that story what’s really cool to do is adding emotions, because that actually teaches our kids. And a big part of transitioning is emotional regulation. So that gives our children permission, because a lot of times when I go into the classroom and I say “So how did that make you feel?” Especially when we do conflict resolution, and things that come up as angry, mad or sad, those are the three feelings. But what if we taught our children more about differentiating between, because a lot of times kids polarize their feelings, that’s also part of development, right?

So kids say “It’s all good.” or “It’s all bad” or “Living in this country was all good.” or “It was all bad.” But what if we talk about frustration and we talked about annoyance and we talked about that brute. Where does this mad and this sad and this angry come from right now? It came from being frustrated, It came from being lonely, It came from feeling like I was not included, that I was excluded.

And all of those are also our own feelings as expats, moving. And taking it a step further and just going through it, talking and that also gives our kids permission.

Sundae: And it is so ironic, because these are the things that we want to cover up, these are things we don’t want to happen, these are the things we want to prevent.

So I did a talk in one of my Facebook groups about transition and somebody said “How can I make the transition easier for my kids?” And I jumped all over that. I’m like, “That’s actually not our job to make it easier.”

This is what came up in the episode with Ruth van Reken in Episode 125. I think we need to be midwives to our children’s grief, we need to help them labor through grief, and we need to labor through our own. But what we really want to do is shut it off, like not see it, put it under the rug.

And I think when we talk about it now and we talked about it in another episode, that we really need to see that grief is a sign that something was really good, we liked the space, we liked the friends and that grief is a natural honoring of loss of something good.

Sundae: And also that having negative feelings is okay. Because a lot of times, with the whole idea of growth mindset and being positive, and those are all excellent excellent ideas and excellent ways of being, but it’s also important for our kids to feel like they have a permission to be sad sometimes.

And you know crap things happen in life, and you know what we recognize them and we don’t pretend that they’re not there or we don’t omit them or we don’t just say, “You know what? Yes, we had a bad day, but it was a day and tomorrow’s a new day and we’re going to just not talk about this.”

Sometimes we don’t even say “We’re not going to talk about this.” but we say “Tomorrow is a new day, so you’re going to get up with a great attitude.”

And we feel like we’re encouraging, and as adults we do that. Also remembering the grief doesn’t take a day to get over and just because your child is in grief doesn’t mean that they’re depressed forever and ever. But I do want to alert the international parents that grief and anxiety our children are at a higher risk for grief and anxiety.

And you know, that probably is a story for another podcast, but they are at a higher risk for grief and anxiety just because of the moves and the losses and the unresolved grief that they face.

Sundae: So what if we as parents did more to support them in their processing? My hope Is that we will help them learn how to manage that, work through it and reduce their levels of anxiety.

Eliza: Absolutely and I think the way of doing that is number one, give yourself permission to be real with your kids.

Sundae: Give yourself permission to be real with your kids. And I also feel like you have to give yourself permission allow you as an individual to matter in your transition. Because we often put our kids first and we will help our kids transition and actually we’re falling apart and we have no idea until we get there.

Eliza: Or we wait until they go to school, like staying at home and you know decide not to make friends because it’s too hard because last time it was too hard or we are still are connected with our old friends.

So give yourself permission to be real, if you’re sad be sad, if you are upset be upset and name your feelings.

Sundae: This is so important too, because I grew up in a family culture where there was a lot of harmony and I had a really nice childhood, I knew unconditional love. And if there was any sort of conflict that was going on, it was usually under the surface.

So I think that as kids if things are usually kept at the, everything is alright sort of mode, you aren’t prepared to deal with conflict and when you get out there in the real world, it’s like being an adult is hard. And so if you weren’t equipped with those skills when you were young, you have to somehow try to make it up as you go along when you’re an adult when when you need it most. So I don’t think we do our kids a massive service when we teach them that.

Eliza: Yes, and also something that we were chatting about before is, sometimes we feel that one of our kids is good at making friends. “Oh so and so is good at making friends because they connect easily.” And that usually means that they have a high EQ. But that also usually goes hand in hand with them being sensitive. So those are the kids you need to watch out for, if they are staying and many of their friends are leaving watch out, help grief. And yes, set up events, but like what you said help process.

Sundae: That’s I think I’m going to be the biggest takeaway for me is, I know this obviously in my head, right? But it’s like living it is the part.

One of my two boys, their personalities are very different and one makes friends really easily. It would be so easy for me to encourage and say “Oh, it’s okay honey a new friend will come next year.” When actually what I’m hearing from you is, spend more time with the comfort and not just the playdates and sleepovers, but actually be there processing things.

I think that my husband is really good at that too. I’m like, “Who’s the specialist here?” He’s the one who’s watching. I’m like, “Okay honey I’m paying attention now.”

So I know we could talk for ages, but just if you could leave our listeners with one last word of wisdom. You have so much experience, you’ve seen so many families around the world in so many continents. What can we learn from your wisdom? What can you leave us with?

Eliza: I would say give yourself a break, you’re doing the best you can, you are a good parent, we are good parents. Everybody wants what’s best for their children, cut yourself a break and just be real.

It’s okay to have a crap day, it’s also okay to feel lonely, upset and worried and share that with your kids.

And comfort before encouraging.

Sundae: All right, so thank you so much for being here on Expat Happy Hour.

I might just recap here because there’s so many good things that we heard. What a unique opportunity to have an international school counsellor here and tell us what she wishes every parent knew. I mean, seriously we’ve got behind the scenes perspective here.

Number one, your kids are always in transition. And this is something I know I’ve been guilty of. We just did so much transition over 18 months and three countries to three continents. I wanted to sit back and relax and think I had a break and I realized “Oh, actually you don’t have a break.” So I learned that one the hard way, even though I knew better in my head. I learned that the hard way because I wasn’t living it as much as I wanted to.

So number one, your kids are always in transition. So if your kids are staying and other kids are leaving do pay attention because your kid is going through some sort of loss of their buddies who are on their way.

Second one is, comfort before encourage. We heard that on other podcasts, it’s coming up again. So pay attention to your language and how you show up for your kids, how you support and make sure that you’re comforting them in ways beyond just setting building the raft.

So beyond these conversations on the side where you’re checking in and also sharing your own grief, sharing how you feel about your friend leaving so that they are watching positive modeling as you go through transition.

I firmly believe in my whole heart that if we get it right, if we can show up for ourselves first and we can model that for our kids. It will dramatically equip our kids with the right skills and support them in their transition in ways that are way better than stuffing it under the rug and wishing it would go away.

Third thing that’s new for me that I’m taking away, that I get it but I don’t think I’ve had it so present in my mind is, don’t assume anything around when you’re meeting parents that are international even if they feel so culturally similar to you. There’s a lot we don’t know about how they parent, their parenting style, their ideas around food or safety or how to do a play date, what’s permissible not. And the one way you can learn about that is spending time with the families before you dive in on sleepovers or playdates, spend the time to get to know the families.

There was one other thing I thought that came up about moving. There’s some ideas to think about, more counter-intuitive than I would expect about moving your kids. Do you want your kids to go through a double whammy of transition? if you do no judgment, just make sure you’re doing all the things that we talked about today. So you can really support yourself and support your kids.

If you do have some choice, this is a unique perspective take it or leave it. But I thought it was an interesting perspective around considering the impact of your move. Again, this is coming from Eliza’s extensive experience working one-on-one with families around the world.

So it’s been such a pleasure to have Eliza here with us. What a gift and I know I’m personally taking away from this podcast many things and I hope that you have the same.

I will leave you with the following quote.

The quote is from Ann Landers which is a pen name created by Chicago Sun-Times, an advice columnist. Although it seems light the wisdom is deep.

“It’s not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

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The post 126: What Every International School Counsellor Wishes You Knew appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Jun 02 2019



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Rank #5: 75: How You Introduce Yourself Says Everything

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When we introduce ourselves to others, what are we really communicating? Yes—we are supplying information about what we do on a day-to-day basis, but we are also expressing who we are at the core of our being, to others, and to ourselves. How you introduce yourself is a mirror of how you show up in the world, and by checking in with our introduction, we can gain insight into what’s most important to us, and whether or not we sharing that with the world. In today’s episode, I offer opportunities to look at your introduction, see what it says about you, and to use tools that can help you improve your introduction, and improve your life. If this sounds like something you want to explore further, you’re in luck! I am offering a limited number of free coaching spots—apply here to secure one of the special and limited free coaching spots: https://bit.ly/2sIVrP0

The post 75: How You Introduce Yourself Says Everything appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Jun 10 2018



Rank #6: 107: You’re Changing But Your Partner Isn’t

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There are times in your life when you’re on a passionate journey to uplevel your life, when you suddenly realise that your partner is being left behind. No matter how hard you’d like to ignore it, they are just not in the same space as us. What can you do if you’re making big changes in your parenting approach, your health or your routines but your partner just isn’t? The truth is you really cannot change anyone else, you have to make the change yourself. In today’s episode, I’m showing you three steps to take back control when you’re afraid  your partner won’t step up.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • How to communicate so that what you’re saying sinks in.
    • What to focus on first.
    • When to step in.

This dilemma is exactly what one of my clients has recently been through and, to be honest, she is not alone! I have caught myself yearning to point my finger and expect my partner to change. Instead, I take these three steps because they work. It’s time to step up!

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

So, I was looking at something on Facebook and suddenly a message popped up. A message that I’ll share with you and I have a hunch that it might sound familiar.

“Hey Sundae, I’ve been thinking a lot about your video and upleveling my life, you know getting clear on my priorities. I have a question for you. How do we align our priorities with our husbands?
Probably not the right way to phrase it, but in my life, I’ve been working really hard to connect differently to my kids. I’ve changed my communication style and working differently with them and then always seeking opportunities to engage with them. But despite my best courageous conversations, you know using the tools that you sent me, thank you Sundae, my husband just won’t step up.

On the weekends, he lives by his phone iPad or the TV you can’t step away from devices part of it is because pressure of work, but I really feel the biggest part is actually habit. I can’t discuss it with him without it escalating. He feels like I’m criticizing. In in the meantime, it’s the kids that miss out. So what do you do? I know I’m not the only one. What can we do about spouses that just aren’t connected or visible with the kids let alone our relationships? What can we do?”

I looked at the screen and thought man I know this is hard.

I sent her a message. I’m going to share much of that message with you today because I get it. If this sounds familiar maybe it’s not about your kids, maybe it’s something else. But I know it’s hard. You feel like you’re making huge changes in your life. Maybe it’s with your health or your business or your family and you’re all motivated but then you have this huge downslide because you’re frustrated that your partner isn’t onboard. They’re not stepping up in their lives and you feel like you’re moving forward and they’re behind almost dragging you down. You want to grab them and shake them and say “Don’t you see what you’re missing? Wake up!”

I get it!

When we’re making changes in our life that impact our entire system with our families or partners maybe our team, whatever it is, we want other people to change with us because we see how good it is. But the truth is you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself. At the same time. It doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything.

In today’s podcast it’s all about how you can speak up so others are stepping up to help meet your needs or to understand what’s important to you. So I’m going to share three steps for what you can do when you’re with your partner who won’t step up. And this might be your romantic partner, this could be a business partner, this could even be one of your family members because we are in partnership with people that we love, the people that we work with, with people that we depend upon. So this isn’t just a spouse thing, the same steps can work with other relationships.
All right, I’ll dive right in using the example from the person who wrote to me but you’ll see that the same steps can be used for whatever is on your mind.

Step 1: When your partner won’t step up – make the impact transparent. Make the impact transparent.

So with my client that wrote in to me I shared a worksheet from Marshall Rosenberg that talks about nonviolent communication, and I will make sure I include that in the show notes so that you are on the same page as I am. But what it basically does is makes the impact on you transparent. So just basically you start by saying “Hey I notice that I am on a huge kick to make changes in my life with the girls” let’s say “and I’ve really up levelled the way I communicate with them and how I’m taking care of myself. So I have more patience, at the same time I’ve also noticed that when you come home from work you go straight to your phone or the TV and the girls don’t get a lot of attention from you. So I’m guessing that you’re tired and that you wanted to decompress. What can we do as a family so that you can decompress and we can also make time and energy as a family?”

So you’ll see the details in the notes for now, violent communication but what I basically did is: what I noticed how I feel, the impact on me, and then the request that you make to them.
This is helping your partner understand the impact on the family, in a way that is loving and non-threatening. So make the impact transparent.

Step 2: Get creative.

Essentially what you’re saying is “hey I see that you’ve needs, right you’re exhausted, let’s meet them”, and you’re saying “’I’ve got needs too let’s meet them em”. So now you can make that impact transparent and you share what needs you have. So in this case her need is to have support in the way she’s creating a more connected family and one of her needs is also to have a happy husband whose having his needs met. So you sit together and you say “okay, now that we know this is what we mean together how do we how do we do both at the same time?” Most people fight over strategy and not needs, like “nobody would fight that you shouldn’t relax but we fight like why are you watching TV? You should be outside playing soccer with the girls”, right we don’t fight about needs. No one would argue with the fact that you need to decompress after work but we do fight about strategy. So that helps keep your needs in the center. Maybe this person’s needs is to really live in alignment with the type of mother that she wants to be. That’s important to her that she is living in the way that she wants to lead her girls, nobody would argue in that case. But how can you make that happen? So number two is get creative.

Step 3: This is where it gets tough for some people, is – put the ball in their court.

Byron Katie has a very simple explanation of what you need to do in terms of putting the ball in their court, she says there’s three types of business and you need to ask whose business you’re in:

There’s your business which means your needs, your emotions, your priorities.

There’s their business, that means how they get their needs met, what their emotions are what they think.

And then there’s God’s business, and in the spirit that Byron Katie means God’s business, might be like you know, is there going to be a typhoon? How long will I live? Will something that’s totally out of my control really happen? That’s God’s business.

I know when my son was about four years old I was already worried about when he’s 16, that’s the kind of Mom I am, I’m going to worry 12 years in advance. The future is not my business in that sense because that was causing stress.

So here we go. Put the ball in their court, is giving back into your business and letting them take care of theirs. So he for example is super stressed at work. He needs to think of strategies to decompress that are in alignment with the needs of the whole family and while you as a partner might be there to brainstorm strategies how you can could co-create this, essentially it’s his job to manage his stress. And if he needs something, like if he needs a buffer in his day between work and family life, then he can ask for that. I have an article about creating a buffer in your day and why that’s important for your life, and I’ll also include it in the show notes for you. So that’s the ball in his court. He needs to think about “hey my stress is impacting the family, what can I do?” So they have less of an impact on them but still meet my needs to decompress.

So, we have said first make the impact transparent, second get creative and third put the ball in their court, and then you let them go. You have an agreement, you talk about the strategies, you make an experiment to see how it goes, and if you feel weeks down the road you’re not seeing results then you just go back to number one and you share the impact. “Hey hon a couple of weeks ago we talked about some strategies that you’re going to use to decompress after work. You said you were going to take 10 minutes to go for a walk around the block before into the house. But I noticed that you didn’t, that you went straight from the car into the house and I also notice that you continued to go straight to the TV instead of playing soccer with the girls like you promised. Obviously you need some support because that strategy is not working for you. I’m feeling a little bit pessimistic that this is actually going to work, and I do want to believe in you. So what can we do to tweak this plan so that you go back and you don’t give up.?” Because essentially you teach people how to treat you and if you let it go too long then things backslide into exactly where they started.

We’ve looked at this one, two, three, four. This specific situation when your partner brings the stress from work home and you want to make a change in that. I actually have an article I’ve written exactly about that what to do when your partner has a high pressure job and that is impacting your home life. I will also include that in the show notes for you.

But maybe it’s something else that’s important to you maybe what you’re working on up leveling is your health. One of my clients was on a fast track to up leveling her life. We were seeing really cool things happening in coaching and she got stuck, because with her partner what they did was Netflix and wine and that wasn’t in alignment anymore with the way she was up leveling her health, so the conversation with her partner went like this. “Hey honey I’ve noticed that I’m really really committed to making long term changes in my health, how I’m eating, how much I want to move and I feel really excited about this, at the same time I feel kind of conflicted because one of the things that we do to spend time together is hang out watch netflix and drink wine, which I love but I’m conflicted because I value my health and this isn’t in alignment with how I want to spend my evenings, and I still want to be connected to you. Would you be willing to brainstorm with me how we can make a small change? Maybe we can pick one night where we do Netflix and wine and the other nights we go for a walk before sunset?” So she was able to use this process with her partner to raise awareness about the changes that she’s making in her life to up level and ask her partner to get on board in a way that felt was in alignment with that individual as well. You can’t make your partner go on a health kick either but what happened, which is really sweet in this story, is her partner did get on board and did start walking with her and when they had broken the routine then he started stepping up in his own life which isn’t the point.

Actually the point is you step up in your life and you get your needs met and you find a way that everybody gets their needs met and then you see what happens. Right, you have to let go of the outcome and in this case the outcome was really positive which happens most of the time. Maybe what you’re trying to up level is your connection with your partner. Maybe you feel like there’s some distance that’s come between you.

One of my clients had a situation similar to this where she raised the awareness to her partner, and it went something like this “Hey honey I noticed when you come home from work that we don’t really talk a lot, you know I make dinner and you set the table and I feel like you know the newspaper is more important than me. We don’t have eye contact, you don’t ask me questions about my day and it makes me feel kind of sad because I really love to share about my life with you and I’d love to hear what’s planned your life, and I also really value being important to you, I value our connection. What I think about it, I have a hunch that we just have to create a routine where we can connect in a way that outside distractions don’t interrupt. Would you be willing to schedule a date night like once a month so we can at least connect Ben?”

That conversation turned out really well, they found out that it was their routine that was in the way and not their relationship. She was cooking and he’s not a cook, he set the table and while she was still cooking he sat down and read the paper. Simple, it wasn’t about them, it was about the structure and the habit in a creative.

So whatever it is, you can apply these three steps to take back control when what you’re thinking is that your partner won’t step up, number one make the impact transparent to get creative and three put the ball in their court and repeat as necessary.

I get it, I get it these situations, it is so easy, I don’t know how many times I have wanted to point the finger at my partner and say “you change.’’ I’m literally pointing my arm into the air right now because that’s how bad I wanted to do it! I feel so much better when I can look at the one that I love and say you do the right thing, but you’re in this for the long haul, and we know that you teach people how to treat you. So here’s the thing. When what we thought was we wanted our partner to step up is actually an invitation for you to step up for you to learn what you need and how you can get those needs met by yourself for yourself and in partnership with the people that are important to you. So you’re the one levelling up for your relationship and for yourself and that is worth stepping up for!

You’ve been listening to the Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean. Thank you for listening, I hope you’ve been enjoying the new format of the podcast that you can see on the blog. Now you can either listen and if that isn’t what you want to do you can download the transcript or scroll through to reach it on my site. So if you’re a avid podcast listener and you love my content but you know your friends are more readers then let them know about this shift in format for Expat Happy Hour, because the more people who know about this, the more changes in lives that we can impact together. All right so if you’re one of those listeners please leave a comment on the blog post or write a review and in iTunes so we can get the message out to more.

All right. Love you guys. Thanks for listening.

I’m going to leave you with an anonymous quote “level up so no one can leave you hanging.”

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The post 107: You’re Changing But Your Partner Isn’t appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Jan 20 2019



Rank #7: 132: You Have A Responsibility To Get Unstuck

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You don’t need permission to be unhappy. And your long list of logical reasons why you “should be” fulfilled won’t change that you’re not.  

You can recognize your privilege and feel gratitude while acknowledging that you’re stuck and dissatisfied. 

Stop pressuring yourself to instantly shake free from years’ worth of glue. You didn’t get here overnight. However, it IS your responsibility to slowly start climbing out of your rut.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • The discrepancy between how others perceive you
    • How to shed the shame of what you “should” feel
    • How to eliminate the guilt and stigma of asking for help  
    • 5 easy steps to begin breaking free today
    • And more

It’s not just about you.

You’re stealing the true, best version of yourself from the people around you. When you feel stuck, it blocks your authentic self and your family, friends, and colleagues interact with your inferior imitation. Don’t you owe them (and yourself) better?

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and Intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

“Rigid and defensive.”

Those are the two words that my work colleague used about me.

She described me as rigid and defensive. 

So for any of you who’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour who know me personally, you’re going to say “What? Are you kidding me Sundae? How did she come up with rigid and defensive?” 

In all fairness, this was 20 some years ago long long time ago my very first corporate job. We were in line at some water park, I was working for a consulting firm and I was with my team, the senior manager, another manager on the team and a fellow analysts for this consulting firm I was working for, and I talked about how I see myself and she said “Really? I see you as rigid and defensive.”

And it stopped me in my tracks. It was the very first time in my life where the perception I had of myself was very different from the perception I gave to someone that was working with, and in all fairness she was right.

She was right because at that time of my life, I was super unhappy and what I was doing is, I was completely ignoring the best of who I was, and I let out all of the things that were strengths that became weaknesses. 

So it was a wake-up call for me, rigid and defensive  is not something that I want to be known for.

Flash forward to recently, I was visiting with a family member and my family member who is someone in my extended family who is kind of known for saying things that are direct and a little bit shocking, said to me essentially “Why aren’t you chubby anymore?” And I’m paraphrasing here, but I looked at this person and I was like, “Oh”  Not thinking that I used to be chubby. I gave him a direct answer of “Oh, I’ve lost weight because of the investment I’ve made in my health.” And we were laughing at this because, one it was a question, the exact words were a question that took me off guard because it’s not the first thing you usually ask someone usually it’s like “Hey how is South Africa?” And the second thing we talked about is what has changed with me since I started taking care of my health, and one of the things that has changed is, as a total side thing, I’ve lost weight, which was never my intention, nor I don’t think was a real need. What happened is I start taking care of my health with a doctor that was able to identify some things that were missing nutritionally or in my biochemical makeup that helped me detoxify better and help my system altogether. I was working with an integrative specialist and as a result the inflammation reduced and I lost some weight, and it changed probably physically the way I looked and so that was a conversation. 

We’re kind of laughing at the kitchen counter, you know framing how that felt when that question came up for me and being playful, and then one of my family members said, “You know, it is true Sundae, you have changed, things are different.” and I said “Well what differences have you noticed?” And my mother said, “Well, you’re more playful.” And I thought “Wow, really? That because I’ve started taking care of my health, my family notices that the playful side of me comes out more.” And that meant the world to me, and it was also a huge reality check.

So let me just see if I can share with you an example of playfulness. Oh my God, you guys are gonna laugh at me and judge me.  

Okay, so here’s why my mom probably said I was a bit more playful. She caught me dancing the kitchen to this song while my brother was egging me on.

Peanut Butter Jelly Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRBOgtp0Hac

We had a huge laugh in my kitchen and my mom captured a playful side of me that came out, that probably she hasn’t seen in a while and it led to this idea of the implications that really taking care of myself has had on my health and how I show up in my business, with my friends, with my family and that impact that has on others. And I know right now you’re still judging me because I think the peanut butter and jelly song is funny. 

This is who I am, and I love the peanut butter jelly song, so you gotta take it or leave it.  I guarantee you’re going to be thinking about it all day long.

But the whole point of why I’m embarrassing myself for you is to say that I was unhappy with my health and because of that I noticed things were having an impact on my views was short, my skin changed, I didn’t feel as comfortable my clothing. And I finally went to the doctor and found out what was causing this sort of lag in health. 

And the thing is when we fail to do that, when we fail to show up for ourselves so we can be deeply satisfied, we’re stealing, we are robbing ourselves and our family and our community of the best of you. Your strengths, your talents and your potential to make a positive impact in the world. And this silly example is just, without me taking care of me, my family doesn’t get the silly Sundae, then they don’t get the laughs if I’m not deeply satisfied with me, I rob myself of my own joy.

So it is time to stop robbing yourself and others of the best of you. 

So let me stop you right there. there’s some of you are saying “Sundae, if I don’t do something that makes me happy it only impacts me.” 

And I really want to make this clear throughout the entire episode that this has a much larger impact on just you, most of us want to serve our families, our spouses, our organizations, we really do. And we serve ourselves last, but that approach is actually robbing or sucking all of the potential out of the other areas over life because we’re not starting with us first.

So here’s an example I see all the time. I was at a party with a woman and we checked in. “Where do you live? How long have you been here?” The standard stuff. And she said, when I asked her how long she’d lived there, she said “Too long.” And I was like “Really? You’re not happy? Because we live in an amazing area, you have access to everything.” And she says “No I really want to go back home, and I try and try to keep myself busy, but I’m so sick of the coffee meetups, the PTA meetings.” Or whatever it is, that she just wants to go home, and she feels like she’s totally wasting your time. 

And these are the moments where I want to just reach across the table and to say “Seriously, it doesn’t have to be this way.” And if you’ve ever thought that, that you’re wasting your time and you feel stuck and you really don’t see a way to make a change, I want to reach across the table and hold you by your shoulders lovingly and look at you in the eyes and say “It doesn’t have to be this way, you can be living a life where you’re so much happier and satisfied.” Because I see it all the time.

This is so important because when you ignore that voice inside, which is whispering or even screaming at you that you’re unsatisfied, that’s you feel stuck, you are honestly avoiding responsibility.

You are avoiding responsibility, you are responsible to give your best self to yourself, because if you don’t give your best self to yourself, you can’t do it for your family or for humanity or for your business, your clients, whatever that is.

And I know that because I’ve been stuck in rigid and defensive, I was not giving my best self to myself and the impact was others having to deal with my rigidity and my defensiveness.

Crap, huh? Like how much fun is that for them? I was denying myself of regular pleasures in nice foods and time to relax, I was just a workhorse who is go go go.

When you’re stuck in survival mode, you’re not dancing to the peanut butter jelly song, you know what I mean? So we are we are robbing ourselves of our best self, the one who can be playful and silly or creative or thoughtful or loving or generous, because we’re stuck in dissatisfaction, and I don’t want you to be stuck.

And when you’re stuck in that place of dissatisfaction, I know what you’re thinking because I see it come up over and over and over again. I’ve been doing this for ten years and these are the three things I keep hearing over and over again. 

The first thing I hear is this, you know people don’t say it to me, but it comes out later in coaching where they say they truly believe that they don’t deserve to be unhappy.

Like “I don’t have a right to be unhappy because look around me.” You’ve got the loving partner, your children are healthy, you’ve got food on the table, you’ve got financial security. 

“I don’t have a right to be unhappy.” 

Which is so interesting because you are unhappy. 

So this is the reality, but you feel like you don’t have the right to be.

The second thing I hear is “Wait a minute.” It’s very connected to the first one of not having the right to be unhappy people say, “There are so many other people on this planet that have it way worse than I do I should just be grateful.” So what that essentially does is ignores the way you feel and then you push that down, but I don’t even know if you practice gratitude for what you have. It’s like an excuse “Because other people have it worse than the planet, I am going to push away the way I really feel.” 

We’re gonna go into each one of these in a little bit more detail, but I’m just giving the high level thing. 

The third one is you feel super guilty when you even think about asking for help, so you feel like you have failed if you if you say to yourself “I need help.” It’s like you’re a failure or it feels self-indulgent. 

And I can say for myself. I didn’t learn how to ask for help until I was thirty one and had a baby in an iron deficiency and I was exhausted and I got my dream job and I didn’t know how I could physically manage being a mom and my job, the iron deficiency, just getting a kid ready for daycare in the morning. All of that, it was just too much and it forced me to learn to ask for help and I had to break through the guilt of not being able to do it all on my own.

So if this is you, you are completely normal. I hear this all the time, if you’re saying “I don’t have a right to be unhappy right now, I should just be grateful because other people have it worse.” or you kind of feel self-indulgent or guilty for even thinking about asking for help then this is for you. I know that it can feel awkward or self-serving when you put your own satisfaction first.

I get it, but after years and years of trying to do it all on my own and watching my clients trying to do it all on their own, I’ve noticed a pattern. The truth is that when we hold on to these beliefs, you know about “This is self-indulgent, I don’t have a right, I should just be grateful.” And we hold onto those, you’re actually ignoring your responsibility to do what it takes to be deeply satisfied with your life, and then get on to do the things that you want to do to serve your family, your partnership, your community, this sense of social justice, whatever it is. 

So it’s your responsibility to get unstuck.

And I tell you what, I did not know that for a long time, I didn’t know it until I was unstuck. I didn’t realize how me staying stuck in whatever pattern, I might have been stuck in all areas of my life, but there was an area of stuckness that I needed to work on. I didn’t realize until I was unstuck how much that was impacting everything else, robbing myself and my loved ones of the best of me. 

So this is all about you, stop robbing yourself and others of the best of you.

And this is what I want you to walk away with. 

What are you doing to get unstuck? 

Are you taking responsibility to do so?

One of my clients, she was stuck, and after some work together we discovered that she was going to ignite her professional skills to do Feng Shui practice for individuals and organizations, and she went on to create calm in the lives and homes of individuals and organizations around the world. When she finally said yes herself to do something that’s deeply satisfying, she said yes to serving others. Didn’t mean she wasn’t scared, didn’t mean she didn’t have obstacles. But by saying yes to herself, she was able to give the best of herself to others.

Another client realized that what he really wanted was to stop chasing jobs and degrees and be present with his family. He had to sort of escape from the man cage as Dr. Martha Beck calls it, and say what he really wanted to be deeply satisfied, was to garden and cook with his kids. And by saying yes to being deeply satisfied, he took on a hands-on approach with his family, saved himself $35,000 from getting yet another master’s degree and was a super present father and partner.

Another of my clients is a highly skilled surgeon, because she’s committed to being deeply satisfied to really fully share her talents and strengths, she shows up more fully as a professional, as a mother and still has the energy to help community projects that impact underserved women around the world.

I hope that you’re getting this, that it’s not about you, like when you are focusing on being deeply satisfied, this is not self-serving. It is serving yourself first so that you can serve others.

And people block that, people don’t see that it’s “I am giving you permission to serve yourself first so that you can serve others.” And I think that’s really important for us to keep in mind, this is not about you and it’s about you at the same time. This is about you so that you can be your best for yourself and for others, and let’s be honest, it’s already enough to just do it for yourself because you’re worth it and you deserve it and you’re worthy of loving yourself. And I know that when people are in this pattern, it’s like they need to break the pattern, they need something outside of themselves to stay motivated. And I know that for me when I get stuck, when I’m so sick of sharing my podcast or doing something on social media, I always have to step outside of myself and say “Listen, if one person listens to this and it makes a difference in their life it’s worth it, so let’s get over myself and do this for the greater good so that one person might be positively impacted.”

Okay, so I hope these examples help you see how it is high time for you to stop robbing yourself and others of the best of you.

Each one of these examples are of real people just like you, and they took the steps to be deeply satisfied, and had they not done that they would consistently rob themselves and their families and friends of their joy, of their brilliance, of their talents.

So you can take back responsibility for your life. 

And I want to sort of address each of those sorts of lies we tell ourselves one by one to help you see how they’re showing up for you and what you can do differently, and each one of these beliefs I’ve seen in my own clients, and now they’re on the other side. So I’m over here you’re there and you’re stuck and you are thinking about the things that we’ve talked about, you identify with it, it resonates. And I’m over here, I’ve got my hands cupped like a megaphone and I’m going “Okay, come over here it’s beautiful, there is another side where you get to be deeply satisfied and experiment with and explore and discover all of your talents, you can have an impact.

So the first one we’re going to look at again is that “I have no right to be unhappy right now.” Remember, you might be telling yourself, “I have it all, healthy spouse,  financial security etc.” And you feel like you’re just complaining and that you’re feeling guilty because you no longer feel like this adventure abroad is enough but it’s such a privilege, so why should you feel bad? 

At the same time, if you have all of that going for you, if those things are covered, imagine the latent potential that you have to create for you and for others. So maybe that dissatisfaction, that unhappiness is like the universe going “You’ve got more, there are gifts there that are not unwrapped, go get them.” Right, like who are you to judge that you’re using your full potential? Who are you to say that you aren’t capable of doing more, who are you to say whether you’ve reached your limits of creativity and talent? I don’t know what your religious or spiritual beliefs are, but I try not to know more than the Universe. One of my friends is really spiritual and I told her “I do recognize how arrogant it is of me to think that I can control what I’m doing and that I am more creative than the universe, like sometimes I just want to let go and let the universe step in to sort of influence what the best plan is for me. 

So here’s the thing if you’re unhappy maybe it’s because all of these other things are working and there’s more that has to be creative. There’s nothing wrong with valuing what you have, honoring that, acknowledging that, and then getting curious about what more you want out of your life. 

So instead of saying “Do I have a right to be happy or unhappy?” You might think “Hey with all of this privilege, with all of this amazingness of going on in my life, I have no right to be unhappy right now, I have a right to be happy.”

But is that really serving you?

You know what? If you said “Hey, I have all of this going for me and I do have a right to be happy. What is it going to take for me to be happy? What more can I discover about myself, about my skills, about my talents, so that I don’t miss out on all of the amazingness that’s already there? How can I leverage this unhappiness to discover what more I’m ready to create in service of myself my family and others?” 

So that’s the first belief I really want you to crack. “I have no right to be unhappy right now.” 

Let’s shift that and look at what would happen if you were bent on being happy.

Second one is, “There are other people who have it way worse on the planet, I should just be grateful.” 

You see how it’s so connected to the first one and I do know that gratitude is important, we know from you know research that pops up in Forbes that there are benefits to gratitude in terms of your psychological health, reducing your aggression, being more empathetic, sleeping better, self-esteem. Gratitude is super important.

However, I would say that’s not enough, if you are not feeling it right now, if you’re not happy and you’re grateful that does not change the condition for anybody else on this planet who has it worse than you. Your gratitude does not change the condition for someone who has it worse than you. So let’s not confuse those two. Gratitude, yes, and if you’re using that as your argumentation about people have it way worse than you, then let’s tap into your talents and strengths and do something. And having lived in Burkina Faso I saw how hard women worked every day just to feed their children. And for me, I looked around at the expat community who had massive privilege and the discrepancy between local women and expat women is mind-boggling. And for me, it reinstated my commitment of this potential, these talents cannot be for nothing. We need to use our talents and strengths so that we can feel empowered and then do work that has a positive impact on other people. So if your heart is there for people who have it way worse than you on the planet and you’re not tapping into your strengths and talents to make a difference, then that gratitude is not serving anyone.

So I don’t want to sound like I’m on my high horse here,  What I’m trying to do is say, look at yourself, there’s so much potential there, you’ve so much to offer. What if you got unstuck, discovered that and then made it happen? It could be something really small that just brings joy into people’s lives or it could be something foundational where you are intervening in someone’s life in a major way. I don’t know what’s latent, but what if we found out.

So here we go if you truly want to make changes in your life, but you don’t know where to start or how to get unstuck, that is okay. Don’t pressure yourself, you are one step after the next, we need to make sure that you’re not being held back by the third belief. The third belief is “I feel guilty about even asking for help.” And as I said, I’ve been there it took me like iron depletion and necessity before I even learned to ask for help and get over the guilt and realize I wasn’t imposing on people if I was able to ask for help without conditions and without pressure. 

So if you’re feeling guilty about asking for help, I would love for you to imagine yourself as your daughter or your best friend. If you were your daughter or your best friend or your son or your best friend, who was in the exact same position, would you shame them for even thinking of asking for help?

Would you shame them the way you shame yourself? Of course, you wouldn’t, but we do it to ourselves all of the time. I know the tape that I played in my head was, “I should do it all myself.” Or “If I have to ask for help I’m failing.” It’s just bull.

Ditching the guilt and taking steps forward, which might include asking for help, you do a few really important things. First you invest in yourself and your happiness and that affects everybody in your life. Just like the peanut butter and jelly song, if I wasn’t feeling good I wouldn’t have done the peanut butter and jelly dance in my kitchen and made my brother giggle. It’s like a gift that you share with your whole family, even though maybe that dance wasn’t really good. And once you get unstuck, you discover what you want to do that will have a positive impact on others, and this impact can extend to an entire community. And why would you deny those people that you care about a happier stronger more purposeful you.

We cannot deny that feeling strong and on purpose in your life really empowers you to be more of a service in a bigger way. Failing to do what it takes to be happy and deeply satisfied is stealing. You rob yourself your family and your community of the best of you, your strength, your talents and your potential to make a positive impact on the world.

And if you’re saying right now, “I don’t even know what my strengths are, I don’t know if I have talent, I don’t know if I have skills.” You don’t need to know right now, what I do know is they are there, they just have to be discovered, and not knowing what they are is what’s keeping you stuck from actually using them.

So here are five really simple things you can do right now to get unstuck.

One, just admit to yourself that something is off. Can you just say it to yourself? “Something is off and that’s okay.”

Two accept it without shame or judgment, admit that something’s off, accept it without shame or judgment because you’re normal, I work with others like this all the time.

Three, ditch the three beliefs I shared before, because they are holding you back. They’re keeping you stuck and ditching them might mean just knowing that you got them and then when they pop up not letting them make you stay frozen so to speak.

And four, commit to creating change by taking the first step, reach out to a friend, email me, do one thing that makes you feel great today.

The fifth one is one that’s really time-sensitive and I don’t want to miss out on it.

I’m holding a webinar on how to get out of a rut in July 2019. 

So if you’re listening to the recording and it’s later than that, email me and I’ll send you the webinar. But I’m doing a workshop, interactive, online, live on how to get out of a rut, sharing with you the exact strategies I use with my clients when they’re feeling stuck and I would love to see you there. For those of you who have been a listener for a long time, I want to see your face, I want you to see my face. This is all audio this is all from one direction out and I don’t hear back from you. I would love for you to show up and be there, I want to get to know you and I want to say thank you for being part of the Expat Happy Hour community and love on you by giving you the best of my coaching in that live session. 

So I’d love to see you there in that workshop “How to get out of a rut.”

I believe with my whole heart that you deserve to be happy and satisfied, and your family and community need your talents and your strengths. Even if you don’t know what those are yet, stop robbing others of the positive impact you can have in their lives and in the world.

And when you have a deep sense of happiness and satisfaction, you can be of better service to your loved ones, your community. So it’s really time to take back responsibility. Stop robbing others of all that you have to offer because you are just too important. 

This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from Sundaebean.com

You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour, thank you for listening. 

This has been part of the four part series on expat quicksand. We’ve looked at connection, getting unstuck, looking ahead. We’re going to be focusing on purpose and direction. Thank you for being part of this journey, stay tuned for more and join me at the live workshop. 

I’ll leave you with the wisdom of Winston Churchill. “We make a living by what we get. We make a Life by what we give.”

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The post 132: You Have A Responsibility To Get Unstuck appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Jul 14 2019



Rank #8: 143: Purpose & Direction Amidst Chaos with Dan Millman

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Although each Expat Happy Hour episode is special, this week’s will  Knock.Your.Socks.Off.

I’m honored to have esteemed author, Dan Millman, join me today to share his highly-acclaimed purpose perspective.

Dan’s a former world champion athlete, gymnastics coach, martial arts instructor, college professor, and TEDx speaker. He’s also authored 17 books which are published in 29 languages. You might know Dan from his book, “Way of the Peaceful Warrior.” It was adapted to film in 2006 (starring Nick Nolte) and sparked a thought movement that’s still going strong today.

Regardless of who you are or where you are in this magnificent world, one goal is constant for all of us. We seek to live with a peaceful heart amidst the chaos of everyday life.

In this podcast, Dan and I focus on his book, “The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World.” It’s a must-read for anyone who hasn’t read it yet and reinforces what I’ve shouted for years while pumping my clenched fists… Purpose = Quality of Life.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • Humanity’s curriculum & developing a talent for living
    • Releasing the trap of memory & imagination we call past & future
    • Remembering who you are & what you’ve got deep down
    • When & why it’s “okay” to not “love” your career
    • Transition fatigue & stumbling towards the light

You can’t build muscles unless you lift weights; this is strength-training for your insides.

Speaking of strength-training for your insides, I’ve been doing my own lately. I have a HUGE announcement on its way, so keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for more.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 8am in New York, 2pm in Johannesburg and 7pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

Today’s episode is about finding purpose and direction amidst the chaos and for those of you who are feeling like you are in chaos, you are just happy to find your car keys. I get it finding purpose and direction might be what you’re craving, but it might be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re feeling like everything around you is chaotic.

Enter our guest for today Dan Millman, he’s got a perspective based on one of his many books that might help you get more purpose and direction. It is my great pleasure to have Dan Millman with me today. He’s a former world champion athlete, gymnastics coach, martial arts instructor college professor. And on top of that, he’s authored 17 books published in 29 languages. You might know him from “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” which was adapted into a film in 2006.

Dan has books that are published to millions around the world and he speaks worldwide. You can find out more about Dan on peacefulwarrior.com. But he has joined us today on Expat Happy Hour, what we’re going to look at today before he joins us is what is called the four purposes of life. Dan’s book is about finding meaning and direction in a changing world and it’s based on the four purposes  you’re going to hear us talk about it in our interview.

The first purpose he calls learning life’s lessons where we got to smarten up, grow up and wake up.

Second purpose is called, finding your calling and career, here’s where we’re looking at how to choose satisfying work earn a good living and provide useful services.

