As expats, we tend to run on a different annual cycle. Typically, summertime is our reset. We’re visiting our families back “home” or recuperating on vacation or preparing our move to the next assignment.
But this summer, everything has diverged from normal, and our cues are thrown off. Although we each have our own thoughts, feelings, and damages from COVID-19, the pandemic universally shadows significant aspects of our life. Especially from a social perspective – nothing feels the same.
The past few months have left us deflated and disoriented. Those of us who felt stuck before, have cemented even deeper into expat quicksand. Others have skidded backwards or stopped making progress. And some of us have glided into a strange version of ourselves – like an itchy outfit that doesn’t fit, but we can’t seem to rip it off.
Well, my friends, this week, I’m bringing out the bulldozer to break you out of your rut. I’m going to hold your hand as you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Who am I now?” Then, we’ll determine the path back or the way forward to who you want to be next.
Our unwanted new normal doesn’t have to equal an unwanted new you.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Take the “stuck scale” quiz
- The 3 different kinds of stuck
- The magnify lens vs. a wide-angle lens view of life
- How discomfort without growth has no benefit
- Preserving energy for the next shift
Listen to the Full Episode
Featured on the Show:
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- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 07:30 am in New York, 1:30 pm in Johannesburg and 6:30 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
Now, when I share with you what I’m about to share, you might judge me or you might judge my parents, but let me remind you, I was raised in the 70s. So full context of what I want to share from my childhood. So when I was a kid, we used to watch this program called Saturday Night Live and it must have come on like at 10:30 at night. So first of all, what am I doing up at 10:30 at night just starting to watch TV on a Saturday. So welcome 1982, and I would watch this program with my family and we had fond memories of being together around the table, snacking on popcorn together and giggling and watching something shared.
There’s this one episode, I think it was starring Eddie Murphy. Again, for those of you who know Eddie Murphy, probably not appropriate for a small child at this time, but regardless there was this scene that came up and if I’m not mistaken, Eddie Murphy was playing an elderly woman at home and he goes “What time is it? It’s cold outside, and I don’t know what time it is.” And this state of confusion, became a theme in my family, where we would say that exact phrase jokingly when we were feeling disoriented.
So today when I started preparing the podcast this phrase came up because I don’t even know what month it is. I don’t know about you but all of this COVID stuff, this is if you’re listening to this now in 2020, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re listening to this later, just remember we’re months into COVID, and if you are living a globally mobile life in July, you’re probably, normally would be changing assignments, going to a different country, or you’d probably be home. Your “womb-home” visiting friends and family that you grew up with but because of the way things are going now, we’re not doing that. I didn’t get to go home to see my family this summer; the first summer in probably, what should I say, in the last 20 years? I probably missed two summers and they were probably the times when I was too pregnant to fly.
So our cues are missing. What is summer? Where is summer? Whom are we with in summer? That, or winter if you’re South African or in the southern hemisphere, all of our cues are off, and we’re like “what time is it? I don’t know what time it is.” It’s cold, if you are having winter let’s say in the southern hemisphere and you’re normally supposed to be having summer in the northern hemisphere. So I wanted to acknowledge that as we head into episode 186 of Expat Happy Hour, we’re all feeling disoriented.
And that is on top of our regular, what I call, expat quicksand. If you’ve been listening to the last few episodes, you know what I’m saying, when I talk about expat quicksand. Those are the areas I’ve noticed in the last decade where expats get stuck. We get stuck in asking ourselves where we are going? What direction should we have? “How can I find more purpose and meaning? How can I feel more connected to my loved ones near and far? How do I get clear on what I want?”
These are areas where we get stuck and like quicksand, when we fight against it, we end up embedding ourselves even more deeply and so the series that I’m doing now for the next two months is to help you release yourself from expat quicksand and today we’re going to focus on getting unstuck. The last few episodes you’ll notice how we talked about how we need to unburden ourselves first before we can start doing the work to get unstuck and prior to that, I shared a story of my client Caroline who shared her journey on how she transformed her life from ordinary to an “unboring life” using her words. So check those out if you’re curious, but today we’re going to look at three groups. You might belong in one of them.
