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On rebuilding ourselves.

Did you ever try to transplant a plant from one pot to another? You do this when the plant gets too big, or you need to change the soil. I did this often with seedlings before planting them into the garden. When transplanting plants, the essential part is to not destroy the roots. That would kill the plant. Moving to a new country = Rebuilding yourself

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Moving to another country is similar: You take yourself, your partner, and children out of one environment to transplant them into a new surrounding. As with plants, you want to take root in this new environment to become strong and thrive.

That’s what we are currently trying to do: Take roots in Spain. It’s a balancing act of keeping your original roots intact while growing new ones. With this analogy, I mean that while you want to remain (partly) true to yourself and who you have been in your original home country, you also want to “arrive” in the new land and settle.

We have been in Spain for 4 weeks now. As the dust of bureaucracy begins to settle, I can focus on which communities I like to be part of. This is the “rebuilding myself” part of moving to another country. What hobbies do I want to continue, what new things do I want to start? What risks am I willing to take?

Moving takes courage. It’s risky – even if you have the comfort of a first-class passport and financial resources. But by doing it, you learn something about yourself and your entrepreneurial spirit.

On how to adapt to your new environment.

1. Evaluate your values and traditions: The newness of everything around you gives you a chance to evaluate your values and practices. Moving to another country comes with letting go of some things and holding on even stronger on other things. There is no shame in adopting another country’s customs. Olive oil instead of butter on the bread? No problem

2. Be ready to experiment: One of the significant advantages of moving to an entirely new environment is that the hurdle for trying out new things is low. You already did this crazy thing of moving to a new country, figuring out the bureaucratic maze in a new country, so why not try out something completely different. No one will raise their eyebrows and say, “This isn’t you!”

3. Accept discomfort: Be ready to feel weird, stared at, or people asking you questions. Be prepared to have to explain your choices. Use these moments and emotions as signposts. What do they tell you?
That’s three ways to adapt to your environment.
So that’s a bit on choosing your learning source.

On importance of social identity

When you talk about identity, it’s generally described as a coherent part of you, like a picture with just one color. But identity is actually a combination of different elements. Continuing the analogy, it’s a picture with many colors. Now, let’s take it one step further. Is one part of your identity more important than another part? Staying with the analogy of the picture, is one colour dominant?

Behavioral scientists call the idea that every human being has a combination of identities social identity. It’s not just your cultural identity but also your gender, sexual orientation, your profession, your hobbies, and so on. All of the things you do, define who you are.

For example, I’m a working, single mother, founder of a company, online teacher, behavioral scientist, nature lover, and close combat aficionado. But which one of these is my dominant identity? It really depends on the context: The environment you are in influences which of your values is essential and how you behave.

This is why, when you move to a new country, the new environment is so important. As things around you are different, what you value will become different.

The idea of social identity is huge in social science. It is used to explain stereotypes and conflicts between ethnicities and religious members. By having a social identity, two fundamental human desires are satisfied: The need to be unique and the need to belong. Thanks to your social identity, you are uniquely different from certain groups. You have a way to distinguish yourself from others. But you can also say, “This is my tribe.” So you belong in groups.

That’s why being grounded and sure about who you are is essential. By being certain of your social identity, you have more confidence.

Discovering who you are:
Make a list of all your identities: Gender, political affiliation, hobbies, job titles, education, etc. Now for each of them, write down at least one fundamental behavior. Be as concrete as you can. Then rank them by importance. Don’t worry if some behaviors are equally important. This is not a competition but an exercise to get clarity of who you are.

Try new things:
Even when moving to a new country, it’s easy to follow the same routines. Experiment and see what happens: The easiest way to mix things up is with food. Just buy ingredients you don’t know. Mix up where you go by visiting a new cafe every week. Take a new route (and don’t just follow google maps). Go outside your city once per week.

Here’s another example from our labs. To help people organise their life, we build a goal tracker and journaling programme. The goal tracker was to track progress. The journaling part of the programme helped users link their (lack of) progress to their emotions and behaviours. We realized that this second part, linking actions to emotions, was most useful to users. Building on this, we designed Restory to be a 7-day email masterclass. Each email ends with a challenge, so that users can practice reflective journaling and at the same time discover something about themselves.

So that’s it for today. I hope this helps you with discovering who you are.

 

Tiny tips

1. Discover who you are

Make a list of all your identities. Now for each of them, write down at least one fundamental behaviour. Then rank them by importance. 

2. Try new things

When moving to a new country, it’s easy to follow the same routines. Experiment with new routines, activities, experiences and see what happens



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