In the third purpose he moves on to discovering your life path, something he says he calls a hidden calling and how you can follow your higher potential. The third is the harder one to understand but probably has the most interesting potential for you to see things in a new way.

The fourth purpose is called, attending to this arising moment where we work to pay close attention in each moment to make it count. 

It is my pleasure to welcome Dan Millman.

Sundae: So Dan they’ve just heard your really impressive bio about how prolific your writing is, how many people you’ve reached and how most of this is centered on your ideas of Peaceful Warrior. But for those of who are listening who are unfamiliar with Peaceful Warrior, can you tell them a little bit about you and how you came to be writing in that direction? 

Dan: I’d be happy to Sundae, I was a young athlete and a coach and at that time I focused on “Can we develop talent for sports?” That was my field, “Is talent innate or is it developed?” And it seemed to me it was about 20% in terms of body types and so on, but about 80% of talent could be developed. And I said, “Well if it can be developed, if talent is the ability to learn faster and easier and rise to higher levels in any field, how does it work in sport?”

And it seemed to me that when someone has more strength, suppleness, stamina, coordination, rhythm, timing, balance and so on those qualities constitute what we called talent. And so the first year I coached any athlete who came in at Stanford University. We would focus not on the moves or elements of gymnastics, we would focus on building that foundation of talent. 

And my theories worked pretty well in practice, the team went from the bottom of the conference to one of the top three teams in the United States in about three and a half years and I might still be coaching today, but I I realized I was going through some personal issues and I realized that being able to do these gymnastics elements didn’t really help me when I went out on a date or when I got married or when I had children or when I dealt with financial issues or questions of where to live for example, those big decisions, those skills didn’t help. 

So that’s when I started asking bigger questions, which is not “How can we develop talent for sport?” But, “How can we develop talent for living?” The challenges we meet in everyday life, and that that question really led me around the world, it led me to study with various mentors over a more than a decade some intensive material I’m going to write about in a future book, a memoir.  But it led to an approach to living that came up out of nowhere and I didn’t deliberately, strategically think of of a brand or anything like that, I didn’t know what that was at the time. But I had taught a course at Oberlin College when I was a professor there on internal martial arts, internal development through Aikido and Tai Chi.  I was going to call it the Way of the Warrior but then I said “That doesn’t quite fit, because these are not aggressive arts necessarily.” and I said, “Why don’t I call it the Way of the Peaceful Warrior?” And that eventually became the title of my first book. 

And what I mean by Peaceful Warrior, it’s really about all of us, it’s not about me, it’s not some special club one joins. Because all of us, wherever we are in the world, we’re seeking to live with a peaceful heart amidst the chaos of everyday life. And there are also times we need a warrior spirit, and it’s not necessarily about fighting, though the old man in the movie version of “Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” Nick Nolte plays the old gas station mechanic, I called Socrates. And he says, “I call myself a warrior, a Peaceful Warrior, because the important battles we fight are on the inside.” You know with with self-doubt, insecurity, and fear and that sort of thing. 

So there is that kind of battle and if we win those inner battles the outer challenges of everyday life become manageable. 

Sundae: I want to just pull in here, that what I love about what you’re saying is, I think that really resonates with my audience, is this balance between “How do I find peace amidst the chaos? When do I focus on creating calm with myself? And when am I ready to like bring out this Warrior?” So I think when we’re living globally mobile lives and having to uproot ourselves and re-establish ourselves, in a new environment, is something I think really people can identify with. 

Dan: Well, you know as the cliche goes, “Wherever we go there we are.” It’s really about our own transformation, growth evolution, however, one wants to put it, but that is what I mean by Peaceful Warrior, it’s about all of us.

Sundae: It spread like wildfire, right? There are a lot of people that resonate with this idea. What do you think people connected with most? What were you saying that wasn’t out there already, that people were eating up? 

Dan: Well, if I knew how to write a book that’s been that popular, I would do it every time. There’s no secret sauce, I wrote from my heart. I thought a few college students might like it, I had no idea the outreach it would eventually have. But it covered life’s bigger picture, I think people could relate to it. The classic idea of the mentor and student, in this case the old gas station attendant I called Socrates, Richard Bach had his mentor, the Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi, King Arthur had Merlin and Carlos Casteneda had the brujo Don Juan. So this story of a mentor teaching a bumbling student is not new, but it just works somehow, the reminders about some of the basic life skills, like learning to focus on what’s in front of us rather than get wrapped up in the memory and imagination we call past and future. Those kinds of life skills I learned through the story and my readers also got reminders and that’s all I can do is remind people of what they already know at deeper levels, but we tend to forget.

Sundae: You know, I really connect with that. I feel like that’s part of my job as a coach to really help remind people what they know deep down or help them get back to the knowing that they’ve got deep down. 

You know, there’s one thing that you mentioned, the book that we’re focusing on, or that I focus on so much in my podcasts, that you’ve written about the four purposes of life. Because my people that I work with so intensely in programs like Year of Transformation are looking for purpose and meaning and one of the things I loved about your book when you talked about the four purposes, one is that the first purpose is learning life lessons, is you talked about humanity’s curriculum. And for those who haven’t read it yet, you talk about things like learning self worth, discipline, emotions, courage, and self knowledge. And when I first read that I highlighted it and put a star because I really wish these were things that were taught directly in our schools and we had more language for in our in professional context. Because the people that I work with are like award-winning leaders and really successful and still battle with self-worth 

Dan: Well, yes, and there’s so much more to it, even that first purpose. If I can just provide a context, in the Peaceful Warrior movie, the character Dan, my character, has this realization when he reaches the mountaintop. They go for a hike up in the hills and he says “Socrates, I just realized it’s not the destination that makes us happy, it’s the journey.” And, yeah sure there’s some wisdom in that true, because most of our life is the journey, not always reaching one destination after another. Except if we don’t have a destination in mind, there is no journey, we just wander around. I believe we’re hardwired gold-seekers, when I watch my grandchild, I have several of them, crawling across the floor, even a young baby, they’re not just doing it for exercise, they want something, they’re crawling toward somebody or something that they want. And from our point A there needs to be a point B, because you know happiness may be defined and success may be defined as making progress toward a meaningful goal. 

So it is critical, I think in our lives for the quality of life, for us to have a purpose. And in the four purposes of life, just as as I write in the introduction, as we divide the days of the year in the four primary seasons and the points on the compass into four primary directions, by looking at our lives through the four purposes I write about in this particular book, then it helps us to get some sense of order and direction and clarity. And as I said, meaning amidst the wanderings in the changes of everyday life.

Sundae: I love how you talk about that from a seasonal perspective and it connects with what I’ve noticed in the work that I do with people. There’s this idea of “I want a purpose.” So people automatically go to the career direction. And what I’ve seen, and you tell me if you’ve seen something differently, I’ve seen that you’re not going to land on the right career purpose if you haven’t done the work on really getting clear on who you are, how you tick, what your value is, what your talents are, and are ready to then show up and do something for others, for a profession from that sort of grounded space. 

Dan: Yes, very good reminder. You know Joseph Campbell once said, “Sometimes we climb to the top of our career ladder and realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall.” If we don’t know ourselves, many times we know our self-image, we know what we present to the world. But the shadow aspects, the parts we’ve disowned, that takes some work, it takes some time. College kids just graduating and expecting to go right into a field that they haven’t even tested themselves against the world. It usually takes ten years at least, most of us have experienced that, stumbling our way toward the light, finding out who we are, “What are my values? What are my talents? What are my interests?” 

See if we don’t know ourselves, we end up making the right decision for the wrong person, the one we thought we were. And many people make mid-course corrections we call a midlife crisis, but I think it’s a mid-course correction because we realize that “Maybe law isn’t for me.” 

So it takes time.

So self knowledge is key as I point out in the second purpose, which is about career and calling and distinguishing the two. But that first purpose, you know daily life is a form of spiritual weight training and the purpose of daily life, people wonder “Well what am I doing here? Is it is it about relationships? Is it about finances and career?” We learn about ourselves through these challenges of everyday life, spiritual weights that we lift. So in everyday life, there are rules in the school of everyday life. If we see earth as a school and daily life our classroom, there are actually school rules, we call them universal or spiritual laws, which I summarize a bit in the in the introductory section, number one about learning life’s lessons. 

But as you pointed out earlier, jumping back to that purpose, tell someone might say, “Fine, great Dan daily life is to learn, okay, so we’re here to learn from our experience, but what courses are we here to learn in order to graduate?” And you know, I sometimes relate very briefly, a dream I’ve had and now nothing is more boring than hearing someone else’s dream. However, it’s a dream that we’ve all had, whether or not we remember it, I think many of your listeners will relate to this dream. And the dream is, you have an important exam, maybe it’s in high school, maybe it’s in college, but it’s like a final or midterm very important exam. And in the dream you’re confused, it’s hard to find your way to the classroom to take the exam, but even more common you realize you’ve got this final exam and then you realize you forgot to attend the classes, you forgot you signed up for it. And this dream, which many people have had repetitively, I know I have, that the reason it’s important is because that’s how we live. Every day we have tests in our everyday life, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, there are these exams, these tests that come up in front of us, these challenges and we don’t know what courses we signed up for. 

Sundae: I don’t think people see it as a learning opportunity, right? I think that, you talk about in the book how true practice is not separate from daily life, but rather it’s very substance. And I think when, especially with kind of globally mobile families, there’s a lot of substance to learn from, but we’re just trying to get through it and we’re not we’re not riding above it and going, “Wow, so, how can I learn about myself here?” You know, “What does this mean about how I handle my emotions?” I think it’s a skill, we’re not taught to go on the meta level and look at how we’re responding to our daily challenges, I just think we get through our daily challenges. 

Dan: That’s what we do and it’s just, we see it as these things that appears, life is sort of like whack-a-mole, you know that game you hit one mole down and the other pops up, and we’re not seeing or appreciating it as a form of weight training. You know, if you don’t lift any weights, you don’t get any stronger. 

And I often ask people when I’m speaking with live audiences, “Please raise your hand only if you’ve experienced physical, emotional, or mental pain in your life.” Well all the hands go up and I said, “Well, you know, we can disagree on a lot of things if we agree on everything, only one of us is necessary. But I hope we agree on this, wouldn’t you say that difficulty, that challenge you faced, maybe a big one, maybe a small one recently. Don’t you think your because of it your little bit stronger, maybe a little bit wiser?” 

In that sense every adversity, every challenge in our life has hidden gifts. We don’t have to pretend to like it, but that is what brought us to our present moment, that is what gave us some perspective in life. What’s the big stuff and what is the small stuff? And so it helps us to appreciate these challenges of everyday life. In fact, we often volunteer for adversity. 

Sundae: Everybody who is listening knows they did that, they did it consciously or unconsciously like, “We signed up to be challenged?” Otherwise, we wouldn’t give up our community, our profession or whatever and go across to other parts of the world and restart. Everybody inside, there must be something which said, “I’m ready to learn.” Like you said whether you want to open that gift or not it’s there for us.

Dan: Absolutely, and I have great respect for people who go to different cultures, different countries where maybe they don’t speak the language fluently yet, different cultures, uprooting. But they’re doing it whether they know it or not, for deeper reasons than the one they may have thought they moved there for, and some people will nod their heads and go, “Yeah”. 

Sundae:  I didn’t know what I was signing up for.

Dan: Exactly, travel is broadening indeed, it wakes us up in a different way. So I think it’s really adventurous and courageous, not only immigrants and refugees going to another country, but people who choose to go for a person, for work, for duty. This is an amazing thing and it does help us learn even more lessons and we all know how we gain perspectives from that, we can look back on our, quote unquote “home country” unless we see ourselves as a citizen of the world, which I tend to see myself that way. 

Sundae: Well, I think it’s a stepping back that’s important. And I guess what I’m going to pull back here now for the audience is if you’re feeling like your resilience is low, if you’re feeling the fatigue from transition. One thing that I’m hearing you say is if we go on the meta level and just really celebrate, “Wow, this is hard and I’m learning and I’m growing.” And try to put your finger on what you are learning and growing, will help you build your muscles, like the global family or global mobility muscles, even if it’s hard. 

I want to make sure that we get enough time to go through the four purposes. We’ve talked about the first purpose which is learning life lessons, things that I wish we were teaching more actively in school around self-worth and managing emotions and self-knowledge. Second purpose is around finding your career and calling and the big thing I took away from that focus was approaching your career and calling like a treasure hunt, really testing limits to find out, is it that talent that you lack or is it experience. And challenging people to say, “How do you want to spend your life if this is what you’re doing?” So those are some really big things I’ve pulled out from from your book. What I’m finding, help me understand the third purpose better, because the first two I got immediately and the third is what you call the hidden calling or higher potential when you’re discovering your life path. 

Dan: Yes, that’s the most mysterious purpose of all and one of my absolute best selling books, over a million copies, is called “The Life You Were Born To Live.” Which addresses in detail this entire field. 

But before I touch upon that, it’s always a challenge but it’s fun too. Let me just say one more thing about career and calling, the second purpose. It’s important for people when they hear those two words to understand the difference. Our career is a way to make an income, we may find it meaningful, we may enjoy the people we work with. But if we weren’t making any money at all doing it, we’d have to find something else, because it’s a basic human life skill, producing an income. 

And news flash, we don’t have to love our work. We’re told that so many times we don’t have to love it. But if it’s suitable for us, if it matches our talents, values, and interests, if we like things about it and it makes a good income for us, that seems appropriate. So people shouldn’t go around saying “Yeah, but I don’t love it.” Well, nobody loves every aspect of the work they do, if we hate it then we have to look for something else. 

So, it is an experiment and calling though may not produce an income at all, it’s something we just would choose to do in our discretionary or it could be a hobby or it could be a deep yearning to do something, an interest we can’t explain. For me, it was a trampoline which started my life out, just jumping on a trampoline led to many other things, or playing guitar or music or poetry, writing, photography, whatever it is that can be a calling. It may eventually produce an income and become a career or it may not, it’s fine if they’re two different things. 

Sundae: It’s good you mention it because I think you know when we talk about purpose and this climate that we have right now around portable businesses and doing what you love. It really puts people in an awkward position of like, “Well, it really pays the bills and helps me take care of my family in multiple ways, but I don’t love it.” So really helping people tease out, you know, “Is this a rewarding enough career to then supplement my life with a calling?” So that the whole package feels right instead of putting the pressure on how you’re making money, so I think that makes sense to pull out. 

Dan: Yeah, so I want to just address that I’m glad, thanks for the chance to do that. And the third purpose we were turning to, finding your life path, what is that? Because we already have things we’re busy working on, whether it’s relationships, money, health, you know all those different questions. And those often preoccupy us in everyday life, where it’s like multiple attackers in martial arts where we’re dealing with one then the other or juggling. 

But so what is this, what is this hidden calling, this life path? 

Well, I met one of my four primary mentors many years ago and he sat me down and started telling me things that I could not understand how he knew this about me. I said, “How can you know this, are you a psychic or something?” And he said, “No, I’m not psychic.” He said, “I’ve been trained to know where to look.” He brought my life into a crystal clarity, things that were obscure. He knew me better than I knew myself. I said, “How can you know this?” 

Well six months later, he said he was going to teach an advanced training and he was going to teach where he looked, how he found this information about various people. And I said, “You mean I can learn to do for other people what you did for me?” Because he literally changed my life in a one-hour reading. That’s when I started stepping forward and teaching what I do now and many other aspects of my life financially changed. And he said, “Yes, you can learn to do this.” Well, I was there, it was one of the islands in Hawaii, we met with a small group of people and he did a series of lectures. And that’s where I learned what I call the life purpose system. 

Now I need to say and this is the elephant in the room, it is based on one’s date of birth. So in that sense, it is similar to astrology or numerology. Now numerology is not rational. I had never had a real big interest in numerology because it seemed a bit vague and abstract and maybe 40% accurate when I glanced at a few books in that topic. But the system I learned from this particular mentor, I’ll call him the warrior priest, this system had uncanny accuracy and I only had 20 pages of notes. I worked with it, I started doing readings for friends and relatives, anybody who’d listen and they were so impressed, like “How can you know this?” That I began to offer these professionally for almost eight years and finally I decided it was time to teach groups of people the system, and then I finally wrote the book. So that’s where it comes from, it is I like to think of it as trans-rational rather than irrational.

Sundae: I just have to assume that I mean, things that are new to us, even things that other people fully follow, others are skeptical for even like tarot cards or whatever. It’s like who can really claim that they understand the entire universe? I try to keep myself open to what there might be things in systems and energy and patterns that are out there that are beyond my understanding. So this is where I put my brain on the third purpose, I was like, “I have to just surrender that maybe there’s something bigger out there that I don’t understand.” 

Dan: Well, I invite any of your listeners to go to my website because they can actually, all our words about it, they’re not going to get what we’re really talking about in terms of this third purpose. But if they go to http://www.peacefulwarrior.com/ and they’ll see right in front of them on the landing page a thing called life purpose calculator, if they just click on that it’s free and just go to put in their date of birth. They will get a berth number, which doesn’t mean much but it has some keywords and it also has a paragraph, a taste, just a teaser of information about their life path or hidden calling and they can access that anytime. So I wanted to invite any listener to do that and it will give them a better sense and they’ll see the picture of the book also and a life purpose app anybody can get for a smartphone Android or iPhone. 

Sundae: And it’s fun, mine is around freedom and discipline and cooperation and balance. And what I’ve done with it is instead of trying to understand it, what I’ve done is to look at it as you know, a lot of people are looking for direction, so where in my life can I go further with these ideas of freedom and discipline? Where in my life can I go forward this idea of cooperation and balance? And it’s a way to give people direction, it’s like a heuristic move for those who are the most skeptical. It’s a heuristic move to go, “Hey, where can I play with this in my life and get value?” So I invite them to go check it out themselves and learn more. Just because of time I want to make sure that we have time for the fourth purpose.

Dan: We will, that doesn’t take as long but it’s maybe the most important purpose of all. Let me just say one more thing about this topic which is, if I were to point to a tree outside anybody’s house, anybody’s where they’re staying and they looked at a tree, chances are there’s not a single tree on the planet exactly like that tree. It is unique and every stem and angle of every branch and leaf, so we’re all unique just like that tree, individuals. However, I can say things about Redwood trees that are different from Birches or Aspen’s or Oaks, so in that sense each of us falls into a pattern. If you divide 45 life paths, which are in the book, into the population of the planet that means millions of people are working the same life path. Does that make them all the same personality or identically? Of course not, because we each have our genetic heritage, we have our life experiences,  we’re shaped in many different ways, but we do fall into that pattern. And that’s what people find surprising as they go into it in a little more depth.

Sundae: And it’s interesting how people have resistance with that, but they don’t have resistance around personality patterns. Like this is where my tiny brain, I just I can’t comprehend the big picture of humanity fully, because it’s so complex and amazing. That’s where I just find it interesting to sort of surrender to that and go, “What can I take from it?” 

So the fourth purpose is one of the things I love about the fourth purposes. You talk about tending to their rising moment, you say that we’re always here in the right here and right now and there’s no such thing as a future decision. Now this I think is really important for my audience because we’re often asked to make a decision, where do we want to live in one year? What country? What language would we be speaking? What job will we accept? So help us apply that idea to these crazy lives that we live.

Dan: Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had many troubles in my life most of which never happened.” Because most of our troubles are in our imagination, what we call the future or our memory, which is what we call the past. But the more we contemplate, the more deeply, the more we realize that all we have is this moment, this moment, this moment, this moment, right what’s in front of us.

Now, you can’t grab onto a nanosecond, there is no such thing technically as a present moment because it passes too quickly, but it’s about handling what’s in front of us and getting less involved. We have the capacity to remember, we have the capacity to imagine, there’s nothing wrong with planning our day, but we don’t need to get too wrapped up in the plans because life has a way of changing. 

But the most important purpose is the one that is in front of us. So yes, we can plan our day, we can project into the future, but we really make our decisions when we act. Someone once said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I do?” So decisions are made by action and by focusing on “What is my purpose in this moment?” It helps bring us back to earth, give us roots and ground us, rather than worrying about our cosmic purpose sometime in the future. 

There is no future happiness, you’re either happy now with everything. So because all we have is now, so that’s how we make decisions in the moment. And there’s a method I believe in that book or one of my other books called time lining where we use our imagination, a form of time travel to help make fully educated decisions. And obviously, there’s no time to go into that now. 

Sundae: So I’ll put a link in the show notes for that so they can check it out themselves. 

I’ll just use one of your quotes from the book, you said, “While some people act without thinking, too many of us think without acting.” And I think it connects to the fourth purpose really well.

Dan: And I might add that thinking about doing something. 

Sundae:  Right, and we discover what we really want by doing, by getting evidence in real life and finding out if it feels like we’re going towards something good or going away from something good, so I’m completely on the same page. 

So because our time is almost up here I would love to hear from you two things, last parting words of wisdom for our people and where can they find you.

Dan: Okay, well, they can find me the same place they find the life purpose calculator at https://www.peacefulwarrior.com and they can write and contact me, it’s not impossible to do, just contact and if they want to drop me a note anybody does. So that website, it has some fun features as I mentioned. 

And I think a closing message would be, don’t compare yourself to anybody else, don’t even compare yourself to your younger self because comparison is a form of disrespect for your own process. And it’s really about trusting the process of our life unfolding. I think that’s so important, that’s why I tell people, “I’m not here for you to trust me, I’m here to help you.”

Sundae: You just gave me chills up my arm when you said, “Don’t even compare yourself to younger self.” I think that’s a message that a lot of us need to learn.

I know your time is valuable, so I just want to say thank you so much for joining us here on Expat Happy Hour, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. 

For those of you who are listening to Dan and resonate with all of these core things, I will put the links to his books in the show notes. So you don’t 

So there you have it, you’ve heard the four purposes as briefly introduced in our conversation between Dan and I.

I want to just go back and recap some of the main takeaways that I have after reading the book “The Four purposes of Life” and our conversation together.

I think from the first purpose we look at learning life’s lessons, these are the basic things what he calls a humanities curriculum, that we would all love our children to learn right self-confidence, self-worth, how to work through fear.  But honestly, when I think about all the hard work that I do with my clients, we’re still knee-deep in humanities curriculum. 

So if you are out there and you’re struggling, you’re really honest with yourself with self-confidence and self-worth, it’s time to focus on the first purpose because this is really about using life as a classroom to add depth to your own understanding and depth to who you are and how you show up in the world.

In the second purpose finding your career and calling, I really like how Dan pulls out the difference between what is a career and a calling and it’s a gentle reminder in this individualized digital Nomad life that not everything that you do for your career has to be so deeply deeply purposeful. That if what you’re doing serves a function and pays the bills, that there are other ways that you can live a deeply purposeful life that doesn’t always result in making money from it. So it kind of offers a respite from the pressure that people feel, that every single minute of your professional time has to be deeply meaningful. 

And I can tell you I adore what I do, it is part of who I am, it is deeply purposeful and meaningful. But if I’m really honest, doing my taxes and accounting is not, but it’s part of the gig.

The third purpose we talk about, discovering your life path this hidden calling, this one I thought was interesting because it offers what I call a heuristic move, another way that you can look at the work that you do as you discover how you do your life’s work.

And then the fourth purpose, when he talks about attending to this arising moment. It is such a reminder that all we really have is now and that when we get stuck in the past or the future we’re not really living.

You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider Bean, thank you for listening. 

I will leave you with a quote found in Dan’s book by Oprah Winfrey, “You have a sacred calling, the question is will you take the time to heed that call? Will you blaze your own path? Are you the author of your own life? Don’t let others define it for you, real power comes by doing what you are meant to be doing and doing it well.”

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Sep 29 2019



Rank #9: 110: Grand Gestures

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There’s an important life event happening halfway around the world that you don’t want to miss but you are stuck in indecisiveness.  Should I go? Should I stay? Living abroad without regret is one of my core principles and knowing when to make a grand gesture is part of living that. Inspired by my decision to say “yes” to 42 hours of travel to spend nearly the same amount of time celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, I share guidelines on what to consider when contemplating whether it’s time to make a grand gesture.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • What counts as a grand gesture.
    • How to know whether making one is the right move.
    • What we need to remember when we are considering making a grand gesture.

Making a grand gesture is just one of many ways to “love the crap out of your people.” Listen to today’s episode and get tips on how you can live your life abroad without regret.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean fromwww.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

Me to my travel agent: “I want to fly out on Sunday, not Monday.”

His response: “But are you sure? You’ll be in the air for over 42 hours and only be in the country for 48.”

Surely that can’t be right? That is not even ecologically responsible, and really terrible on my body, not to mention obliterating my productivity at work, that I’ll be reeling from jet lag for days.  So why why why why would I tell my travel agent “No, in fact I’m going to fly on Sunday making the time I’m in the air almost the same as the time I’m on the ground.”  

Why? Because ….. Love.

Sometimes you need to go out of your way and make a grand gesture, and by the time you’ll be listening to this, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. My Mama & Papa both turn 70 this year and they’re celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I mean how many people are lucky enough to say, one that they made it to their 70th and two that they have stuck together all the way through 50 years of marriage. Their only wish was to have the three of us kids there with them, at a Bob Seger concert.

Yep, I’m gonna be hopping on a plane late Wednesday night, landing on Thursday and party to Bob Seger with my nuclear family by Friday night. There’s a side story of why this is happening now and not actually on my father’s 70th because he was too busy at Lady Gaga, which is a whole ‘nother story and probably says way too much about my family than should be public. I’ve got a family that likes to enjoy life and celebrate if you haven’t noticed and what you also might know about me is that you know how important it is to me to live abroad without regrets and this is the perfect example, right? I could have said no, everybody would have understood. I mean really to put everything down and fly so far away for such a short event. I don’t even know if we’re actually sitting with my parents at the concert and I’m inconveniencing my husband, I know that, sorry sweetie. My kids are gonna be like, “Where’s Mom?” and in fact, we’ve had some unsettling things at home with who’s going to be taking care of the kids exactly at what time and my friends are chipping in to make sure that we’re covered. So it’s kind of an inconvenience, yet I have the support of my loved ones on this end because this grand gesture is so worth it.

I can just see it now, I can’t wait and I might show some pictures on social media when it’s happening, so have a look for that when it happens. I’m super pumped that I’m going but it was a tough call.

Today’s episode is super simple, I’m going to offer just a few things for you to think about when you’re making a tough call. What should you ask yourself when you’re making the decision? Is this the time for a grand gesture or not?

So let’s define what a grand gesture is first before we get started. For me a grand gesture is something where you go out of your way, going to a friend’s birthday party is just a gesture of support but taking work off and getting in the airplane and flying a few hours to go to their birthday is a grand gesture. A grand gesture might be something that you’ve been planning for a long time. One of my best friends from college hand Illustrated a book for me for my 40th. I mean, I ugly cried so hard when I saw it, that is a grand gesture. One of my other really really close friends Illustrated an image of me and my family on my birthday, that is a grand gesture, where someone goes out of their way and is so thoughtful and spends time above and beyond the normal.  So grand gestures can be for a lot of things, they’re often to celebrate something or someone but a grand gesture could also be an extension of support when someone is struggling. And one of the things I know about expat life is that when you live abroad, when you live far away, one of the things that we all struggle with is not being there face to face. Like that time when my girlfriend got divorced and I wish I was there to move boxes. That sucks. That time when another friend lost her husband and I wasn’t there on the day of the funeral. We think, “How can we not be there on that day?! How can we not?!”

And what can we do instead to show our love? To make a grand gesture.

So I’m going to throw in a few ideas for you to think about the next time you’re faced with a question, should I or shouldn’t I? Is this time for a grand gesture or not? Because the end of the day even a thought of a grand gesture is really just asking the question “How can I love my people?” If you’ve listened to my podcast already, in my work, you know that my thing is to love the crap out of your people. So the grand gesture is, “Is this the right way to do that?”

So here are just a few things for you to think about.

Is it time to say yes to a grand gesture?

Number one: Is it something that you’ll regret if you don’t do it?  Okay, then maybe it’s a yes. Can you show up when no one else is? Also an opportunity for grand gesture. I know that I’ve had people who’ve experienced loss and when you’re so far away, it’s so hard to not be there. And what I’ve learned from them in hindsight,  how much they appreciated me showing up after everybody got quiet. I didn’t realize it in the moment that that was a grand gesture, but what I heard from them is it felt like it to them. So can you show up when no one else is? Maybe someone had surgery and got all the help in the hospital but once they’re home no one’s there. Maybe they had a baby and the mother-in-law just left and they’re sitting there overwhelmed not knowing how they’re going to do it all. Can you show up when no one else is?

Number one: Is it something that you know you’ll regret if you don’t do it?

Number two: Can you show up when no one else is?

Number three: Will it be something that they’ll remember for a lifetime? Like are you gonna do it and then they’re going to remember it when they’re old and gray in a rocking chair? That is a great time for a grand gesture.

Number three will it be something that they remember for a lifetime.

Number four: Does it make your body feel like you’ve got champagne bubbles inside? Like you get all excited and it just feels right even though it doesn’t seem logical? Does it make your body go all champagne bubbly? That’s a sign that a grand gesture could be in order.  

Number five: Is it inconvenient for you but makes the life of someone you love so much easier? Is it inconvenient for you, but makes a life of someone you love so much better?Number six: Is this immediate inconvenience more than worth the energy you’ll get from being there or from the memories you’ll carry for a lifetime?

Number seven: Is saying yes to this grand gesture also living your core values? So maybe one of your values is to be present during the hard stuff.  Maybe it would be easier emotionally for you if you weren’t there, but one of your values is to be present during the hard stuff. Then maybe it’s time to say yes to a grand gesture.

So these are just a few ideas, I’ve listed seven here.

Of course this is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a beginning for you to start thinking.  In that time where you’re trying to make the tough call should you ask for work off? Should you book the flight? Should you put in the holiday vacation? Should you ask your partner to babysit? Whatever it is, these serve as the beginning guidelines to get you thinking on whether or not you say yes to the grand gesture. Commemorating a special day, planning something special, celebrating or supporting someone in ways that others are not.

Again, this is just a way to love our people, to stay connected, and sometimes a grand gesture is exactly the right thing.

But, a grand gesture isn’t always the right thing. So here are a few things for you to consider, to think twice, when you’re considering yes or no on taking the leap.

Number one: Do you feel like you should go, not like you want to go. There’s no champagne bubbles in your belly, you feel like you should.

Number two: Are you doing it because the pressure from the family feels too big?

Number three: You haven’t yet thought about how else you could support by not being there. And I’ve shared in another episode the time when my 92 year old grandfather passed away during the worst blizzard in Europe and North America. Where airports were closed all over and it was on the weekend, Friday after work when I found out. And I was supposed to make it by Monday, but I was so discombobulated on Saturday I couldn’t even think straight. And one of my best friends in Switzerland she said “Sundae, you don’t always have to hop in an airplane and fly across the world in a snowstorm to support.  How else can you support your Mom? How else can you honor your grandfather?” and she was so right.

So maybe a grand gesture isn’t the right thing when you haven’t yet thought about how else you could support. And in that situation I told my mother that it didn’t feel right to get on the airplane because of the blizzard and all of the other things that we’re going on and she said “I’m so relieved, Sundae if you had gone I would have just worried about you.” And what I did instead is I created a ceremony at the same time as the funeral from my home with my son and my loved ones so that I could honor him.

So think through what are other ways that you could support if there’s no champagne bubbles in your belly and your trying to see if it’s the right thing.

Number four: You might think twice if the grand gesture would be personally damaging to you in the long run. Like you’ll lose your job or it’ll ruin you financially. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with wanting to love the crap out of our people that we don’t think clearly. And the ironic part about that is the people on the receiving end love you so much they don’t want the gesture to be at the detriment of you and your life.

Number five: It’s very simple, think twice if something inside of you says “Hmm, don’t do it.”  Something wise inside says, “Don’t do it.“  Then those are times where you might want to pause before you pull the trigger on the grand gesture. Remember there are a lot of ways to show people you love them and I believe one of the most important ways is to, as you know my philosophy, to love them while they are alive, love them now. So what can you do to love them in little ways so that when you’re debating about the grand gesture, there’s buckets and buckets full of love already that are already filled.  And when we show people that we love them the best ones, the best gestures are the ones that come from your whole heart.

Sometimes you need to go out of your way and make a grand gesture and I’m doing that this week by rocking up to a Bob Seger concert with my siblings and my Mama and Papa halfway around the world. I can’t wait. I have no idea if jet lag will be on my side or not and whether rum and coke will be my friend or my foe, but I can’t wait to celebrate with my family in this grand gesture celebrating an amazing couple a symbol of love for 50 years.

My parents are turning 70 and they’re taking their kids to this rock concert. These are people that I admire so much. I love how they live. My father’s philosophy is life is for the living. I mean the guy who’s 70 and goes to Lady Gaga on his birthday is a good example of that, right? They taught me how to love the crap out of my people and now I’m sharing that with you.

So if you want to think about more ways that you can love the crap out of your people, that you can live abroad without regret, I’ve got more for you. You can check out in the show notes a blog article called far away from loved ones five ways to stop regret. I’ve also done a podcast says love your friends and family while they’re Alive episode 64. Those are just two of many messages I share around how you can live your life abroad without regret, and maybe a grand gesture will help you do just that.

You’ve been listening to the Expat Happy hour with Sundae Bean. Thank you for listening.

I will leave you with the words of Andriana Sawyer, American author and consultant “Self-reflection is a much kinder teacher than regret.”

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Feb 10 2019



Rank #10: 158: Growth Zone Goodness

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This time of year, everyone’s out for self-improvement. We’re making (and breaking) New Year’s resolutions, pumped up to change and determined to take over the world. Then, we surrender to defeat once we realize that getting what we want isn’t easy or very much fun. Hey, if it was, we would’ve done it already, right?

New Year’s resolutions are useless because humans are crappy at willpower. The goal setting is good, but the execution is poor.

Progress happens outside the edges of your comfort zone. Once you decide you’re ready to leave safety and embrace feeling uncomfortable, then you’ll enter the growth zone where legitimate and enduring transformation takes place.

Growth zone success looks different for everybody, and I’m going to help you define what it looks like for you. More good news? You can restart today (or tomorrow, or next week) because it’s not based on a calendar, it’s based on filtering through intention

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • “Naming” your year based on who you want to become
  • Deciding what you should stop, start, & continue
  • Listening to your gut vs. strategic planning
  • Proclaiming your vision to your support system
  • The collective impact of micro-moments & “close ones”

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We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 2 am in New York, 9 am in Johannesburg and 2 pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it. If you’re listening to this on the day that it goes live January 13th, you probably had high hopes for the new year. But by now there’s been enough time for the high of New Year’s resolutions to wear off. 

I don’t know. Have you been going to the gym? Did you stop wine-o-clock? Whatever it is that you had in your mind on New Year’s Eve that you wanted to change, I get how easy it is to ditch these resolutions a few weeks later.

Here’s the thing, this is what’s great about resolutions, it helps us get clear on our intention, what is our intention to change? But I feel like we go about it the wrong way. So in this episode of Expat Happy Hour, I’ve got a ton of forward-looking things for you to actually help you create in your life what you held in your heart on New Year’s Eve.

And there’s some things I think we do wrong when it comes to resolutions and there’s some things that we do right that we should go further with. But we’re not just going to talk about that, this episode is, excuse my French, is going to cut through some of the bullshit that is out there around growth and getting out of your comfort zone. And I’m going to share a really honest perspective based on what I’ve experienced, what I see with my clients that I don’t think we talked about enough.

So let’s go for it. 

So if we’re looking at your intentions for the year, I would suggest you go back to episode 104, it’s called From Military Sergeant Mom to Marry Poppins Overnight and they look at two questions.

The first one is who are you becoming? Who are you becoming this year in 2020? Or if you’re listening to this in another year, who are you becoming this year? And what are you no longer available for? Those are really two important questions. If you stopped listening right now and you answered those that would already be a huge guide for you in the year ahead. 

But let’s go deeper for that, my word for 2020 is “fresh” and it’s even more fun if you say it like this“fresh” but a lot of people choose a word for the year and you might be asking yourself “How do you find the word?” For me the only way to find the word is to listen for it with your guts, like what’s the thing deep in your guts that you’re hungry for creating this year? This is about a need not a strategy, it’s about how do you want to do life this year? What is it that will guide you?

Super-powerful if you are choosing a word make sure that in your guts this is what you want. This is your word for the year and for me, “fresh” is with my entire body, I know it’s exactly what I want. And I’ll tell you a little bit about how I came to the word “fresh.” I think it was in August 2019, my coach challenged me to do something which we started to call “The Capacity Challenge.” I was stretching in brand new ways, getting completely outside of my comfort zone and doing two if not three times more work, but with the same amount of hours. Done at five, still exercising, not skipping meals, and just relaxing after work with my family, etc. 

You might ask yourself “How do you do double even triple of the work in the same amount of hours.” Well, that’s what a “Capacity Challenge” is, it’s to help you find out what it feels like, and what it felt like for me was that I put a ton of gas in a pressure tank, it felt super full, not like it was going to explode but there wasn’t much space left. So I think I felt proud of doing the challenge, really grateful because I learned a ton, but I wanted more space in the coming year so “fresh” came up. 

I’m also someone who needs to change every three to four years and because our assignment has been extended, I’m going to stay in the same house, I’m keeping my husband, I’m keeping my kids. I’m not going to chop my hair off a footlong like I did four years ago and I had my second kid, I figured I might as well change some other things. So “fresh” was important for me. And as soon as I decided that, it became the filter for everything, I didn’t wait till New Year’s Eve to start doing it, as soon as  decided in December 2019 that was now the filter I looked through everything. 

We went surfing on vacation and it was a blast, the way that I’m approaching my schedule, the way I’m working with my team, all of that is now filtered. So that’s what I invite you to do. What’s that word deep in your guts and use that word as a filter for everything you do. 

I mean, it’s so silly, but I did a photoshoot on Friday and that word help me choose my nail polish color, it influenced how we did this shoot, I’ve started lessons on things I’ll tell you more about as the year goes on and I even contacted a reptile recovery specialist for dance lessons. If you’re not following my Facebook page, you don’t know what that means. So check out what’s happening on Facebook under Sundae Scheider Bean LLC and you’ll know what that means when you get there. 

So that’s how you get started, if you want more of diligence in your life, you want more love in your life, you want more joy, you want more depth whatever it is. Use as a filter so that you can experience it every day. And stop working so dang hard, like just using that it’s a filter that does the work for you. 

I do think what we do wrong when it comes to resolutions is that we tend to rely on our willpower to make things happen and let’s be honest, humans are really crappy at willpower. We’re good at it for a few days and it just completely tanks. And don’t take my word for it, look at “Atomic Habits” from James Clear, he’s got the science behind it, we cannot rely on willpower. And to be honest if you were, I’d wonder if you were enjoying your life, I think there’s a better way to do it. 

So those micro-moments every time you filter it through the lens, that’s what makes a collective impact, that’s what makes a difference in your life. 

Another thing you can do when you get your word, you got to get other people on board. So with me with “fresh”, you’ve got to tell people about your vision. So when I contacted the reptile recovery specialist for dance lessons I said, “Hey my word for the year is ‘fresh’ and here’s what I’m trying to do.” When I contacted my photographer for the photoshoot I said, “This is my word, how are we going to do this photoshoot through that lens?” Get people on board, your partner, your kids, your clients, I don’t know whoever is important to you, your teammates, people you lead, share your vision with them and I’m sure if you’ve got something cool like that they’re going to want to help you make that happen. 

One of my friends, her word is “execution” and I don’t mean like killing people, I mean like following through. So you can imagine with this word “execution,” if everything is filtered through that then you start asking different questions like “Okay, I have this great idea what has to happen for me to follow through? Who can help me follow through? When should I do it so I follow through?” You just take back control of your life by using that as a filter. If your word is “fierce”, you ask yourself “How can I get more ‘fierce’ this week? How can I approach my work out more ‘fierce?’ How about my job hunt? How about how I love on my partner?” Anything.

So that’s my invitation to you is start looking deep in your guts for the word. I’m sorry just because it’s mid-January doesn’t mean this conversation is over. In fact, this is a conversation you need to be having January, February, March, April. It’s the only way you’re going to get to the end of the year satisfied with how you did it. I really get sick of this sort of like mid-December hype around setting goals first week of January and then it just drops completely, everybody stops talking about it. No, now is where we start have to focus on it and I’ve got plans on how to do that. But I’ll tell you more in the end. 

So if you caught Episode 156, which was the last one I recorded in 2019, I invited you to have a conversation with your 30 December 2018 self which might have surprised you. “Why are we talking about myself from a year ago?” If you haven’t listened to it, do it because it’s what I’ve noticed from the listeners who’ve actually done the work. It is tear-jerking, I’ll just say it like that. Go back to episode 156 and listen to the advice your 2018 self has for you. And as I said the examples that I’ve been shared brought tears to my eyes and they’ve really been a wonderful demonstration on how you can love on yourself and learn. So self-work, let’s do it,  if you haven’t done episode 156 do it to get started.