There are three people that I often come encounter with and we’re going to dive into this idea of “stuck” a little bit more. You might be in group one where you’re like “Stuck? Yep, that’s me. I’m stuck. I know it. I just don’t know how to get out of it.” So if that’s you, don’t worry you’re normal. A lot of people are in that position and I want you to stick around to the end because I’ve got some ideas for you and what you can do to help yourself get further when you absolutely know you’re stuck.
There’s going to be another group of you who feels like something is off and you don’t know if you’re stuck. So today, I’m going to go over a few clear signs for you to know for sure if you’re stuck and that will help you get clarity and what you can do next. Then there’s a third group, which I have belonged to and I’m sorry to say but in the third group, you won’t know you’re stuck until you’re unstuck, and those exact words came from one of my clients when we worked together.
She came to me for something very specific. She wanted to take her service-oriented profession and find out how it could be portable. And as I work with people, I don’t just scratch the service. I’d like to make sure that we get down in there for real transformational changes and they’re not holding themselves back and after we did that work together she realized that she had been stuck this whole time and didn’t even know it.
I went through the same process with my doctor where when she met me. We first met because I had acute respiratory problems with my son and she was actually not a specialist for that. But she said to come back to me when you’re over your cold because I can help you with what’s going on with you hormonally. And I was like, “what do you mean, what’s going on with me hormonally?” She could see there were things that I was wondering about and I had a suspicion something was off. After working with her for just three months, I found I had massive energy, way more patience, I felt more positive, etc. I didn’t know I was so stuck until I wasn’t. So like I said, you might be stuck and you know it and you want to know how to get out of it. You might know something’s off, but you can’t name it and then there’s that group of you, you won’t know that you’re stuck until you get unstuck.
So let’s dive in and I promise to give you more resources as we go so that you can help get yourself going further. Okay, let’s dive into signs you are stuck. Again, you know me, I like to do a few quizzes. Have yourself earn a few points. So we’re going to rack up points. I want you to collect stuck points. This is not something I want you to feel bad about, I want to see who can win this Stuck Challenge. We can actually go on social media and brag about how many stuck points we have.
All right, let’s see how many we can rack up today. Let’s get started.
Give yourself a stuck point if you (when you’re really honest) know, you’re in a rut. Okay, bing bing bing one point if you know you’re in a rut.
Two. Do you often feel self-doubt? Give yourself a point if you feel self-doubt.
Three. When you go to bed at night you realize that you’re running out of steam. If running out of steam resonates with you, give yourself a third point.
Alright, next point. Come on you guys, three already, if you’ve only got two, you better work hard to get the next stuck point. All right, next one. Your life is on autopilot. Which means you have your routine, and you keep doing it without making any changes or reflection on whether it serves you or not. Your life is on autopilot, you know this if everyday kind of feels like Groundhog Day.
Next, you want to take action, but you’re not. You want to take action, but you’re not.
Bonus points if you know what you want to do, so double stuck points here, it’s a big one, double points if you know what you should be doing but you’re not doing it. Okay, you know what you should be doing but you’re not doing it. So those are double points. Make sure I’m going to lose track here, you better count these yourself. Triple points if you know what you should be doing and are not doing it and then you shame yourself or not doing it.
All right. We’ve got a gold star on the stocks scale here, right? So listen, you’re not alone. If you’re kind of freaked out by how many points you’ve racked up so far? Listen, I see this all the time, you are absolutely normal. We just need to have a good look at it. Okay, here comes the big stuff on the stuck scale.
You are asking yourself “who have I become?” You look at yourself in the mirror, or you watch yourself in a situation and you ask yourself “who have I become?” Right when you see who you have become, you barely recognize her or him. When you lay in bed at night, you asked yourself “where did my old self go? Where did my old self go?” And the last one on the stuck point scale is when you ask yourself “where do I stand?” Meaning, you don’t know if you’re unemployed or if you’re a stay-at-home mom. Or you don’t know if this is a hobby or a business?
