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3 Brilliant Things to do Before Moving Overseas

3 Brilliant Things to do Before Moving Overseas

Though I’ve had much fun and adventure learning the ins and outs of living overseas, there are a few things I wish someone would have told me a year or two before I left the sunny shores of America.  I’m going to share the three that can easily change your move from “Holy crap, what am I going to do?!” into “Whew, I’m glad I read that one blog post because my life over here rocks!”

In January of 2012, my life could only be described as absolutely awesome. I had just received a new promotion at work, bringing my income dangerously close to six figures.  For the first time in my life, I was driving a new car.  My relationship with my girlfriend was stable, fulfilling, and very rewarding—there was even talk of marriage.  One year earlier I had purchased my first home, and in December of 2011 I purchased my first investment property.

For some strange reason, this struck me as the perfect time to sell everything and move overseas. Among the many lessons I’ve learned living in the Mediterranean, here are three that no -one told me about until after I arrived.

Create an income source BEFORE you leave your home country

The concept I see a lot of people carry when they move overseas is that they will find work in the local community, or possibly be an English teacher to locals.  If you run a Google search for American Jobs Overseas, you will be bombarded with advertisements for ESL teaching certifications, as though the entire world is hungry for Americans to come over to their country and teach all the locals English.  In fact, you might think that when you arrive, they will immediately pick you up, carry you through the streets with a hero’s welcome, take you to your lovely new apartment and school, where the local children will sit at your feet in rapt attention, aching to hear your accent and learn your language.

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Doesn’t happen. I know because I tried it. Shortly after arriving in Turkey, I became certified to teach English and got a job. The pay was average, the classrooms were overcrowded, and the students weren’t really that interested. It was very much like teaching a subject back in America, except for the most part my students had no idea what I was asking them to do.  On top of that, the office politics associated with education were very prevalent, and after consulting with many ESL teachers from across the globe, I found that the situation is pretty much the same everywhere.

So, if you don’t enjoy teaching as a profession in your current country, you’re probably not going to fall in love with being a teacher in a foreign country, but if you love teaching in America, you will probably love teaching somewhere else.  Understand that no matter where you are, it’s going to be a very similar situation.

After a failed term as a teacher, I started following my true professional calling: writing and coaching.  With a lot of heartache, fear, sweat, and crying, I’ve managed to replace and outpace my teaching income.

Don’t make the same mistake I did; go overseas with an income source already established.  A blog is a great way to start if you enjoy writing and have a particular subject you are wildly passionate about.  There are many companies which hire full time work-from-home employees and with a little creativity, you can earn a decent income while living in an area with a very low cost of living.  Lastly, if you have a particular service to offer, such as accounting or web design, agencies like Odesk and Elance are a great way to build clients and earn income.  Having this very important step taken care of before moving overseas will save you months of frustration and fear.

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Plug in to the local community of expats.

This may seem like an obvious statement to some, but for me, I had no idea how or why I would reach out to fellow Americans living in Antalya, Turkey.  Having a fiancee from the area, I assumed she would be all I needed.  I was very wrong.  Many of the headaches around Resident’s permits, having packages delivered from America, and getting help with job-hunting requirements, were beyond the scope of my fiancee’s experience.  Having lived in Antalya most of her life, she took some things for granted—like the right to stay in Antalya and having the requirements to get a job.

Let me ask you a question (no Googling): what are the current legal ways an immigrant can stay in America, and how would you go about getting one for an immigrant friend?  It might be more difficult than you think, and in some countries the bureaucracy is mind-boggling.

Having contacts from your own country who have already gone through the hoops you’re about to jump through can be a lifesaver.  Internations.org and Lonelyplanet.com are great places to get started, though I’ve had better luck in the blogging community.   If you Google “(country) + blog” you will find a wealth of bloggers currently living in the country you intend to emigrate to.  Leave a few comments and reach out to the blogger, and you will find someone more than happy to help you with your move.

We bloggers are helpful people, after all.

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Get a major credit card

All of the Dave Ramsey fans reading this are undoubtedly shaking their heads furiously at my horrible advice.  Credit cards are bad, right?  Bad debt is what caused our financial crisis and to advise people to get more credit cards is a terrible idea, don’t you think?

The truth is, if you go overseas with only your bank debit card or the idea that you will have money wired to you, you are in for some serious trouble.  Most banks have transfer fees and many banks overseas will only allow a foreigner to open an account if he/she deposits a large some of money; say $5000+.  On top of that, signing up for a bank account without really understanding the business culture can put you in a very sticky legal situation down the road.  Best to avoid getting a local account until you are fully convinced you will be in the country a few years.