But now we’re looking ahead to this year. We’re going to filter everything we do through the thing that is deep in our guts. Then let’s have a conversation with our 30 December 2020 self. So the reason I chose 30 December it was on the cusp of the new decade and it was coming out in the 30th of December and that’s what I want you to do is now look ahead one year almost at the end of this year as you hear it. And that conversation I know will inspire you, because I originally was going to record this podcast just giving you the questions and then have you run off with it and go. But something about it kind of felt preachy like I was just going to tell you what to do and then take off, that didn’t feel right. 

So what I did is I actually walked through the questions myself, yeah, I’m going to share that with you what happened but stuff emerged that I wasn’t expecting but I know is deep down there. So I’m going to share with you what popped up for me as an invitation for you to do the work for yourself and I want you to see what clarity comes by doing it for yourself. 

By the way, if you hear that my voice is scratchy it wasn’t because I was up partying till 4:00 in the morning on New Year’s Eve, I somehow got a cold a week ago and now I sound like my grandma Bean. She would clear her throat every Sunday when we were having coffee together. So, excuse me for that, I promise you I did stay up till midnight this year, which was a total exception, but I wish I were, but I was too tired and too old to be partying till 3:00 in the morning. 

Alright, so let’s get going again. Here you are, I want you to imagine that you were having a conversation with your 30 December 2020 self, what’s she going to say based on where you stand today and where you want to go? What do you want her to say? How this word that you have in your head and heart led you to where she is now in 30 December 2020. What has to happen so he looks back at you and says “Hey, you crushed it.” 

What has to happen for your future self to look back at you and say, “Hey, you crushed it.” We’re going to start there. So I’ve got my piece of paper right next to me, the notes that I used when I did this for myself. So here’s what happened, I wrote “You crushed it.” At the top and instantly when I wrote that I was like shit shit. I was like, oh, inside my body was like “I’m actually going to have to stretch myself.” That’s my job, that’s what I do is I stretch myself, I help other people to stretch themselves, that’s my gig and that was my reaction, I’m not kidding you.

And I realized that the thing that makes me so crazy is when you hear people say “You got to get out of your comfort zone.” Oh, I could just punch them in the nose with my closed fist because there are people who say it but don’t do it. It’s just in your head, like “This year I’m gonna get out of my comfort zone.” But you don’t do anything different. And I get that cognitively. I mean my 2010 self probably would have said she would have deserved a big quick, you know pop in the nose from myself now because I would have been that girl going, “Yeah, get out of your comfort zone.” Like it’s in my head, it’s all academic.

The definition of your comfort zone is where you feel safe and you feel in control and if you have listened to my podcasts about the The Perfectionist Recovery Room, I call myself a recovering perfectionist. So if you are someone who identifies as having perfectionist tendencies, guess what? I bet you’re spending a lot of time in your comfort zone. So I just want you to have an honest talk with yourself right now, are you truly stretching yourself? Or are you honestly in your comfort zone? Because the people that I know that are not in their comfort zone, for example, my clients who are constantly being challenged to do new things, courageously showing up in their life every day and they inspire me because of how they’re courageously showing up. I can’t not do it because it would just be like be so unfair for them. 

So really have an honest talk with yourself right now, are you in your safety zone? I just want to say if you don’t think that –  the growth zone – that they talk about comfort zone, fear zone, learning zone, growth zone. If you don’t hear the word growth zone and want to vomit you’re not in it. You’re not in the growth zone if you don’t want to vomit. I have more to say about this obviously, but growth zone is truly stretching yourself. So people who say they want to find their purpose or live their dreams, it is nice and fluffy, but the road there should make you want to vomit otherwise, you’re not doing the work, otherwise, you’re still in your comfort zone. 

I know when my clients are listening to this you’re going to identify with this right now.

Okay, so comfort zone. I realized when I was answering this that it triggered me because I knew I’d have to be in the vomit zone, I mean the growth zone. If you are in the growth zone I know you get it. I work with a colleague who does similar work to me and I know she gets it. She also talks about how damn challenging it is to continually grow over and over and over again.

So I feel like, for example, when I’m in my growth zone it’s beyond fear. Like if we look at the comfort zone we feel safe and control, then we go into the fear zone where like, “It’s too hard or people aren’t going to like it or I’m not good enough.” That’s the fear zone, when we go there amygdala reacts, I call it my Amy G Dala, he starts talking, keeps us scared and which she wants to push us back to the comfort zone.

Then there are people who really stretch themselves, they learn new skills, and they’re like heading up against new challenges and problems. That’s the learning zone, it is not an easy zone but it is still somehow comfortable when you’re learning. 

But the growth zone is for me, and this is could be different for other people is where you’re truly extending yourself in new ways. And I personally feel like a cat who’s exposing her underbelly and it’s like any moment I could be attacked but just hold my paws up with my belly showing and go “Pfew, just hope this works out okay.” And that’s how, I mean when I was doing this exercise I realized what growth often feels like for me. I used to just talk, you know, get out of your comfort zone, not do anything. Maybe you’re like me, when I was in the fear zone like “Oh, it’ll take too long, it is going to be difficult, I don’t know if I can.” Or you know, “No one will like me.” That would be the fear zone, and then I would courageously step out of that and then start learning new skills, extending my comfort zone.

But real growth is like brand-new goals, creating the dream, really getting clear on purpose and making it happen. And like I said, it might make you want to vomit and that’s a good sign, that’s just my opinion.

Okay, so here’s the thing, so I went online to look at a graphic about this comfort versus growth zone. And again, if you go online and you go to “Google Images,” you put “comfort versus growth zone” you’ll get the inner circle is the comfort and then the outer one is fear and then it gets bigger with learning and then the growth zone is on the edge. So when you’re feeling fear, you’re actually breaking through your comfort zone and growing and learning. But I came across this graphic and God bless this person, whoever it was. Let me just see if I can find it online because I don’t want to throw them under a bus. There was this great post about comfort versus growth zone, but the illustrator added graphics to this that had a donkey in the comfort zone. So that is hard for me because donkeys kind of mean like that’s a jackass like you’re a jackass if you’re in your comfort zone. No, like why would we ratify the judgment that we feel for being comfortable. And then in the growth zone there was a unicorn, kind of like My Little Pony unicorn and I was like “For real? It is not rainbows in the growth zone.” 

And that is what I want to talk to you about today, I want to demystify the ease in which we think growth happens for others. So any of you who have been watching my journey over the last year or two, if you think it’s My Little Pony, unicorns and rainbows – you’re wrong. No, just because it might look comfortable doesn’t mean it has been comfortable. Like even something silly like a photoshoot might look like a natural smile or whatever, but you don’t know what an individual had to overcome to feel comfortable in that situation. So that’s what I want you to take with you when you think about crushing it in 2020, I want you to give yourself space for some discomfort and I want you to celebrate it when you do, because that’s normal and that’s growth. 

So when I realize, you can tell I went on total rant about this, when I realize what’s going to happen for me to crush it in 2020 to do the things I want to do, I know I’ve got to quickly get into the fear zone, fly through that, learn something new and then be in the growth zone where I am extending myself in a way that feels like a stretch. 

And here’s the thing, just a caveat, this is all relative, so, for example, I have a stable life in the country that we live, there’s no political upheaval, my continent isn’t burning. I don’t have any battles with addiction happening in my family right now. Like things are stable, I’m personally not battling an illness, so whatever my growth is, it’s relative to what my capacity is. Your growth might look like a millimeter to others but for you it’s giant. So there’s no judgment here, it’s all based on where you are, what your life looks like and what your capacity is. This is not who can do more, this is “What can I do to grow?” 

And one of my clients words is “calm,” so growth for her would look like adding a ton of chill in her life, which looks completely different than what I would do to grow. She would probably do way less to achieve her growth than someone who is word was “fierce” for example. So that’s something I really want you to know about when you’re going to crush it this year, it is all relative to what you want to do.

The second message I want to make sure that you’re taking away is that growth doesn’t look like a rainbow unicorn. It is something that stretches you and it’s okay if you feel uncomfortable and it makes you kind of want to vomit a little bit because then you’re growing. 

So that is the first question that I answered for myself, I want you to do that now and push pause and do it for yourself or do it afterwards but what has to happen so you can look back at your 2020 self in December you can look back and say “Hey, you crushed it. High-five.” 

Next question is, it’s called the close one, and here we have got to get really really honest with ourselves. Close one, what is that thing, you know is hard for you? And that if you’re speaking as the 2020 December you that you had to overcome so that when you look back on what you did this year you’re beaming with joy? So for me when I wrote down the close one, if I stand there as Sundae December 30th 2020 and I’m having a heart-to-heart with myself now, I know the close one was again this ongoing recovery of perfectionism to shiny object syndrome. I have so many opportunities, people asking to partner, I’ve got wonderful people that inspire me, ideas I’d like to follow, that I need to focus. 

I know what my goals are for 2020, I need to stay focused on them unless there’s undeniable evidence to shift along the way. I cannot let “fresh” slide, “fresh” just can’t be this thing for January and then it goes away. For me to proudly stand there December 30th 2020, I want to look at how I carried “fresh” throughout my whole year. In fact, I’m going to be listening to this podcast December 30th 2020, and I’m going to hear right now as I’m listening in the future whether I did that or not. I know for me to really get to the December 30th 2020 version of myself I’m gonna have to push my edges and I’m going to have to stand in faith that it’ll be okay, like that cat with her paws open and her belly exposed is going to need to hold that pose and have it be okay, continue to put myself out there. 

So that’s what I know are my close ones. What about you, you know yourself, you know, your tendencies? What the things that you fall back into? This is your chance to think about what are the close ones knowing yourself and the way that you do what are the things you know that are going to be tricky to overcome for you? Put them at the forefront of your mind now so that you see them coming and you’ve got a plan to get around them.

Okay, gets a little bit easier from here on out, at least for me, maybe it’s different for you. The next question is who helps her along the way? So for me I thankfully have an amazing support system in place, I have my own business coach, I got my closest business peeps, I’ve got my dear old friends and I’ve got my team. So for me the “Who helped me along the way to reach what I want to do in 2020”? I’m pretty confident that’s okay, but I’ve worked hard to create that system. 

What about you? How strong is your support network? If you’re trying to grow your business, do you have a mentor? Are you trying to double your revenue as a coach? Do you have someone who’s done that and can show you how? Do you have people to support you emotionally? How about fitness? Whatever it is you’re trying to work on, how strong is your support network? If you’re standing there like a deer in the headlights and you don’t know, this is probably priority number one in January, develop a strong support network so that you can crush it this year.

So the next question is the stoplight question. So what does this future version of yourself say you should stop, start, and continue? What should you stop, start, and continue? 

For me if I’m truly honest and here I am cat with my belly exposed, I need to continue to work on whether I care what people think or not. I’ve done a lot of work to let that go, but I know there are times where I can still play it a little safe. So that’s something I need to stop. Continue for me for sure is continue with “fresh” that is a lot of stuff I’ve chosen is very physical, I need to continue to exercise and continue to keep promises to myself. What do I need to start? I need to start getting more space in my calendar and start on taking even bigger risks. 

So what about you? What should you stop, start, and continue this year so your 2020 version of yourself, the end of this year is so flippin proud of you? So by this time if you are not shaking in your boots, I don’t think you’re dreaming big enough and you’re not giving yourself enough credit for what and who you can become. If you are personal development junkie, like myself or you want to keep going with this you can dive into Episode 88 A Message From Your Future Self, because there’s more there waiting for you. 

All right, let that be your guide, I’m excited to be by your side this year is you become this amazing 2020 version of yourself. I get how hard habits are to change, especially when you’re on your own and that is why I will be here every step of the way to help you up level in 2020.

And here’s just a taste of what that’s going to look like. So the week that this is going live right now, this is my birthday week, so if you’re subscribed to be on the lookout for a gift from me on January 16th, because I’ve got something to help you uplevel.

Now I also encourage you to sign up for my Uplevel Challenge taking place on Expats On Purpose, all you got to do is go to the link in the show notes so that you cannot miss out on any of the special announcements and videos that will be sent during that time. It’s not just my birthday this month, but it’s also Expat Happy Hours birthday, she turns three at the end of this month, don’t tell her I bought her a present, I can’t wait till she gets it. 

But there are more surprises to come when we get closer to Expat Happy Hour’s third birthday. And the thing I’m probably the most excited about is that there’s been this overwhelming response to my program called Expat Coach Coalition and we’ve already started. It’s going really well and there were so many people who wanted to be part of it, but couldn’t join the first round that they asked me to open up a waiting list for round two, so get on the waiting list in the show notes for Expat Coach Coalition if you are working with expats and/or people in global mobility, especially if you’re a coach because I’ve got something special for you coming up. 

And if you are not a coach, but would love to work with me in 2020, you guys my schedule is already getting pretty full. So it’s important for you to get on a waiting list, I’ll make sure that’s in the show notes too, but there’s a few ways that you can work with me in 2020 and I want to make sure that you don’t miss out. So let’s get in touch and start having conversations because I want to help you get to that amazing 2020 version of yourself the end of this year so you can fast-track the whole way and know that you’ve got someone by your side to make it happen. 

So do you have it? It’s gonna be a great year, we’ve got really big and beautiful things to do and now you’ve got this game plan on how you can make it happen. So if you’ve just listened and didn’t take notes, I really encourage you to go to the show notes, download the transcript, I’ve got a PDF there. You can also scroll through and read this, print it out if you want to and scribble your answers in the margins or into your journal. Because just listening isn’t going to be the same as actually doing the work, just like what I did for myself where all of a sudden I realized all the crap that came up when I discovered what would have to happen for me to crush it this year. 

I can’t wait to check in with your 30th of December 2020 self and celebrate how you crushed it. 

This is Sundae Schneider-Bean with Expat Happy Hour, thank you for listening. 

I’ll leave you with the words from French-Cuban-American diarist, essayist, novelist and writer of short stories Anaïs Nin, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

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Jan 12 2020



Rank #11: 109: Finding A Job Abroad With Vici Koster-Lenhardt

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You have moved abroad, you have a professional background and are now ready to start finding employment. You are ready to make that big transition and move onto that next phase of your life. The only problem is that you just don’t know how to bridge the employment gap, and you find yourself asking “How do you I even begin to do this in a foreign country?!”  

Today’s guest, Victoria Koster-Lenhardt, has the insights to help you make a career transition no matter where you are, and finally land that job.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • How to identify your unique value when you’re in a new context.
    • The top mistakes most people make that you should avoid.
    • What most people ignore when looking for work from abroad.
    • The one skill every partner needs to practice when their spouse is on the job search.

I think the most important yet potentially counter-intuitive piece of advice from this episode’s guest expert is this: Put in the work to be more of who you are so you can stand out, rather than stick out. If you’re feeling stuck on what assets from your background stand out, don’t miss this week’s assignment, “What are you most proud of that you’ve accomplished in the last three to five years?”

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

Today I have a very special treat for you. I have someone who has the secrets that you wish you knew. Insights about how to make your career transition and get the job when you are overseas.

I would like to warmly welcome Victoria Koster-Lenhardt, a career transition strategist and resume writer. She’s also a job search coach for U.S. diplomatic spouses and partners in Europe, and a global employment advisor to the U.S. State Department. She supports families relocating to European countries or the USA by assisting the family members in making the career transitions and finding meaningful employment while living in Europe, and if any of you who are in Europe as expats, you know just how challenging this can be.  

As an expat herself, she’s learned firsthand the importance of developing a strategy. She and I are aligned on strategies for relocation that includes networking, communications, outreach, and finding and building community. I know with my heart that she couples this with a deep understanding of how important it is to make a course correction when you’re faced with your own career changes and that’s what she uses to help her clients discover the next phase of their life. So Vicki, I am so happy to have you an Expat Happy Hour today. Welcome.

Vici: Thank you so much, I am so excited to be talking to you about this because I believe we both share the same passions.

Sundae: Absolutely, and you have all the things that I connect with about building community and relationships. Listen, here’s the thing, what you do I think people are going to love, because there’s this struggle when you are a living abroad somewhere and you have an education, you have a professional background and it’s like there’s this gap between you and this employer that you can completely add value to, but you just don’t know how to bridge the gap and I have a hunch that’s exactly what you help people do. Can tell us more about who you are and what you do exactly?

Vici: Well I was about 21 when I first thought about moving abroad, I am now in my late fifties so I have been through the whole gamut of searching for jobs at various ages and life phases, and I tap into that all the time, because clients are all of those ages from starting out and freshly married in many cases, first time living abroad to getting ready to retire and maybe even move back to the United States after twenty five years.  I started out with working at the Coca Cola company, which is where I got the bulk of my coaching background and coaching experience. Working with expats, I recruited many people to work with me in Vienna at the time because I needed many of them to be writers who know how to put together software documentation. When we talk about closing those gaps and finding your value, it is really important to look at and research companies and how they match what your values and skills are.  A lot of people will come to Europe without language skills and think “I can’t get a job”, but they are still passionate. So when you talk about bridging those gaps and connections you have to look also at your language skills and not go into the rabbit hole of “Oh I don’t speak the local language, nobody is going to know who I am”, and yet at the same time you’re having to deal with “I don’t speak the local language, I am illiterate for the first time in my life, I have a PhD in Neuro Physics, but I am illiterate”.

Sundae: I know right, that is the hardest, I know how many times. I actually have chills up the bottoms of my legs right now when I hear you say that, I think it’s going back to that feeling that I had of being so employable you know in my own context, but feeling like a child with my German and that’s so hard. But I want to go back to what you said, I loved how I was talking about closing the gap and you automatically shifted that to saying, “Finding your value”, and I’m going to share a little story here about my own journey in Switzerland, finding your value I would say in context. I spent, I wasted I would say, I wasted so much time applying for jobs, I think my goal was to get to 100 rejections and then get a job because I knew it would take awhile. What I was doing was I was trying to be Swiss, I was trying to be like them, meaning I was trying for my German to be so good that I could do the work and I realized that what I was doing was missing out on actually the thing that gave me the greatest advantage, so I was trying to hide my English and put forward my German, it was ridiculous and once I started I made the shift, I got job offers for positions that were over my head. I was like, “Oh, I’m finally doing something right”.  Do you see that happen?

Vici: Absolutely, I mean this aspect of trying to be something you’re not a lot of people will come and think, “I have to improve my language skills”, and I the first thing I tell people is that nobody’s going to hire you for your German or your French or your whatever language, they’re hiring you for you and I think one of the greatest things that I’ve learned over the last five years and I get tipped off from people like Sally Hogshead and many others who work on personal branding, is to figure out who you are and be more of you and that’s a lot of what I do. That’s a lot of what career transition is about, many people I work with have never done career transitioning and so they’re thinking “I want to find a job and I want to update my resume” and that’s actually the outcome of the work, the input is really figuring out who you are figuring out what makes you unique and many times you can start with, okay for me I’m a New Jersey girl, you’re a lot of New Jersey but not the Jersey out of the girl. You know, I come from the Northeast United States. I’ve been living abroad for 30 years, but it’s still a part of who I am and it’s still a part of how I deliver what I do and how I think and approach the world, although I’m a global citizen at this point and a lot of people really I think it’s a wonderful example what you said in terms of as soon as you figure it out that and stop trying to be something that you’re not and stop trying to be a Swiss citizen and instead look at this is who I am and how does being a Swiss citizen make me even more unique and more valuable, you know it used to be easier when you came to Europe and were native English speaker because that was highly valuable 30 years ago specially in Central Europe, now you’ve got to have a little bit more than just your native language, though native English speakers have a lot of options in terms of teaching English as a second language, teaching business English to high-level people working at companies, you know even at the sea level or executive management who want to improve their English, they’re always looking for people who are able to teach at that level and coach at that level. A lot of people do and I think actually, you know getting a telsoul or something, some kind of certification at that level kind of, you know, helps you on that confidence level. When you have to go through literacy, when you have a degree from an American University, or any University, it’s not just America, these are these are situations that happen to any expat from any country when you arrive in a country, and in many cases if you are the spouse that’s taking care of the young children, and this happens a lot, you’re you’re not only illiterate but you are a illiterate in terms of; how do people manage take care of their children in this country? So I think when you were talking about mistakes, the biggest mistakes you can make the first one, but it’s so easy to slip into trying to be something that you’re not and I think confronted with that for the first time, where you have to say, “Well what am I?” is daunting especially when you can’t speak the language and then just start to just talk to people about how you’re feeling and how and and then to figure out “How do I move through that phase as quickly as possible?” or not and go into the next phase and I think you know, it’s so easy, you use the word “Wasting” or the phrase “Wasting time”, you didn’t waste time. It’s kind of like a groundhog day, you know?

Sundae: Right, that’s so funny you say that, that’s how I started out in Switzerland. Don’t even make me go there again, I mean when I think about how that felt emotionally, I felt like you know, groundhog day, I felt like I was trapped in groundhog day. In reality it was a very short time period, but it felt like forever you know, I felt like I’m never going to get a job. It was horrible, it was horrible for my ego, I thought it was destroying my career. If you’re not good about separating those two things you can put your relationship at risk because then you’re like, “I’m outta here” and you might break up a relationship. I don’t want to underestimate how important it is to be really clear around expectations of how long does it takes to get a job when you’re abroad, and even in context because in Switzerland, for example, I think most Swiss, it takes six months to a year to find the right job for a Swiss who is in the Swiss system. Imagine if you a foreigner then, you need to budget a realistic amount of time to get your job, job

Vici: Well and you also need to engage in a job search campaign, and that includes networking, showing up for places, meeting people, making sure that you’re getting your haircut, keeping current so that you will always have a way to present yourself.  It is very easy to fall into that rabbit hole of lack of self care. because your head is full of so much emotion.

Sundae: Right, that’s so interesting you say that, you know what it kind of took me off guard when you shared that, but I’m guessing you have clients who get stuck in a rut and that they’re not taking care of themselves anymore and then it reflects in how they show up?

Vici: It’s not that they’re not taking care of themselves, I think what’s happening is your there’s this kind of rebirth phase, you move to a country after making a choice to go on this adventure with person you love, often times in this this is for married couples or partnerships, but it also happens for people who are single, and you land in a country, you don’t speak the language, until you can articulate that “Oh my gosh, this is what it feels like to be illiterate” takes some months.  You know, dealing with foreign money, foreign customs, everything’s new. You are in a sense a baby again, except you don’t have a lot of nurturing going on because the spouse that took the job is focused a hundred percent on being successful. I mean they have taken on a new job plus all of the other things that you’re going through so that patience for a relationship and having the resilience to stop and talk through what’s going on and that the spouse is working and also going through the same thing, and unfortunately in all of this relocation there are a lot of people in the space that I work in,  that there isn’t a lot of coaching going on for the spouse that’s actually has the job.

Sundae: Right, when I talk to clients, they are like, “Oh my God Sundae, I didn’t even know people like you existed!” It’s like most people cry on the first session because they are so relieved that they’re speaking to someone who gets it least. I have question here, so I’m really interested in the campaign and I want to get a little bit pragmatic about that, but there’s two things I’m thinking of. One for those of you are listening and hear about this, you know the time that you need to transition and get to know stuff. If you are on a two year assignment, I have a hunch you’re freaking out because you’re like, “I don’t have time, I go in for two years and then I’m gone.” So I’d like to talk about two different strategies, one for the rotational expat who is there in a country for two, let’s say maximum four years, and then there’s the lovepats the people who moved abroad to their partner’s country and are staying there indefinitely. And those I think are two different strategies because the role of language and culture is different and the time factor is different. So can we be really pragmatic for a second and I want to hear your campaign strategy for the short term and then how does that differ for the long term?

Vici: So, for the short term it’s the same for both, once it’s clear that you’re moving abroad, we are living in the world of social media and the internet and it’s imperative that you have some kind of profile out there, whether it’s a face a professional Facebook or I encourage people still on LinkedIn, especially since it’s been purchased by Microsoft. This is something that everybody has in their computer these days and there’s so much you can do with LinkedIn and a lot of people think of LinkedIn is just being a static resume that’s out there, but it’s actually pretty organic and it’s a fabulous way to get to know the movers and shakers locally and movers and shakers that you are going to interact with in your language in a lot of countries there are smaller communities that are built around countries, cultures, Americans have their own communities, French, some of the bigger countries have their own communities and then there are categories like the lovepats or the Millennials have their stuff, or the expat spouses have their communities. So the campaign is really about making sure that you have a profile out on the internet whether it’s LinkedIn or Facebook. That is the anchor for who you are, this is your virtual business card because you don’t have the opportunity to go everywhere and be everywhere and hand out your card and people are finding you recruiters of finding you. A great starting place is to go back to your University alumni, your professional companies where you’ve worked and just start to reach out and follow people, see what they’re talking about and engage with them through commenting and liking, commenting is so important. I think people don’t realize in social media, that once you have a profile out there that commenting is like you’re sitting in a room and exchanging your opinion and being able to articulate your opinion about topics helps you hone where your value is and helps you hone what you think about things and what you think about things is what attracts people to you.

Sundae: I’m just going to pick up on this, there’s two things that are going on for me. I love that you brought up LinkedIn, you and I are aligned here. What I recommend, I have this program called adapt and succeed and in my video series I talk about what you need to do before you go, and yes   establish a profile and what and I would add, reach out and message people personally and say, “Hey, I’m moving to your area, I’m looking forward to it, I just have two questions to ask if you don’t mind?” And you start creating a real relationship with people before you go, so then when you land you’re like, “Hey, I know a couple of people in this context” and then you could say “I’ve arrived, I brought a gift for you, I’d like to say thank you for your support”, and then you can meet the people face to face or mail it to them or whatever, so that you’re actually nurturing real relationships with people.

Vici: Yes, and I think that’s one thing that gets lost on LinkedIn.

Sundae: Totally, I think people think that we still feel like it’s, you know, it’s almost like the troll stuff. Like it’s not me, it’s not the real me and it is the real you and all my relationships with my clients are through facetime and that sort of thing and we connect over Whatsapp. These are real deep relationships.

Vici: I think one of the things that you touched on is the fact that when you have a profile, it’s the profile that gets people connected, but as soon as you’re connected, I can’t tell you how many times it’s the connect through the social media tool and then by the third message, its “Let’s plan a phone call, let’s meet of coffee, I am arriving on September 30th, let’s set up a coffee for October 2nd!”

Sundae: And the thing is this, I’m totally with this, is if anybody was listening seriously you can do it differently. Don’t be the graspy person who says, “Here’s my resume, do you guys have a job?” Be the authentic person who was like, “I’m so excited to move to your country, I haven’t been there before, here’s a couple of questions.” The person who is showing gratitude for the time they gave and a gesture of thanks, that’s a way to capture attention and nurture a real relationship, and it’s right at your fingertips, I think so many people miss it.

Vici: Right, and I think when you talk about the rotational people from the two to four years versus the lovepats, the rotational people are just doing this more often because they’re kind of forced into that lifestyle. But once you once you really spend a couple of years developing some relationships genuinely and people get to know who you are, you’re already feeding that cloud so to speak in it grows then on its own. You have to keep feeding it, It’s kind of like starter yeast for sourdough bread, you start with a small amount but it will continue to grow and you need to feed it keep it alive.  The lovepats, get lazy is kind of strong, but it’s too easy to kind of think, “Well, this is where my life is and I’m in my job”, you kind of get into that “I’m here, I’m working, what do I need to do?” and then suddenly something happens in life whether it’s starting a family or becoming empty nesters or your job changes, your company changes, your manager changes, life changes and you are forced somewhere in your forties and reevaluate your life and go “Oh I thought I was just going to glide into retirement?”  That just doesn’t happen anymore, so you’re forced into another career transition, and then somewhere in your fifties and sixties there are other things going on that lead to another transition, and so a lot of people find that during these different phases while they are living in another country and they are forced again into career transition and have to go through the same type of campaign and realise “Oh I haven’t been feeding the yeast!”

Sundae: Right, and it’s not about being manipulative or strategic, It’s just about being intentional in your relationships. One thing I would like to add with the long term, and this is my personal opinion based on my lived experience and also a bit from the intercultural strategist perspective, but for long term lovepats, for people who are long term migrants in other locations, I would add that the importance of learning the local language gets higher and higher with every passing year, because once you’ve been there for five years or ten years. In ten years you could probably learn the language, maybe not, you know Chinese is probably incredibly difficult to learn, but you can use the language as a tool to get clear on the culture, show the local population I’m so serious about living here and integrating and opens your job perspective. So that will be the one big difference I would add for the long term expats.

Vici: Absolutely, I have seen enough people and I have done it myself, where you get into a job, especially if you are hired for your native language skills, there is nothing forcing you really to get to the next level in your local language skills.  I mean having worked for a company like Coca Cola, the local language was english and after twenty years when I left, the first thing I did was focus on my language skills, because I couldn’t really write in German.

Sundae: Right, and the thing is you don’t want to know honestly what got me focused on learning Swiss German, going to the gynecologist. In the beginning it was like, “Honey, can you make my doctor’s appointment?” but it’s so out of alignment with the independent woman I strive to be. Going to such an intimate appointment and not being able to express yourself is so debilitating and that that for me is a big motivator and I didn’t want language to restrict me for the rest of my life and I know how hard it is to learn a language. I’ll tell you what, I got my level of German a C1, like the advanced German and how many hours I spent in a cafe with 86 year olds eating pie, I would have rather been running, I would have rather been making money,  I would have rather been with friends, but I knew that if I buckled down for two years, you know, in my spare time that it would reap rewards. So I’m just saying that to anybody out there who is living in your partner’s country, just I promise you buckle down for two years and you will reap the rewards for the rest of your life.

Vici: That would be for the lovepats for sure, but what i’ve seen with the roatationals is that they come with the PhD and they go and take a month of intense language and they make the investment financially and timewise, and in just four to six weeks of intense language skills, they have enough that makes them stand out as a candidate, because the companies are not looking to hire your for the French or the German or the Spanish, they’re looking for how you can bring your unique background, because it’s not available locally, and share that with the local employees.

Sundae: I love that, that’s great. How can you learn enough of the language to stand out? Yup.

Vici: Exactly, and that’s so four to six weeks four to eight weeks of intense language training, I’m talking eight hours a day, you know four hours a day of class for hours of lab and reading and writing and repeating and all of that stuff, that will get you enough, you’re talking about an investment anywhere from 500 to you know, a couple of thousand dollars but in a short amount of time you can bump up your value.

Sundae: Absolutely, I love that, you we’re going back to value finding your value, finding your value in context. I’m also looking in ways you can increase your value, so let’s get a little bit more more detailed. So let’s assume people are listening to the advice and they’re reaching out, they’re nurturing the relationships and now it’s around the next step. So because you have expertise and the resume writing, what can you recommend to people, the biggest mistakes people make?

Vici: Don’t spend your time looking for somebody to translate your resume into the local language, go with your native language, because again that’s what people are going to be hiring you for, and in general expats are going to be looking at and approaching environments that have an international twist to it anyway.  Very few expats are going to go to the local grocery store and say “I want to be a cashier”.

Sundae: Interesting. Tell me more.

Vici: A lot of people will come and say “Oh can you translate my resume into German?”  and I say that’s really not the point because if you have your resume translated into the local language and you go ahead and apply your phone’s going to ring. The email’s going to come up in the local language and you’re going to go “How do I respond? Oh my gosh, I don’t speak Polish, I don’t speak German?” and you’re going to be stuck and in a lie, which was not your intention. 

So if you’ve gone through and looked at relationships, you’re nurturing relationships and you’re finding out what’s hot, what’s interesting, where do I fit in this working world in Vienna for example. Now you start to bring that mix it with your value, “What do I have to give in this culture that’s significant, that could earn money?” and you start to translate that into your resume and that’s where you start to hone and look at using the local words, the language, the culture and how do you meld that with who you are and express that in your resume and express that in terms of your accomplishments and how you talk about your accomplishments as they are relevant to the local job market and what you’re trying to achieve as a job.

There are so many groups now communities many many organizations or many people will go to the American Community to start with in Vienna. These got an American women’s Association in other countries. There might be an American Community to start with or some kind of some countries have their own business agencies that that fund communities for this purpose because countries want the expat spouses to be happy in order to be able to attract good companies with great people and great.

Sundae: So how do you understand the local culture and local job market before you get there? Or once you get there and you are still new, what do you suggest them to do?

Vici: There are so many groups now communities many many organizations or many people will go to the American Community to start with in Vienna. These have got an American Women’s Association in other countries. There might be an American community to start with or some kind of some countries have their own business agencies that that fund communities for this purpose because countries want the expat spouses to be happy in order to be able to attract good companies with great people.

Sundae: I am just going to interrupt here for a second, and also I have a community here also, because not everyone listening here is American.  I have a Swiss community, look for the French community or the German community, people who understand your culture but have lived long enough in the local culture to make that translation, that’s great.

Vici: Right, and most embassies in the country will be able to give you some tips about those communities, but also because of Facebook, because of Twitter, because of LinkedIn you automatically can start to see who’s talking about an organization and you Google it and then you find out and you contact, the reason for contact information on website is so that you can reach out to those human beings. “I don’t know anybody, can you give me some advice where to start?” It’s a 20-minute phone call.

Sundae: I think a lot of people feel like they are bothering you, you know like “I am bothering them, I feel bad, I feel needy”, those sort of things.  You’re right, that’s why they haven’t pressed the contact button.

Vici: Exactly and you know what? It’s the same with when people get on the airplane and they read they pick up the airplane magazine and they read an article and go “Oh my gosh, I feel exactly the same.” There’s a reason why there’s a byline on an article and now an email and how to connect with those people, writers, authors, bloggers, podcasts, everybody. They’re out there because we’re human and we’re trying to be social and we’re trying to help each other and expats in general have the special gene of helpfulness, and so absolutely reach out to people, contact them build, those relationships because they will take you places that you have never dreamed about.

Sundae: Yeah, I love it when people contact me, I’m like, “Yay, there’s real people at the end of these email addresses”, I adore that. So we’ve talked a lot about the accompanying partner and some of the tips, I’m just going to recap quickly. What I’m hearing is really; get clear on your value in context that’s a whole process in itself, I know that, do that with a lot of my clients. The second one is get really clear on your relationships, who do you want to contact? How are you going to do that over social media channels so you can translate those digital relationships into face to face relationships. And the third thing is translate that value and then make sure that’s communicated in your resume. I know there’s more Vici and because of time we’re going to stop there. They can contact you directly to get the rest of the story.

Can we shift our attention to the partner who is actually sent abroad because of the assignment? So for example, with someone works for an embassy or a corporation, they have the job, they bring their family to Vienna or to Japan, wherever it is, and they have the job and their partners at home. What advice do you have for the person who’s actually working on the expat assignment so that they understand what the person at home is going through?

Vici: Turn up your empathy detector, this is really hard for the person who’s got the job because they are they’re dealing with all the same stuff that the spouse or the partner is dealing with. You think automatically that because they have a job their life is perfect, and the fact is they’re going to work everyday and dealing with local culture, that they may or may not have been briefed on and even if they’ve been briefed they’re still having its hands-on learning and they’re having to perform at their highest level because they’ve just been hired and there’s so much riding on their job so and because they’re so focused on that their focus on the relationship back home is, it’s just the attention has shifted because the importance of success is so much more important than if you just stayed in your native country and so they’re using all their empathy emotions for work and tend to kind of leave the partner or spouse at home going “you just need to do what you need to do, and by the way, make sure the house is running in this country where you may or may not even speak the language and get a job, and what by the way what are you doing spending all your time at home, how are you not being more productive?” with hotspot for a lot of those the

Sundae: “What have you been doing all day?” I have an article with three things to not say to the expat spouse.

Vici: And that’s one of them but you know, you both need to learn that your communication skills that worked for you in the in your home country are not going to work exactly the same now in this foreign country because your emotions are, the the wire is a lot tighter, because you’re you’re worried about yourself, you’re worried about your family, you’re worried about how are we going to build a life? Like we’re here right now and make it the most successful and still have time and money to enjoy the adventure, and so it’s learning you know, there’s all of this work now on meditation and calming down so that you can be your authentic self, but it’s so important to find out how to maintain your authentic self whether it’s through exercise meditation diet lots of different approaches.  That’s the way you are going to maximize the adventure because you’re not going to be wasting your energy on “Well, what did you do all day?” “Well, I did this and this and this”, and then get into an argument because you’re not connecting on how hard it is for both of you and the talent that you both have. I think that what happens, is the focus goes to one partner, one or the other and the other partner gets left in the dust. and

Sundae: Right, so what I’m hearing actually is both partners need to dial up their empathy button. I mean I call it about perspective taking, like really trying to see it through their lens, and that’s hard because it’s so easy to be like, “It’s hard to be me right now.”

Vici: One of the greatest gifts of living abroad is the work you get to do in building your empathy and your resilience muscle, because you only build that through these kinds of challenges and if you don’t take the chance to live abroad your resilience gets tested through just the things that happen in life, death, divorce, building a family and you miss this whole opportunity of the richness, it’s kind of richness of having deep resilience and how that will help you throughout your life and just make your life more interesting and I think that’s one of the greatest gifts you get from living and working abroad and when you go back to your native country and you automatically have more resilience more empathy more understanding for hardship and more capacity to experience joy that sometimes your friends and family and your native country don’t recognize you because you have it’s kind of like you know spending six months going to work out and you suddenly you have arm muscles that people can go wow, but it’s the same thing with these emotional muscles so to speak that you won’t get from from living abroad and by working with your partner in your relationship.I think the biggest thing is that we both, the partners and who has the job and the person who doesn’t have the job immediately, they may forget to focus on each other.

Sundae: Right, that’s the thing, I think it’s so easy to get lost, and what I recommend there is that people, you know, the structure creates the culture that they created a structure where they’re connecting and checking in even if it’s like a date night once a month so that they don’t, lose sight because it’s so easy to lose sight.

So you mentioned resilience, you also mentioned taking care of yourself. I’m going to put it in the show notes for those who are listening, a couple of articles on resilience and how to deal with extreme stress because I think that will really compliment what we were talking about when we looked at the importance of resilience.

So we’ve talked about this, the strategy of people. It sounds like the core of everything is really first getting clear on the value of what you offer in context and then communicating that or translating that into your relationships and into the physical tools you use to market yourself to get the job.

What would you say? What would you leave us with, something that you wish you could shout from the rooftops to everybody who is in this process of putting themselves out there on the professional market in a rotational life or a long term expat a migrant life, what do you wish people would know?

Vici: I think I would just go back to, instead of trying to be something that you’re not, be more of who you are, be more yourself. To get to that point you got to do a little bit of work, you don’t need to do it alone there lot of people out there like yourself who are able to, you know on a couple of sessions even help you identify those values, your strengths and how do you translate that for the local country that you’re living in and then just work on being more of who you are and that value because everyone is unique you still are unique even if now you’ve got the label of lovepat or expat you still are who you are and you bring uniqueness to whatever you do.  It’s easy to lose the courage to be that person when you don’t speak the language and when you just don’t have a sense of where you are in the world.

Sundae: And you know what I find when I do this with my clients, I make them list their skills, hard skills, soft skills, and I have them ask their friends and co-workers what they’re really good at and how they add value, and they are shocked when they get the answers because they ended up realizing like, “Hey, I’m actually a badass” The result is really functional for the job search, but the process is so important for their confidence.

Vici: And I think one of the first things I usually do to build on that is to say to somebody, go and write three to five paragraphs on what is the one thing that you are the most proud of having accomplished in The Last 5 Years? Because that will open up your skills your passions things that you’re proud of, you’re already going to stand up straighter and that will automatically work its way into your elevator pitch and and let people into who you are and who that person is.

Sundae: Okay, that’s your assignment. If you’re listening: What is the one thing you’re most proud of that you’ve accomplished in the last three to five years?

Vici: Because that will open up your skills your passions things that you’re proud of, you’re already going to stand up straighter and that will automatically work its way into your elevator pitch and and let people into who you are and who that person is.

Sundae: So wonderful, so if anybody is listening and they’re thinking, “oh my gosh, I really would love to translate my statement into an elevator pitch into my resume.” Where can people find you?

Vici: They can find me on LinkedIn under linkedin.com/in/vkosterlenhardt/.

Sundae: Okay, I’ll make sure I put that in the show notes as well. You can learn all about her there. So thank you so much for being here. I know so many rotational expats and even long term migrants struggle with finding work and it has such an impact on self worth, self confidence, financial impact and quality of life, so what you do is such an important link in this chain, so thanks for being here.

Vici: Thank you and you as well.

Sundae: Alright you guys. That was Vici Koster-Lenhardt. She is the expert on career transition strategies for resume writing. She has a lot of insight on how to help you get meaningful employment when you’re living abroad. It’s been such a pleasure having her and I know what I’ll walk away with is that message of don’t try to be something that you’re not, look at what your value is and then how you can enhance your value and then really just translate that into relationships, which ironically it seems like the thing that most people neglect when it’s the most important thing to do.

Thank you for listening. This is the Expat Happy hour with Sundae Bean. I’ll leave you with the words of G.K. Nielsen “Successful people are not gifted, they just work hard and succeed on purpose.”