Those are questions that give you points on the stuck scale. Now listen, these are big things and I’m trying to be a little playful here because I know how hard it is to feel stuck. I’ve been there. Gosh, I remember 20 years ago when I came to Switzerland and I just left a consulting job and all of a sudden I was unemployed trying to make money in a foreign country with a language I didn’t yet speak. Not wanting to go backwards professionally I just gave up my community, my language, my country, all of it, and I’m like, grappling on to try to find at least some professional identity.
I remember waking up every morning in this Groundhog Day, almost like in a bad dream, where I didn’t know if it was ever going to end, where I was starting to lose hope that I could get unstuck. So believe me, I can feel it in my guts. I totally get it and that’s why I’ve been trying to be a little playful because yes, we should take this seriously and you’re not alone and you don’t have to stay stuck. But these are the things that are pointing to signs that you’re stuck. If essentially you’re asking yourself “who am I now?”
Right, so count your points and if you’ve got, I don’t know anything more than 4, you might be stuck and honestly, that’s totally okay and you notice the questions that I asked, they go deep like “where are you stuck in your heart in your head and in your identity?” But here’s the thing about stuck, stuck is uncomfortable, super uncomfortable. When I say it to you, there’s something inside my guts that gets tight, and it kind of gives me this, almost like I want to vomit reflex. Like I don’t want to be there, stuck. No one wants that.
And it’s so uncomfortable, and here’s the other thing, this is what’s so interesting about it. When we think about growth, everybody talks about growth as outside our comfort zone, growth is also uncomfortable. But discomfort without growth, there’s no benefit. So you’re already uncomfortable, you might as well add some growth in there and get something from it. So it’s not going to get worse by doing something, in fact, your discomfort will transform and before it goes away, it’s going to transform and lead to new ways, to this growth thing.
So we are designed to grow. Nature, plants, we grow, and staying stuck, whether it’s in your heart, your head, or in your identity, robs you of growth. It is not where we should stay. So that is what I’m all about. I want you to first see where you’re at. Look at the stuckness and my job is to help you pull out the growth from that and help you move forward from that. And just a side note, for those of you who are listening who are not uncomfortable and who are not growing. There’s zero wrong with that. In fact, if you are comfortable and not growing, I hope that you’re really resting and really enjoying it because guess what, change is on its way and you’re gonna need the energy for when that next shift happens.
So one of the things you’ve already gained from this episode is to really see yourself in the mirror. Am I stuck? And how stuck am I? Which category am I in? The one who was like “totally no, I’m stuck already, but I’m ready to do something different.” You’re the one who was thinking “hmm something’s off” and now that you’ve done that, you know, the clear signs. You’ve got clarity on where you’re stuck, and then there might be a few of you who are just unsure. Here’s what you can do to create momentum and to make a shift from unstuck.
Very very simple, I’ve talked about this before another podcast, I’ve talked about this in my Facebook group Expats on Purpose. But if you are stuck it’s time to infuse fresh into your life. And if you’ve been listening to me since the beginning of 2020, you know that my word for the year is “fresh.” So if you’re stuck, what is one thing that you can do that’s fresh.
One thing you can do that’s fresh.
There’s no judgment with what that is. Maybe you take a walk in nature. Maybe you disrupt your routine and then instead of eating what you normally eat for breakfast, you cook something different. Maybe you tell your family you need a one day retreat and go rent a hotel room and just read and be by yourself for a day. What can you do to infuse fresh because Groundhog Day is inevitable if you’re stuck and you’re not doing anything fresh to pull away the claws, the grip that stuck has on you.
Oftentimes when people are stuck, what I think that is happening is they’ve got – and I’m putting my hands in the air right now and I’m like waving them up and down. It must look really interesting as I’m recording this but I’m doing that because people have this really big view when they’re stuck like “oh my gosh, what is the purpose of my life? What am I going to do professionally? How can I make my business successful? Will our marriage work?”
Like whatever it is, it’s big stuff, big big big big big, it’s way wide. If we got into an airplane or a spaceship and zoomed out and looked down at the Earth. That’s how we’re looking at our lives. We’re zoomed way back, looking at the big picture. Of course, that makes us feel stuck, we’re overwhelmed by the magnitude of those questions. So if you’re feeling stuck what I want to do instead, is take the magnifying glass view.