How do credit cards factor in to this equation? For starters, many credit card companies will waive any overseas transaction or conversion fees. Case in point, if I use my U.S. Bank debit card here in Turkey, I’m charged a 5% overseas transaction fee. On my Capital One Master Card, there is no transaction fee. Over the past year, that has saved me well over $1000 in fees alone. On top of that, there’s a decent fee to transfer money via Western Union, or to perform an international wire transfer between an American bank and a local one overseas. My credit card allows me to withdraw local currency from almost any local ATM for a measly 3%, so on the occasions I do need to carry local cash, it’s an easy, affordable stop to the nearest ATM of any bank.

The last reason I recommend a credit card is because it can help you manage your budget. I have a $1200 limit on my card and refuse to raise it higher. If I begin spending more than $1200 a month here, I’m doing something wrong. By keeping my spending all on one card, it’s easy for me to manage my budget monthly without being able to go over. And, since I religiously pay off the balance every month, I get all the bonus miles without any interest charges. It works for me; maybe it could work for you.

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Those are the three things I wish people would have told me before moving overseas.  I hope they will save you from some headaches in the future.  If you are planning on moving overseas, please feel free to contact me and I will give you whatever help and advice I am able.

I do have a question for you: what advice would you give someone moving overseas for the first time?

 

 

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Last Updated on November 4, 2020

42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself

42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself

Are you someone who likes to grow? Do you constantly seek to improve yourself and become better?

If you do, then we have something in common.

I’m very passionate about personal growth. It was just 4 years ago when I discovered my passion for growing and helping others grow. At that time, I was 22 and in my final year of university. As I thought about the meaning of life, I realized there was nothing more meaningful than to pursue a life of development and betterment. It is through improving ourselves that we get the most out of life.

After a year and a half of actively pursuing growth and helping others to grow through my personal development blog, I realize there is never an end to the journey of self improvement.

The more I grow, the more I realize there is so much out there I don’t know, so much that I have to learn.

For sure, there is always something about ourselves we can improve on. The human potential is limitless, so it’s impossible to reach a point of no growth.

Whenever we think we are good, we can be even better.

As a passionate advocate of growth, I’m continuously looking for ways to self-improve. I’ve compiled 42 of my best tips which might be helpful in your personal growth journey. Some of them are simple steps which you can engage in immediately. Some are bigger steps which takes conscious effort to act on. Here they are:

1. Read a book every day.

Books are concentrated sources of wisdom. The more books you read, the more wisdom you expose yourself to.

What are some books you can start reading to enrich yourself? Some books I’ve read and found useful are Think and Grow Rich, Who Moved My Cheese, 7 Habits, The Science of Getting Rich and Living the 80/20 Way.

When you’re reading a book every day, you will feed your brain with more and more knowledge.

Here’re 5 really good books to read for self-improvement:

2. Learn a new language.

As a Singaporean Chinese, my main languages are English, Mandarin and Hokkien (a Chinese dialect). Out of interest, I took up language courses in the past few years such as Japanese and Bahasa Indonesian.

I realized learning a language is a whole new skill altogether and the process of acquainting with a new language and culture is a totally a mind-opening experience.

3. Pick up a new hobby.

Beyond just your usual favorite hobbies, is there something new you can pick up? Any new sport you can learn?

Examples are fencing, golf, rock climbing, football, canoeing, or ice skating.

Your new hobby can also be a recreational hobby. For example, pottery, Italian cooking, dancing, wine appreciation, web design, etc.

Learning something new requires you to stretch yourself in different aspects, whether physically, mentally or emotionally.

Here’re 20 hobbies to get you some new ideas

20 Productive Hobbies That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

4. Take up a new course.

Is there any new course you can join? Courses are a great way to gain new knowledge and skills.

It doesn’t have to be a long-term course – seminars or workshops serve their purpose too.

I’ve been to a few workshops and they have helped me gain new insights which I had not considered before.

In fact, anyone who wants to be a smarter learner should take this 20-minute FREE class: Spark Your Learning Genius. It will help supercharge your learning ability and pick up any skill faster!

5. Create an inspirational room.

Your environment sets the mood and tone for you. If you are living in an inspirational environment, you are going to be inspired every day.

In the past, I didn’t like my room at all because I thought it was messy and dull. A few years ago, I decided this was the end of it – I started on a “Mega Room Revamp” project and overhauled my room.

The end result? A room I totally relish being in and inspires me to be at my peak every day.


    Photo credit: Source

    6. Overcome your fears.

    All of us have fears. Fear of uncertainty, fear of public speaking, fear of risk… All our fears keep us in the same position and prevent us from growing.

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    Recognize that your fears reflect areas where you can grow. I always think of fears as the compass for growth.

    If I have a fear about something, it represents something I’ve yet to address, and addressing it helps me to grow.

    Learn How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding).

    7. Level up your skills.

    If you have played video games before, especially RPGs, you’ll know the concept of leveling up – gaining experience so you can be better and stronger.

    As a blogger, I’m constantly leveling up my writing skills. As a speaker, I’m constantly leveling up my public engagement abilities. What skills can you level up?