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The post 109: Finding A Job Abroad With Vici Koster-Lenhardt appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Feb 03 2019



Rank #12: 156: A Telescope in the Rearview Mirror

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I’m ending the year with a throat-lump inducing conversation, so get out your Kleenex. I’m traveling back in time 365 days, to get advice from “2018 Sundae.” Knowing what she knows now, what warnings and wisdom would she have to prepare for 2019?

As a coach serving expats, I preach connection; nurturing meaningful relationships will have a medicinal effect on your transition. 

Living abroad often means making fast friends with other expats. They get you, and you have endless new things to talk about together. I don’t care how much you Skype and text with those back home, nothing replaces face-to-face interaction.

The obvious downside is that, sooner or later, one of you will relocate. This past year, one of my close local friends moved. I had become so accustomed to a daily dose of her wonderful company, her leaving left a gaping hole in my heart and disrupted my routine.

More permanently shattering, I had a dear friend die. She was young and vibrant and stolen from us far too early. I traveled with other women from our circle to spend time with her before she passed. We surrounded her and each other with love, confronting our own mortality while soaking up memories of how she made us all better.

Join me as last year’s Sundae tenderly gives me a pep talk to celebrate 2019’s wins, lament its hard parts, and look boldly ahead into a new decade. Because there’s a lot to be said for just being here to see that ticker flick.

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • When someone leaves you and it changes your routine
  • Why high pressure isn’t always a negative
  • The power of sisterhood
  • How self-care saves your sanity
  • The inevitable introspection caused by another’s death

This is my invitation to get advice from your 2018 self.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 2 am in New York, 9 am in Johannesburg and 2 pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

I just can’t get this lump out of my throat. Something strange happens to me when my emotions rise up but they stay stuck, kind of like I want to cry but I can’t and it’s hard to put into words because I’m not sad but I think my heart is just wide open right now.

And I’m going to tell you why, right now, December 30th 2019, when this podcast is being aired live for the very first time, you’re teetering at the end of one year and almost into the next. 

And this is a time when we look back on the year and think about how it went and we’re looking ahead to what we want to create in the new year. We’ve got all these good intentions about doing something different and it’s sort of an awakening of how have things gone and what do I want to do in new ways next year. This is an important transition. This is a life transition that we need to pay attention to — transitioning from one year to the next. 

And today’s episode is going to be short and a little different than what you might expect. So if you want something in depth to really look back and how your year went and create strategies and goals for the next year, you can go to episode’s 51 and 52 way back in my first year of the podcast, because I’ve got some very specific guides on how you can do that. 

You might want to go to episode 104 where I talk about looking at your year and asking yourself what you are no longer available for and who are you becoming? 

Great ways to get started and thinking about the new year.

But in this episode I’m going to do something different.

McKayla Maroney says, “Looking back isn’t going to help you, moving forward is the thing you have to do.” With all due respect McKayla, I disagree.

In this episode we’re going to look back and have a conversation with our 2018 self. So if today is December 30th, 2019, let’s go back and talk to the December 30th 2018 self. If you’re listening to this on another date then just do the math and go back one year.

And I’m going to share with you a little bit about the conversation I had with my 2018 self. Mind you when we have this conversation we can’t really change anything and nor would we, because if you are who you are and you’re okay with that more or less, you got there for a reason. But what you can do is kind of give them a heads-up, you can give them the energy to keep going, to know that one year later you’re still standing. 

So here is what I would say to my December 30th 2018 self.

“Hey Sundae, it’s kind of cute how you’re sitting there with all your business plans and your objectives and strategic thinking, but I kind of gotta warn you, this year that’s ahead, you’re going to feel super vulnerable, you are going to bring your guard down even more than you know you can, your heart is going to stretch and you’re going to have some really big questions. But Sundae, this is good because it’s going to make you feel alive, it’s going to make you be grateful that you’re alive. And you know what, I’m so proud of you because regardless of what happens this year you’re going to stay on track with your health and your business and you are going to be so grateful that you did. And the most exciting thing is that you are going to create new things that feel big and scary but when you do that it’s going to feel so right.”

Those are the things I would say to my 2018 self. And when I say that, again that lump comes up in my throat and it’s like my eyes are going to well up in tears.

Here are some of the things that happened since this 30th of December 2018. I’m going to share a little bit on the business side because those are significant, but if you’ve been following my journey, these might not be new. If you’ve checked in and out there might be some things that surprise you, but what’s probably more important is stuff that’s happened in the personal side that actually fuels my business and how I show up. 

So when I think about what’s happened in this year, and I want you to do this the same, I want you to think about the wins and the hard parts. So for me, if I look at my business and the easy wins to come out for my business is, okay I got a new website in January 2019 that I’m really proud of with images that reflect more of who I am and that share more into not just my business side but also my personal side. I am celebrating that because of the personal work that I did, finding a thought that was “That’ll do” has actually created a complete transformation in my wardrobe and also in my energy. Getting rid of things that were just “That’ll do.” And that, those external changes, brought me energy and confidence into my entire year that fueled my business, helped me show up in new ways. 

I’ve done things like challenges where people were actively participating in them, so proud of the results that my clients and the people in my group Expats on Purpose have made in the up level challenge, the global parenting challenge, the purpose challenge and of course the transformations in my clients’ lives.

Huge wins that make me immensely proud and grateful to be doing the work that I do. And on the outside you see what’s working, but there is some tough stuff that happened behind the scenes, I’ve had some internal changes on my team, have to onboard new people, learn new systems, not everything is always going right, I’m moving faster, I’m throwing more things at my team, sometimes things get dropped, but we’re moving forward fast.

In summer, I use my regular strategies with the location independent businesses, serve my clients and get ready for the coming fall while still visiting friends and family. But you know what, the volume was high and it felt hard to keep my energy high so that when I was with my family I could give them the best of me. Like I reached a maximum capacity of my volume of work and my strategies and that maybe I need to change things for next year so that I can work smarter and relax more actively and be more available for my friends and family when I am traveling.

I didn’t know what was coming after that, I started kind of, I don’t know willingly or unwillingly, I did something called the capacity challenge with my coach which meant I launched three products basically at the same time. Year of Transformation right off the back of Business Idea Accelerator that I do with Amel Derragui and then a brand new thing which I am so proud of and I’m loving every minute of the Expat Coach Coalition. I’m bringing in specialized coaches who are also going to serve in global mobility with the tools that I’ve been using and testing for over a decade. 

So capacity challenge kind of felt like one of those gas bottles that you use to fuel your grill but it was overfilled, where everything in my life felt like it was under pressure, not a bad pressure, but pressure and the part of the capacity challenge was to do basically triple of what I was doing but in the same amount of time and rest as much if not more. I learned so much during the capacity challenge and I have to say in hindsight I’m glad it’s over. But what I realized is that when you’re taking on that level of volume that it is so critical to keep first class self-care, I know that and I teach that and having gone through kind of Olympic level challenge of that it’s even clearer to me. I also realized that when something goes wrong and you’re in the middle of that kind of capacity challenge that it can completely throw you off. 

And what I’m most proud of is that when I asked some of my closest friends about what they noticed about me, that they were so kind and reporting that they didn’t notice a huge drop in my own energy and level of connection. So I’m proud of having gone through the hard parts, but I’m now ready to let you know what I would do different. For example, if I were going to take on so much more in a short period of time I would proactively block off time for massive rest, like I don’t know, book a massage or half day to go running. Whatever it would be, I would make sure that was integral not trying to fit in when I noticed the pressure was building high.

So that’s a lot from the business side, but from the personal side, you might even remember yourself in my episode on grand gestures. My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and I spent basically the same amount of hours flying to get to an event with them that I did actually there with them. We went to a rock concert together, my entire family, my mom, my dad, my sister, my brother and it was such a privilege to be able to be with them, to celebrate as a family for their anniversary, a highlight of my year for sure.

I think what I didn’t see coming in terms of personally in the year that I’m really celebrating is that there are some friends in my life that aren’t friends I’ve had, let’s say for 25 years, but have become friends fast and deep, and having friends who I can see you before you can even see yourself is really powerful. And these friends have made a huge impact in my year because there’s something really powerful about being seen for who you are even before you see it yourself. And the role that they’ve had in my life is like switching on a light where it was a dark corner I didn’t see, but once they named it I couldn’t switch it off. And that is a gift like no other. So I’m so grateful to my friends this year in spurring my own personal growth and being there by my side through all of the ups and the downs, definitely a highlight of 2019. 

And so the hard parts that were happening in 2019 is something that we all experience, one of my closest face-to-face friends in South Africa left, leaving a hole in my heart and a change in my routine. And I realized because of her she actually brought me out more into other social circles and seeing more friends face-to-face. And I realize that her absence not only was hard because I miss her but because she was also my connection to other networks of friends. And I kind of isolated myself a little bit where I got into my routine and did my thing and wasn’t out and about in the community as much. And it took me a while to realize that, so that was a hard part and it really shows you how important your face-to-face friends are and when they leave it might actually disrupt your whole routine.

Other hard parts that I’ve shared throughout the year is losses that I have experienced. You might remember from the year before we had some loss that was unexpected and painful, but that was on the back of the one-year anniversary of the loss of my sister-in-law, I lost my mother in law this year, followed by the sudden loss of my cousin who is only one month younger than me and then the loss of a dear friend who had battled cancer for two years. I was there weeks before she passed by her side to cuddle her and to laugh with her and to talk with her. And although that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, how do you go to a friend and know it’s the last time you’re going to see each other? And that experience was so transformative for me, because when you are facing others mortality you’re also facing your own mortality and it makes you get really clear on what matters and it makes you realign with what you’re doing and say, “Hey, is what I’m doing the right track, am I living on purpose?”

And so this summer was a stretch on my heart in the best of possible ways because I go, I’m a solution oriented coach, I’m on the go and in those moments where you’re forced to pause and let life in and watch the realities of life, like mortality is one of those things we like to ignore. I have this joke with my friends where, when I go in denial, I send her a GIF with my fingers in my ears and it’s like lalalalala, like don’t talk about it. Mortality is one of those things and I think cumulatively over the last year and a half we’ve lost five people that we care about, makes it hard to ignore. 

And so those losses have stretched my heart, have opened me up to be vulnerable and something I didn’t expect is it gave me the courage to be more vulnerable and open also professionally, a daringness to show more of my quirky self and not worry if that was considered appropriate or palpable by others. And what I’ve noticed is that the right people really appreciate that, it’s like giving others permission for them to be themselves.

And there was a moment when I was on the hospital bed in her home visiting her, my friend who was battling cancer and we were curled up together and another friend from my coaching sisterhood was there, we were just surrounding her with our love and soaking up hers and it reminded me how important sisterhood is. And I think that makes sense in a year where one of my good friends leaves the country and in the wake of loss and in the wake of friends who are showing up deeply for me, how important it is to have community. And that was a turning point for me where I decided, this is really good for me, this feels right, we need this, like hungry for this. 

And it impacted my business, so it’s when I decided that I wanted to offer a group format for what I’ve traditionally only done one-to-one, bringing my community together and let them know each other and create sisterhood themselves. And why when I work with other coaches I bring them together and let that magic happen. Because we’re so much more than what we do, that there’s a level of depth that is available to us at any time if we just let it in.

It makes me think of an anonymous quote that I stumbled upon and it says, “I’ll look back on this and smile, because it was life and I decided to live it.”

So speaking to my December 30th 2018 self, “Sundae I say to you, you lived it, this year you’re going to live life, all the highs and all the lows. And I’m proud of you for riding those waves because it’s going to open you and it’s gonna move you and it’s going to impact others and that’s good.”

So that’s a sneak peek into my year, stuff that you might have known, stuff that you might not want to have known, but a glimpse of the highs and lows in my business and personally. And you see how they impact each other, and I’m sure it’s the same for you. 

So now it’s your turn, I want you to have that conversation with your 2018 self, you can even write a letter, let them know what’s going to come and how it’s going to be okay. Tell him or her “Hey, are you going to really live it?” And then you can name it, celebrate what you have done, acknowledge what has been hard. This is a celebration of your resilience, a celebration of your humanity and your perseverance. It’s good and it’s gonna get better. 

So in celebrating the journey that my 2018 self took, I’m here Sundae 2019 at the cusp of the next year and looking back it gives me confidence to become Sundae 2020.

And I want you to look back so that you can become the 2020 version of yourself that you hope for.

And I cannot finish 2019 without telling you so sincerely, thank you for being here, thank you for listening, and I mean that with my whole heart. I show up every single week in my podcast. This is episode 156, that means for 156 consecutive weeks I’ve done a podcast for you. Sometimes I’m super prepared and I know exactly what I want to say and sometimes I’ve got one hour and I’ve got a rough bullet point or two down and I do it on the fly. And because of the work I’ve had to do with myself, I have to say it’s good enough and move on. 

And you’ve been there through all the highs and lows, all the life-changing podcasts and the pretty good ones and the ones that were good enough. For the ones you skipped, it doesn’t matter, thank you for being here.

Thank you if you are my client, thank you for trusting me and thank you for showing up every single time. Thank you for your courage to move forward and create the 2020 version of yourself. 

And if you are an Expats on Purpose, thank you for being there and asking questions and showing up in whatever way you show up, you could be my auntie who listens every time, I love you Glenyce. You could be one of my best friends from college or high school who just checks in on how I’m doing and listens to keep tabs on me, because of our time difference we can’t always stay in touch. 

Thank you for listening, you’re an important part of my life and I appreciate you and I wish you all the best for what’s coming in 2020 and I’m proud of what you’ve done since 2018. 

So let’s honor 2019 with a celebration and get ready for the next year. 

You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean, thank you for listening. 

I’ve got some surprises ahead for 2020 and I cannot wait because it’s going to be full of fresh and exciting things and it is best when you’re by my side.

I’ll leave you with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “All life is an experiment, the more experiments you make the better.”

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Dec 29 2019



Rank #13: 144: Unlikely Connections with Jerry Jones and Cath Brew

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A Baptist and a Lesbian walk into a bar…

Oh wait, it was actually the Families in Global Transition Conference in Bangkok. 

There, Jerry and Cath gave a joint, ground-shaking speech to a pumped-up crowd of hundreds. They shared their unexpected journey of friendship and discovery with the audience.

Jerry and Cath’s story is one of two individuals that each spent their life (until they didn’t) deliberately dodging “people like them.” For many reasons — mostly invented and none of them good — they each clung to their one-size-fits-none clichés: Hers about Baptists, his about Lesbians.  

Then, through a chance encounter of forced proximity, Jerry and Cath enjoyed a conversation with an open mind. The friendship floodgates opened, and it resulted in the kind of swoon-worthy deep connection we see in movies and wish we had for ourselves.

The attendees at the Families in Global Transition Conference agreed. Jerry and Cath’s speech ended with Kleenex being passed around and a standing ovation. Proof that love and acceptance happen despite ingrained, conflicting labels that say it shouldn’t.

…OK, fine. Then, Jerry and Cath probably celebrated at the bar.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • The mercy umbrella
    • Fostering change in our unsettled, angry world
    • Forgiving yourself for the bully you once were
    • Fitting things into the buckets we’ve built
    • The damage of microaggressions

You’ll be shocked what becomes visible once you switch your “righteous” lens out for one filtered with empathy.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • Authentic intercultural connection is where stereotypes go to die. My heart is racing, and we’re going to ride the momentum, together. I want us to create more success stories like these for expats everywhere. Be the first to know about what’s next — exciting news is coming very, very soon!
  • Watch the video of Jerry & Cath’s performance at FIGT Bangkok.
  • Families in Global Transition (FIGT) is a welcoming forum for globally mobile individuals, families, and those working with them. FIGT promotes cross-sector connections for sharing research and developing best practices that support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world. 
  • Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
  • Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose

We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 10am in New York, 4pm in Johannesburg and 9pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

Polarization is defined as the division into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions and beliefs. When I think of polarization right now I think of screaming matches and preaching to the choir. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of fed up with that, it feels so futile, like we’re getting nowhere, we’re just listening to ourselves speak and pointing our fingers at others. And I don’t care what camp you’re in and what you’re talking about or what you’re thinking about when you imagine polarized conversations are going on, we’re all guilty of it, we’ve all been there where we’ve had our way and we were stuck in our belief and that is right and they are wrong, be honest, you know you’ve been there.

I really feel like it’s time for something different.

There’s this crazy vibe that I’m watching happen across the US and Europe and into other areas that I’ve loved and lived. And I’m looking for new ways of doing things, new conversations to have, so we’re left not feeling angry or righteous but left feeling new perspectives, understood, maybe even empathy and a fresh perspective. 

I believe there is a better way, I believe we can do better. And today I am honored to have two very special guests who have shown us one way to do better.

In this episode of Expat Happy Hour we are joined by Cath Brew, artist and author behind “Drawn to a Story.” You might know her from her book “Living Elsewhere” or from my podcast number 68; Living Elsewhere with Cath Brew. Cath is amazing at using illustrations to help us process the ups and downs of global living. 

We’re also joined by Jerry Jones one of my favorite expat writers, trainer and coach behind the culture blend, you might remember Jerry from episode 23; Life Transitions with Jerry Jones.

Cath and Jerry stood up in Bangkok in front of hundreds of people at the Families In Global Transition Conference, we call it FIGT for short. They walked onto the stage, captivated our attention, moved me to tears and brought the crowd onto their feet in a standing ovation.

Today on Expat Happy Hour, I am proud to be able to share with you the audio of that event which led to the standing ovation and them role modeling how we can do better.

I’m going to let you listen to their presentation of “Unlikely Connections” now and afterwards you’ll hear them give the back story that led to this event.

Jerry: So my grandfather was a general Baptist pastor for 60 years and by the time I was 15, I knew that I was going to follow in his footsteps by the time I was 18 I became a youth Minister, by the time I was 23 I was ordained and for 7 years after that I was senior pastor the church that I grew up in.

Cath: This is my wife Bishop Angie, she’s an Archbishop in the liberal Catholic Church International for the province of Great Britain and Ireland and she’s commissary Bishop for Europe and Israel. In 2014 we were the first same-sex couple locally to upgrade. I say 2007 civil partnership to marriage. 

I met Jerry at FIGT last year, when he mentioned his church I was instantly wary, with headlines like these you learn to not out yourself to Christians until you know what flavor they are. I liked him, but he’s still a Baptist. So I continued to use gender neutral pronouns when referring to my spouse.

Jerry: But it slipped out and so I asked for a mercy umbrella which simply means this. “Hey, I’m a recovering Baptist pastor, and so let’s just assume that whatever I say next is probably going to come out wrong, so can we just start with mercy.” And we did and we went deep for four hours, it was intense. Everything was on the table, we talked about God and faith and politics and sexuality, and it was awkward and weird and rich and so good because on the very first night that we met we laughed and cried like we’ve been friends forever.

Cath: Jerry didn’t talk of love the sinner, hate the sinner or pray for me, which can often feel like a veiled threat of judgment or pray away the gay. He was a refreshing change, he listened, he genuinely listened, he didn’t apologize for his faith either and he didn’t need to, but he did say he was sorry.

Before Jerry I didn’t rate Baptists at all highly, you can try to ignore the “God hates fags” from Westboro Baptist Church as it’s so extreme, but you’d still hear chats in cafes and you read news. I had no time for Baptists who for me often use a little reading of the Bible to bash us, kids commit suicide because of this stuff.

Jerry: For all of our lives we’ve been looking at the same thing and seeing it through different lenses and it’s like the anthropologist of the 1950s as we break things into three categories; scenery, machinery and people. We do it with countries, we do it with cities, but we also do it with each other. We keep people out there just as something to look at or something to talk about until we need them and then we pull them in for our game. But if we’re not willing to make them people then we keep them as less than human.

Cath: At the end of the evening I gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, “You can tell your wife now kissed a lesbian.” And Jerry replied “And you can tell yours, you’ve kissed a Baptist.” This set the tone of our friendship. The magic of the conversation stayed with me for the rest of the conference and I was itching for more. 

My life is now divided, before Jerry and after Jerry, this is the night after I’d spoken to him. My spiritual friends relish the blending of our opposing camps, my gay friends are pleased but seem not quite convinced by my relationship with the Baptist as though I’ve been fooled and they wait until he shows his true colors, but I know.

Jerry: So the next day I bought her book and she signed it and I said, “I’m gonna need you to talk to my wife and convince her that you’re a lesbian because I can’t come home from the Hague with books that say thank you for a wonderful evening.” Which made me laugh too, but it opened up a whole new avalanche of “What are they going to say?” The other people, my people, my wife. My wife handled it really well, but traditionally my people are much better at judging a hard situation than they are at interpreting it. 

We started to email each other sharing deep vulnerabilities of our histories, poles apart, but also lots of points of similarity. Whilst labels can be harmful, by standing it out we own them. We defined our label this allowed us to be vulnerable and explore without fear.

Jerry: And our emails broke me because they stirred up memories of this kid who was a good kid, but played smear the queer and tag the fag on the playground and at 14 wrote a horrible dehumanizing song about homosexuals that ended in violence. 

Cath: Our emails have unpacked a lot of subjects, but also only just scratched the surface. We both behave within our own cultural reference points but there’s also a great richness in exploring its cliches. I see the ripples which emanate from my thoughts and I greatly cherished the exquisite liminal space that exists between us.

Jerry: For my whole life I’ve been afraid of conversations that would break my faith but this one didn’t and can I just add that maybe if you feel like that, that if loving someone who sees the world from a different perspective from you breaks your faith, then maybe your faith was cracked to begin with.

Cath: My chats with Jerry have strengthened my shamanic spirituality involved with the Australian desert because words are so powerful and permanent I also had to reflect about my own position before I started to inquire about his by grasping his faith. It’s affirmed mine and inspired me to speak up more for the marginalized.

Jerry: And there’s something rich about this place where conservatives and liberals, people of great faith and people of no faith, hundreds of lovely people and just a few jerks all come together under the banner of a cross-cultural experience. And the potential for mercy is epic. 

Cath: So make a friend.

Jerry: Open an umbrella.

Cath: Go deep and get awkward. 

Jerry: Say it wrong and then try again.

Cath: Get it right or don’t.

Jerry: Learn something that you don’t know.

Cath: See people in a different way.

Jerry: See yourself and wrestle with that and if you need to then say you are sorry.

Cath: Forgive and love someone that you didn’t used to.

Jerry: On your mark.

Cath: Get set.

Jerry: Go.

Cath: Go.

Sundae: So it’s obvious after listening for yourself about these unlikely connections, why there was a standing ovation. In fact today I re-watched it again for probably the 20th time and it brought tears to my eyes. 

So again, thank you to Jerry and Cath for being here and for sharing your story and time with us because it is of supreme importance in the climate of polarization that we have right now.  But tell me, I want to hear from you, we heard your story, we got a succinct picture of the message you’re trying to send, but tell me what moment led to this. Cath let me hear from you. 

Cath: Well the moment really was sitting at FIGT in The Hague and suddenly realizing that the man that I was next to was a Baptist and all my worst kind of biases and thoughts came out as a gay person, we are generally quite wary of Baptists and Christians, but I was interested in the man that that was was the Baptist and we just started talking and then he suggested that after an amazing evening we take this further and do something with it because it was such a profound evening for both of us. 

Sundae: Okay Jerry, Cath is totally glossing over what really happened, tell us what really happened. 

Jerry: Yeah, I was sitting there and I had the realization that this woman next to me was a lesbian, which like that’s fine, but I also realized this is the first conversation I’ve ever had, and just I’m just kind of outing myself here a little bit, with a married lesbian woman. Second time I had met one and the first time was earlier that day, and so that’s just not lost on me. I’m really aware of who I am and where I come from and all of that and it just seemed like a like an opportunity to have a good conversation. And so we were just really transparent with each other, and I said this is where I’m coming from and who I am and my history and I introduced the idea of the mercy umbrella, which is something that I had heard from a friend of mine who is African-American and has used it extensively in racial conversations. And it’s working, it’s just the idea is “Hey, we’re coming from different places here, let’s start with mercy and let’s go.” And we did that and I asked Cath if she was up for that and she jumped in, like absolutely, and so we went we went deep quick, it was really good. 

Sundae: It’s really cool, it sounds like you saw an opportunity, like I’m sure you were just curious and wanted to ask more or what was going on. Like what made you offer or ask for the mercy umbrella? 

Jerry: I think there was clearly a connection before that. Like we liked each other before we ever started digging around.

Cath: I will just butt in and actually say that’s what kept me intrigued in the conversation is that I was aware of my own judgment coming in, but actually I really like Jerry and I liked the kind of sparkle in his eye and I wanted to know more and I wanted to see where it went because it felt right.

Sundae: Hmm, that’s beautiful. So here’s the thing, this all happened at the Families and Global Transition Conference in The Hague in 2018. And I was there, but I wasn’t there during the conversation. I don’t know what I was doing and I rocked up to where you guys had just been talking and I actually ran into Naomi Halloway from I’m a Triangle. And she was like “Something big just happened.” And I didn’t know why I didn’t get the details, but I knew it was something transformative, I knew that and I knew that something had shifted deeply because of your conversation and I wasn’t really privy of what happened. I didn’t understand the implications and I was kind of mad I wasn’t there for it. But I also know that would have also influenced it and then it wouldn’t have happened. It sounded like it was this amazing connection that you two had, were you both dropped your guard and we’re able to have a really honest conversation. 

Cath: Yeah, and I was just going to say too that Naomi was there and that was one of the influential things for me and wanting to listen, is that I was very aware that my guard was up instantly knowing that that he was a Baptist, but I knew that he knew Naomi and I knew he was her friend and I trusted her judgment and I thought “There’s more to this man if Naomi is willing to have these conversations and invited me to sit at the table.” So that was a big help for the introduction and then we started talking and then Naomi disappeared and went off to a dinner or something she had to go to and she came back and we were still talking and she couldn’t believe it, so she recognized something big had happened as well. 

Sundae: So from the intercultural side, I’m recognizing three things that were important for this connection to actually happen. 

The first was there was mercy, that you kind of create a framework to say “I’m going to ask some questions that might seem naive or forward that would fall under the mercy umbrella.”

The second one is trust, you were introduced via a third party, both of you trusted her and I sort of I call it the dotted line triangle of trust, you trust her, he trusts her. So there’s like this dotted line triangle of trust between the two of you that was there.

And then the third thing was a personal connection. There was this seeing each other as human and not demonizing the other based on all the other things that you can draw from when you look at the media and how things are demonized in this polarized space.

Before we move on, you guys can decline this question, but I’m really curious what needed so much mercy? Like what were some of the uncomfortable questions that you asked? 

Cath: Isn’t that what what happens on tour stays on tour? I’ll let Jerry answer that because he was opening the umbrella not me. 

Jerry: Yeah, no, I just I just think In the current climate, people are not having this conversation well and we’re all having this conversation about other people with our circles. And so it just felt like even coming into it, it’s not that I wasn’t ready for it or that I thought she wasn’t ready for it. It’s just like “Hey, I realize this world that we live in,” and so just the just the beginning of the conversation already comes packed and loaded with all kinds of potential ways for it to go wrong. But then as we got into it there was plenty that needed mercy there was like that. We started that night when we kind of started digging into where I had come from and where I had been and I’m not putting this on my circles or my people, there were things in me that I didn’t like and they were they just, I mean yucky is a nice word, they were sick. And so that’s that’s a conversation you can have when everybody else around you kind of pats you on the back and says “Yeah.” But when you’re sitting with someone face-to-face and actually developing a relationship and I’ll say this, kind of falling in love with that person, it’s a whole different thing and so like the mercy was coming face-to-face with who I was and just being able to go ahead and ask questions anyway.

Sundae: And you can’t otherize or demonize people that you care about.

Jerry: It’s really hard.

Sundae: I mean I’ve seen that in my own, I have a very multicultural family and I’ve seen that it’s really hard to stereotype someone that you love and is eating dinner with you at the table is from the continent that you used to stereotype or you used to demonize like when they become family and become flesh and blood. It’s pretty hard to do that. 

Cath: Can I just say though, I think too that we had a level of honesty very quickly in the conversation and to me that was very different, that I really valued Jerry’s honesty and just saying who he was and where he came from and very early in that conversation we cried together, I mean Jerry apologized for things that the church had done and I didn’t need that apology and he didn’t need to do it, but even just doing that went a long way to thinking “Right, I want to explore this more.” And it was very important to me that nothing is going to change if I shot him down, so if he asks questions, if I shut him down, he’s never going to ask again and I’m prepared to have a bit of awkwardness and a bit of difficulty.

Jerry: And like jumping in there it was just really rich that like I’ve never had this experience where I did apologize for things that church has done. I apologized for things I had done and at the same time she allowed me to hold the space of not apologizing for things that people believe and a belief system and we could hold those things separately. And because I’m not apologizing for anyone else, I’m not putting this on to anyone else, I’m acknowledging the impact that my actions have had and where my actions were wrong. And so it’s not about trying to get everyone to believe the same thing, it’s about people who may believe different things or may discover that they don’t believe as differently as they thought they did regardless coming into the same space and shutting up and listening and having a conversation and that’s when it gets really really really rich. It’s not about agreeing on everything, It’s about just kind of encouraging and respecting each other regardless.

Sundae: I find that hard to do, like when I value something and I think something is right, it’s really hard emotionally to stay in that space. 

Jerry: I think everybody finds that hard to do which is why we don’t do it and why this argument when this conversation starts with an argument generally and typically speaking because we do bring an emotion to it and it’s high values and that’s it’s really hard to get past, but I think there’s potential for that to happen.

Sundae: Okay, so one of the things that Cath did well here is not shut Jerry down especially in the context of politically you can hear a lot of negative news around that what does it the Westboro Baptists with messages of hate so how Cath stood in an openness despite that bigger political climate is impressive, especially when you’re coming from a minority identity that is struggled with oppression and labels your whole life. So let’s let’s fast-forward, you had this night, it was fun. We heard in the audio about you know, thanks for the good evening and everybody laughs and it could be so easy to just really go home and have it be that but the journey continued, so what happened next? 

Cath: Well actually before we left the conference, Jerry said to me, “How do you feel about public speaking?” and I said, “Well, I’m absolutely fine, no problems.” And he said, “I’ve got an idea for next year.” And so we had a very brief chat about what that could be but no real form to it. And then we just started emailing each other and the depth of the conversation continued massively and I created a file on my computer that was called “The Baptist and the Lesbian.” And we started emailing each other and there was no strict routine to it, it was just how and when we felt like it, but we covered some really important subjects about sexuality, about politics, about religion, about faith, all kinds of stuff. And there was something, I don’t know about how Jerry felt, but for me there was something beautiful about having the written word because it gave me time to really think about what I wanted to say and actually have it recorded and have it there to re-go over and see how my views changed over time as well. 

Sundae:      What about you Jerry? What happened afterwards for you? 

Jerry: It was deep and we would, like she said not on a schedule, but these emails would come back and forth and I would get really excited when an email would come from her. But I also knew that I was going to have to cut out a part of my day because the email is going to be long, would write these volumes, but also just the processing that goes along with it and then to respond to it, like we’re responding to all these different pieces and we would go deep. And it was just really really really refreshing to have a space there was nothing that I couldn’t ask, that I couldn’t say, there was no way for this to go wrong because I knew that if I did the mercy umbrella was still open and we could clean it up later, and that continues for us. 

Cath: Yeah, I agree. 

Sundae: So maybe I’m wrong, but when I hear this story I hear that there’s a lot of undoing of ideas from the background of religion and making sense of that. and I’m wondering for you Cath what changed for you when it came to understanding religion? 

Cath: I guess up until meeting Jerry, I’d be honest and say fairly intolerable views of Christianity and I’d had some experience of local churches. But in my head the idea of a Baptist was the worst because to me it was like Westborough Baptist Church. And by talking to Jerry and having these emails it allowed me to realize the layers that exist within these various denominations and that it was very easy just to lump everyone in together. And even though Jerry, and we kind of put these labels on ourselves and Jerry was the Baptist, within that there was a lot of multitude for mercy and also for realizing that there are so many different variants of whatever someone thinks someone is. And actually it just comes down to people and whether he was a Baptist or whether he was whatever, to me he was just Jerry and I enjoyed the conversation. So almost the religion didn’t come into it, it just to me it became an intellectual, kind of almost an emotionally intelligent conversation that I thoroughly enjoyed because I wasn’t having that conversation with other people. 

Sundae: You dropped the lump and label. I’m going to speak from my perspective, one thing that happened to me, I remember when I was in my Master’s program for Intercultural Communication. The principle of Intercultural Communication is to look at people’s values with neutrality and not judge Etc. And that’s what I was training in terms of my profession. And I remember the day when I realized I’m going to be open and accepting of everyone unless you’re like a Republican and a missionary and I’m like, “How does that work Sundae?” And I say that because I understand how silly that is, but I realized that, because one of my best friends during my Master’s program was a Republican who was becoming a missionary. I was like, “Okay, you’re not the other anymore. I can’t be open to everybody else except people like you.” That lump and label felt really good, like that righteous indignation. “I am right and you are wrong.” It feels good.

Cath: It’s a very safe position to sit in and to kind of project yourself into this position of comfort where you can put like the pegs in the ground and hold yourself steady in that view. But I think also what I find as someone in a marginalized group, is that we so often have labels thrown at us that actually. what I really enjoyed was this this was the reclaiming of our label and actually we had quite a lot of fun with just the Baptist and the lesbian and we still joke with it now and I have no issue with the label because we gave it to ourselves. 

Jerry: Right and the labels themselves don’t, I think even Cath had this in the speech, we’re more than that. We’re like, Baptist is my heritage, I haven’t Pastored at a Baptist Church for years, I haven’t attended frequently a Baptist Church for years, but for us it embodies and it embraces and it puts some parameters around a group of people that I connect with in my heritage, that I still connect with, the circles that I’ve lived in and continue to live in, those people are broader than just the term Baptist. So in fact some of them would hate to be called Baptist because they’re not, but it gives us a space to come together and to have the conversation and certainly lesbian doesn’t sum up Cath. There’s so much more to her, but it just gives us a little bit of a bucket to put things in so that we can we can carry things for a little bit and and then get into the broader scope of who we are. 

Sundae: So tell me why did you do it? 

Cath: Because he asked me, I’m not someone, as probably what Jerry alluded to, I’m not someone that sits back and is quiet, having had my own issues with coming out and receiving people’s responses and various things, I’m now in a position where I’m a hundred percent comfortable with myself and who I am and actually what anyone says isn’t going to be a real problem, but there’s an awful lot of people that aren’t in that position and there’s kids that commit suicide because they can’t be who they are and there’s a lot of stuff thrown at people that’s not healthy. And I feel that I have a responsibility to be visible, because you never know who needs to hear you and it can be the minutest thing where I’ve often been in conferences or in rooms where I’ve spoken up and someone, they won’t say anything at the time, but they then come to me later and say, “Thank you for speaking up my sister or my brother’s gay and it was just really nice to hear that that viewpoint.” So for me, it’s about being that visible person.

Sundae: And it’s not about, I mean this is what I know from our broader conversations Cath, is it’s not about the topic of sexual orientation, it’s about the topic of marginalized identity. And this is only one of many marginalized identities that has these daily microaggressions have real-life implications and someone’s self confidence, safety, so many things. So this podcast, the video, all of that, it’s bigger than accepting sexual orientation or it’s bigger than opening up to a religion. It’s about let’s look at this dynamic that goes on. 

Cath: Exactly and that was something that Jerry and I discussed that I hadn’t expected at all, was that in my eyes Jerry’s kind of background was the majority but actually we realized that there were similarities that we were both different poles of the ends of the pole basically and that actually we both had marginalized experiences in different ways through different judgments and I would never have said that once about the Baptist. 

Jerry: Well, yeah just jumping into that part of the conversation, I think there’s this reality that’s oftentimes missed is that yes, there’s marginalized and there are marginalized, but then we lump both of those into massive groups and then just stereotype both of them. And so when there is opportunity for people, and it like I represent and I get it I represent The marginalizer in this particular conversation. I am straight, white, American, Christian, male, that’s like a cross, that’s all the checks, that’s everything. But what that means though, is that typically speaking when I come to a conversation like this, because of where the marginalizers have been, I don’t have a space at that table, I don’t have a voice in that and I get it and it’s fair and I realize we have to earn that back and I see the fuller narrative. But what the beauty of what happened here, and this is what’s different than the bigger conversation, the beauty of what happened here is that Cath gave me the space to go ahead and talk and to go ahead and listen and we found that, but it happened one on one and it like I was just thinking as an illustrator is almost like you have a match, and you can light the match and there’s so much potential in that to do something really good. You can start a campfire, you can cook some things. There’s really good opportunity there and you can bring two matches together and it’s good. But the broader conversation is kind of like taking a match to a forest fire and trying to throw it in, it’s already burning, it’s out of control, you have no influence or say and you just get burned up in the process. And I think what we did was come together with our matches and put them together and come out with something productive 

Sundae: And it had a massive impact, I mean, I want to hear more about the impact that this conversation had, one at the Families and Global Transition Conference in Bangkok where it went live first and since. So Cath, will you tell me an example of impact that you’ve noticed it’s had either on yourself or others? 

Cath: Yeah, I guess for me the impact was incredibly immediate. After we’d spoken someone came up to me at the conference who I’d had lunch with the previous day and he was a Christian man who worked in the Christian organization in Southeast Asia and he came up to me and he said, “I’ve just realized that you spoke in non-gendered specific language when you talked about your wife.” And I said, “Yeah I did.” And he said that he just couldn’t believe it and he just said, “You’re awesome.” And he said “This is amazing and thank you.” And he was just really moved by it all, so for that immediate impact that’s been the biggest for me and I didn’t expect the standing ovation at all. I mean, I was completely gobsmacked, but since then it’s been kind of quiet. I’ve had quite a few interesting conversations with people but I think probably the impacts been bigger in Jerry’s circles, I’m not really sure. 

Jerry: For me like yeah, like I don’t know exactly what gobsmacking is, but I think probably what it was. It was instant, right after the speech people came up to both of us. And I think what was the most was the most powerful piece of that it was universal. There were very conservative Christians who were moved by that, people came up and said, “Hey, I’m an atheist, but wow, like what you just said was powerful.” There were Christians, non-christians, missionaries, and researchers and we found that space and that’s what we looked for. That’s what we worked hard to get there Cath and I did, like talking through this and we knew the space that we wanted to land and it wasn’t gender driven. It wasn’t to to have a speech that was one side or the other it was to say “This is beautiful and this is what happened.” And I think we found it and since then the amount of really really powerful conversations that I’ve been able to have, and again with people of faith and people who reject any of that, that any of that exists even, it’s been a really amazing. I’ve never experienced something that put me into a space to be so well set up to to have really life-changing conversations and that continues and I love that. That’s what I’m about and that’s what I hope for and it’s what I’ve always hoped for but this created that space in a way that nothing else ever has.

Sundae: I know the impact on me, besides like the snotty mess right after the standing ovation. Is just this hope that we can have different kinds of conversations. You know, this idea, I mean rhetoric in college, and the whole point is to win a debate, we’re trying to win and we’re trained to have good arguments and for me, it was like, “Let’s do this differently.” And what possible when we do dialogue, when we are opening the mercy umbrella and are standing in a space of humility and curiosity. So that’s what’s really inspired me, and since then I’ve had conversations with my own family and outside of my family circle that have been distinctly different because I was able to tap back into that space. So I’m even showing up differently in situations that would normally trigger me and I’m noticing if impact is important to me, I’m noticing that those kind of conversations are having a more constructive impact. 

So thank you to both of you for being role models of that and how to do it differently. 

Cath: Yeah well, it was a pleasure to meet Jerry that night and to now call him a friend and I think one of the key things that made it work also was that we weren’t trying to change each other, we were actually just listening to each other and kind of talking and debating in the sense of not needing to convert each other and that gave us space to be vulnerable and then actually kind of cried together and realize that that we could keep talking and be vulnerable and open with each other. 

Sundae: So I’m going to ask you both as we come to a close here, what do you hope people take away from these unlikely connections, Jerry? 

Jerry: That’s a really hard question. Although like I’ll frame it like this, I know what I have gotten out of this and so I guess it’s it’s honest to say that I hope that happens for other people as well. And for me, it has been the The longest hardest look in the mirror that that I’ve ever had. And it’s caused me to look at myself, to look at my actions to look at my history, my heritage, everything and that is a that is a good thing, like I feel like so much of what we’re coasting on is because we just haven’t looked at ourselves for a long time and it’s the piece that has stood out. And I want to get this in there, the piece that has stood out to me is that as Cath and I began our emails and as we talked, it was a deep dive into my childhood and that came out in the speech is just like, this is how I grew up. These are the things that I said and actually did write a song to be funny where among my friends that ended in violence towards towards homosexuals, and I didn’t know how I got there and for me the concept of, I was at that point we heard a lot about immorality at that stage in my life. But immorality was always built around sexual action, and there was a lot of warning for us and I mean they get teenagers coming up and there’s all of that talk but that’s how immorality was defined. And I don’t even get through this thought without choking up, so forgive me if that happens, but I just recognize there’s something about a 14 year old who is in that space in his head that is absolutely immoral. 

And so my hope is, I guess for other people, that we can we can broaden our definitions to include ourselves a little bit. I’m not even getting into the space, I don’t want to get into the space of arguing about what people believe, but man when your when your actions in your life are in direct contrary action to what’s being said, something’s off. And so it’s been really painful and really good for me.

