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10 Steps to a More Global You

10 Steps to a More Global You
Globe

    There’s no escaping the fact that the world is getting smaller: your company’s vendors might be in India, with customers in Britain, while you are somewhere in the U.S. That’s why employers, from international non-profits to the mom-and-pop stores down the road, want employees able to think globally. Even college admissions look positively on time spent abroad these days.

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    But picking up for a jaunt to another continent isn’t practical for most of us. We have families, jobs and commitments that mean we have to stay put, and travel isn’t often a cheap option. Despite your current location, however, you can cultivate a more global mindset, usually without spending much money.

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    1. Read international literature. Reading a book written by someone with a drastically different background can be instant exposure to a new culture. You can even do it for free — many public libraries make a point of offering books from different nations. Not sure where to start? Consider this list from three percent, the translation blog from the University of Rochester. Don’t stop with literature, either. Consider reading histories, biographies and other non-fiction that can introduce you to global ideas.
    2. Look for local cultural groups. I use Meetup when I look for a group for anything — apparently there are 31 cultural groups within 20 miles of me, ranging from Japanese language to Brazilian dance. As a rule, these groups are more than welcoming to newcomers — including those with little to no knowledge of the culture in question.
    3. Cook new recipes. It’s possible to try out a recipe for an unfamiliar dish without actually learning much about the culture that dish comes from, but I recommend going all at. Chose a recipe you’re not sure where to start with and head down to the local ethnic grocery store. As long as a store isn’t right in the middle of a rush, I’ve found that most storekeepers are more than willing to help me figure out ingredient lists, and give some extra tips to make sure the dish turns out right.
    4. Volunteer. If you live in the U.S., the odds are pretty good that there is some sort of social agency in your town dedicated to helping immigrants adjust. Especially in smaller towns, churches and religious organizations often provide those programs and always need volunteers for various tasks, from teaching English to watching children. While you may spend quite a bit of time helping people to adjust to American culture, you will also have opportunities to see the differences between their backgrounds and the U.S., through their eyes.
    5. Learn a language. Linguists say that you can’t really learn a language without picking up at least some of the culture, so picking up a new tongue can help with your worldview, as well as your resume. While it may not be the easiest task, it is cheap: sites like BBC Languages offer plenty of free resources and educational CDs and software are available at most public libraries.
    6. Go to local festivals. Growing up in Colorado, one of my favorite fairs was the Scottish Festival and Highland Games. When I moved to Oklahoma, I switched my allegiance to the Greek Festival — better street food! Cultural festivals are chock full of new foods to try, performances to watch and experts who will educate you. Even Oktoberfests have a little bit of culture in there, somewhere.
    7. Watch a foreign film. You don’t have to go to special film festivals or indie theaters to watch foreign films these days. There are plenty of DVD options from Netflix to Best Buy, although I’m often reluctant to purchase DVDs that I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy. However, there are also plenty of movies available online and for download — even YouTube has some options. You can also find lectures and documentaries, and even clips of TV shows from other countries.
    8. Attend lectures. Many schools and other organizations open up lectures to the public, allowing people to get a glimpse into the lives of some very interesting people. Consider Greg Mortenson — he’s on a tour to promote Three Cups of Tea, a book about education in Central Asia. During his lectures, he discusses his experiences and how they have changed his point of view. Most of his lectures are entirely open to the public, although many venues do ask for a donation.
    9. Find a pen pal. I’m not suggesting swapping letters — or, more likely emails and IMs — with just anyone, though. See if an overseas member of your company is willing to share their impressions with you, or find someone working in a similar position in an international company. LinkedIn and other social networks are an ideal place to start looking for these sorts of connections.
    10. Consider your own background. How much do you know about where your family comes from and the reasons behind your traditions? Talking to your older relatives can provide insight into your roots, and may even help you to understand the whys of your own culture.

    Don’t forget, though, that once you’ve developed your global worldview, you need to use it. Try to think of new perspectives for projects and consider how situations would play out in a culture with different expectations. You may not be able to change the world, but you can become aware of it. These insights can even improve your understanding of the mechanics of your own culture. I know my time in other cultures has helped me learn new ways to handle business situations.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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