Remember when you were a child and you got the magnifying glass from your third-grade teacher or maybe your Godparent gave it to you for your birthday, and after you burned bugs in the backyard because you found out how you can have the sun reflect and burn a grasshopper, I hope I’m not the only one who’s ever done that and I’m shaming myself publicly if I am. Come on kids do that, they like to kill bugs, I know it’s terrible, but I might imagine that joy that you had as a kid with that magnifying glass. How you go out to a ladybug and you take the magnifying glass and you would see the details of the ladybug that you’d never known before or you would look at a piece of grass and you’d see as if it had little fine hairs on it.
Or a drop of morning dew that captured some of the sunlight. You stand there in awe as a child because you have this magnifying glass that reveals things that you didn’t see before. Try that. How can you slow down, not all day, but maybe just for three minutes and feel the porcelain of your coffee cup warm against your lips. You pause and you look at the dirt on your seven-year-old boy’s face.
And stand in awe at what a gorgeous creature he is. Try the magnifying glass view, because when you’re feeling stuck, it does feel like Groundhog Day. You have that monotony and to start to get unstuck, we need to do something fresh. So disrupt your routine, try something new, and shift from the wide view to the magnifying glass view. It doesn’t make the big questions go away. But what it does is it brings you back in your body, it takes you out of your head and it makes you present in the moment and the beauty of what is, and can help your synapses fire and make connections in new ways. Put things in a new perspective.
And the last thing you can do if you’re feeling stuck, based on my experience for over a decade working with expats just like you is ditch perfectionism. In episode 154: Perfectionism Recovery Room, I share how by wanting things to be perfect, we stop ourselves from doing anything at all. So of the options, I’ve given you, which ones resonate? Do you feel like listening to the episode of ditching perfectionism because you’re feeling brave? Do you feel like pausing for 3 minutes today and choosing the magnifying glass lens to look at your world through? Or, are you going to do something different? Disrupt your routine, add a little fresh in your day, put a different colored lipstick on or walk down a different street than you normally do, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Anything! A first step to getting unstuck.
There’s so much more I can share about this and in fact, I already have in many episodes. So if you’re hungry for more, if you’re serious about getting unstuck, check out the podcast I have. You want to go back even as far as episode 79 through episode 81, packed with ideas on how to get unstuck or more recently in episodes 128 to 131, will also give you direction on how to get unstuck.
And what else I really want you to take away today is, I’m proud of you for sticking through and acknowledging the stuckness because I know it sucks and what I also know it is the phase right before some really rich stuff and maybe it just has to get bad before you decide to take action. So look at your stuck and ask yourself “What is it going to take to say yes?” To lean into that discomfort so that it’s at least paired with growth. What are you not yet doing that, you know would be good for you?
Maybe it’s joining that community organization, buying that book, signing up for that virtual course you saw, sharing your truth with your partner, or mustering up the courage to work with a coach or a therapist depending on where you’re at right now. The least that you can do right now is join me in Expats on Purpose with other people who are committed to living on purpose who get global lives and we are there to support you as you sit in your stuckness or as you courageously take steps to do something different.
We did a whole challenge called the Fresh Challenge inside Expats on Purpose. So if you miss that, it’s in there, It’s in one of the learning units. You can check it out. So you can add fresh and be guided along the way. There’s some good stuff, so join me in Expats on Purpose because I don’t want you to feel stuck. Check out the podcast or even contact me directly and I can support you in the next step.
Stay tuned this month and next is all about helping to get out of the expat quicksand. We’ve been talking about getting unstuck in the next couple weeks, we’ll focus on that, and then we’ll move on to finding more purpose, meaning, and direction in your expat life. Just want you to know that you’re not alone. I want you to know that feeling stuck is part of the growth process, but we don’t want to stay there. I’m here by your side. In any way, I can help you with the next step.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean Thank you for listening. I’ll leave you with the words of Mandy Hale. “Growth is painful, change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”