Sundae: Jerry just the fact that you share that and are able to speak that I just want to say thank you and that’s the kind of courage that both of you showed in your speech and that story is in all of us. They’re different characters, different settings, but that story takes place. I’m certain because we are human and we are socialized and we are socialized to see other, I’m better, they’re worse, this is higher in the hierarchy, that’s lower, that if we dug deep in each of our souls, we would find a story, and it might be about a different group or a different continent or different, I don’t know what but we’ve got those stories, and that’s one of the things that I admire most about your courage to say “Listen, this was my story, what about yours?” And whether you articulate in front of thousands of people or you just say it to yourself, that’s massive.

Cath, what would you like to leave our audience with? 

Cath: I think one of the biggest things for me was the kind of stuff that Jerry’s just shared there is the level of the conversations that we were having.  I felt a huge compassion for him because he was being really hard on himself about his childhood and I realized how painful it was for him and for me to be able to give him the space to explore that felt like a gift in the way that I knew that that he needed and that he wanted and I think for me it goes back to rather than being other all the time is actually when you meet people is just to try and see yourself in every single person that you meet so you don’t other them and you see them as someone who’s like you and I think as a kind of a group in the marginalised group in the community, it’s so often that I’m labeled or people assume things. I mean a really odd thing, I don’t know why but as a lesbian people always think I’m vegetarian no idea why. And I usually come back with a line that I won’t say on air.  But Jerry didn’t go down that route and he genuinely wanted to know things and he was asking from a position that I could tell was from huge intellectual and emotional breaking down of own position and trying to really genuinely understand and that to me went a long way. So the fact that you see people for who they are and you really find out who they are rather than lumping in and so for me my mentor is basically just see every see yourself and everybody that you meet.

Sundae: It’s so simple, but probably one of the hardest things you can ask someone to do.

Cath: Yeah it is. 

Sundae: So thank you for being here. It’s been an honor to have you both share your story.

Jerry: Yeah, thank you for doing this, this is good to hear the backstory. 

Sundae: Yeah, absolutely, thank you. 

And so the challenge to the audience who’s listening are two things, one the next interaction that you have with someone where you notice righteous indignation pop-up or lumping and labeling, to just practice in that moment, to see the humanity or yourself and this person. 

And the other challenge that I offer to everyone listening, the next time you’re in an opportunity or conversation with someone where you’re really focused on the difference and struggling with finding similarities that you ask for the mercy umbrella. 

Now that was a treat wasn’t it? 

To have both Cath and Jerry join us and share their journey that lasted over a year and has touched hundreds of people deeply and transformed conversations around the globe.

They agreed to come on Expat Happy Hour with a hope that all three of us share that will help transform some of your conversations.

I’ll pull out something from the interview that I’m left with.

Three things that needed to be there to make that powerful conversation happen were mercy, trust and a personal connection. So the next time you’re in a challenging conversation, or you see an opportunity, pull out the mercy umbrella.

The other theme that comes up, and I’m going to be frank here, is shut up and listen. How many times have we been thinking how we’re going to respond instead of actually coming from a place of listening. Especially those of us who come from privileged positions, places of power and dominance historically. What if we did more listening than talking? What if we open the mercy umbrella and said, “Hey, here’s a naive question, do you mind?”

How do we stand in openness, also those who come from marginalized groups, open a space where learning can happen. That is a tough one because if you are completely fatigued from the battle of injustice, you might not have the energy to do that.

And what we saw modeled by Cath, was that for that moment in that context she trusted her instincts and was able to allow that space to keep the questions coming and the learning happening.

This modeling of conversation invites us all to broaden our definitions, to include ourselves and how we can show up differently in dialogue. These are rich conversations and I hope that you go out and courageously have your own. 

And I promise you, there’s more to come an Expat Happy Hour. Stay tuned as this episode launches a series of interviews where we will explore unlikely connections, identity and have powerful, honest and sometimes gut-wrenching conversations about our own biases.

If you’re listening to this you’re likely living a global life and you’re likely connecting across cultures, and I know we can do better. I am on fire about raising the bar on how we experience our lives abroad and how we interact with others who are similar and different from ourselves. 

And as part of that I’ve got something I’m working on, especially for those of you who are coaches and practitioners who serve the expat community. If you want to learn more, I’ve got something brewing that I can’t wait to share with you. So check out in the show notes, because I’ve got a first to know list for you and I’ll make sure to give you the details when they’re ready. 

If you are with me, I’m raising the bar on how we approach our lives abroad and how we support others to do the same.

You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider Bean, thank you for listening.

I’ll leave you with the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better then when you know better do better?”

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The post 144: Unlikely Connections with Jerry Jones and Cath Brew appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Oct 06 2019



Rank #14: 118: The Secret To Being Present With Your Kids.

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The secret to being present with your kids has nothing to do with your kids and it has everything to do with you.

We are so busy living our day to day lives all the while navigating  parenting abroad that we sometimes forget what’s most important: In order to take the best possible care of our kids, we need to take first-class care of ourselves.

This week’s podcast follows on the heels of our recent 5-Day Global Parenting Challenge to share a few of the key lessons and how we can continue to move forward to be our best version of parents to our global kids.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • The secret to being more present with your kids.
    • How to turn the chore of parenting into more fun.
    • Why being “selfish” can actually help you give more to your family.
    • Where to start when you are ready to amplify your parenting.

Being more present with my kids is something I am constantly striving for, and when I manage it joyous things happen. Do not forget that as global families, we are facing olympic level challenges. Follow the steps in this podcast to experience the secret to being present with your kids and make sure that you have the energy, focus and attention for them you are craving.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

The secret to being present with your kids has nothing to do with your kids and it has everything to do with you.

This is a core theme that came out of my work with hundreds of individuals through the 5-Day Global Parenting Challenge. To be present with your kids, you have to first be present with yourself. And this is even more true for global families because as you know, I believe we are living olympic-level lives.

We’re doing relationships and parenting and getting on with our work and trying to find meaning in our everyday. And we’re doing that while making huge global leaps across continents, cultures, languages and all of that time while we’re trying to keep connected with those that we love afar.

We’ve been focusing on global families in this series since episode 112, so if you’ve missed any of that, you’re going to want to go back and check out what you’ve missed.

We’ve covered anything from overindulgence with your children to see if you’re unknowingly spoiling your kids in episode 113.

There is a special message prepared for you in episode 114 of what you wish you could say to your in-laws. So if you’re feeling a little bit frustrated, that your in-laws don’t understand you check out episode 114.

Episode 115 is focused on what to do when you feel like you live in a different country from your partner, but you don’t.  

Episode 116 covers this dilemma of should we stay or should we go.

And just recently in episode 117 we talked about why you should talk about grief before it starts.

So for episode 118 today, we are going to look at the secret to being present with your kids, and it’s super simple. Like I said, to be present with your kids you have to first be present with yourself. And I think people get this backwards. What I’ve noticed is that when you make the intention to be more present with your children then you focus on your kids and that is like trying to pour from an empty cup. And what I’ve seen in over a decade of coaching and in my own life, is that if you are able to focus on yourself, give yourself some first-class self-care and get your own needs met, then you’ve got all the energy and focus and attention for your kids when you are together.

So I want to share some things that have been going on recently. If you weren’t part of the 5-Day Challenge on becoming a even better parent for your global kids, I still don’t want you to miss out on some of the key learnings that happened. If you were part of the challenge, this is a great refresher for you to see if you’re still on track.

But before I get into that, I want to share with you what happened on the very first day. We got together with over 250 people who joined and there were dozens that joined live every day about the key questions that we’re focusing on and how we can become even better parents to our global kids. And I did a Facebook live, I had a video called that morning, I was asking questions, I was so excited about the level of engagement and people that were on there, what they’re sharing.

So when I stopped at five, I was kind of surprised that I had this huge headache. And my son, when I was done, just got off the school bus from soccer, my youngest, and he was like “Hey Mama, how are you doing? Oh good. How was your day? Fine. How was soccer?” We had the normal exchange and my head was throbbing. It was like “What is going on? This was such a good day why do I have such a headache?” And he goes “Mama when I’m done with my 15 minutes of iPad, will you read me a story?” And I’ve this pumping headache, I have this adorable young son I haven’t seen all day like sweetly request to spend time together and I need to make dinner. So I looked at him and I go “Sweetheart, I would love to read you a story, but Mama has to cook so go do your iPad time and then you can come and help me cook.” So he’s disappointed, he goes upstairs, he does his 15 minutes of iPad time.

And for those of you who are thinking of a mean Mom because I only give my kids 15 minutes of I’ve of iPad time, then you’re just like my best friend Nicole who shamed me after I shared I only give them 15 minutes a day.

Anyway, he comes downstairs and I’m just finishing taking out the ingredients to make Crêpe. So I still have this headache and I say, “You know what honey? I need a couple more minutes.” So I go upstairs and I asked him to be patient. Then I meditated for 10 minutes, because during that day I talked about the importance of meditation, to be centered and how I had skipped it that day and I was feeling kind of nervous about how do I fit that in, because I know how important it is to me. And I’m like, “Nope gonna make it happen.” So I did my 10 minutes of meditation and I came back down and I’m like, “All right, let’s do this.” And my headache wasn’t completely gone, but it was much much better and I started to mix ingredients and we’re using the blender and he was helping me with eggs. His job when we make Crêpe is he helps make them cozy, meaning I flip the Crêpe over to him and then he covers them with a tea towel. And so the other thing that we do is he wants me to make a little baby Crêpe like the little ones.

So I’m there and I’m flipping these little baby Crêpe at him and they go flying and I start laughing and he looks at me and goes “Mama, you’re so full of joy.” And I was like “What? Wow, how sweet is that coming from a six-year-old.” “Mama, you’re so full of joy.”

And in that moment I was like “That was why saying no and taking 10 extra minutes for me to meditate was worth it.” Because he got the full of joy Mom, he didn’t get the testy Mom, the headache Mom, the Mom who would probably crack open a bottle of wine and have a glass so her headache will go away Mom. He got the full of joy Mom.

That is what I mean about being present with your kids, that you have to be present with yourself first. And listen, I share this story but I do not always get it right. I mean I really don’t. This is a work in progress over the last decades since I’ve had kids, I am human just like anybody else. This is an ongoing work in process because the way I’m showing up in my business is changing, the way I’m needing to show up in my family is changing etc. So it changes or it causes me to have to up level how I’m showing up.

So that’s my invitation to you to think about not how present are you with your kids actually, but how present are you with yourself?  Because I have a hunch the more present you are with yourself the more present you can be with your kids.

So let me share a little bit more from this 5-Day Challenge on becoming an even better parent to your global kids because I don’t want you to miss out on some of the goodness. If you are curious you can join my Facebook Group Expats On Purpose and you can go down into the history and find all of the challenges or you can send us a message and let us know that you want to opt into some of the videos and we can set you up.

But here’s what I want you to do today to walk away feeling like you’ve got that one step closer to up leveling the way you’re parenting your global kids. Not that you need to, not that you’re not doing a good job, just that if you’re like most people I know the way you’re showing up has it’s pros and cons and you’re invested in doing the best you can for your kids.

So it’s worth asking the question and we’ll start with the first one and that is; What does it mean to you to become an even better parent to your global kids?”

Because we are so different in terms of culture and language and religious beliefs and parenting styles, and the way that we think our kids should be raised, there’s not one way.

So the way to start is; “What does it mean to you to become an even better parent to your global kids?”

And here’s what some of the participants from this challenge had to say; the big one, and that’s why I’m bringing up today in this episode, is to be more present with them.

Another that came up is less reactive, using a softer voice and tone and stop lecturing.

Another parent said; being the fun mom and actually enjoying the parenting process. I know I can relate with that one, I love having fun with my kids, but if I’m the one who’s responsible for the routine then I can totally go into Discipline Mom instead of Fun Mom.

Others said being more patient and one comment, that I love, says to be kinder to myself as a parent and accept that I have limits.

Do any of these sound familiar? Because I hope you realize when you hear this that you’re not alone. In fact, I was just on a client call with someone who I absolutely adore and she was talking about how she’s feeling kind of frustrated with herself. She said “Gosh, you know I’m sure I’m the only one of your clients who’s trying to get their shit together as a parent.” And when she said that I just busted out in this huge belly laugh because it brought me so much joy to put in context that I just had 250 people sign up for this challenge and she thinks she’s alone. We’re not alone y’all we are in this together and I’m not even from the South I just said y’all to you, I’m actually from the North. So I don’t even know where that came from to be honest.

So we are all trying to get our stuff together as parents and some of us have ebbs and flows and some of us are really rocking it. And some of us are having a look in the mirror going,“I need to make some changes so I can make a long-term impact on our kids.” I’m not going to judge where you are as a parent, but if you’re listening to this you’re already doing a great job by allowing this question to come to mind. Your intention is there in your heart that you want to up level how you’re showing up for your kids. And if you’ve been listening to me long enough you know that has to go with up leveling, how you show up for yourself.

So you’re not alone.

Here’s what I wanted to do next: Once you’ve identified what it means to you to become an even better parent to your global kids, I want you to get a list together. What are you already doing well? Okay, now be honest, let yourself brag a bit, what are you already doing well? I know what I’m already doing, I’m very physically affectionate with my kids. They get bunches of sloppy hugs and kisses in the morning and at night, I really want them to know how much I love them. We read books together. Those are the things that I know my kids might not appreciate it when I’m going to the bus and I’m like being the embarrassing mom giving them a kiss on the cheek, but they love it. They’d love it even if they don’t love it, you know what I’m saying? Anyway, so I think when I look at what I’m already doing well, it has to do with the demonstration of love, the using love language, of my language telling them that I love them, showing them with hugs and kisses I love them. And then I think we’re doing bedtime well. We spend, I know Pam Leo says you need 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each child to really keep that attachment, keep that connection and I know we’re doing that. Well, okay I have a long list of things that I need to improve but that’s not the point right now we need to focus on what you’re already doing well.

Once you have that the next step is for you to look at that list and explore how will you amplify your current approach by doing more of what is working. So do more of what is already working. So if you’re getting in that 15 minutes of one-to-one time, why not plan a 24-hour date with your kids, because you know, when you have that one to one time everybody feels more connected. I know I felt like I needed more connection with one of my kids and we had a 24-hour date, one parent took one kid the other parent took the other kid, and we separated for 24 hours and did our own thing, just you and that one child. Oh my God, it was glorious.

So that’s what I mean by amplifying. What are you doing that’s already working and how can you do more of it?

That’s it, that’s all you got to do to already, take a huge leap forward to become a better global parent.

Of course there’s more, I’m not going to go through each day. There’s a lot more that you can do, but this is the first step and it’s an important one.  

So that’s my invitation to you to sit down and answer the question; what does it mean to you to become a even better global parent? What are you already doing well? And how can you amplify your current approach?

Those who did that on the challenge said that they’ve been listening better to their kids, trying to get them involved in daily routines more so they have less to do, having their kids more involved in daily cooking and actually having fun with it. Saying no more at work, cutting myself a break as a parent and quality time for full presence was a goal that the entire family set so they had a no tech hour.

That’s just the beginning that’s possible with your family if you put some intention into what you’re doing. And I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying: “You know what Sundae, I’m just trying to get by day by day, I’m exhausted, I’m not sleeping, I’m tired, I have too much to do, so I don’t have time for this.” And I would argue; “Actually you don’t, you don’t have time and that’s why you should do this because what we see from the research, Pam Leo makes a great case of this in Connection Parenting, the amount of time that it takes to argue is probably more than it is to connect.” So if you’re trying to get your, I don’t know your four-year-old to clean up their room and you have a big fight about it, you could step back instead and say okay. get down to their level and go “All right honey, how can we do this together so that your room is clean?” And then you use it as an opportunity to connect and boom, boom, boom, you make it a game and then you’re done. Because I know that there’s times, when I’m fighting about something with my kids and it’s exhausting, it takes ages and it would have just been better to like step back and really approached it, I would have saved time and energy.

So if you’re too busy for this actually, this is a reason to think about it. None of the things that any of my clients or participants in the challenge have chosen to take steps forward with, have been time consumers. They’ve all just integrated, It’s the way in which they’re approaching their day, their approach is not adding more, In fact they’re actually taking tasks off and saving time.

Okay, I say all of this knowing there’s no one-size-fits-all, and that’s why as a coach. I work really hard to help you get clear on what you need for you and for your family at this time, for your culture, for your context, right? And I want to share with you at the same time some of the themes that emerged with this cross cultural group, that came out of the 5-Day Challenge and have come out in my coaching over the years as being consistent in strategies that help you show up as a present parent like you want to be.

And the first one is clear: To be present with your kids is you have to put you first, that means being present with yourself. What do you need? How can you get those needs met? How can you fill up whatever hole that you’re feeling in your life? When you put me first It’s not selfish, in fact it’s the opposite, because once you can give yourself what you need, you have so much more to give to others.

If you want to go in more depth with that check out Episode 94 “You’re selfish if you don’t do this”. Because I’ve got lots of strategies and suggestions on how you can be more present with your kids by putting you first. If you’re skeptical and you think that it sounds selfish, check it out, I will beg to differ.

Tip two; You know this already but I’m gonna say it so you actually put it to the forefront of your mind: For you to be more present with your kids you need to invest in first class self-care. That’s what I like to call it, first class self-care. That doesn’t mean money,  it might mean just five minutes of meditation, it might mean taking a walk right after work around the block before you jump in your car so you create a buffer between your crazy work day and your family life, so you have more presence when you get there. It might be meeting a friend for a run for 20 minutes so that you can blast off some of the frustration that you had with your toddler and then show up again with your children in a way that you feel more balanced.

I’m not telling you to go to a spa and get a massage, I’m just asking you to invest some thought in how you can give yourself first class self-care, because if you don’t your kids will pay for it. I say this because that’s how it is with me, that’s what is my clients.

When we’re not taking care of ourselves our kids feel it. I’ll tell you recently I came I flew back from Switzerland and the flight leaves at nearly 11:00 p.m. It lands in the morning and we’re in economy squished, my son is sleeping on my lap, I’m exhausted from a week of grieving with my family and I barely sleep on the flight home.

I had moments of momzilla the next day. I was just I was so tired and it was not my best self. And it’s such a reminder because I do a good job at taking care of myself normally, when I’m not then everybody pays. So what I chose to do for everybody’s benefit is to introvert pretty hard the next day and go for a run and get some things done where I could renourish myself so that I can show up on Monday first-class self care for my family.

Okay, so that’s two first; Is to be present with your kids you have to put you first. Two is invest in first class self-care and three is something that one of the participants said in the 5-Day Global Challenge, she said “I am committing to give all of my attention some of the time.” All of my attention some of the time, so your kids have you, you’re fully present in that moment. So breaking down the expectation you always have to be completely available for your kids. What ends up happening is that you need to peel away mentally or physically and then you pretend like you’re there but you’re really not, and your kids are smart they get that, they see that, they feel that. I know I’ve had moments where my kids are like “Hey, where you at? What are you thinking about?” So one of the habits I’ve worked on developing is saying to my kids “Hey, you know can you do blah blah blah, whatever it is and I have something I have to finish.” I’ll say  “All right, you guys let me just finish this, I need five more minutes and then you’ll have my full attention.”

So what are the ways that you can give your kids all of your attention some of the time? What are the boundaries that you need to set? One participant in the 5-Day Challenge said that on summer break her kids get all of her attention at the absolute cost to her. So that’s where you need to think about boundaries, like “Hey kids, we’re going to spend an hour together and then I’m going to do x y z.” So you can create more boundaries around your attention, so all of your attention some of the time, that is showing up for your kids, that is being present for your kids.

All right, and this is important you guys, if you are a parent you know how it feels we just want to do the best for them and we feel so vulnerable and sometimes struggle with are we doing the right things in the right ways, right? You will lose nothing by up leveling the amount of presence for your kids while also up leveling the way you show up for yourself. Everyone wins, you don’t lose time, you don’t lose energy, you gain. You gain for your family, you gain energy and you actually save time because you’re not fighting, you’re not overcompensating and you’re not in a circle of coping.

So these are the things that I would love to leave you with today; An invitation to consider what it means to you to become a better parent to your global kids and I’ve given you a few tips to help you along your way.

And I know this is just the beginning, I am super inspired by the changes I’ve seen in the 5-Day challenge and I know for some of you, you’re just getting started and you want to keep the momentum that you’ve made or you’ve been putting this topic on the back burner for too long and you want to start putting the way in which you are showing up in your family to the forefront. And that is exactly why I created the Global Parenting on Purpose experience. So it’s for anyone who’s raising their kids abroad and secretly wonders whether you’re doing enough.  It’s time to get clear on what it means to you to become a better parent, get your strategies firm in your hand so you don’t get lost along the way.

I am happy to share the link so you know more because it’s all about taking back control, being more present, feeling less guilty, being more confident in your strategies and still creating a connection with loved ones that are near and far. And this is a really big important one, finding purpose outside of being a parent or a spouse. It’s four months, a program that brings together a group of experienced expats and myself armed with all of my tools as an Intercultural strategist and solution-oriented coach to help you overcome your challenges with expat life and raising third culture kids.

We will work closely together side by side, motivate each other and raise the bar on how you show up for you and for your family. So this is all about uncovering the parenting approach that works best for you and your transition in your global life without losing you.

So here’s the next step, if this sounds interesting to you I will pop the link in the show notes and simply have a look, and if you’re interested apply and you and I can hop on the phone for a no-strings-attached conversation to hear more and see if it’s the right fit.

It’s all about learning how to name your needs and get what you want, stop doing everything for everyone, start doing more for you without the guilt, reclaiming your time even in a complicated transition and put purpose back on your agenda. Because by this time in September you could feel totally in control as a parent, focused on taking care of you and giving your best to your global family without losing yourself.

So don’t be shy, check out the link, apply for the call. I’d love to meet you and we can have a quick conversation, no strings. I can tell you more about it, you can ask me anything.

So remember in this episode we have been focused on how you can be present with your kids and to do that you’ve got to first be present with yourself.

Remember the tips we talked about; Put me first, invest in first class self-care and all of your attention some of the time.

You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening.

I’ll leave you with the words from Ed Asner an American actor famous for his role as Lou Grant he says; “Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare.”

So join me with a Global Parenting on Purpose Program, so we can arm you with the right tools, so you can create more joy for you and your family.

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The post 118: The Secret To Being Present With Your Kids. appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Apr 07 2019



Rank #15: 113: Am I Unknowingly Spoiling My Kids? Overindulgence With Dr. Bredehoft.

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Overindulgence isn’t just about the families who give too much ice cream. Overindulgence includes a broad spectrum from allowing too much of anything, over nurturing or simply having too soft of structures. According to the experts, overindulgence is a form of child neglect. What?! Yes, read on.

Thanks to the decades of research from today’s guest, Dr David Bredehoft, and his associates, Dr Connie Dawson and Jean Illsley Clarke, parents who are committed to doing the right thing are not alone.

Listen to today’s podcast to walk away with ten essential steps to gain more clarity on what counts as overindulgence and how to better allow your child to achieve their full potential.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • What counts as overindulgence.
    • Four questions to explore whether you are overindulging a child.
    • What to do if you identify a pattern of overindulgence.
    • How to deal with the grandparents urge to spoil.
    • Why changing these patterns matter.

As a parent all we want is the best for our children. What I learned from this week’s expert is that along the way we may unknowingly do our children a disservice or even prevent a child from developing, essentially depriving the child of achieving their full potential.

Living abroad adds a level of complexity to parenting, compounded by transition fatigue, distance or new cultures. So here’s a little help to help you amplify your parenting and prevent the ill effects of overindulgence.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean fromwww.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

If you’re a parent this episode is going to ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror.

Today we are talking about overindulgence and overindulgence not in the sense of “Oh you gave your kid too much ice cream one day,” overindulgence in the scientific definition.

Overindulgence in childhood is defined as giving them too much of what looks good too soon or too long. It’s giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or interests and talents. It’s a process of giving things to children to meet the adults needs not the child’s. Overindulgence is giving a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children in a way that appears to meet the child’s needs but doesn’t so that children actually experience scarcity in the midst of plenty. Overindulgence is doing or having so much of something that it does active harm or at least prevents a person from developing and deprives that person of achieving his or her full potential.

Here’s the thing; according to Dr’s Connie Dawson and David Bredehoft in their research that we know overindulgence is actually a form of child neglect. It hinders children from performing their needed developmental tasks and from learning necessary life lessons.

So it is my absolute pleasure to welcome to Expat Happy Hour Dr. David Bredehoft who is the co-author of the parenting book “How much is enough?” or “How much is too much?” the more recent version.

Sundae: So Dr. Bredehoft, it is an absolute pleasure to have you today.

Dr Bredehoft: I’m thrilled to be with you Sundae, thank you for inviting me.

Sundae: Well, here I am in my podcast studio and I’m clutching onto the book and I’m reading it, it says “How much is too much, raising likable, responsible, respectful children from toddlers to teens in an age of overindulgence,” on the photo and the cover is a child with about, I don’t know 18 scoops of ice cream on a cone. I bought this because I had a child in 2008 and as I went from the baby stage into  to toddler and young child, I personally started to grapple with “Wait a minute, do my kids have too much?” So Dr. Bredehoft I have been a fan since I’ve had children and I’m really really honored to have you here and I just want you to know personally how much of an impact your book has had in my life.

Dr Bredehoft: Thank you, you’re not the only parent out there that has told us that.

Sundae: Let me give a little bit of background about who you are and your qualifications. I could probably spend the next ten minutes talking about his qualifications, but just quickly so you know who you’re listening to today. Dr. Bredehoft started out with a BA in psychology and then went on to get a masters of education in educational psychology from the University of Oklahoma and then went on to get a PhD in family social sciences from my alma mater from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Bredehoft holds four academic degrees within the fields of psychology, family social science, educational psychology and has over 30 years of experience in research, marriage and family therapy and teaching. He’s also a licensed psychologist in the state of Minnesota and from the national council family relations. He was named in 2003 certified family life educator of the year.

So we know you’re now enjoying the fruit of your academic career in retirement and you’ve come out to to continue to share your knowledge and that is just a testament of your commitment to this.

Dr Bredehoft: Yes.

Sundae: Can I be really honest with you, when you agreed to come on the podcast I was honestly kind of terrified to have you on the show.

Dr Bredehoft: No, really, why?

Sundae: Because you know, I’ve read the book and I’m working really hard as a parent and I think my kids are you know good kids and I know there’s parts that we’re still not doing enough to stop over nurturing or over overindulgence. So I was actually like “He’s gonna come on and say things that I know I totally didn’t start implementing into my parenting approach.”

Dr Bredehoft: This whole business of parenting is a challenge and I think even more so today than ever before especially with all the other technological advances we’ve made since when I was a kid, so you’re struggling right along with most parents out there today and it’s a testament to you because it sounds like it all starts with a good heart, you want the best for your kids.

Sundae: Yes totally and then looking for resources, right? And that’s where where I came to you. So tell us more little bit about how you came to study over indulgence.

Dr Bredehoft: Well, it started a long time ago when I was doing my planning to do my dissertation. I was interested in parenting and I went to conference, national council on family relations conference in St. Paul Minnesota, their annual meeting, and I went to a session where Jean illsley Clarke, my lead author of this book, was presenting about her first book and best probably selling book called self esteem a family affair and she had developed a parenting course out of that material. And afterwards I went up to her and said, “You know Jean my name is Dave Bredehoft, I’m a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, and I’d like to do research on your parenting class.” And she gave me a big hug, and she said “I finally have found you” and we talked and she was thrilled that I was going to do my dissertation on her parenting class. But then I sort of told her I said “Jean you know, this is research, I might find out that it doesn’t work.” And she gave me a big hug and she said, “You know, we need to know that too, I’m open to well everything.” And so I did my dissertation on that course and found out, yes indeed It really did work, and that really started this journey with her in terms of research. Then a couple years after that, she gives me a phone call and she says “Dave, you know, I do all these speaking engagements and people come up to me and they’re all talking about what we’re calling overindulgence of kids and what it does to them and they’re even saying that they were overindulging their kids and you have to do something about that.” And so then she said “Well, let’s do a research study on that.” So that started the journey of the first of ten different studies that we did.

Sundae: Well, that’s what I love about your book is because I’m a nerdy academic at heart and I love that it’s all scientifically validated and it’s a huge wake-up call, and when I was reading the book, my intention was to learn about strategies to employ or to avoid and what I also discovered as a surprise, was that there were elements of overindulgence, I would probably count it under over nurturing, from my childhood. And you know, I thought, I was raised by 70s parents, you know where I wasn’t expecting that at all.

So here’s what I think is happening with some of the listeners, some of the listeners are like, “You know, what I don’t overindulge my kids.” And what we what I know from reading the book, there probably are signs of overindulgence that were missing. So, how can we as parents tell if we’re in overindulging our kids? I think if we’re going to admit it, we would have liked the screaming brat who’s demanding, you know more ice cream for breakfast, right? That’s when we’re like, okay yeah overindulged. So there’s so many other ways of overindulging parenting or indulging kids that count, that we deny. So can you tell us just a few signs from our children or from our parenting approach, so it kind of helps us wake up?

Dr Bredehoft: First of all, let me set the stage off in our research starting from the very first study and then we validated it in later studies. We found out that there were three different types of overindulgence that parents engage in;

The first one is what we labeled just simply too much; too much of almost anything, giving them too many sports, giving them too much ice cream, giving them too many activities, too much of just anything, too much attention. Most parents get that, like for instance flying over here when I came over, the person next to me asked me what do I do and what I did in life, and I told him and I said “I research overindulgence with kids” and he said “Oh, I know what that is”, you know, they know about too much but what they usually don’t know about is the second type what we call over nurture, where parents are doing too much for their kids that they should be doing for themselves and sometimes referred to as, and not quite the same, but helicopter parenting. It’s hovering, it’s taking too much control over parenting. Sometimes it’s referred to but we call it over nurture.

Sundae: I’m going to repeat that over nurturing is doing too much for your kids that they should be doing for themselves; and I will give you a really small example of how I identified over nurturing, and I’m not calling out my parents, my parents are amazing. Something I did that I brought into my adult life is I would, my husband noticed, we’ve been married for years, I would leave cups all over the house and drive him crazy. He’s Swiss, he likes order, he wants everything put away and I didn’t even realize what I was doing, he’s like “Sundae, you’re leaving cups everywhere!” and it was kind of like our cup fight and I realized; “You know what? I’ve probably been doing that my whole life,” my Mom just came behind me and picked up after me because she has three kids, stay at home mom working her tail off and it was easier to just pick up the damn cup then to make me do it myself right? I get it, I get the exhausted parents. So that’s the example. It’s so simple, It’s not like letting your kids, you know, watch eight hours of movies or iPad, It’s taking their cups.

Dr Bredehoft: Yeah right over nurturing is not having chores and those kinds of things too.

Sundae: Okay, I’m going to come back to that in the expat context, but I want to hear the third one.

Dr Bredehoft: The third one is what we call soft structure, It’s not having rules or if you do have rules it’s not enforcing the rules and that sort of thing, and what we found in all of these things, especially in the first study what I thought was interesting is that we had 720 adults in that study and those that were overindulged as children reported, of these three types of overindulgence, the one that they were both happy and really mad as hell about was over nurture. They were happy that their parents did all those things for them when they did it back then, but they were really mad at them as an adults because it robbed them of skills, valuable skills that they didn’t know how to do anything.

Sundae: Right, that’s why I had the cup fight to clean up my mess.

So let me just read it over; too much. we get too much. too much tech, too much sports, too much time to engage in other activities over nurture. We do things that are robbing our kids of developing to do it themselves; And soft structure, not having rules or not enforcing them, oh my gosh, think about all those tired parents who haven’t seen their kids all day and it’s like “I said, if you hit your brother, you have no iPad, but now it’s going to cause a huge fight,” I have so much empathy for parents for going to these strategies. Right?

Dr Bredehoft: Yeah, but the real challenge is, think of development of a child it’s kind of like you’re on a plateau and you work really hard to get things right and you got it in shape and things are moving right along and then all of a sudden they advanced in development, now the game changes, they’re working on a whole set of different skills and developmental goals and now you got to change everything.

Sundae: Just right when you get it right, right when you feel like you’re getting good at it.

Dr Bredehoft: Yeah, and then hopefully get it right again, and then not too long after that it changes again, so it’s fun though, It keeps you on your toes.

Sundae: When I was pregnant, I got the best piece of advice and it was “Having children, It’ll ruin your life and it’s the best thing that ever happened to you.” So I’m just I’m really going to stand as an empathetic parent here who understands how easy it is to do too much, to over nurture and to have the soft structure and get that I really get it. But tell us why is this so bad? Like, why should we stop going to the easier ones when we’re tired and overwhelmed? Why is it worth changing our strategies and what if we don’t?

Dr Bredehoft: Well, the list is pretty long, and first of all I would also like to say that my goal is not to guilt parents because that really doesn’t help, my goal really is to educate parents and then help them make, you know, wise decisions. What we found in all of our studies is whole laundry list and I won’t lay them all out, but I’ll give you some of the important ones of what happens if you do overindulge, and again think of overindulgence on a continuum every parent overindulges sometimes okay, but then the continuant continues over to some parents indulge almost all of the time or somewhere in between. So keeping that in mind adults who are overindulged as children report feelings of being unloved, needing constant outside affirmation. They said they had a lack of skills, they didn’t know how to take care of themselves, they reported being self-indulgent as adults in things like gaining weight or feeling guilty or lower self-esteem, poor health even lonely. They really didn’t have a concept of what is enough.

Sundae: I have to just tell you right now I basically have tears in my eyes and my arm hair is standing up because what you’ve just listed is the opposite of what every parent is trying to achieve. They want their kids to be loved, they want them to feel confident about themselves, they want them to be skilled and it’s the opposite.

Dr Bredehoft: It’s just that they’ve gone overboard in many ways, you need to bring it back kind of into the middle somewhere. They also in addition to having money management problems and even relationship problems with the people that they they picked to be with. We found out in one study that we did that adolescents and young adults College age adults those that were overindulged as children, what their goal in life was wealth, fame and image. They wanted to make the most money, they wanted to be famous and they wanted to be attractive and stylish and you ask “Well what’s wrong with that, aren’t those some of the goals that we want for our kids?” Well, yes, but when those become the most important things what suffers is, the ones who weren’t overindulged, they wanted to help people, they wanted to make the world a better place and they had quite different different goals.

Dr Bredehoft: Right, it’s just it’s amazing, I’m just kind of shaking my head here at the at the implications of these “easy to go to” you know, “starting innocently” strategies. And as you said it’s on the continuum and I think what we do as parents is we put the really bad parent, you know, who’s really far on the end of the continuum, who’s super over indulging their kids, we put them as as those people and we don’t look at where we are on the continuum and ask, you know, “What kind of impact is this having?”

So here’s the thing, why I invited you to the podcast for the expat audience, is that you know people who are expats they live outside of their home country. Some of those people are living with because they’re not in their home country, they’re in a different cultural context where rules are different. Overindulgence might be a cultural practice, you know, I mean I’ve seen it with certain gender practices, you know based on your gender, they might overindulge in certain things versus others. I’ve also seen in rotational expat life if you’re living in let’s say a developing area. When we were in West Africa, we were expected to be a good “Patron” like you should hire people to be in your home to help you because you’re giving jobs and if you don’t hire people to help you you’re seen as a bad, you know character, like it’s not good. Like if you are able to employ people you should and so you’re both working parents and you can afford to have a full-time nanny so you do that and and so you’re in situations where maybe if you’re in your domestic context you couldn’t afford extra help and now you have help or you have help  with cultural differences that might actually make it hard to avoid overindulgence. So this is the thing, you know, also with rotational expats we’re flying home across the world to see our family and just getting on a long-haul flight is a total privilege, but it’s normal for many people who are working in a rotational experience who work for embassies or for a corporation. So I feel like we really need to think about this topic because the structure of our lives also invites more overindulgence, especially when we go to see grandparents and they haven’t seen them, you know for a year.

So there’s a couple things I guess I would like to walk away with; one if we find ourselves on the continuum of overindulgence and we’re saying “Okay I understand It’s important, what are one or two things I can start doing or stop doing that will make a positive impact?” Where do we start?

Dr Bredehoft: Well, the first thing that I would suggest is you need to just acknowledge that overindulgence is going on. So become aware of the whole topic, which you’re trying to inform your listeners, which I salute whole heartedly. A second thing that you can do is that we give a number of skills in the book, not skills but tools I would say and one of the tools that we offer parents is called “The test of four” and it’s grounded in our research and you ask four questions and if you get a yes answer to one or more what you’re doing is probably overindulgence. So think of one issue, or I sometimes just refer to them as a “rub” with your child that continually comes up and then ask yourself these four questions. The first one has to do with developmental tasks and it goes like this; “Will doing or giving this to my child prevent him or her from learning what he or she should be learning at this age? Will it prevent my child from reaching a developmental goal or task?” And if the answer is yes, it probably is overindulgence.

Sundae: Yeah, “Pick up your cup Sundae.”

Dr Bredehoft: The second question has to do with family resources and by family resources, we really mean a broad array of things, not just money, it could be time, it could be a tension, it could be energy, it could be almost anything, but does it use it disproportionate amount of family resources to meet the wants, not the needs of one or more of our children?

Sundae: Right? So it’s like if your weekend is dominated by all kinds of kid activities and you don’t get your needs met for quiet let’s say.

Dr Bredehoft: Exactly, then that’s a sign of too many family resources. And we’re looking for patterns, if it happens just once one weekend, that’s not a really an issue, but if it continually happens over any number weekends or it becomes a pattern, then it’s an issue.

The third question has to do with whose needs are being met in this situation. Does it benefit the adult, the parent more than the child? So for instance, it was just easier for your Mom and a lot of times we do things for our kids because it’s just easier, I can do it better, I can do it faster,  I avoid a hassle to fight or whatever, I just do it. So it’s really for me more than it is for my child. So whose needs?

Sundae: And that’s where I really see the connection with soft structure, like if you have a rule, you’re not going to be able to do X Y or Z and then you’re really tired so you’re like, “Okay fine go do iPad” or whatever it is.

Dr Bredehoft: Yes. And then the last question is has to do with possible harm. Does it hurt others? Does it harm the community or does it damage the planet in some way? One of my favorite stories about this question is actually my wife and I are avid bird watchers and I sometimes tell my friends, you know, “it’s an addiction but there are far worse addictions than birds,” and a few years ago, we took a trip with one of my colleagues that was leading a birding trip to East Africa to Kenya and there were five vans, there were about, I don’t know five six of us bird watchers in each van along with a guide and a driver and we stopped along the road and got out and we’re looking through binoculars at a bird on the line and it was actually a ishop bird. I remember the name of the bird, not too bad a bird and this little girl comes out of a mud hut and she walks towards us down to a gully by the road there. She’s carrying two five-gallon buckets with her. She says “Hi where you guys from?” We said “Minnesota,” she says “Where’s that?” “United States? Well, what are you doing here?” “We’re looking at Birds.” She just couldn’t get over that, you know that we look at birds. And then we asked her “What are you doing?” She said “I’m gathering my family’s drinking water for the day.” and we said “Where are you getting that?” and she said “Right here.” and there was a red mud puddle right in front of us and she scooped up two five gallons of red water and we said “Do you really drink that?” she said “Yes, we just pour it out let it settle out and it’s not too bad.”

Now fast forward to one of the stories that we tell in the book, all the stories we tell are true and we did get permission to do them, but we didn’t tell who they were. One of the stories is there’s a man in Minnesota with runs one of the Fortune 500 companies, travels around the world all the time and when he goes to a foreign countries, even a developing country, he gets out his suitcase, takes his suits out then goes into the bathroom and  hangs them, up turns off water on full-blast, lets it run for a couple hours while he’s out for dinner and comes back and all of his suits are all steam pressed. And I go back to that little girl with the 5 gallon buckets of dirty water. Does that do harm? You betcha it does, and so sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture. Sometimes the harm is the individual my child is harmed by it. Sometimes the community or friends are harmed by it. Sometimes the planet is harmed by it.

Sundae: Well, that’s interesting, it’s like when you think about it from a parenting perspective, maybe that’s what his Dad did when he came home from work and he taught him how to do that. This is so powerful, so I feel like when I hear this I feel empowered. When I have the test, I can name two or three pretty easily of where as a parent I could up level how I’m parenting with my kids because of these four questions, but then the question is; so then what do we do? Like we know, the pattern but now what because we’ve got a battle ahead of us, don’t we?

Dr Bredehoft: Oh, yeah, here’s here’s kind of a formula that I use both in counseling but as well was coaching other individuals and it’s just basically some common sense for parents; When you see that you need to make a change there are a number of steps you can take; The first one I already mentioned, awareness of the problem. The second one is get on the same page with your spouse or partner.

Sundae: Oh, that’s a big one, especially when they’re in binational relationships and different cultures.

