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:
- Don’t miss this brand new opportunity to create connection with yourself, your partner and your family: Global Parenting on Purpose.
- “Should I stay or should I go? An expat holiday guide” Episode 45 of Expat Happy Hour
Full Episode 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.”