Dr Bredehoft: Exactly, but you need to get on the same page come to some middle ground or not even middle ground, tell them why this is not so good and make your case but get on the same page with your spouse or partner. The third thing you need to do is work on one issue at a time. You know, when I was doing counseling I often did a lot of counseling with parents that had adolescents that were, you know, kind of bouncing off the walls and they bring that adolescent in maybe 13 or 14 years and they’d say, Dr. B, you know, we need you to fix my kid. They wanted me to fix their kid in you “It took you 13 or 14 years to get the here, we’re not going to do it in two or three 50-minute sessions.” So the way you do it is you work on one problem at a time. So identify an issue in which you’re consistently overindulging your child and say “We’re going to work on that.” Then the fourth thing you do is let your child know in a caring but firm way “This is a problem for me between us and you or me and you and things are going to change and this is what the plan is.” And then the sixth thing is, and this is a hard one too; consistently follow the plan. Consistent, gives you the higher batting average. The seventh thing you do is take stock of how the plans working, after you initiate the plan, maybe not the first time or the second time maybe the fifth or sixth time but take stock of how the plans going and make course corrections, tweak the plan if you need to, it just makes common sense.

Sundae: This makes me feel great because we just had a situation in my family, where I actually did a podcast about it where I said, I went from Military Sergeant to Mary Poppins, where I just told my kids like “I am no longer available to be your drill sergeant the morning, you’ve done this for years, you know what we need to do,” and I went up into the room and I just said “I’m done, you guys know what you’re doing.” And we did we changed it and what I noticed is when I was slipping back, Iwas the one who be like “Go brush your teeth, go brush your teeth.” you know instead of saying “Hey the timer is going to go off in three minutes,” you know what I mean? So I love that this is and then make course corrections. So I’m just going to recap that; awareness of the problem, get on the same page of the spouse, work on one issue at a time, let your child know in a caring and firm way that this is a problem and you’re going to make a new plan. And then I’m guessing that five is make the plan and then six is consistently follow the plan and seven is take stock of how it’s going and make course correction.

Dr Bredehoft: And there’s three more; Eight is celebrate your success, it’s just really important that when you have a success that you celebrate, pat yourself on the back. Nine is forgive yourself for past parenting failures. We are all human, we all make mistakes don’t beat yourself over the head for those past mistakes forgive yourself move on to the new stuff. And ten, the last one is repeat step number one with a new issue.

Sundae: I love that, that’s great, you and I are totally on the same page about celebrating your successes, I think that’s important. You know but what you mentioned is one that I know that I can ignore and I know a lot of my friends and peers can’t ignore is really forgiving yourself that it’s like, “Oh, why didn’t I start this sooner?” That’s so easy to go to that place, right? I think this is wonderful, I’m going to make sure that our listeners have those ten steps. It’s going to be in the transcription so they can follow that. I think the challenge from an expat community or people living abroad is if you’re in a bi-national relationship, they’re going to have to spend extra time on getting on the same pages or spouse if they’re from different cultures.

And this leads me to my next question. So what if we’re parenting in a context where others are involved, like our nannies or grandparents where they might they might be in a default of actually overindulging kids because they see this as a sign of love. What are we gonna do about others who overindulge our kids?

Dr Bredehoft: That one is a thorny issue in many ways. You know the I say this tongue-in-cheek, but you might say get a copy of our book and I say “I talked with the psychologist, I don’t know he might be full of beans, but why don’t you take a look at this and tell me what you think?” That’s something rather than say “You need this,” right? But it is tough, I think that the best thing you can do is tell them in an honest caring way that “I’m really worried about childhood overindulgence and we live in a world where that is basically the default every message around us is saying indulge, indulge, indulge, and I know From the research that if we keep doing those kinds of things that some bad things will happen to our kids when as they grow up and later on as adults. And so we’re doing this from a caring point of view.” And then offer grandparents and even nannies and other people that are involved with your kids, offer them some alternatives. In the new edition of the book, “How much is too much,” we wrote four additional chapters about Grandparents, because that kept coming up, so there’s lots of information in there, but I’ll highlight a couple of things by offering them some alternatives for instance; they can teach as opposed to just giving them more money or more toys or more things. They can teach your child special skills, maybe it’s chess or gardening or sewing or skiing or computer skills or how to change the oil or maybe your child can teach the grandparent computer skills, you know because it works both ways and that that would be a plus. Another thing that grandparents, particularly the ones that live far away can do is they could keep weekly contact. A good friend Carol Gesme wrote a book titled “While we’re apart” and it gives all kinds of activities that grandparents who are separated can do with their grandkids via  FaceTime or whatever. They can do something that the child would like to do, board games and puzzles, they can contribute money, not just money but maybe pay for transportation for lessons or guitar photography, something that’s important to developing skills for the child.

Dr Bredehoft: That’s wonderful, so what I’m already hearing is that they just want to treat their kids so easy as ice cream or whatever, but you’re saying there are other ways to treat the kids. You know what’s so interesting, we just went on a weekend to a friend’s cabin and we said no iPads no tec, we’re just going to go and enjoy, and we barbecued, we went on a tube and there are trees in the back and my boys were playing with sticks and stuff and on the drive back I said, “What was your favorite part of the weekend?” And my oldest said “The forest” and my youngest said “The sticks”

Dr Bredehoft: Isn’t that that great some of the simplest things.

Sundae: They didn’t say, “It was good, but we didn’t have our iPads” the nature was what they they enjoyed the most. And by the way, that weekend was amazing, the car ride was calm, the entire weekend was unproblematic. There were a variety of kids there and I guarantee you if we had iPads with us it would have changed the energy right?

Dr Bredehoft: Absolutely, absolutely.

Sundae: So learning skills, and so I’m going to shamelessly plug your book because I believe in it so much. I was saying before the podcast started that all I really want you to do is to read out the entire book to my audience. This book is so important and so easy to read and grounded in research, I just feel like if any parent is listening and has a hunch they might be on the scale on one of these categories that just potentially could have an impact on their kids down the road, it’s totally worth it. I can’t recommend it enough.

Any last words that you have? I could try to keep you on the podcast for four hours, but any other things that you think that we need to know about doing our best to raise likable, responsible, respectful children.

Dr Bredehoft: Well you know be yourself, be open to learning new and different things, try to be as honest with yourself about your parenting and parenting skills, recognizing not everything your parents did with you worked, but the same way not everything that you’re doing is working either and that there’s a lot to learn but you’re willing to do it.

And one last thing I’d like to add one more story about Grandparents. I was fortunate enough to have my Dad’s parents live with us the last six years of their life, and I know it was stressful for Mom because she had three relatively young boys and then Grandpa and Grandma and then my Dad to take care of too and I remember one of the best things my Grandparents did, they didn’t have much money, every day after school we would walk home from school and there was Grandpa on the porch, he was smoking his pipe, he started living us with us at 83 and he died at 89 so there were six years, and he would say “Sit down and tell me how your day was and tell me a good story” and we would tell him what went on at school and he was a storyteller and then he would tell us stories. Now looking back, I think a lot of them were were fiction, but they were wonderful stories. But you know what, I don’t even remember any gifts that they gave us, but the biggest gift that both of them gave us was of themselves and their stories. So, please do that and even parents share your stories too.

Sundae: Just looking in preparation for this and some other things I’m working on around global parenting. I was listening to something on YouTube about the importance of being, just simply being present with your kids, especially in the first three years of life and how that is the most nurturing gift we can give our kids, and in our crazy, busy lives it can feel like the hardest thing to give right?

Oh my gosh, I’m just overwhelmed by so many things that you shared that were wonderful and I really hope that anybody’ who is listening that you go to the transcript and look at his advice and then check out the book. How much is too much, because there’s so much gold there.

Where can people find you, I know that you’re retired, so you’re doing this out of service. Where can they go if they want to learn more or if they want to find your book?

Dr Bredehoft: Well, first of all, they can go to www.overindulgence.org, that is our web page and there is lots of help and information there and connections.  

The second think they can do is, I write a Psychology Today blog called The Age of Overindulgence and so I’m posting there about once a month and that would be helpful information, they have an RSS feed so they can click on that and then when one pops up it’ll send it to their email.

Sundae: That’s a great, I’ve been on that and I’ve read that your stuff is so timely.

Dr Bredehoft: I’m really glad that you’re finding it helpful. The next thing they can do is the University of Minnesota, we work with them the extension department and we’ve put on four free online courses that they can take, they are about an hour apiece and if you just go to University of Minnesota Extension Overindulgence, search for that, our courses will pop up and there’s even a new book a little booklet that Jean has written that they can download for free there too.

Sundae: Well fantastic, I’m going to make sure that’s in the show notes so you can go there and click and get directly there. So I’ll take care of that for so our audience has access to that right away.

I just want to say thank you so much for taking time out of your evening. It is evening in Hawaii and it is morning and in South Africa. I know that what you shared today is going to impact the lives of parents and children, so deep down in my heart. I just want to say thank you so much for being here and we look forward to reading what you have next on Psychology Today as well.

So there you have it. This was such an honor for me to have Dr Bredehoft here on the show. And as you can see, it’s very clear why I invited him because it’s important, right the the impact of overindulgence that is hiding from us is there and thanks to their research we know it’s worth paying attention to. I hope that you walked away with clarity on the fact that overindulgence isn’t just about the families who give too much ice cream. It’s about offering anything up too much of your time sports or tech, over nurturing and robbing your kids of developing the skills that they’re ready to make next and maybe even about the soft structure that we allow in our lives when we’re just too tired to enforce the rules. You’ll walk away with the 10 steps that were given on what you can do as an aligned couple or if you are a single parent what you can do next and also some ideas how you can share that with grandparents to do lots of loving and less overindulging.

As mentioned in last week’s podcast (EP 112), I have created something special just for you; It’s called “Stop feeling guilty about raising your kids abroad.” It’s a three-part series I designed to help you stop the guilt and start amplifying your approach to parenting, because how many times have you ever secretly felt a little guilty that you might be screwing your kids up by taking them around the world? It’s time to say goodbye to guilt, hello empowerment. And in this three-part series, I’m going to help you drop the guilt, refocus on the right strategies to support and step more fully into your role as a parent of globally mobile kids. Sign up today by going to my blog or checking out all of the things I’m sharing on social media so you don’t miss out on this three-part series. I can’t wait to support you in this way. It’s time to stop feeling guilty about raising your kids abroad.

So thank you for listening to Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean.

I’ll leave you with the words of award-winning author feminist and social justice activists, LR Knost, she’s also the founder and director of children rights sadness advocacy and a family consulting group. She says “Instead of raising children who turn out okay despite their childhood, let’s raise children who turn out extraordinary because of their childhood.”

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The post 113: Am I Unknowingly Spoiling My Kids? Overindulgence With Dr. Bredehoft. appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

Mar 03 2019



Rank #16: 150: Job Hunter Wasteland

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Few things taste as bitter as humble pie. We all have cringe-worthy moments of pause, where we shudder from acidic disbelief and ask ourselves, “Wait. How did I get here?”

Mine came as I was sweeping bread off the floor at an international school. Broom in hand, I reflected on how far I’d professionally fallen from grace.

“What happened to you? Where’s that high-profile job making more money than all her girlfriends? Now, look at you…”

I can talk about that now, light-years later, repaired and safely on the other side.

This week, I welcome Mandy as she courageously shares her story of trying to find a job in Europe as an accompanying spouse. It’s honest, gut-wrenching, familiar, and (spoiler alert) full of hope.

Mandy’s struggle to secure employment is compounded by the financial pressure that she needs one. Pile on that her marriage has hit a rough patch, plus some stubborn weight gain that makes her feel uncomfortable in her body, and Mandy’s self-esteem has taken multiple hits.

Together, we unravel what’s really going on to respark Mandy’s motivation with facts, optimism, and a plan.

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

    • Validating self-fulfilling prophecies
    • How unemployment destabilizes your identity
    • Loosening your moral preferences & doing it how the locals do it
    • The proven formula of volume (applications) + time (patience)
    • How to shut your amygdala up

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

    • Do you need a fresh perspective on a stale problem? My call with Mandy is a benchmark example of what we can achieve in a single intensive coaching session together. I hold a few spots open each month for private, one-off huddles. Get in touch and let’s chat!
    • Expat Coach Coalition
    • Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
    • Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose

We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 8 am in New York, 1 am in Johannesburg and 6 pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

I remember sweeping up a mix of sushi, Oreos and swiss bread called Züpfe from the floor of the elementary at the international school. I’d only been in the country for a few months and I was asking myself,  “What am I doing here?” I just left a high-paying job in the consulting industry to give up everything, move across the world to be with my partner. Let me just tell you this was one of many low moments.

Finding a job abroad can be so hard, I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact people who saw my resume, my experience, my grades, were like, “Oh my God Sundae, no problem, you’ll find a job so easily.” Which was not true, did not match what I faced in Switzerland when I first moved there. I get it; it’s hard, it can bring you to your knees and knock your sense of self-worth right out of you.

And I’ve been on the other side, I know if you do the work and you stay committed that you can find a way to find the job you’ve been hoping for.

So for this episode of Expat Happy Hour I’m doing something special. I’ve invited a guest who is struggling with her job search in Europe. I’m going to let you listen in at a coaching session, which was not practiced, no rehearsal, we just hit record and went for it. And I want you to listen to her story, her struggle and her challenges, because in this interview there was one question I asked her, one thought I challenged her on that changed everything.

And in fact today I got a message which said “Sundae, thank you for that statement that really kept me going, because today I finally got a job, not just a job, but a job at the level and vision for myself at this country.” She said, it was so sweet, she says, “You really have a gift, in just that 30 minutes you change my attitude.”

So I’m sharing this interview with you so you can listen in on what that one question is that changed everything and inspire you to keep going so you can find your job abroad.

Sundae: All right, so Mandy, you’ve got my full attention to the next 25 minutes. What has to happen in the next 25 minutes for you to say. “Wow, that was really worth my time.” 

Mandy: That’s a really good question, I don’t know, I guess, so I think right now I’m just completely frustrated with like a million aspects of where I am, you know what I mean? And I’m like, I’m normally a very ambitious person. So like I moved here and I was like, “I’m going to be an expat,  I’m going to be the expat that I can.” I was active in some expat groups, now I’m president of the group like, I’m one of those people. 

So lately I’ve had like the perfect storm of, like I need a job, I seemingly can’t find a job. I’ve been looking for a job for forever and I really wasted a lot of time because I was applying for entry-level positions. We have like 15 plus years of experience in the United States mostly with International Companies, but I was thinking it didn’t really matter. And then I finally put a spreadsheet together and looked at all the job titles  I was applying to and nobody, at the lower positions which were the ones that I was really focusing on, nobody was calling me. So now I’ve flipped the switch and I’m applying to things like HR manager, HR business partner.

But then there’s like the language and or experience in Germany problem. So that’s just really frustrating that I’m like starting at 0 again, you know what I mean? 

Sundae: Yeah, I’ve been there, I’ve been there. In fact, I did the same thing you did, I applied lower than my level and everybody said I was overqualified and when I started applying for things I thought were too high for me  I started getting job interviews. 

Mandy: Exactly, exactly. 

Sundae: So what is the one thing you would like clarity on?

Mandy: I guess at this point it’s like self-motivation. Like I didn’t apply to any jobs today. I haven’t, so I had like one big huge interview for a job that I would literally probably possibly if not kill, maim somebody for and I’m just kind of like sitting back. 

The unemployment office has gifted me with six job coaching sessions I think could be really really beneficial because again my field is human resources, so I have some opinions and some strong opinions about applications, interviews, etc. that may not be valid. Or I may need to think about other things and I’m open to that. You know what I mean? Like I could be too stuck in my ways due to that being my profession.

Sundae: Right, now Mandy help me understand, how long are you going to be in Germany? Is this a forever thing? Is this two to three years? Tell me more. 

Mandy: So my marriage is not fantastic at all, my parents are not getting any younger. I’m not sure. Definitely the next two years I would say, but I think you know like the pressure to get a job is pretty serious because my husband has a lot of debt and I have some savings that I’m currently living on. He doesn’t pay my expenses and I don’t pay his so and when we’ve had financial problems before it’s made the relationship that much worse.

Sundae: Right, so you said what you would like support on is self-motivation. It sounds like you’re getting strategic help, like how do you get a job in Germany, that sort of thing but the selfishness hard. When you say self-motivation, what would it look like on a regular day or regular week if you were self-motivated?

Mandy: I guess like I’m in a rut, like I had been applying to like, I don’t know ten jobs a week, something like that. And I recently injured my back, I can’t go to the gym, so that’s I mean, I think that that’s part of it, is not getting that exercise because that really energizes me and you know makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. But before it was like maybe applying to like ten jobs a week sometimes more. 

I know I need to volunteer, one that’s important to me, especially when I have the time and two, I think it looks good on your resume that you’re not like sitting on your butt. And it’s a matter of motivating just to make a call. Like I had been working at of food shelter, what are they called? A food bank. And then that I quit because the supervisor was just nasty and I was like, “Wait, I really don’t need to be yelled at.” Which looks terrible, but so it is.

I guess it’s just like advice on like getting out of a rut, like I know I need to get my butt in gear on a number of things, so like steps to take to sign up for this job coaching, have them take a look at my resume, etc. I need to find something constructive to do with my time, some type of a volunteer thing, and I’m just not doing it.

Sundae: Right, so the strategies are not the question, it’s the motivation to implement them. So tell me, this is probably not the first right you’ve ever been in your life. I want you to think back over the years, think of another time you’ve been in a rut. And that rut might have lasted a week and might have lasted a month and might have lasted a year. Let me know when you’ve got one.

Mandy It’s a good question, I mean sort of I think that, yeah, sort of, yep I’ve got one. 

Sundae: Okay, so you’ve got that time, just give me a ballpark figure was it a year ago, was it five years ago, two weeks ago, what’s this rut? Don’t tell me about the rut, I just want you to think about the timing, how long ago was it?

Mandy: Probably two years ago.

Sundae: Okay, so tell me, think back to the rut, and you were there and you knew it, you know you’re in a rut now. What was one of the first things that you did that got you a little unstuck?

Mandy: I think I got a job.

Sundae: What happened before you got the job, to get the job?

Mandy: Well, I applied to jobs and interviews, yeah, I think it was actually a similar situation.

Sundae: So I’m hearing that you’re going to get out of the rut when when things tick, when something connects. But how did you keep applying? What was going on there? How did you Keep moving forward?

Mandy: Well I think at that point, and I guess that’s also tied to my marriage, because at that point my husband was unbearable and I was like, “I need to get out and I need to be self-sufficient.” 

Sundae: So what I’m hearing is what worked then is you were crystal clear on, kind of like your big why or why you’re doing something or why this goal is worth the effort, tell me where I’m wrong?

Mandy: I don’t know, I mean like right now I mean it is the same thing, like I’m terrified that I won’t be able to find a job. 

Sundae: So when you’re terrified that you’re not going to find a job, how do you behave?

Mandy: Apparently like an idiot.

Sundae: But what do you do when you’re terrified, when you believe the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” What do you do? 

Mandy: I think when I think I’m not going to get a job, I think why bother applying.

Sundae: Right, why bother, then you don’t apply, what else?

Mandy: Well, and then I think that that turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy because I’m not applying so then I’m not getting calls for interviews.

Sundae: Right, so you’re believing the thought “I’m not going to get a job”

So let’s play with that little bit. You can go back to believing that after our call, but right now I’m just gonna play. 

“I’m not going to get a job.” We’re going to do a little process here, just give me yes or no, is that true? “I’m not going to get a job.”

Mandy: No’ish.

Sundae: Is it like scientifically true, one hundred percent true, yes, or no “I’m not going to get a job?” 

Mandy: No. 

Sundae: Okay, good, so how do you feel? Who do you become when you believe the thought “I’m not going to get a job?”

Mandy: I feel worthless, I don’t know like sad. I’ve thought about it strategically, if I really can’t get a job here do I move back to the States? But being in Germany for six-plus years isn’t exactly fantastic for my résumé either. 

Sundae: Right, so you’re like thinking you feel worthless, sad, you kind of think about exit strategies.

How do you behave when you believe the thought “I’m not going to get a job?”

Mandy: I don’t put effort in, or as much effort into it, because I guess it doesn’t make sense. I mean, I think you’re right, I think you’re totally right on this line of thinking because yeah, you know just like I’m not going to try to push my house across the street, you know, that’s not gonna happen. 

Sundae: Right, so let’s just play. Who would you be without the thought “I’m not going to get a job?” 

Mandy: I don’t know that I understand that.

Sundae: Okay, so if I had a magic wand where I could go into your brain and zap out the synapses that fire, zap out the synapses that allow you to think the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” If it was physically impossible for you to think that thought, who would you be without that thought? “I’m not going to get a job.” 

Mandy: I would probably have the same level of motivation as I did when I graduated or when I completed my writer building as personal reference and I was like on top of the world. And oh my God, I did that in German and I was I was feeling some success. 

Recently I’ve gained some weight of unknown cause and I think, so I was recently at an endocrinologist, I’ve been to the doctor, the regular doctor, the gynecologist and then they referred me to an endocrinologist. And this is despite going to the gym like six days a week. So I think that that, also like there’s like a feeling of being out of control with that, that maybe might be part of it as well. But when you don’t feel comfortable in your own body, and you also don’t have that like, working out an hour, hour and a half six days a week and doing things like cutting out alcohol and nothing. So I think that might be the timing I had, I hadn’t actually really put that together, but the timing could be part of it too. 

Sundae: Yeah, well I just want to say I mean first of all I’ve been unemployed in Europe, I understand how hard that is. I’ve gone from graduating with honors, being paid more than any of my friends, to without a job. I understand how destabilizing that is for your identity and how you feel like the ground has been put out from under you, it can feel really out of control. And on top of that you’ve got this unknown weight gain, it adds to the feeling of loss of control, I get that, that’s hard, that’s really hard.

So what the first thing I want to just stay here is, I want you to step back and see yourself, what you’re going through. I always talk about Olympic level challenges, you’re in year six of living abroad, people think that the longer you live abroad, the easier it gets, it can get harder. You’ve learned a language, you’ve gotten another certificate, you’ve done another training, you’re dealing with a marriage that is challenging, you are looking for work and you’re having this health issue. 

I want you to just step back and see how strong you are for still carrying these things. 

Mandy: Thanks, but I really never put together the weight gain and the lack of motivation, but I think that it could be that because that’s why I said to my doctor was like I feel like I’m out of control. Normally when you eat less and exercise more you lose weight, period end of story. 

Sundae: Yeah, so you got a lot going on.

Okay, so let’s just look at the thought, the thought just from, let’s step back on the meta level, the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” Creates emotion, like sadness and feelings of worthlessness. They create behaviors where you stop putting effort into your search and you start thinking about an exit strategy. 

This might compound some health issues that you’re having and that leads to the impact of less motivation, fewer job applications, etc. This is that chain reaction. 

Let’s just play for example, “I’m not going to get a job.” We’re going to do what’s called a turnaround. What’s the opposite of “I’m not going to get into any get a job?” 

Mandy: I’m going to get a job.

Sundae: Okay, so now again just play with me here. Give me two or three examples of “How I’m going to get a job.” Is as true or truer than the original thought “I’m not going to get a job.” 

Mandy: So Germany’s unemployment is low.

Sundae: Yeah, that’s a good example, tell me another example.

Mandy: I’ve had interviews, I’m waiting for this dream job and an answer there. So I have had interviews for jobs and there are jobs out there that I’m qualified for.

Sundae: Good, just go for it.

Mandy: I guess it isn’t really realistic to think that I would be unemployed for the rest of my life.

Sundae: Your amygdala, the fear center of your brain is trying to protect you and make you be safe. But when you step back from that you see that right?

I’m hearing two things from you. It’s a matter of volume, like applying to the right jobs and it’s a matter of time. And I’m also hearing like with the strategies, if you’re applying the strategies that work in Germany, not just any strategy, it’s a matter of volume. 

Mandy: Well, I refuse to put my picture on a resume I do, I know that’s bad.

Sundae: Yeah in Germany you need to do what the Germans do.

Mandy: Yeah, I actually had had an appointment with a photographer and then I canceled it, I probably should do that.

Sundae: I’m hearing that underlying thing, coming from the US and being from HR and understanding what they ask you to do in Germany, I’m guessing that there’s an ethical resistance to what I asked you to do in Germany. 

Mandy: I blacked out with a sharpie when I got electronic resumes with pictures I would print them, black out the picture with a sharpie and then physically hand it to the hiring manager.

Sundae: So there’s two there’s two themes emerging, one is the thought “I’m not going to get a job.” Is creating a sense of worthlessness, sadness, exit strategies and less effort. If you believe the thought “I am going to get a job.” Which is true or as true, based on the low unemployment in Germany, the fact that you’ve had interviews, the fact that you’re qualified and that it just isn’t possible that you would be unemployed for the rest of your life if you’ve got a background. That there’s that dynamic, so I’m seeing that dynamic playing a role in your life. 

So what I would suggest as homework, is that you go one step further and you look at the thought “I am going to get a job.” And you write down, you brainstorm ten pieces of evidence of how that is as true or truer. And what we’re doing is your fear center of your brain, the amygdala is sending out fear signals and it’s like we need to give it evidence to make it know that it’s safe. 

Mandy: I like that, we did that in our intention setting.

Sundae: Yeah, so that is that’s your assignment. I want you to do that because what I’m seeing is you’re believing a thought that is not as true as the one that’s going to serve you. 

And then the other thing I’m seeing, just separate from this, from an intercultural perspective. I’m seeing a resistance to do it like they do it in Germany, and that might be slowing down this process for you. There’s probably lots of things that you’re doing that’s speeding up the process. This might be one thing that is slowing it down. 

Mandy: Yeah, I don’t know if I can do that though. 

Sundae: Yeah, that’s your choice. I’m just putting that out there,  there are things that I’ve had to do in Switzerland that don’t feel right by default. And part of Intercultural competence development is through the adaptation. So where are you willing to adapt so that you can get a result that is appropriate, satisfactory and effective. 

So if I hear that you’re resisting the German way to apply for jobs, that might make you feel satisfied because you’re not putting the picture. It might not be effective for your goals. So how can you find a way that you can feel that you’re engaging in the interview process and the application process that is for both sides, not just one, also you. For both sides effective, appropriate and satisfactory, that’s the right cultural challenge. 

So, I mean that’s another assignment I want you to think about, is look at the measure of Intercultural competence in the most basic form. Is it appropriate, satisfactory and effective? And just see when you go to your coach for the jobs and you get the advice from the experts in the local market, how can you tweak what you’re doing so for you and for them it’s appropriate, satisfactory and effective. 

Mandy: I will do that.

Sundae: Okay, so you’re invited to do that homework and then you send me an update in like a week and let me know what’s going on. 

Mandy: I will do, I really appreciate your time, thank you so much.

Sundae: Okay Mandy, you are welcome. 

Before we go just give me quick feedback. What are you taking away from today’s session that wasn’t as clear as when we started.

Mandy: I want to say the connection to my health, that was like a lightbulb moment. it’s the same thing like, you know applying to all these jobs and not getting results is very similar to going to the gym and not eating sweets and cutting out alcohol and not getting any results or getting a negative result. 

I would say that, I hadn’t really thought about it from like a brain or like a physiological standpoint that you can retrain your brain if you consciously say, “I will get a job, I’m going to get a job.” You can reset those negative thoughts that you’re having. 

Sundae: Exactly, so give it a go, let me know how it goes and if you want to you’re invited to send me an update in a week and let me know how it’s going. 

So there you have it, there’s your sneak peak between the two of us and her journey, I know how hard that feels and I know the delight when you get on the other side. So I hope that you take away from this Insider’s view of our coaching session that you should be careful of your thoughts when you’re going through the challenge of finding a job abroad or any big endeavor, because you are just one thought away from persevering.

You have been listening to Expat Happy Hour, thank you for listening. 

I will leave you with the words of Bryant McGill, “Your future begins with your next thought.”

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Nov 18 2019



Rank #17: 122: Where We’ve Gone Wrong About Expat Friendships.

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The topic of friendship and expat life is a difficult but important one.

Research shows the following:

“You have a 50% increased odds of survival if you have a solid social network.”

As expats it can be difficult to nurture and maintain friendships with people that are no longer in our time zone.  This makes us err on the side of caution when creating new friendships, not wanting to keep losing good friends.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • How we’ve been thinking about friendships in the wrong way
    • An invitation to change the paradigm of your expat friendships
    • The key question you need to ask about your friendships
    • How to have guilt-free friendships

It is time to start thinking about our friendships in new ways so that we can live abroad with more love and friendship, and zero regret.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Don’t miss this opportunity to get coached by Sundae – for FREE.

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

“You have a 50% increased odds of survival if you have a solid social network.”

This is according to the research from Julianne Holt Lunstad, Professor of psychology and who is also the head of studies at Brigham Young University. Her research on the relationship between friendship and longevity explains, as she says not having a social support network can be a higher death risk, then obesity or leading a sedentary life without exercise.

What? If you don’t have your crew of friends, you might be at a higher risk of death than obesity or living a sedentary life.

Let that sink in, right?

Like what are we doing with our attention and energy? Are we spending more time on our fitness than nurturing our friendships?

It’s mind-boggling and these statistics are wild but they show us what we’ve known all along, that friends are good for us. And the topic of friendship and expat life can be a tough one. We’re either afraid to make new connections because we are not looking forward to getting our heart broken again everytime our bestie leaves. If you’re the one who’s at a location, you’re a stayer, you’re the one who is at the location permanently and everybody’s rotational. You’re like, “Is it worth putting my heart into it anymore?”

Maybe you’re in a bi-national relationship and you’re you know, one of these things are not like the other, you’re the only one like you and everybody else is of a different culture. So you feel like making friends is harder because there’s all these different cultural values and ways of being that aren’t like the people that you connect with back home.

I get it, friendships are hard, living an international life and nurturing these friendships really puts us to the test.

And that’s what I wanted to talk about today on Expat Happy Hour because it’s so important our longevity is at stake.

So in this episode, we’re going to talk about a few things: One, we’re going to take a deep dive into friendships. I’m going to share why we’ve been thinking about friends in the wrong way this whole time, i’m going to offer you a new way to look at expat friendships, and I’m going to help you get clear on how you can make sure you maintain your friendships near and far without regret.

Let’s start with something simple, like stop treating your expat friendships like non-mobile friendships. And what I mean by that is you’re the one living abroad, maybe it’s a rotational thing, maybe it’s because you live you know long-term in one place, but don’t treat your expat friendships like non-mobile ones. And this is, I mean from the research, when I look at research on friendship – most of the research that I see is about friendships that are sedentary so to speak. These are people who move into a community and then nurture relationships with the people there and those people aren’t going anywhere. So what about the research on globally mobile people? One of the things I feel like, we’re working with models and paradigms that are from our old lives before we started living abroad or from models of people who stay in one country and one culture and that’s unfair because we’re trying to see our friendships through a lens that doesn’t fit, it’s like putting on somebody else’s glasses, it just makes us uncomfortable.

So I was looking at models of friendship and one of them I came across was this friendship pyramid, and I can put the reference in the show notes, but it’s this pyramid where you start off as strangers and then you become an acquaintance like, you know, you might recognize them, maybe you’ve said hello, you might have sort of a general knowledge of each other. Then there’s casual friends where you might see each other at places and socialize. Then there’s close friends where you feel more vulnerable with them, you can share more about your life and you know more about who they are and you’re willing to hear more about their private life and likewise, you feel super connected. And then there’s this top of the pyramid which is intimate friends, and those are so special. Where you feel like you are invested in their growth and development as a person and you know that they’re invested in your growth and development as a person. And when we look at this pyramid model, it’s super solid. Like there’s this big base of strangers, you know, a little bit smaller base of acquaintance even smaller of casual friends, close friends, at the tiny tip of the top are intimate friends. And this idea of this pyramid gives us this sense and this is how we progress, okay bit by bit slowly, but slowly.

But expat life is not like that, seriously, we don’t operate on this slowly developing model. I know that when I rocked up to Ouagadougou Burkina Faso, I met a family, I had one email contact with them, I went over to their house, I went to their home and we had coffee and I think the next day I was like, “Um, I’ve got a form from the school, I need an emergency contact, will you make major life changing decisions for my children?” Seriously, we had spent maybe 30 minutes together and I’m asking them if they’ll be emergency contacts for my children. So we just we just fast tracked and blew past any of the other layers and did the things that close friends do for each other.

Someone in my network came into a new country and within, I don’t know 48 hours, had a major medical emergency and had to be medevaced leaving her kids behind with people she had met 48 hours earlier. That sort of emergency situation fast-tracks friendships. Even if you don’t have a lot in common, you do things that are extraordinary that create connection.

I know from one of my clients that she was in a country for maybe 10 days, and then one of our dear family members died, causing her to have to rely on the people she had been met just met for support, make arrangements for her to leave and then come back with that level of intimacy with these people that she’d only met a week ago.

So stop treating your expat friendships like non-mobile friendships. We skip levels for better or for worse. Sometimes we don’t have the option. And there is the risk that when things calm down, when things get less wild and you might not have those shared core values that you would have with other friends, but still you’re connected.

I mean I know going through some of the craziness that we went through in Burkina Faso really bonded us with people in ways that you don’t bond over a pizza on a Friday night. Like when you go through a political crisis together that creates closeness.

So, I believe we need a new paradigm. We need to stop seeing our expat friendships with the old model of non-mobile friendships. And I’ve got a suggestion on one way you can look at that.

Okay, so I have to confess something that’s kind of embarrassing but I turned 40 not long ago and part of being 40 was sort of getting my health up to speed and you know going to a doctor and taking vitamins and all of that. So my doctor gave me so many vitamins that I ended up going to the pharmacy and I bought one of those old lady pillboxes. You guys, i’m so embarrassed. I actually just went on a trip with my girlfriends and they saw my pillbox and they were like, “What are you 85? Like why? Why do you have that?”

And so the pillbox I think is a great metaphor for expat friendships.

So let me explain, what If instead of this stable progressive pyramid, we looked at our friendships like vitamins? Okay, even in Switzerland they have something called vitamin B, which is the relationship vitamin, it’s Beziehung and means relationship. What if our friends were like vitamins in that pillbox and that pillbox was in our hearts, right? So when I’ve got, you know mine is like Monday through Friday, some pill boxes are more elaborate, but let’s say you imagine those pillboxes and it’s in your heart and there are some of the days that are wide open and you’re ready for a friendship that will nourish you. What if our friends were like vitamins and when we enter into a new space, we’re like, “oh my God this friendship feels nourishing.”

What kind of friendships feel nourishing right now?

Right, and then you grab those people and you put them in your heart, and just like with a prescription that your doctor gives you, sometimes your doctor looks even says “Listen.” My doctor just did this to me, she’s like “You’ve been taking vitamin B for a while, you’ve got it.” I don’t know if it was vitamin B or vitamin D, doesn’t really matter, I just did what she tells me. But it’s like “You’ve been taking this vitamin for a while, your reserves are good, it’s now time to stop.” And I was like, “I’m happy with my vitamin D, why do I have to stop vitamin D?” And she’s like “No really your body has enough, so now we’re going to take that out of the pillbox.” And then like, okay that’s like our friendship sometimes when people move even though it was super nourishing, we don’t have a choice that they might go out of the pillbox as regularly as they were showing up before.

Maybe your doctor says, yeah, you just take those vitamins when you need a boost, same thing with our friendships, sometimes we have friendships that are everyday, like your multivitamin every single day and sometimes our friendships shift geographically or time zone or whatever where we don’t get the luxury of having that every day. Don’t you see that? Doesn’t that help see it with less judgment? Like no one looks at you and says, “Well you should feel really bad about yourself for not having vitamin C anymore.” Like when a friend that you were really close to moves away and you don’t talk as often as you used to, why do we put that judgment on us? I just feel like those ways of seeing our friendships are not helpful.

So my sort of encouragement or invitation to you is to stop seeing your friendships in this old model and start exploring, what if we saw our friendships like this pill box? What if we let go of this idea that our friendships need to grow slowly and over time and then stay there forever? And instead said “I’m going to look at what feels nourishing”. What feels nourishing now and just love the crap out of them while they are there with you now, right until the doctor, the organization says they have to go away.

Let’s take it in now, because another way to look at this, I mean the way I see expat friendships, I feel like it’s the lottery, you you want to win but there’s no guarantees, right? And you never know what numbers are going to pop up. So when you arrive in that City, at that time and that person that feels nourishing to you is there at that exact City and exact time? I mean think about all the things that had to come together to bring you two on the planet and that location at that same time. That is like hitting the jackpot in this expat friendship Lottery. Seriously, if you get a friendship that is nourishing in that City at that time that is something to cherish.

And again, I’m resisting this idea. Like it’s almost like entitlement, like I deserve to have nourishing friends wherever I go. It’s like no, I mean how lucky are we? Because when you live in a sort of a homogeneous place, you’re born and raised in the same place, you share same language, you see share the same values, same customs. Like the likelihood of you connecting is higher because there’s so much you have in common. You throw someone on a airplane across the world in a completely different context, completely out of their comfort zone, you cannot expect that there’s just going to be this wide buffet of potential friends at your fingertips.

Let’s cherish the fact that we land on the planet at that time and that place and find someone who we connect with. This is a privilege not an entitlement that we get. And every time we find someone that’s nourishing we hit the jackpot. Right so celebrate that. Celebrate that when you have friendships that feel nourishing, and I think what we do is that we mourn that they can’t go on forever, that we can’t have wine face-to-face forever and I get that believe me, I’ve lived abroad for 20 years and there are friends that I have in my life or I’m just like “I want to see you face to face so hard right now.” I get that and there’s nothing wrong with that and nothing I’m saying right now is meant to shame you for feeling that way. My point is, is that we set an unrealistic expectation that that should be that way. Again jackpot like we got so lucky. So instead let’s celebrate the fact that we are able to come together in that moment of time and that place and nourish each other.

And mourn the loss when that vitamin gets pulled out of your pill box on a daily basis, but be damn sure that you are going to nurture that relationship in a way that feels good going forward. And it’s really up to you, there’s no judgment. You know, what is the way that you want to stay connected with that one person that feels nourishing? Maybe that person is someone you want to fly across the world and see face-to-face, or maybe you just want to meet on FaceTime, you know, every once in a while or maybe just like saying hi on Facebook is enough. There’s no judgment. The measure is a minor issue in this relationship. Does this relationship feel nourishing? And be grateful for what you have shared.

So, let’s look what we talked about, please let’s stop treating our expat friendships like non-mobile friendships.

I invite you to consider this new paradigm, a pillbox where we’ve got these spaces in our hearts that are open and when it feels nourishing we slap the lid on top and we keep that in our hearts.

And this celebration of this expat lottery of friendship, when we hit the jackpot ,that we get to have a connection with that person in that space at that time and this commitment to what feels nourishing and how can we nourish and nurture that friendship going forward without obligation, without stress without feeling heavy.

Right, and I’m going to go back to what I always go back to, that to live abroad without regret you’ve got to love a crap out of your people.

So get really clear on who are your people. Who are the people that you want to keep an ongoing relationship with? Who are the daily prescription of vitamin friendships that you want to keep trapped in your heart?

How will you nourish and nurture those friendships and who are the ones that you want to nurture you?

And this is an ongoing question. I think it’s about, some people call it your forever friends. The people that you want to focus your limited time and attention on and that might shift depending on what you need what feels nourishing at the time. But for me, I think it’s important in all the instability when close friends are leaving, right now one of my good girlfriends is leaving in June and that breaks my heart, it breaks my heart and I’m curious how we’ll nourish that friendship when we’re not face-to-face anymore. And what keeps me solid is that I have the stability of friends that I’ve known for a long time, and I know no matter where they are in the world are not going to go away.

So who are those people that you want to focus on in times of instability of leaving when others have to go, where’s your foundation? Where do you have security? Who remains in your network? And those are the people you want to make sure that you love the crap out of, those are the people you want to think about how you can make a grand gesture for.

I’ll mention that podcast I did on grand gestures a little bit more detail later, but those are the people that you want to show up for and make sure they are trapped in that pill box in your heart.

And I have a something that I don’t even know if I want to share because it’s so like in your face, but if you want something to create crystal clarity in who are your people? This is a guiding question, who would drive you to chemo? Who would you drive to chemo? If shit hit the fan and you were down, who would you want to be there? And who would you want to be there for? We have limited time and attention and this question is like a paralyzing slap in the face to help you get clarity on who your people are. Those are the people want to make sure that we’re loving the crap out of, because when push comes to shove they’re going to love the crap out of you.

So there you have it, stop treating your expat friendships like non-mobile friendships. Embrace this pill box as a new paradigm and work to see your existing friendships like winning the friendship Lottery. Ask yourself when you look around at who’s in your life, what feels nourishing? Who are the people that feel nourishing and do more to love the crap out of them.

If you want more you can check out these episodes: Episode 64 “Love Your Friends And Family While They’re Alive.” Episode 53 “What Friends And Family Really Think About You Living Abroad.” And Episode 110 “Grand Gestures.”

This is a big topic folks, I know we’ve just touched the surface but it’s something that can make the difference in your entire experience. So my invitation to you is just play with this metaphor. Look at how you have been seeing your friendships and explore what it would look like if you stop treating your expat friendships like non-mobile ones and start thinking about your friendships in terms of what is nourishing.

Friendships are so important and we know this intuitively, but the reality is they’re actually critical for our health and well-being. So it’s really worth some extra thought.

We need to find ways to live and to love our friends in ways that are guilt free, pressure free and full of love

You’ve been listening to the Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean. Thank you for being here.

I’ll leave you with the words of Steve Maraboli, author and behavioral scientist, “Friends are medicine for a wounded heart and vitamins for a hopeful soul.”

Enjoy The Show?

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The post 122: Where We’ve Gone Wrong About Expat Friendships. appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

May 05 2019



Rank #18: 151: Boundaries with Jennie Miller

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It took me a long time to master the art of saying “no.”

Even after hyper-intentional and intensive self-work to establish (and stick to) my boundaries, sometimes I have a relapse. If I give a “dirty yes,” it’s at the expense of my wellbeing and against my better judgment.

Why? Because — like so many of my girlfriends and clients — I want to be helpful and come across as accommodating. Who doesn’t want the people you interact with to like you and think you’re nice? (Answer: The people who often forget about their boundaries.)

The need for approval escalates when you’re abroad. You’re rebuilding your social network, parenting from guilt, feeling lonely, and emotionally vulnerable. So, you justify softening your boundaries, like a rewarding cookie (or 4) at the end of a hard day.

If you have to be a doormat and compromise your boundaries to be liked, then it’s better that you forgo that affection.

This week, it’s my honor to welcome renowned psychotherapist and author Jennie Miller. In their highly-acclaimed book, “Boundaries: How to Draw the Line in Your Head, Heart, and Home,” Jennie and award-winning journalist Victoria Lambert discuss the importance of boundaries.

Jennie joins us to share pragmatic solutions for developing your self-esteem so that you can make and maintain boundaries for a calmer, more fulfilling life.

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

    • Warning signs you need better boundaries
    • The friendship drama triangle & shifting the rescuer vs. victim role
    • Renegotiating boundaries & lovingly navigating a negative response
    • Why the biggest threat comes from our closest relationships
    • Positive strokes & “self” high fives

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 2 am in New York, 9 am in Johannesburg and 2 pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

You have a hard time saying no, you’re frustrated because there’s never enough time to do what really matters to you, you often feel spread too thin.

Today I have the answer for you, and it begins with boundaries. 

There is no better person I can think of inviting onto Expat Happy Hour to learn about them then from Jennie Miller, psychotherapist trainer and supervisor and co-author of the book “Boundaries: How to Draw the Line in Your Head, Heart and Home.”

Jennie is amazing, she recently just moved from Hampshire where she had this thriving private practice for couples, individuals, and supervisees to Edinburgh Scotland, so she understands what transition is like. She spent many years as a psychotherapist working primarily with couples around boundaries and storytelling. She is also the founder of “The key to a couple work training.”

And of course has been working in tight collaboration with the award-winning journalist, Victoria Lambert on this book. The result is a four-step program to help develop self-esteem, create time to do the things that nourish and fulfill you,  discover a deep sense of calm and achieve healthy control over your life, home, and work.

Who doesn’t want that!

So it is my absolute pleasure to welcome. Jennie Miller to Expat Happy Hour.

Sundae: So now that they’ve heard a little bit about you, I’d like to welcome you to Expat Happy Hour. 

Jennie: Thank you. 

Sundae: Thank you so much for being here, you know, I was looking through your book before you and I hopped on the phone together and I was kind of in that sort of panic mode of “Oh my gosh, there’s so much goodness in here I do not know where to begin.” Because what you offer is so pragmatic.

But let’s just start with the basics. Your book is “Boundaries: How to Draw the Line in Your Head, Heart and Home.” Can you start by just simply telling us, what is a boundary? 

Jennie: Well, simply, that’s what I was asked by my writing partner right at the beginning, which is why I then it turned into a book. Because it can start off as sounding quite simple, but then it ends up being actually a very long conversation. So as simply as possible, is that its first of all about knowing your own personal boundary, knowing the place in you that is the “Okay, that’s enough, I need to stop or I need to go forward.” Because healthy boundaries aren’t always about stopping and it’s also sometimes about pushing ourselves forward. Because in unhealthy boundary can equally be one that allows too many people to invade your space, but it can also be one that doesn’t allow you to get out there. 

Sundae: Hmm, yeah, I don’t think people typically think about it from both sides, that’s really useful. 

A lot of my clients say that they have a hard time saying no, and one of the things that you mentioned that I absolutely love, in your book you say that love can soften any boundary. That often times when I work with individuals, they want to set a boundary, new ways of doing things, but when their loved ones come into the picture it’s hard to keep that hard “no” a “no” or that “yes” a “yes.” They’re saying yes to themselves, but then people are asking things of them. So it can be it can be hard to navigate boundaries that you really think you want. 

Jennie: Yes, it can be and that can be through really loving your friend, so really having a new friend at whatever age and that lovely feeling of “Wow. I really connect with this person.” And you just want to be boundary-less really, through to falling in love with a partner through to falling in love with your children, that it can make us want to be boundary-less. 

Sundae: So why are boundaries good? 

Jennie: So boundaries are good because it brings in an ability to be safe and to look after yourself in the relationship and therefore to be in a healthy place of looking after the relationship. 

Sundae: Yep, you know something I think you and I really aligned on is that step one of your book is, me myself and I, how you really do have to start with yourself so you can have healthy boundaries. And I love that you say you look after yourself so that you can look after the relationship, so if you truly value the relationship you will look after yourself.

Jennie: Absolutely, because I think it is quite common to feel that actually “What if I really love that person?” It’s even sort of comes across sometimes in magazines and films, “If I really love that person, I will do anything for them.” Well that that isn’t actually real love and that can end up then being dangerous to the relationship. Then resentment can come in.

Sundae: Absolutely, so this idea of being a martyr to your family, for example, it leads to bitterness and resentment.

Jennie: Absolutely, yes. 

Sundae: So it’s not real love, I love that. So when you fail to look after yourself, you are not doing your best to look after your relationship and when you are being a martyr in your relationships, it’s not real love. 

Jennie: No, you’ve gone somewhere else, you’re not in that sort of adult, I’m using TA speak, it’s something we use in the book, but it’s about being in the here and now and what’s best for you in the here and now. Which actually initially sounds simple and initially sounds like, well yes of course that makes sense, but in practice is harder and takes practice to be able to do. 

Sundae: Right, so this is so immense and what I love about what you’ve done is you’ve really shown a mirror of how people can use boundaries to create more in their lives with fitness, eating, social media, their children, etc. etc. 

Before we go into the details, how did you come to write this book? It’s phenomenal.

Jennie: Thank you, it came about through just coffee conversation with Victoria, and she really thought about it which side to put it in the book, right at the beginning, how she was having a dilemma over sending an email. She was being asked to be once again on a board, “Can you do this? Can you do that?” And she had done this and she had done more than enough for this board voluntarily. 

And she’s written a chapter and verse email which I think is very recognizable to a lot of people you know, “I’m really sorry, I can’t do this, and this is the reason why.” And on and on and on, giving a whole backstory of why not. And then at the end of the email she had said, “But let me know if I can be of any further help.” And that is what I started with,  I said, “So what’s that about? Why are you leaving the door open? You’re saying you’ll still help.” And she hadn’t seen that. And it was just being nice and friendly.

So I said, “Actually you could write this.” And it was literally a paragraph, “Thank you for asking me again, I’ve enjoyed our time together and now it’s time for me to move on, I wish you well.” And she couldn’t believe she could write that and it would be okay. So with quite a lot of fear, actually she sent that email. Waited 24 hours, quaking that there may be quite an unpleasant parental backlash. And she got a very nice email back saying, “Thank you very much, we’ve appreciated everything you’ve done, all the best for your future.” And she couldn’t believe how it worked.

Sundae: All of that for nothing, and I think it ties to this idea of how we want to be nice, which is very different from being kind and we want to be liked 

Jennie: Yes, yes, yes, yes, but being nice isn’t equal to being a doormat, there’s no respect there.

Sundae: Exactly, and if I want to be liked because I’m a doormat I’d rather not have their affection to be perfectly honest. 

And again, that’s not that’s not real real love, that’s not real kindness.

So what do you think are some of the warning signs, if someone’s listening they’re like, “Oh gosh, I have a hard time saying no.” What are some other warning signs that you need to set better boundaries in your life. 

Jennie: Well warning signs, so say your listeners who are listening to the podcast, I would like them to have a think, okay so if say you’re listening to this in the morning, “Look at my day, what have I got on today?” Or if you’re listening to it in the evening or the afternoon, “What have I got on over the next 24 hours? How many of those things do I need to do? So yes, I may need to obviously take my children’s school or I may need to go to work.” And they need to be doing both, but have a look through and see what else, what do you actually need to do and what have you said yes to doing in order to be nice or in order to be liked or in order to try and keep someone else happy, so actually they’re not unpleasant to you. 

Look at those and see what would it be like, I’m not saying right at the beginning that you have to rush in and change everything at all, this is small steps. But just imagine, say that you are dropping the kids at school and then you are going to work and then that precious half hour lunch slot you’ve got, you’ve said actually yes, that’s all right you will check your friends work, you don’t need to go to lunch you’ll check over something for them. 

What would it have been like if you’d said “Actually, you know what, I can’t do that today.” And you had that half an hour, what would you do in that half an hour? 

Sundae: It ties to what, you know, I draw on the work from Dr. Martha Beck and she talks about the body compass. So really listen to your body on what feels feels good for you and she talks about shackles on and shackles off. If looking over your friends work over lunch feels like it’s shackles on, it’s probably a sign you’ve said “yes” to be nice to them but not because it’s totally an alignment with what you want. 

And I talk about this like a “dirty yes,” I don’t want a dirty yes from someone I want a clean yes. 

But sometimes people don’t even know what they want, so they’re not even clear, is this a clean yes or a dirty yes? How do you think people get started with with understanding that?

Jennie: So this is why it is small steps. So it’s looking forward, “What is my next one-four hours looking like? What would it be looking like if I’d said no to that friend?” And it’s also looking backwards, my last 24 hours, “What would it look like if I’ve said, actually maybe to one of my children who came in after school and said ‘I’ve been asked to Brian to Jade’s house, can you can you take me round?’” And you look at the child and you want to make them happy, but actually in doing that you did take them to Jade’s house and then you realize you had to go fit in something else and then went to pick them up and by the time you went to pick them up you are probably pretty ratty and pretty pissed off and end up being quite grumpy and snappy with them and then it all gets worse and worse and end of day or at bedtime. 

Sundae: Oh gosh, how many people have been there? I mean, I know there are people listening right now going “Okay, totally been there.” It all started out ironically, to be nice to your child and then you end up being momzilla.

Jennie: Exactly, so first of all to start with it’s sort of imagining, visualising, “Okay, what would it be line and I’ll send myself back to that time and I’ll say ‘You know what, I can’t do that today, that’s not going to work, you could see her another day.’” And maybe give the child some updates on “This day and this day that would be fine, I can fit that in, but today that’s not going to work.” And tolerating your child’s anger, misery, and the fear of missing out. “But actually, you know what we all have to tolerate fear of missing out sometimes, you can do that another time.”

Sundae: Using it as a teaching moment. You know in your book you say under one of the things where you talked about drawing the line you say, “Self boundaries don’t just mean being firm with ourselves, but with others sometimes the greatest threat to you building a strong set of self boundaries comes from the person you love the most.”

Jennie: Yes, it really does because they’re the ones who are already in further. So in the beginning of the book we have this little bit of visualization about imagining your own boundary and from that, that can really help you realize those who do easily invade it or you invite it in or agree to it. And so you need to be really aware of that. We all know the people that we keep arm’s length, it’s a term isn’t it? People say “Oh, I they are nice, but actually I kind of keep them at arm’s length.” We know the people that we do that with, but it’s harder to do that with our loved ones. 

Sundae: Right, because it feels like it’s creating distance, but what we’ve just heard is actually when we don’t respect our boundaries our behavior ends up sabotaging the situation and we’re not creating connection, it’s the opposite. 

So there’s a couple of things that I’m really really curious about. The first one, I don’t have the research in front of me, but I’ll just tell you from my hunch and I’m going to see if you know from the research. My experience of my clients is that the women I work with really have a hard time creating strong boundaries because they get tangled up in like, “What I want is so connected to what my partner wants so I also want that and I also want what my kids want.” So it’s like this woven mass of where your wants are connected to other people’s wants. So tell me, I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I’ve noticed in my practice. Is there research that supports that?

Jennie: I don’t think there is yet, but I think it’s absolutely the case, I think slowly it’s changing. But generally, normally I hate generalizations, but it’s hard not to see it, that little girls are brought up to be more pleasing to others and little boys are not encouraged to be as pleasing to others and they probably need to meet somewhere in the middle. 

Very often little girls are, and you can still see it, so if you have a room full of adults, the chances are it might be the little girl who’s asked “Can you go and get the biscuits from the kitchen?” And it won’t often be the little boy who will be asked that, and that can seem a totally innocent thing, but we do educate and we have historically educated our girls to please others and we’ve educated our boys more to please themselves, which equally has not then been been healthy for them. 

Sundae: Right, everybody loses. 

Jennie: Yeah, totally. 

Sundae: I remember I know my background way back in my bachelor’s degree in the 90s, was with Amy Sheldon and Deborah Tannen, you know about gender communication and what we were learning from the research then is how that early socialization of girls and boys, and of course the question of nature versus nurture, isn’t fully answered, but it’s frightening how we do that. And I’m raising two boys and I try to be mindful of the messages I send but some of them are just flip out of our mouth before we even realize that they’re that they’re happening.

The thing that I see people struggle with, you and I both use the same term of first-class self-care, that one of the steps for my clients to start taking care of themselves, and you have an exact same order in in your book about me, myself and I. You start with yourself and you talk about this idea, you say, “Good self-care doesn’t equal self-spoiling, it’s not about indulging yourself, but taking mature decisions.” I love that. Can you help us understand, what’s the difference between indulging and taking a mature decision? 

Jennie: Okay, so I think we can get the lines blurred with this one. I think food is the easiest one to look at on this because you may have had a bit of a rough morning, it may be coffee time, and you may think “I’ve had a really pants morning, I’m going to have a biscuit.” Fine have a biscuit, I mean, I really don’t want to be the food police, I really don’t like this sort of good food bad food stuff, have a biscuit. But the healthy boundary is have a biscuit or two biscuits and that’s it. It can be quite difficult sometimes because it can turn into, “Well now it’s started I may as well finish the packet.” Or if it’s a hard candy packet, “Well, there’s only two left I might as well have four biscuits.” Then that’s gone into self-indulgence, that’s not looking after yourself because the chances are you are going to feel rubbish about yourself. 

Sundae: The same goes with alcohol like, “I’ve had a long day, I’m just going to have a glass of wine and then maybe a second, well the bottle is almost finished so I might as well finish it.” Right? Same thing. 

Jennie: It is absolutely and think often if you are parents you can do that with your children as well that sometimes it’s easier to see it with your child. “Actually, you know what love two biscuits that’s enough, you need to have your supper soon.” We can sometimes see it more easily with another but we can’t see it with ourselves. Or we may equally go down the “Oh, well, they might as well have the whole lot now to keep the peace.” 

None of that is healthy, it’s not healthy with another and it’s certainly not healthy with yourself either. And the first time you do it, the first time you can do that for yourself or for the other, it’s really noting it, we talk about positive strokes, it’s really giving us that positive affirmation of “You know what, well done me, I’ve had a rubbish day so far, I’ve had a coffee, I’ve had a couple of biscuits, I’ve given myself a little treat, I’m feeling a bit better for it. It sort of speaks to my inner child and I feel like I’ve been cozy and looked after a bit, that’s good. And I didn’t need anymore.” It’s noticing also when you do make that healthy boundary don’t just sort of go “Oh well I’ve done that.” And move on, stop and take a moment, give yourself a good pat on the back. That’s so important.

Sundae: Celebrating it. It’s so central, what do we get if we do the work to get clear on our boundaries and are mindful about setting them and working at keeping them, what do we get?

Jennie: You will get a healthier relationship. So let’s start with food, you’re going to get a healthier relationship with food. I think if you have healthy boundaries, there’s no need to be on the dreaded diet word. You don’t need to diet, you can eat what you want because you have healthy boundaries around it. So it will help your relationship with food, with alcohol, with fitness. And with your relationships outside work, in work, family relationships. 

It’s not a magic wand, we’re not going to be sending you immediately over the rainbow and everything’s going to be colorful and beautiful and you’re gonna be tripping down the yellow brick road. It will be tough, because there will be times when you actually think, “Oh forget that I’m eating the whole packet.” Or “No, I’m finishing the bottle.” Or “I’m not going to the gym.” Or “I’m not going to go and pay that tennis.” But it’s okay, in learning to do it we make the mistakes, we come back on the path and we can keep going. Friendship is the biggest health warnings that friendships will change as well. 

Sundae: Can you say more about your friendships? That’s interesting. 

Jennie: So a bit further on in the book we talk about something called “The drama triangle.” And it’s how we we all do it, we all set up relationships where either we may be the person who looks and looks after the other one more and the friend may be the one who always seems to be getting it, having scrapes, always seem to be having crises and needs looking after more. 

So you have this what we call, the rescuer and victim relationship where the other one just seems to be a victim of circumstance, stuff keeps happening and the rescuer feels good in looking after them. And that is a very classic sort of friendship or even relationship. Now, that can keep running for years even until maybe the rescuer begins to get a bit hacked off, maybe begins to think, “Oh God, you’re on the phone again, something is going wrong and I’m actually trying to get out the door.” 

They begin to feel a bit peeved and then they begin to feel a bit more than peeved, then they begin to feel cross and then they begin to build up resentment until something happened to them and they want their victim friends to look after them and victim friend doesn’t do it, because why should they, they’ve never had to do that. Because rescuers are really rubbish asking other people for help. 

So the rescuer friend may begin to feel a bit persecutory towards the victim friend and then that could be quite a big upset and that could be the breakdown in the relationship. The rescuer may sort of be looking to the victim and say, “Hang on, I’m always listening to you, I want you to listen to me now.” But the victim friend, may be, “Well that’s kind of like never been the deal, you’ve always just listen to me what’s going on with this change? 

Sundae: That’s scary for people, I think, it’s like if I change the rules of the game are they going to leave the game? 

Jennie: Exactly, and it’s that worry that keeps us in the game instead of having the healthy conversation of “You know what, let’s talk about our friendship, let’s look at what goes on here. I’ve realized that I have never actually really let you help me, I never asked you for help.” And the victim friend to be thinking, “Actually, you know what you’ve got a point, you are always looking after me.” 

If you can have that healthy conversation you can get out of the drama and have a clean healthy relationship. But it might be the relationships been so built on that it can’t do it and that’s where it may be a breakdown. 

I mean, I think it’s the same as when people come into therapy, they think that just bringing themselves into therapy initially, but of course they’re not, they’re bringing in all their relationships. And one person in therapy will have a ripple effect on their immediate family and friends and some relationships will be able to sustain and work through that and some might not, that may be an end of some relationships. 

Sundae: Well, yeah because you change a dynamic, change a relationship and this is the hard truth if the status quo is not working for you you either carry that as a martyr for the rest of your life and hold your resentment and bitterness or you stand in more alignment with what feels right and authentic for you and then it shakes shit up, it’s terrifying for people.

Jennie: It is very scary, but through that you can have, either it might be the end of that relationship and then you’re in a place to know how to build a better one in the future, you learn from it. OR you work through it and you have a better relationship. 

Sundae: So actually it’s not as scary as it sounds. 

Jennie: Scary at the time but longer-term benefits. 

Sundae: Yep, so in German, they called it “Lerngeld” like the learning money that you pay, so you either you pay your “Lerngeld”, the drama is the learning or the growth. And there’s something about learning, I don’t know what that is, you know when I have something going in my relationship and maybe resentment is building or something is going on and I’m like, “Oh, yeah.” And I seriously just want to point my finger like “And he never, and this one!” And then I’m like, “Oh crap, I got to look at myself.” Because I know if I start on myself first half of the problem is solved. 

Jennie: Yeah, “Okay, they seem to be doing xyz, what’s my part in it?” 

Sundae: And it’s like, “Oh I have more learning to do again.” 

Jennie: Yeah, that’s true it never stops. 

Sundae: So just to recap here when you’re in the beginning of renegotiating your boundaries, there can be some fear that the result of the renegotiation could impact your relationships, but the bumps that are coming are either going to pay you back in learning or actual growth and depth in your relationship. So while bumpy, worth it. 

There is something interesting, when I was preparing for our interview I came across a few quotes about boundaries and I wanted to hear your perspective on this one. It says, by Melody Beattie, “We cannot simultaneously set a boundary and take care of another person’s feelings.” 

Jennie: Yes, I think that is true, you have to focus on the boundary because if you start with focusing on the other person’s feelings, then there’s no boundary the boundary is gone. 

Sundae: You’re ignoring what you want. 

Jennie: Yeah, on the same note I’m saying no to you, “You look really upset, how are you feeling?” Okay, there needs to be empathy in boundary setting, but then let them see that you are keeping your feet on the ground so you can reach out to the other and say, “Okay, I can see saying no to you, you look upset, tell me how you’re feeling?” But that doesn’t mean it changes your boundary. 

Sundae: I love that, so it’s a very loving way to hold your boundaries and empathetic way to hold your boundaries, but not change your boundaries based on their response.

Jennie: Absolutely, and it’s important, I think sometimes we can think of boundaries as very harsh, very unthinking, it’s not. You are to be in touch with your own feelings first and to be in touch with the other person’s feelings, but it doesn’t mean that you’re swayed. So thinking back to like the saying no to the child, “No, you can’t, I can’t drive you around to your friend’s house tonight.” Seeing them upset, you can be in touch with that but it doesn’t mean you say, “Oh, I can see you’re upset, okay, I’ll get my keys.”

Sundae: I love that. You know, I think I could do a better job at that as a parent, because I think sometimes when I’m setting a boundary, I want to get a little authoritarian like, “Nope, that’s what’s happening.” You know because I do want to make them happy but if I don’t want to acquiesce, I’ll be like, “Nope, we’re not doing it.”  A little bit cold and I’m hearing that’s a nice way of framing, of still being present, empathize and not moving the boundary that makes sense.

You know Byron Katie she talks about, there are three three types of business, there’s your business, my business and what she calls God’s business, it could be things outside of our control. And that’s probably one of the most helpful tools that I learned right back when I was starting coaching, of whose business am I in? When you’re taking care of someone else’s feelings, you’re actually in their business for how they are responding. And how arrogant is it of us to think that we can control someone’s thoughts or feelings? 

Jennie: Yes, absolutely.

Sundae: So important thank you so much, this is this is pivotal for people who are working on making themselves a priority. And a lot of women that I work with are looking for more purpose and meaning and it’s crucial that they start with taking better care of themselves and setting better boundaries. So the work that you’re doing is so important. 

Let’s just think about last words of wisdom, if someone’s listening to this they’re going to check your book out and they’re now prepared that they’re going to have the tools, but the road ahead might be bumpy. What advice do you have for them? 

Jennie: Be kind to yourself, coming back to that actually it will be bumpy, there will be times when you will say yes to the child and get your keys and then end up resenting them and having a rubbish end to the day. Okay, it’s all right, you know it is the old sort of analogy of driving the car, when you first drive a car and you first learn to sort of change gears, it is all bumpy and the clutch and you end up bouncing around the road a bit, but you keep going and you end up driving smoothly. Setting boundaries is the same,  it will be bumpy, there may sometimes be a bit of a near miss but you’ll end up climbing smoothly. 

You know how sometimes when we have a very familiar drive, we drive from A to B so many times, could be the school run, could be to work. And sometimes you get to your destination and you think “Golly I just got here and I really didn’t take the journey in.” We’re so used to doing it, the same as boundaries. It can get to the point where you do it and you don’t even realize you’re doing it, the more you practice it the easier it becomes, truly. 

Sundae: Yeah, and there’s this level of accepting humanity to this. A lot of my people are perfectionists, I call myself a recovering perfectionist and it’s like no one shames a toddler for falling down, no one shames their teenage son for not being fluent in French in his first semester. Why do we do that with ourselves? And it is that journey and people come to me when they’re struggling with stuff and that’s one thing I’m really honest about is there’s no, yes there are a-ha moments and epiphanes and all of that, even in the first session, but true true transformation takes time. 

Jennie: Yes, absolutely, give it time, every small step you take, every small boundary you put in place, remembering to stop and go, “Well done, well done me, I have done that.” 

Sundae: One of my dear friends she shared with me a concept that she had and she calls it “The self high five”, where she was struggling with a terrible illness and through that process she learned she had to be kinder to herself. 

So give yourself the self high five.

Jennie: Absolutely, I so often hear that that people with terrible illnesses or people who have had a sudden terrible loss or bereavement, have lost their jobs, all the losses one can have, loss of health, loss of life close to one. Those are the people that they’ll say “Oh my God, you’ve just got to make the most of life, you’ve got to look after yourself.” Okay, let’s not all have to get to that point to have to look after ourselves.

Sundae: Right,, let’s not be at the end of our life before we realize we should celebrate our successes.

So this has been so wonderful, thank you so much for your time and wisdom and to you and Victoria for writing the book it is a really powerful contribution.

If people want to learn more about you or find out about what you do more directly, where should they go?

Jennie: I’ve got a website which is www.jenniemillercounselling.co.uk/

Sundae: I’ll put that in the show notes for sure. 

Definitely check out the book “Boundaries: How to Draw the Line in Your Head, Heart and Home.” 

So thank you so much for being here, it’s been an absolute pleasure. 

Jennie: Thank you, I have really enjoyed talking to you.

Sundae: This is Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean, thank you for listening. 

I’ll leave you with an anonymous quote “Lack of boundaries invites lack of respect and I would add not only from others but yourself.”

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Nov 25 2019



Rank #19: 125: Grief And Guilt Raising TCKs With Ruth Van Reken

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If you are raising your children abroad, chances are you’ve heard the term Third Culture Kid. If you haven’t, you will want to pay extra close attention. If you have, this episode has something brand new for you.

Together with today’s special guest Dr. Ruth van Reken, co-author of the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, we explore grief, guilt, and identity as well as the pride and absolute joys of raising our children abroad. If you think you’ve heard this all before, wait: we cover new territory.

What You’ll Discover in this Episode:

    • Ruth’s unique path that led her to dedicating her life to supporting families in global transition  
    • What most parents get wrong when their kids grieve the loss of their friends or sense of place
    • An alternative model for supporting your own and your children’s grief
    • A dangerous partner to grief that we need to bring out into the open
    • What we should focus on instead of the international aspect of our lives
    • What Ruth would advise parents after decades of supporting parents around the world, and more

Listen in to learn more about what Ruth means when she says, “unpack your bags, plant your trees” and her expert advice on what it takes to enjoy the journey.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.

It was 2012, I was in Baron Switzerland, I had a tiny baby and an elementary student. Cozy in Switzerland after years of working so hard to integrate and establish myself professionally and my husband walks in one day and says, “Hey I applied for a job abroad, I think it’d be great for us to live and work abroad.” And I looked at him and I said “I do work and live abroad.”

And it put me in a tailspin where we ended up looking at moving our kids to a third culture, not my culture and his culture but outside of it. In fact a place so different that I didn’t know what it would be like for my kids. It ended up being West Africa. It could have been Ulaanbaatar and Mongolia as well. I was looking all these options and just like any mama who is worried about the future of their kids, I turned to one thing, and it was the Third Culture Kids book, Growing Up Among World’s from David C. Pollock, Ruth van Reken and now Michael Pollock.

I dove in and I scrambled through the pages looking for answers whether it would be ok from me to change my Cross-cultural Kids into the Third Culture Kids, did I know what I was getting into? Did I have what it took? Are there strategies that I can use to make it work?

Well fast forward to now, you know the answer that resource helped me say yes, and since then I haven’t looked back. And it is my absolute honor to have the co-author Ruth van Reken with us today, who has played such a huge part of my own story.

Sundae: So Ruth, thank you for coming to Expat Happy Hour today.

Ruth: Thanks for having me Sundae, I’m honored to be here and it is always a joy to find out that all those years in my basement made a difference for somebody, Thanks.

Sundae: So I should probably say Dr. Ruth van Reken because she just received an honorary degree doctor of letters for her lifelong and visionary advocacy for Third Culture Kids.

That’s not the only thing you’re celebrating, we’re celebrating that Families in Global Transition (FIGT) just won a really exciting award. Relocate Global had the Think Relocate Awards 2019, I believe just last night and Families in Global Transition (FIGT) came out on top for excellence in employee and family support, so there’s a lot to celebrate right now.

You are like the grandmother of this of this organization and now it’s winning awards and gaining recognition globally. So that’s really exciting. And I want to just share something, you know, most of the people when they hear your name, they know that you are a co-author of what many people call the “Bible” of TCKs and it’s that is where I think people associate your name. But one of the things I’ve learned about you, watching you connect at Families  in Global Transition in 2018, and also in 2019 in Bangkok this year, is that you are amazing at connecting with others, and I don’t know if people have said this to you before Ruth, but you give people the feeling like you’re the only one in the room when they talk to you.

Is that something or someone has ever said to you before?

Ruth: Maybe not exactly in that way, but the issue is that people are important to me. I believe strongly that this topic connects us to some of our most basic levels of our humanity. The places where we all need relationships, we all need to sense of belonging, we all need to know somebody cares about our story, we all need to know we are understood, and as we kind of live these mobile lifestyles so often we lose the people that know our history. And so in traditional communities people kind of knew who everybody was, they all knew where the grocery stores were and you didn’t really have to explain too much about yourself. And when we live internationally and globally mobile lives we get to a new place and nobody knows our history, nobody can perhaps we think relate to that. But that’s the magic of this experience, is because as humans we connect in these places and we feel it when we move, we feel it when we don’t have friends, we feel it when we worry about our kids, we don’t even have to explain it to each other just like people might not have had to explain themselves in the old days, you know or monoculture experience because we are sharing an experience even if we’re not sharing the geographical space.

And so it matters that we let each other know we understand, and to me every story is always interesting and it’s important because it’s a human story and displays of affection are there every time, I love it.

Sundae: Well, it’s evident when when speaking with you. You make people feel very special and that their story matters.

So do you mind sharing with our audience more of your story? Like how did you get to do this?

Ruth: It is a miracle to even to get this honor and award. It really comes out of my story, It doesn’t come out as my formal training. I was born and raised in Nigeria, my parents were teachers and worked with the mission group there. They started to school but my father had been born and raised in what was then Persia, his father had started a hospital there. And so I grew up as the child of a third culture kid before we had language, but I think of all the wisdom my father gave me from his experience, like the adage to “Unpack your bag and plant your trees no matter where you go because if you don’t you’ll never live.”

Sundae: Unpack your bag and your trees, what does it mean, plant your trees?

Ruth: He said a lot of times people who are living this way mentally and physically never unpack their bag and mentally and physically never plant their trees. So physically he planted trees and he said “Don’t be afraid to plant them even if you can eat from them, somebody will one day.” And so it was kind of cool because he planted orange trees and all kinds of trees around our house in Nigeria. And years later when I went back to visit and went back to see this house, that was such a mansion when I was a child was so tiny now I couldn’t believe it, but the trees were there and they had grown and the fruit with it and I thought “You’re right Dad, the fruit has lasted all this time even if you’re gone.”

So those kind of things, you know, were put in me early on and even his lesson he would say “Don’t ever ask somebody from another culture to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself because people of all cultures and races are valuable.” So that was the early lessons that I grew up with.

Then when I was fifteen I do remember one other thing he said was, he said, “You know, I don’t fit in anywhere.” and I said “Dad why? Everybody loves you.” I mean, he was the leader. He said “Yeah, but when I’m in these meetings I can see the organization side and I can see the Nigerian side when they’re trying to come together and both sides want me to be on their side. and so everybody’s mad at me.” and I thought “Oh?” Later I thought, “That was a cultural bridge”.

But anyway, those were the things of my childhood.

So, when I came to the States at the age of thirteen, I had left my life and I had thought I was normal, my peers were like me, I loved my trees, I loved perma tan, I loved soccer, I loved all these things. I’ve had what I would have considered a good life, at the same time I always knew I was an American so I wouldn’t be here forever and that was okay too that was kind of part of the way we did life.

So I expected when I went back to the United States that course I would be American since I was by passport, and when I hit that wonderful eighth grade year it was the worst year of my life. I couldn’t believe how out of it I felt, it seemed like I just didn’t know anything everybody else knew. At age thirteen if you’re not in the group, you’re kind of mocked, it’s not a good year for anybody. So that feeling of “What’s the matter with me? What happened?”

When people first asked me where I was from I would say Nigeria. Well, then they’d laugh and say “Well that’s kind of silly.” And so that was a tough year, and I decided that I didn’t know what to do with my African self and so I would just ignore her. And I started high school and didn’t tell anybody I’d ever lived anyplace but Chicago.

My parents went back to Nigeria for four years, so I didn’t see them then but a great gift of my life was living with my grandmother and my aunt so I could stay in my same school, I could stay in my same church community with my friends and you know, I had stability except for my parents being gone. And so I really thought it was no problem, that I had no issues, you know I was happy, I still have friends from high school. But then it was later on that I began to have to think about what some of these things were and the impact in my life.

Sundae: You know when you talk I find it so interesting because this was decades ago and this could be a story today of many children who are living outside of their parents passport cultures. It’s like, you know, the fish who swimming in water doesn’t name the water, you were there in Nigeria living your life and you were cognitively aware that you were, you know, air quotes American and then it hit you when you first got there.

Is that what drove you to share the story of third culture kids to spread the word of what a third culture kid is so other people were prepared?

Ruth: Absolutely it is, but let me go back one second to something that has happened since I last saw you at the FIGT in Bangkok.  Last week. I got this paper from a classmate of mine way back in nursing school. After high school I went on to nursing and ultimately we went back to Africa, which I’ll tell you in a minute, but she this sent me this paper that was written in 1940 by Rosamund Frame who turned out to have been a cousin of my father, and she wrote about the difficulties kids who had grown up in China had when they came back to the States, and it could have been the third culture profile in a little bit older language that was unbelievable how precisely it was unmarked.

So you’re right. This has been going on a long time, but we didn’t have language, I didn’t have language. So I thought like many people, you know, “What’s my problem? The issue is me, I’m stupid, I can’t figure it out.” So you keep going.

Ultimately when my husband and I married and he was in medical school, we had a chance to go back during his schooling to do an elective overseas. We tried to go to Nigeria because my parents were still there, I was pregnant, so I figured I’d have my baby by my mother. Nigeria wouldn’t give us visas because there had been a foreign war and for whatever reason they decided not to give it. That was a shock because Nigeria was my sense of home in my African self.

So ultimately we went to Liberia and it was when I came back from Liberia that I had the first great depression of my life. I didn’t understand it. We moved to a new city, we moved to st. Louis so David could do his internship. He was gone every other night some of the time and I had a new baby so I couldn’t stay busy like I had always been and I hit a great depression.

Did you ever have something like that?

Sundae: Oh my gosh, well when I when I first moved to Switzerland, I had moments in the fetal position crying my eyes out on a Friday night. Wondering if it was a biggest mistake in my life.

So what I’m thinking of is just being a mother to a newborn and having your partner away is enough to put someone in a tailspin and then add those big questions about living abroad and what’s my identity would put anybody off their feet.

Ruth: Right, I think everyone has these times when you have this perfect storm. And so we were in a new town, long distance calls were very expensive and I didn’t have Skype and all the rest and so I found this person that I thought of as being very capable and spiritual and competent and you know, everything. Somewhere in the basement and I had no idea. Looking back I know what had happened is the Africa me, that curtain I had put down on that part of my life had been raised. Because when I went back to Africa, I thought “Oh my goodness, I forgot the oranges were green, I forgot people carry kids on their back.” And all the things that were old and I didn’t know what to do.

So anyway, those were not good years in that way, I mean eventually like everybody sort of come to some terms and make do. But then we moved, David was in the Navy and things got better and I thought everything was fine and we went back to Africa. By then, I had three kids and I love being in Africa, I love Liberia, I love my life there, I love raising my kids there. So everything was good again.

Then of course there were some political issues and long story short we realized maybe we needed to take at least a year off and see where things were going and my mother-in-law invited our oldest daughter to come back to the states and start high school with them so that she wouldn’t have to change any year, mentally that made sense, but emotionally I went back that depressed person who had been there.

Sundae: Right it’s like the wounds are coming back. You know what I’m listening to you. I hear that you said these are not good two years and I think back on my own story of the not good years, you know, I say that they were always good and never easy. I’m so grateful for that struggle now in hindsight because if it had been easy, I don’t think I could serve people because I get it like, you know what I mean? Like in my guts I get how hard that is and you and I have had a conversation offline about how you sometimes go through hardship to be prepared for what’s next and I hear that, that was unfortunately the hard preparation that I went through to really understand with your new body how challenging this can be if you are not supported in the right way.

Ruth: Well I think the other point is we need language, I didn’t have language for my story and so what happened was I finally thought okay, I have a process that I called “listen to life” when I’m having a reaction to something that is excessive to the event or what’s going on, then I stop and say “What else, is it something more than this? What does it connect to? So I’m having this problem reaction to my daughter leaving, which mentally I can work it out, it’s just a few months, no big deal.” And it was a big deal, so that was when I started saying, “Okay, what is this? And why does this keep popping up in my life?” And that took me back to thinking,  “It must have to do with my own separation.” I went to boarding school at six.

And so one night, I decided to start journaling and I started writing to my parents as if I was the six-year-old, and suddenly I was the support and with huge wave of emotion of the six-year-old just completely overwhelmed. And so the adult me is trying to find the words of a child me and I could feel my stomach and you know, all the things I felt.

So that became a process, and in the middle of that two things happened. My mother sent me an article she’d seen about third culture kids, I had never heard of the term and had no idea what they were and I thought “Oh that might be me?” And then I also got a survey to do for our children and their educational needs and whatever and there was going to be a this conference at this International conference for missionary kids in the Philippines and Dave Pollock was sponsoring that and I didn’t know him. But I completed the survey and then I wrote, I said, “What are you doing for the adults? I’m thirty nine, nobody ever mentioned the re-entry seminar and blah blah blah and maybe I’m the only one but if you want to know what one person is trying to figure out I’ll send you what I’m writing.” Because I wasn’t going to share it, it was just my journaling.

So that’s really what started the whole program here. I found out it had a name and a conference and I realized “Oh my goodness, there’s really a big deal out here.” It legitimised it.

Sundae: Well, it legitimises your experience, you were saying, “It’s my problem, I’m doing something wrong, it’s just me.” if you if you can’t look outwards and find a name for it, you look inward.

Ruth: And I think the other really big thing for me was as a nurse I had gone to conference by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross when she was first doing her work on the stages of grief that she called on death and dying and I kind of internalized so I wasn’t thinking about it consciously, but as I began to journal I touched the grief that I had never allowed myself to feel before. Because if you’re a six-year-old we try and survive, so you have to push that away and all these places of loss that I had never acknowledged or seen, because the losses were hidden. Until I was journaling I never realised my world died the day I left Nigeria because we took an airplane ride and I lost everything that was my world, but I didn’t know that then, I just thought I was going to America.

Sundae: When you share that story, I’ve got hair that’s standing up on my arm because I’m thinking back to when we were in Burkina Faso between 2013 and 2016. So my my youngest was one and he turned four right when we left and we left suddenly we had about 10 days until we departed there was you know, a series of things that happened in a terrorist attack and we chose to live separately. I was in Switzerland the kids and my husband was in Burkina Faso and it went fast I solo-parented for, I don’t know 10 months in Switzerland, my husband was in Burkina and then we came to South Africa after right after that.

So we were driving the car and my, what five or six-year-old then we were coming back from a party and out of nowhere Ruth my son goes “I miss Ouagadougou.” So it was like here’s my son who I, you know, I’m an Intercultural transition specialist, I’m doing all the things I’m creating the bridge. We’re doing the goodbyes and hellos, all the things that I know we should do and out of nowhere my son sees something and is pulling grief from his heart. And this has happened other times where you know, I’m reading a story and he’s lying next to me in bed and he goes “I miss Louise.” That was the nanny, the nous nous, that we had when we were there. And this idea of you know touching grief, how do we help our kids recognize how much grief when they’re six and seven and not when they’re thirty nine so that the grief can move?

Ruth: Well I think one of the first things is recognising it, because one of the problems that we have in our wonderful way of life is that it is a wonderful experience at so many levels and I think I always felt that if I talked about grief, first I didn’t even recognize it, but if I would have I was negating the good instead of affirming the good the only reason I missed it was because I like to and I love Nigeria. So that’s the first thing parents should not be afraid and we shouldn’t be afraid for ourselves of the grief word because it’s actually an affirmation but I think the other thing that I learned by doing that was the difference between comfort and encouragement.

When I sent the letter to David Pollock saying, you know, “Maybe I’m the only one,” and so forth. He wrote me back and he said “No, you’re not the only one.” and he sent me the same or a letter from a counselor Sharon Wilmer would worked a lot with TCKs. He had asked her what were the issues she saw and she said the first one was a lack of comfort. And when I saw that I just started to cry because I thought I didn’t even know what I was actually writing about when I was doing my journaling and I thought that’s it. I was encouraged to death. I just think about “Oh, it will be fine, we’re going to do this and they are happy happy things.”

Sundae: Right and you know what? I have this metaphor I’m working on in my head right now about grief and our children’s transitions. As a parent I want it to be a faucet right like “Your grief is on and I want to help you turn it off because I’m really uncomfortable when I know you’re in pain.” So we treat grief like a faucet that we turn on and off and even if we’re doing a good job in transition, we’re like, “Okay now it’s time for grieving, on. Okay now, let’s move on, off.” We really we do treat it like that and I don’t think I’m the only one.

And I think another way that we need to start thinking about it is like we are midwives of grief. We’re in pregnancy, sorry the labor has started, like there’s something bigger happening here and you need to stick with it until well you’ve birthed the grief. And I feel like as a parent one of the other issues is, we want to turn it on and off and simply stick with it and be midwives of our kids’ grief.

Tell me where I’m wrong?

Ruth: No you’re not wrong, I think one of the other issues is we are in grief ourselves and when we were leaving Liberia it almost killed me because I didn’t know if we’d be back, my kids were in grief. I’m just starting to be aware of the topic and when my daughter is crying in the airplane because she’s left her best friend on the other side of the glass in the airport and won’t put on her seatbelt. I realize it’s embarrassing but it’s also terribly painful to me because, “Am I killing my child?” I mean and it’s killing me. So you want to shape up or ship out but I thought “Okay, let’s stop here minute.” And I said, “Okay you have to put your seat belt on but you can keep crying.” And she kept crying all the way through every night. And I thought “Oh my goodness is this going to work? Maybe we just need to shape up.” and I realized why people want to, because it’s terrible as a parent to watch your child suffer, but finally she’s kind of stopped.

About a year later, I thought she was doing fine and she just said “Mom I really miss Liberia.” And I thought “Okay, let’s go back and hug and comfort not encourage. Encouragement is important later but first we have to sit it out. So I said, “Okay,  well, how do you feel about being here now?” And she said “Well, I really like it here and I really miss there.” And I thought that’s the paradox, we live in paradox in the situation, but also everybody in the family can be in a different stage of grief and so some are in denial, some can be in anger, or some can be in depression. Some can be you know, adjusting and doing fine. And so that’s another thing that is complicating is that we don’t all do it like you said on a smooth trajectory. We don’t all do it at the same time. We’re going to do grief and so we need to give each other some space and some love and some understanding. And especially when I was out of anger because it can come out in anger towards you if you’re the parent or you as a parent can be angry your child, you know, and so it’s a complicated process.

But that was what I began to discover in doing my journaling that I had this mountain of grief. I had never ever dealt with, a lot of anxiety, it had come out in anger,  It had come out in depression instead of grief.

Sundae: And I wanted to bring up another G word, right? We talked about grief and I’m going to I’m going to bring up guilt. I think that when we’re watching our kids suffer, when we move them. I mean, I’ve been there I’ve watched my nine-year-old tearfully hug, you know his best friend and they grip onto each other and my heart breaks in pieces. I know that when we’re grieving when they’re grieving, it is so easy for a parent to feel guilty for their grief and feel like we’re the ones who are hurting our kids by exposing them to these kind of transitions, right?

So I feel like the other G word I think we need to talk about is guilt, because when you feel guilty you feel responsible and then I also think that some families make snap decisions based on that. Of “Okay, forget it, this life is too hard, I’m gone.” And they they bail out on whatever lives that they’ve been living or they compensate with other things to make up for the guilt. So maybe even now today they give their kids more technology. “Oh his misses his friend, ‘ll let him be on the iPad all day.” or “He’s grieving, and I feel bad about that, so I’m going to let him behave badly.” Do you know what mean? I think guilt is a thing that comes in.

Sundae: That’s a really important word and concept to remind ourselves about because I know we’ve all been there with this lifestyle.  I remember one time we were back in the States and visiting some friends and we couldn’t visit at her house because kids had swimming lessons and so we went with her and she said, “Oh they could go in the pool with my kids and that’ll be fine.” Well, the instructor made my kids get out because they didn’t swim well enough. And I sat on the pool and I just cried because I never learned to swim. And so that was always a shame in my life that when I came back, I mean, we hadn’t had swimming pools so, you know, you go to gym class and where this terrible person speaks that you can’t go in the deep water because you know, you’re an idiot, that’s how I felt.

So it hit a particular button but it also hit that deeper sense of “Am I destroying my children’s lives? and losing all these opportunities and going and so forth.” Somewhere in the moment, I came to some sort of sense and I thought “Well no child gets to do everything in this world, nobody can do everything. And these kids in the pool have not been to London and they haven’t been to Paris and they haven’t been to Holland and they haven’t been to these places.” That we would have different experiences that they have that other people don’t and the same thing with loss.

I have seen so many families that never moved and their losses in their life, whether sometimes it’s from divorce, sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes you have a disease. You know, there’s things that happen in life and you can’t avoid that, you can learn how to process it. And one of the gifts I hope we have is how to process grief for more than just physical transitions when we’ve learned in this way.

But you’re right, the guilt is real for all of us right at various points.

Sundae: And when we talk about this, what’s striking me is how important it is for us to do our own work. For me, my Philosophy is for me to show up as a good parent I need to show up for myself. I need to take care of my health, I need to do my own calling myself on my crap that comes from my head that needs to go away. Like I need to do my own work so that I can show up for my kids better. And I know that in transition, I know that in grief, in abrupt transition, I think so we’re so focused on our grief and we forget that the key is actually looking and taking care of ourselves so that we have much more power away with our kids, it is easy to get swept up.

Ruth: I think it is easy to put our grief on the kids, and so instead of acknowledging what we are doing, it’s transferring in a way. It’s a displaced kind of grief and so we put it out on them instead of just sorting it out for ourselves like we need to.  So I am agreeing with you.

Sundae: Yep, it’s exactly what we do.

So I’m curious, you have spoken to parents and kids around the world with every sort of composition of a traditional, TCK where the person spent most of their, you know, early adult years outside of their parents passport country. You’ve also talked to see CCK’s, Cross-cultural Kids.

What do you think is on the minds of the parents most?

Ruth: That’s a good question, I think for some the worry, and like you say “Am I doing something well for others?” the almost denial of “Is this any different than how I grew up?” And so, you know, “We’re not even going to think about it.” And then there’s all kinds of parents that are in the middle of who really understand there’s terrific gifts that they’re offering their children,  very few third culture kids that I know of regret their life when they reach adulthood, and they want to know how to do it well.

Sundae: I want to pause there, because I am a monocultural kid. I grew up, you know born and raised in North Dakota. I’m raising third culture kids. So Ruth van Renek had just said she doesn’t know many third culture kids who regret growing up as a third culture kid.

I’m just going to say that for every single monocultural parent, because every time I sit at a table with an adult third culture kid, and they tell me how much they loved their life, it’s like balm for my soul. Like “Yes, I know in my body this feels like the right thing to do and now I have confirmation.” So I just wanted to to put that out there for those who are doing it, like me who didn’t grow up with models like this who didn’t have this as their childhood. This is evidence right here that there are gifts in our global lives, even though there are challenges that  help us grow in ways that are stretching. So I just wanted to make sure everybody heard that because it is important for us monocultural adults who are raising third culture kids.

Ruth: Well you can say it all you want, and I think even the one or two who may have expressed regrets, and it’s much more tied into the complications in their family.  So I do also want to make the point that third culture kids, first of all they are kids right? They want what every kid wants, they want parents that love them, they want the sense of security, and that can be given on the move and parents that give that and know the traditions that and build that sense of “This is who we are, and we can do this in different places.” There is that core stability that  that can come within that child so they can receive those different gifts.

But one of the things that I do see for some parents, particularly those maybe from mono cultural backgrounds, I don’t know, is when the child does not relate in their sense of identity to the parents passport culture or where the parent came from. They can be kind of surprised. My father wasn’t but my mother was shocked when I said some time that I didn’t necessarily feel I was from Chicago. And she said “Why that is where I am from?” I said “I know but that’s not where I grew up.” So particularly if you’re from a very strong mono cultural kind of a community where all the generations have been doing it one way and then you take your child around the world and they don’t have that same sense of national identity that you might. Be kind, don’t think that you failed, you can let the child be many. I think that’s what is important.

Also Daniela Tomera was saying it’s the FIGT conference how in her family each of the children have a different sense of national identity almost because of the different places in ages where they’ve been. And so I think as parents we don’t have to be intimidated or scared, your child is also an American. Even though I didn’t feel as American as some other people but I also have a strong connection to my International self and to my African self, and just we can we have a bigger maybe more non-traditional way of finding our sense of identity, and that I think is what parents can offer to their kids, is the permission to start with who they are human beings and know that they can relate to others because of this place of being relational, emotional those things. And they can also be unique because every person is unique. So how you express that within your cultures come out. But also we really do belong to a large group, we belong to a community that may not be geographically in one place, but experientially we have a lot of people we can relate to and that gives me the sense of achievement. That then gives me confidence to go people of other communities and learn from them and makes life really interesting.

Sundae: What I think about that is being a monocultural can be, before I even went abroad with my kids. I remember I made chocolate chip cookies for my eldest and he at this point was speaking better Swiss than English, and I thought “Okay now I get to introduce this cultural icon to my son.” And I you know, I’m not a very domestic at all. So I actually was in the kitchen, I was baking, I was super proud of myself and I make these chocolate chip cookies that my friends brought in, you know chocolate chips from abroad and it was a very sacred thing. And I gave him the cookie and he takes a bite and he goes “nid gärn” which is in Swiss German, “I don’t like it.” And in that moment, I felt rejected, It was like rejecting me. and you know, I’ve done the work on that, when I think about identity, when you look in the Third culture Kid book and you see the identity mirrors, I’ve learned over the years that our kids are forming identity through their community, through places and through family. Their identity doesn’t have to overlap completely with  me. But there are going to be some mirrors where we are connected, so instead of you need to like me, It’s like, where are we connected in our identities and that helps I think for people who are monocultural or very traditional and want to preserve their traditional culture that helps too. Because there’s no a hundred percent overlap doesn’t mean there isn’t deep connection point

Ruth: Well, I want you to write that down, we are  developing that new concept onto the mirrors and the anchors and you’ve added a new piece right now so thank you.

Sundae: Well, I’m glad, that is a compliment. But that’s how I see it, where are we overlapping, and we get to overlap on place, we get to overlap on family. But maybe on language or maybe the way our national identity doesn’t overlap. But there are some places that will inevitably overlap and that’s where we have to take solace that that’s where we connect.

So the other question I have for you is, you have so much wisdom you’ve spoken to so many people, and as I said at the beginning of our podcast you are so present for each and every person’s story, there is this wisdom that you have inside. What would you like to share with every parent who is either currently living abroad and or thinking about it? What sort of gift do you want to place in their heart that they can know for sure?

Ruth: Don’t be afraid, and realise your child is not you, If I had one thing I wish I had understood better, is that my children had different gifts from me. I have a daughter who is a list maker and I am not a list maker and she she tells me now it was always a little confusing as she never know what was going on in our house, and I thought that was just the fun of it. And so the older my kids have grown the more I realise how individual they are. And so you can’t even make the TCK cookie cutter for them. We have these principles, but nobody does the story the same way. So it’s go back to basic parenting. Who is your child? How do they fit?

I knew one family, they were marvelous. They had a child who had a learning disability and they realised that child could not make these kinds of international moves. And so they localized for some years till he could be in a school where he could get help and then they took off again. And people say to me “Well, I can’t, you know do this because of my child.” Well, they took a sacrifice in their job, but they knew that child couldn’t fit even in the gift part of this because it was too stressful. So they made a choice that was good for him. He is successful now as an adult, they got to travel again and I give them so much respect because they paid attention to who the kid was.

Other kids, you know are just fine and they can go anywhere and they love it. So we don’t want to compare them to each other, but we want to pay attention and find out within the dynamics of each of our families how do we make this beautiful thing called family work? And how do we make the decisions that are good for everybody as best we can. And sometimes decisions are out of our control. Like you said you’re in a terrorist situation or something, then how do we make the best decision then.

But I guess the biggest thing I say is, enjoy the journey. That’s what I’d like to enjoy the journey. It’s really rich, It’s filled with so much good, your kids are learning skill sets, they don’t even know yet about intercultural communication and move towards wherever you live. That’s what I think my dad meant about unpack your bag, plant your trees. Live fully where you are instead of waiting for the next move, learn about that culture, learn the languages you can those are the gifts you give your kid. So enjoy the journey.

Sundae: Totally and it makes me think about what we’re creating in our family. We are creating children who are comfortable, connecting and going towards people who might seem different but are able to find commonalities. And that is creating kids who are super prepared for this global world that we have.

You know, one thing you said in Bangkok was, that this is all a great experiment, we haven’t had time to see what happens when we take Cross-cultural Kids and throw them into a third culture environment. Everybody gets all mixed up and we move around the world and you know anywhere from missionaries to corporate, foreign service to International school teachers, all of this everybody mixed up together.

What do you think about this experiment? Where do you think we are heading because we’re in this weird moment of  globalization and polarization. What role do you think the TCKs have in the future.

Ruth: I think when we think about the larger picture, we are talking about the refugees, the immigrants. We are talking about the children who now go to different schools and have different cultures when they go home. So that’s part of the whole dynamic.

For me, I believe that the gift of my life is enjoying people from different cultures, not being afraid of them. And surely that is a message that is needed in our word. That, that person who may have a very different story than you, who may have a very different look than you, is still a person at their core. They also want respect, they want to be in relationship. And I don’t have to be afraid to move toward them, to hear their story, I want to know their story because in that their humanity also becomes evident.

And I just think that those who had the privilege,  and it is a privilege to grow up among the differences and yet connected this core hopefully can be voices and advocates for a world that right now doesn’t know how to do it, because traditionally we stayed in our separate groups. And in this mixing many want to pull back to that separate group because they don’t know what to do with the quote-unquote other.

So it’s a difficult time but I think it’s also a great opportunity to meet and embrace fellow human beings who have very different stories but who at the core share this experience of being human. And the needs that we all have and the joy, we all have and all these things. So I have hope.

Sundae: And I where I connect with that too is, you know, when we’re going through hard times, it’s the end of the school year soon, we’re going to have a few hearts broken when friends move away. And when we’re going through that tough time, to keep that perspective of the big why like “Why is this worth it? What are we gaining as a family? That when you know in your heart that you are preparing children who are going to move towards others, who are going to be uniquely equipped to connect with others who are different. And to see the humanity, to have the shared stories and be voices of the future. That is something that keeps me going.

So, I know our time is limited Ruth, this has been such an honor to have you and such a joy, and I hope it’s the first of many conversations.

If people want to find you, The book Third Culture Kids is an obvious place to start. But where else can people find you if they want to learn more about you and the work that you’ve done?

Ruth: I have a website I don’t keep up too well, it’s called crossculturalkids.org. but they can also write me at ruthvanreken@gmail.com if they would like. I am happy to write people and connect in anyway that’s helpful. Or through Facebook and messages, those are always ways that I try to interact with people.

It is true that each story matters to me and I don’t want anybody to feel alone in this world because there are people who can understand the story, and if you’re not right where you live in this virtual world we can find each other.

So thank you for having me today Sundae, It’s been a great privilege to get to know you in person, I love what you’re doing and keep up your great work. And to all who are listening to enjoy the journey.

Sundae: Thank you Ruth, you can’t see me right now, but I actually have tears in my eyes. I hope I don’t start crying. When I met you in Bangkok I didn’t expect to be because we had met a year before right so I didn’t expect to be impacted by you in such a strong way as I was. And one, you have an amazing sense of style, just got to say you raised the bar on what it means to look good, you have got a great sense of style.

But what you did for me personally, is you raise the bar for how I want to show up in my community and the impact I want to make. So for that I want to say thank you. And for everybody in my community, I want them to say thank you to you because you did something. There was a shift in me that happened just by watching you engage with people, so there’s that.

Thank you Ruth.

Thank you for everybody who’s been listening to Expat Happy Hour today. I have so many takeaways, I don’t even know where to begin. But the things that are sticking out for me right now that I will not forget is about unpacking your bags and planting the trees, never ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself and that we need to give ourselves and our children language so that they can work through their experience, watch out for the 2G words grief and guilt, work on helping our kids work with our loss rather than turning it off like a faucet and comfort before we encourage.

The final thing I’m taking away is by really centering all of the work that we do with our kids and our experiences abroad on connecting through people’s stories and the common humanity.

So thank you for listening to Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean.

I’m going to leave everyone with a quote that’s inspired by something that Ruth has said to me about, all of us are on this path to putting the pieces of a puzzle together on global life and how we can make the most of it and it’s from H.E.Luccock “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”

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The post 125: Grief And Guilt Raising TCKs With Ruth Van Reken appeared first on Sundae Schneider-Bean, LLC..

May 26 2019



Rank #20: 153: Screens and Teens with Dr. Laura Anderson

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Technology isn’t going away.

In fact, it’s becoming more and more entrenched in everything we do. For our kids, it’s all-encompassing. It’s how they do homework, connect with their friends, watch videos, play games, and learn about sex.

There, I said it.

This week, we’re going to take a deep, collective breath, put our “big-parent pants” on, and deal with an uncomfortable reality.

It’s my pleasure to welcome Therapist Dr. Laura Anderson, as we address the alarming truth about screens and their impact on our children. As an expert counselor on the subject, Laura brings us the scary stats and shares the critical warning signs parents need to immediately put on their radar. (Plus, she offers-up reasonable solutions for keeping our kid’s screen time in check.)

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

    • Wake-up call ~ Research results to slap us in the face
    • How technology chemically & structurally changes the brain
    • Recognizing the negative signs of damage
    • Determining appropriate screen-time based on age group
    • The benefit of transparent, random tech-checks

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

We’re delighted by our recent nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!

Subscribe: iTunes | Android

Full Episode Transcript:

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Hello, it is 8 am in New York, 3 am in Johannesburg and 8 pm in Bangkok.  Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition

So what would you give up first before your phone? Coffee, bathing, sex?

You might be surprised or maybe not that I came across a survey on the internet about iPhone users and 40% said they’d give up coffee before they would their phone, 18% percent said they’d stop bathing every day and 15% said they’d rather give up sex. 

I think we have a problem with our phones.

That says so much because we are adults and we’re making good decisions and we still would rather go without bathing then our phone. Coffee I think is a really hard dilemma, and don’t make me choose between my phone and my coffee by the way.

Grown adults, educated, good problem solvers, solution-oriented, rational, and we struggle with phone addiction. 

Here’s the thing, while we’re doing that we’re telling our kids to put their iPads away.

We have our own problems, but what are we creating with our children. Studies show that excessive use of technology can chemically and structurally change our children’s brains. And think about it, I mean when I was a kid, I would play on Pac-Man and my dad would give me rolls of 25 cents, quarters in the US and I would play this game for an hour every, I don’t know 3 months when I got near a big Pac-Man game. 

Things are changing, times are changing and the demands that are put on us as parents are changing. 

As a parent of two young boys, I can’t tell you how often I think about this. This is probably on the top of my parenting questions is, “How do I handle technology in the home so that my kids use it responsibly for school, for assignments, for learning, for entertainment. But not that they stumble across things that are deeply inappropriate or start engaging in games that are going to change the way that they engage in the family and with others.”

I know I’m not alone, so what I have done today for Expat Happy Hour is, I’ve invited a specialist who can help us understand how we can work with our kids and tech so that we’re feeling good about how we are raising our kids today.

It is my heartfelt pleasure to welcome Doctor Laura Anderson back to Expat Happy Hour again. You might recognize her from a previous episode where we talked about gender expansive kids. She’s back as a clinical child and family psychologist who is specialized in serving globally mobile families. And today she is going to share with us her growing expertise on screen use with kids.

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Anderson in Bangkok during a presentation that we did together on technology and how we can leverage it for the good as globally mobile families and what we can do to avoid the bad.

Sundae: So Laura, thank you so much for joining us today and welcome back to Expat Happy Hour.

Laura: Thanks for having me Sundae, it’s wonderful to be here again. 

Sundae: So listen, today’s topic is on, I’m pretty sure every single parents mind. My sixth grader came home this year with a Macbook, they have screen time in school, now they’re doing their homework on their computers and much of it is legit, multimedia, etc, etc. But I feel like my kid has access to a Google, like a Gmail account, a laptop and the internet and I’m scared. 

So tell us, I’ve invited you on to talk about screens and teens or tweens and younger, we want to know as parents, especially parents who are living abroad and are interacting with people from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds, different priorities. We might even use our screens as a little bit of a babysitter in transitions when it’s hard to sit in a hotel or an empty house with no container. 

Tell me, let’s start with the stuff that scares the pants out of us. What should we as parents need to know about our children and screens? 

Laura: Wow, yes, it’s one of those. I’m trying to hit that sweet spot where today people live with the idea that they should probably be a little scared. They should be a lot of scared because we’re getting more and more information about how much impact technology and screen time and the various risks associated with some of those screen times can really impact development.

But I also want people to leave today with the sense of, you know, there are things you can do. So that it’s definitely like heavy-hitting when you really dive into the numbers and the, quote problems that come out of issues with screens and yeah stick with us because there’s things to do. 

So, I think one of the things that stands out for parents, me right away is just usage and what we know about use. I think the first thing to say is in addition to other issues around tech, a lot of people understand that too much technology, we will talk about too much and what the research shows, leads to actual changes in the brain both chemically and structurally, we can see bring change in parts of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. Parts of your brain shrink is the best that they’re able to tell us right now and it can lead the way the brain changes, can lead to lower reports of happiness, worse sleep, worse concentration, moods that are all over the place not being able to complete stuff they start and then agitation and irritation with other people in your life. 

Sundae: I’m just wondering how do we tell the difference between adolescents and these negative signs.

Laura: I think what you’ll start to see are some other indicators, we pair those with other indicators of like when you know your kid is is really kind of tied to their device. 

So there’s two ways that we look at what’s problematic; 

One is just straight-up time of use and how much use because that will give you some indication of the likelihood that the brain structure is changing.

Two is the behaviors that your kid has around their tech use.

So we know right now for instance some of the scary stats with screen time as that very recently “Common Sense Media” here in the States did a little bit of research and surveys about eight to twelve year olds these days in the States. And I would agree with you Sundae, I think from my experiences in and out of expat living, I would say these numbers are higher from globally mobile families because of some of those factors you mentioned. My experience was that, the great news is it’s a beautifully tech-savvy world our kids are going to be super proficient to navigate the way the world has become reliant on technology. And I think my experience directly has been that communities who are far-flung and people are trying to stay connected with loved ones spend a lot more time and our kids and international schools have a lot more learning online than many other places. So know that these steps I’m about to say are typically US-based and imagine then if they’re even more exaggerated for kids in a global nomad community. So right now eight to twelve year olds are most recently surveyed to be on a device of some kind 4 hours and 45 minutes a day. 

Sundae So easy when you have to the screen time at school and their homework. 

Laura: And that’s what they talk about, they actually say when you look at it, there’s school and homework going on and that some of that they’re still teasing him out because when you pull the data together, some of it includes school at home or the best estimate of school data and this 4 hours and 45 minutes is estimated in addition to that. 

So that’s a lot of time and they find that really when you talk to kids and ask them what they’re doing and get them to rate it, kids say they’re spending 70% of their time watching passive videos, kids report 70% so we can guess that’s also higher. 

Sundae: I’m so sorry, I need to vent right now, like I know I’m kind of like 1982 right now, but when you are watching other people watch other people play a game, there has to be something wrong with that.

Laura: So right, and here’s the other dilemma that parents face, is that most of us hold a fair amount of judgment about elements of what our kids are doing. I do and then and it’s understandable and it also,  as will see, we have to find ways to join them about this because much to my chagrin as a person who’s not a tech native, this is not going away. We are in it, it is not going away we as families and parents have got to figure out how we are going to stay in relationship to our kids while they are trying to navigate finding moderation. Because we know eight to twelve year olds are getting almost 5 hours, and a recent survey here in the States also said that 20%, so 1 in 5 of eight year olds already had their own smartphone. So now you have a wow portable device that adds to the dilemma of being able to turn away from the device in front of you. And then the most recent data on thirteen to eighteen year olds was 7 hours and 22 minutes minutes a day.

Sundae Okay, wait a minute because you and I did a presentation together in Bangkok where you talked about the hours where the brain starts to change and isn’t 7 there where the brain is already being impacted.

Laura: Exactly, the best research we have now says 7 hours of screen use at a time over time is the tipping point at which we can say there are actual changes in the structure of the brain that contribute to what I was mentioning, decreased mood, more unhappiness, more sleep, difficulty concentrating and finishing things and then kind of emotionally being all over the place. And I know we talked about how those are many of the hallmarks for adolescence. And yeah, because that part of adolescence is a part of growing brains and like I always say building bridges in your brain basically is a big thing is what adolescence is doing. And what tech use will do is really limit some of that bridge building if there’s really high exposure over time. 

So we know that there are structural changes, we also know that there are chemical changes, it’s not just structural. Here’s the thing that I think is important for parents to understand or another thing that is important for parents to understand, is that in addition to the actual changes in the brain structure, you also have changes in brain chemistry. 

And tech use and invigorating and exciting constantly changing imagery games that you’re into, they impact the brain, they utilize, to take them in and to process them, they utilize, they use the same combinations of pathways in the brain. It’s the pleasure pathway and the reward center, those are the same pathways in the brain associated with other addictions, with cocaine addiction, drug addiction, sex addiction any addiction that we’re learning more and more about, involves two main pathways, pleasure pathway and reward center we call them and it’s the same. 

Sundae: It’s crazy, so right now I feel like I want to just say hello to all the children that are listening because their moms and dads have set them down and made them listen to this replay because, hello honey I’m going to make you listen to this after it goes live.

Children need to understand how serious this is, it’s nuts and there’s gonna be people who say, “Yeah, yeah, there’s always resistance to technology. People thought that the telephone was going to ruin relationships and then people thought that TV was going to ruin the family.” So people are going to discount that too much tech is going to make an impact, but it’s really hard to ignore brain science.

Laura: Hmm, yes, I agree. 

Sundae: I need to take a little breath right now because I’m getting all hyped up, this topic is making me crazy. And what we do on Friday night, we do movies and it’s always like, there’s an age difference with my boys, so there’s a fight around what are we going to watch and I’m like “You guys tonight it’s like 1982, we are going to watch one movie the whole family and not you on your device and on demand.” You know what I mean,  and it just makes me feel like we’re also ingraining this on-demand habit when they’re constantly getting immediate reward from their tech. 

Laura: Yes, and we’re doing that behaviourally and we’re doing it brain wiring, we’re doing it both ways. We’re teaching them that they can immediately that they can gratify themselves immediately and they can feel good and they don’t have to be uncomfortable for any length of time because we’re going to be able to do exactly what they want to do quickly. And we’re creating that in the brain circuitry in terms of constant rewards and they get dopamine rushes. I mean all the chemistry behind bursts of happy chemicals in their brains when they’re doing something they like and that lends itself to meeting more and more and wanting more and getting more and more time, which just creates this feedback loop. 

Sundae: That sounds serious. Why do you think, why aren’t more people talking about this?

Laura: I think it’s really, you know, we know technology is a double-edged sword, I think we’ve all come to rely on it. I also think the grown-ups, myself included sometimes, who should be having these conversations are looking at our screens. Because we all got, if you look at adult use in the States was up to almost 10 hours or something, and I don’t know about you, but there have definitely been times when I’m trying to police, I’ve heard myself say out loud to my son “Well when you start paying the mortgage with that screen, then we can talk.” As he’s calling me out for being on the screen and doing things.

And I think we’re just starting to get the research, people are resistant to naming it because we love tech. And globally nomadic families need it to stay connected to other people. You need to stay connected to resources, local resources. FaceTiming old friends, as you mentioned in transition keeping kids busy while you’re managing six million life details. And I think we’re resistant because we’re almost scared to go there I think with ourselves and our kids. 

Sundae: The other morning, my son goes to me “Mom, can we just have a tech-free morning?” Because I was like making eggs and checking my phone. And I thought “Oh my gosh, my 6th grade son is totally calling me out right now.” Like wake-up call!

Okay, so this is honestly just what, like you already had me at hello. Like when the brain is changing, the chemistry changing freaks me out. But I know there’s more, you talk about six key risks, what else is there? 

Laura: So, we also know that depression rates have steadily climbed since, I think it was, yeah major depression among sixteen to twenty year olds more than doubled from 2009 to 2017. 2009 is seen as kind of a hallmark moment in our history, when handheld devices were sort of largely introduced and there were, some studies report as much as a 70% increase in depression and anxiety in teens. And we’re really trying to get to the bottom of this. I mean can’t really be one factor, but one of the main ways of thinking about it, is that what we learn is a big stressor for teens is social comparison leading to depression and anxiety. And although we tend to see the research shows that girls are especially impacted by this. So they’re comparing their life to the Kardashians or they’re comparing their bodies and faces to the tons of Photoshopped images they’ve seen or they’re looking at their friend’s life that looks so glamorous and enticing, because nobody posts the fever of a hundred. It’s you just don’t do that, ou pick your best life and put it on blast and everybody knows your best life isn’t your real life ultimately. So that depression and anxiety is a big part of this and we know, there are more and more research showing the more time your kid spends on screens, the more likely they are to endorse symptoms of depression. 

Sundae: Okay, so we’ve got brain changes, chemical changes, depression anxiety, so compare and despair. What else? 

Laura: Just online bullying, exclusion. So you have the comparison that kids are doing on their own to other people and then you have the stress and the strain and the exclusion and hurtful words and things that are that are happening online.

And I will say too, this is another thing, I know lots of parents to be worried about that and to be talking to their son about that. But I’ve spent a fair amount of time on school campuses and you know boys are involved in this as well, they are definitely doing it. 

There are a lot of social issues that would come up because of things that were said in chats offline overnight or online overnight and then it comes into school. And so there’s a lot of active harm to people’s spirits and self images being done. Both with passive exclusion,  like I often say back in the day when I was a kid in high school, I didn’t get invited to lots of things because nobody gets invited to everything, but I just didn’t know about it at the time because I wasn’t seeing all the cool pictures posted afterwards as intentional statements sometimes. So exclusion and bullying happen, that’s another key risk. 

Sundae Okay, it’s just terrible, I think about that any bullying that went on in high school or grade school was as fast as whispering could happen down the hall, not marked forever digitally, I’m glad they didn’t have social media in college, just another side note there. Okay, what else? 

Laura: The one we think about most often is predators, and it’s interesting we teach our kids the stranger danger and it could be not who you think it is approaching you online and now you’re giving them tons of information. And that is still a very real risk, all the ability for folks to find our kids based on their snap maps and etc. etc. So the reality is, it is still a risk for folks that people are online, very unwell individuals are online posing as kids and learning about our kids and potentially ending up with our kids in extremely unsafe situations. So most people go to that first, they think that’s the primary danger involved in lots of social media, and it is still a danger but it’s not the primary or the only I would say. 

Sundae You know when I was in Switzerland, in 2016, there was a child in Switzerland who got abducted and brought to Germany and the man found this twelve year old boy via Minecraft. And it was this huge thing, I was following the news with my son because it was you know, he’s missing, where is he? And then that when it came out where he was and how he got abducted it was such a wake-up call for my son of, this isn’t something that just happened in 1970, this is still going on and in places that we play. 

So that’s crazy, phew we gonna get through the rest fast because I’m gonna vomit. And I want to offer some hope, what are the other ones? 

Laura: The last two are the gaming addictions, highly addictive and the question “How do you know the difference between somebody likes to game a lot and somebody who’s addicted?” We can chat about that.

I think the stats on how quickly gaming is becoming increasingly addictive and isn’t just a pastime, estimates are as high as 40% actually in parts of Asia around gaming addictions estimated to have folks that are having more and more game time, are cranky when they can’t have it, lie and cheat and are dishonest. Good kids dishonest to their parents about use and try to cut back but can’t and notice that they’re cranky and go through really honestly withdrawal, it’s like a withdrawal when they’re when they’re not on it. 

So gaming addictions in some ways the easiest thing to draw, and easy, the next one is too, and easy thing to draw parallels to our classic kind of addiction model with the brain changes and the happy chemicals and kids and wanting more and more to get back to their baseline of a good mood. So gaming addictions are definitely, The fifteen to sixteen year old boys are the greatest risk for gaming addictions, where interestingly enough girls risk for truly unhealthy relationship to media is phones. So girls tend to find themselves attached to their phones in unhealthy ways and boys end up by age fifteen or sixteen at a big risk for gaming addictions.

Sundae Okay, and so you left this last one last on purpose, didn’t you? 

Laura: I did, I wanted to work into the title that this week we’re going to be talking about pornography for their children, 

Sundae: This is something I don’t want to even think it’s something that my kids will ever get exposed to, but I’m not naive. You told me when we were doing the research for our conference in Bangkok that by age nine most kids have been exposed to porn online. Is that true? 

Laura: It is true, either on a friend’s, one of those eight year olds that now has their own smartphone, at school or whatever. They’re there, they’re being shown pornographic images, either through their own discovery or through a friend or a buddy or somebody’s older sibling or cousin introducing them to a variety of pornographic images by age nine. That was one of those super scary numbers for most parents that is jaw-dropping. 

Sundae: Yeah, you should see my face, like I’m just, the revolt and disgust on my face and shaking my head at the same time. I just can’t even start, like I cannot let it in my brain that kids so young are going to be exposed at that age to something they’re not developmentally ready for.

Okay, so what we need to do before people vomit like I feel like doing, is let us understand, where do we have control? What can we do to minimize these risks?

Laura: Yes, you know what the way I sort of boiled them down, is sort of  handily enough, they’re sort of six strategies, they don’t go one for one, but they’re a great way to think about having a family plan. And this is one of those things where it’s not going away. It’s similar to how your family may approach alcohol use or drug use or, like this is dating and sexuality and safety, like these are conversations that if we stick our head in the sand about then our kids are not prepared, they’re not prepared to find balance, to find moderation, to learn how to keep the good stuff about technology and not get sucked into the parts that are bringing life changing and depression causing. 

Sundae: I want to just know from the audience, like how many people right now want to stick their fingers in their ears and go la la la la look just let’s ignore it, so go away. These are tough conversations. 

Laura: They definitely are, you hear a lot of people say, “Well not not my kid.” and I think they are hard conversations, and they’re hard behavioral changes because it’s real. Honestly, it’s an intervention for the whole family because yes, there is some evidence that for developing brains, what we just know is that your frontal cortex, that’s the part of your brain that controls impulses, helps with thinking and reasoning, that’s not fully developed until twenty five. And so we have reason to believe that the technology uses potentially most brain changing prior to age twenty five, and yet at the same time our brains, our adult brains can also benefit. And here’s the bonus, most families will see the other, quote, benefit is attaching, connecting with your kids because we have at the same described where there’s four people in a room all on a different screen, is not uncommon at all. Or two screens, the two screens for download that our kids have going.

That one,  and so this is sort of like a family boot camp. So what do we do? We can’t stick our head in the sand, we can’t shut off technology til the end of time, but there are a couple of strategies. And the first one that I say is sort of pivotal, is just really honestly having real conversations and talking with your kids, not at them and really honestly laying it out for them. Giving them the research that brain changes are happening and that mood changes, we know kids are less happy gaming for instance. There’s a little bit of a tipping point, we have been able to see that an hour or so or two maybe of gaming, kids do feel more socially connected. They make friends online who were genuinely people they check in with every day. Beyond two hours, the research is showing difficulties.

So talk to your kids, then you’re modeling that you’re being reasonable, you’re thinking through this with them, you are coming to informed decisions. 

It’s safety, it’s like making your kid wear a seatbelt or having a plan about where your driver is. It’s safety and planning and it’s our job that even though it makes us a pain in their butt, that is protection. 

Sundae You know what happened in our family, I did talk to my kids about the screen time and the brain changes. And my seven-year-old came to me one night and he goes, “Mom, I think I’m going to take a break from YouTube.” And he goes, “I think I’m addicted”. And it was so sweet because I think he was thinking about his relationship to tech. And whenever they’re like “What? The power is out, we can’t have our iPad.” Or they’re upset about something, we pause over like, “What does that say about your relationship with tech.” And I could do better, my friends get mad at me because I think I’m too stingy with tech. But it’s important, and I think the fact that a seven-year-old even understands you can have an unhealthy relationship with tech, I think is a good start. 

Laura: Yes, it’s conversation, there’s no guarantee, but if you stay connected to your kids and in conversation about the risks, and there are ways to talk to nine year olds about pornography. We just know and that’s you know, it’s funny, we started to talk about it and then the risk with pornography, a lot of folks just do it to sort of reiterate. The common risk people think about with too much pornography watching is, it’ll change how my child relates to the humans in their life and it will change their expectations about what dating and intimacy are going to be like and it will set them up to not be able to function healthily in real relationships. 

Well again to sort of be startling enough to push parents to have these conversations, pornography and the images are very very likely or can overtime create that same or light up that same pleasure center and pleasure pathway and reward centers and really truly be addictive, so that more and more imagery is necessary, more and more, changing imagery, more intense imagery is needed to create the same sort of reaction in your body. And we know that over time ongoing pornography use is clearly related to depression, that people who are truly porn addicted rather than just experimenting in moderation end up with significant depression and difficulty finding their baseline of joy and happiness and they may have other physiological reactions to this. So it’s not just about “Hey your view of dating is going to be warped.” 

Here’s maybe one of the scariest things about all this, whether it’s gaming or pornography or online shopping, the best understanding we have of brain science is that if your kids are doing a ton of these things in adolescence, they’re almost priming those addiction pathways. They’re digging the tunnel, they’re creating a path, paving the way so that their body goes to that response. So when they drink or do drugs or do other than that, there’s familiar, that we’ve already exercised the muscles in those centers and sections of the brain so much that it’s easier. 

Plus if you have a family history, just to give a nod to that quickly, what we know is that for families who have addictions in them, and if anybody out there knows a family without addictions in them, have them call me because I’d like them to be part of a study. 

Sundae: I was just thinking how many people in my family have died from addiction.  

Laura: And we do know that it sets, it does, like when you’re looking at some of these poor news, gaming, shopping at the online, gambling online behaviors that can become addictive. We do know that you can have a predisposition to get in trouble with those faster, habit behaviors, some people really are just wired and born and it runs in families to quickly struggle with moderation. So if you have a family, if you’re in a family for whom you know, habit behaviors have caused problems, then it is important to have conversations with your kids and keep your eyes open because it is true as with many other things that can become habit. Some people are not as prone to getting sucked in as other people are, so it’s great to know your kids. 

So yeah, having frank conversations about that with your kids. There are ways to talk to kids about pornography and that’s one of the things I do is real conversations with kids at different ages to explain to them both the way the images are impacting them emotionally and socially in addition to what we know about how their body is going to respond to them over time, all the while not shaming. Then again, the reality is we want kids to have a healthy exploration of what they’re dating and intimacy life is going to look like, there’s lots of different views and values around. Pornography, every family gets to decide that for themselves and what we know is if pretending that your kids not going to see it, pretending that not going to have to have conversations with them about it doesn’t doesn’t serve your kids and may actually set them up. 

So yeah, the first recommendation for dealing is frank talk about each of those six tick’s, like literally go down the line. Here’s what you need to know about…, here’s what you need to know about… For the compare and despair, there are great little quick videos out now that really highlight how much Photoshopping there’s being done and all of these things that we know aren’t real that our kids may not yet know how to think about critically. So there’s lots of great resources out there, compiled lists of resources for parents to be able to sit with their kids, specifically have things that you can sit down with your kids and they act as conversation starters. So somebody’s already done the work to figure out how to talk about this and then you can just take it from there with your kids. 

Sundae: So I’m just wondering, I still kind of feel like vomiting but I am very proud, I have to say thanks to the conversation that we had in preparation for our conference that we did at “Families in Global Transition.” I learned a lot from you and I have had almost every single one of these conversations with my kids and I’m glad that I’m starting now and not in ten or fifteen years, But I’m wondering when should we start having these conversations? I know that you should tailor how you talk about it based on their age, but when is the earliest we can start?

Laura: I think that there is, when we look at use for instance, and this will answer your question too, but to say right now the best guidelines we have are that nobody under the age of two or three should be on the screen.

Sundae: And I have seen the opposite, have you been to a restaurant and seen the 16 month old on the iPad?

Laura: Yeah, there are certainly ways that it would work and would have worked for me, but we know that because of the way that the brain bridges are exploding at that time and just bursting onto the scene that when they’re not being stimulated through engagement with the environment and peekaboo games and changing, that that that we lose really important mirror neurons. That’s a whole other gobbledygook conversation other than to say key things don’t happen if your kids are