    8. Wake up early.

    Waking up early (say, 5-6am) has been acknowledged by many (Anthony Robbins, Robin Sharma, among other self-help gurus) to improve your productivity and your quality of life.

    I feel it’s because when you wake up early, your mindset is already set to continue the momentum and proactively live out the day.

    Not sure how to wake up early and feel energetic? These ideas will help:

    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    9. Have a weekly exercise routine.

    A better you starts with being in better physical shape. I personally make it a point to jog at least 3 times a week, at least 30 minutes each time.

    You may want to mix it up with jogging, gym lessons and swimming for variation.

    Check out these 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).


      Photo credit: Source

      10. Start your life handbook.

      A life handbook is an idea I started 3 years ago.

      Basically, it’s a book which contains the essentials on how you can live your life to the fullest, such as your purpose, your values and goals. Sort of like your manual for your life.

      I started my life handbook since 2007 and it’s been a crucial enabler in my progress.

      11. Write a letter to your future self.

      What do you see yourself as 5 years from now? Will you be the same? Different? What kind of person will you be?

      Write a letter to your future self – 1 year from now will be a good start – and seal it.

      Make a date in your calendar to open it 1 year from now. Then start working to become the person you want to open that letter.

      12. Get out of your comfort zone.

      Real growth comes with hard work and sweat. Being too comfortable doesn’t help us grow, it makes us stagnate.

      What is your comfort zone? Do you stay in most of the time? Do you keep to your own space when out with other people?

      Shake your routine up. Do something different.

      By exposing yourself to a new context, you’re literally growing as you learn to act in new circumstances.

      13. Put someone up to a challenge.

      Competition is one of the best ways to grow. Set a challenge (weight loss, exercise, financial challenge, etc) and compete with an interested friend to see who achieves the target first.

      Through the process, both of you will gain more than if you were to set off on the target alone.

      14. Identify your blind spots.

      Scientifically, blind spots refer to areas our eyes are not capable of seeing. In personal development terms, blind spots are things about ourselves we are unaware of. Discovering our blind spots help us discover our areas of improvement.

      One exercise I use to discover my blind spots is to identify all the things/events/people that trigger me in a day — trigger meaning making me feel annoyed/weird/affected. These represent my blind spots.

      It’s always fun to do the exercise because I discover new things about myself, even if I may already think I know my own blind spots (but then they wouldn’t be blind spots would they?).

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      After that, I work on steps to address them.

      15. Ask for feedback.

      As much as we try to improve, we will always have blind spots. Asking for feedback gives us an additional perspective.

      Some people to approach will be friends, family, colleagues, boss, or even acquaintances, since they will have no preset bias and can give their feedback objectively.

      Learn more about how to ask for feedback and become a fast learner here!

      16. Stay focused with to-do lists.

      I start my day with a list of tasks I want to complete and this helps make me stay focused. In comparison, the days when I don’t do this end up being extremely unproductive.

      For example, part of my to-do list for today is to write a guest post at LifeHack.Org, and this is why I’m writing this now!

      Since my work requires me to use my computer all the time, I use Free Sticky Notes to manage my to-do lists. It’s really simple to use and it’s a freeware, so I recommend you check it out.

      17. Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs).

      I’m a big fan of setting BHAGs. BHAGs stretch you beyond your normal capacity since they are big and audacious – you wouldn’t think of attempting them normally.

      What are BHAGs you can embark on, which you’ll feel absolutely on top of the world once you complete them? Set them and start working on them.

      Learn How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life.

      18. Acknowledge your flaws.

      Everyone has flaws. What’s most important is to understand them, acknowledge them, and address them.

      What do you think are your flaws? What are the flaws you can work on now? How do you want to address them?

      19. Get into action.

      The best way to learn and improve is to take action.

      What is something you have been meaning to do? How can you take action on it immediately?

      Waiting doesn’t get anything done. Taking action gives you immediate results to learn from.

      20. Learn from people who inspire you.

      Think about people you admire. People who inspire you. These people reflect certain qualities you want to have for yourself too.

      What are the qualities in them you want to have for yourself? How can you acquire these qualities?

      21. Quit a bad habit.

      Are there any bad habits you can lose? Oversleeping? Not exercising? Being late? Slouching? Nail biting? Smoking?

      Here’s some great advice from Lifehack’s CEO on hacking your habit loop to break bad habits and build good ones:

      How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

      22. Cultivate a new habit.

      Some good new habits to cultivate include reading books (#1), waking up early (#8), exercising (#9), reading a new personal development article a day (#40) and meditating.

      Is there any other new habit you can cultivate to improve yourself?

      If you’re wondering how to make good habits stick, check out these tips:

      18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick

      23. Avoid negative people.

      As Jim Rohn says,

      “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.

      Wherever we go, there are bound to be negative people. Don’t spend too much of your time around them if you feel they drag you down.

      Not sure who are the toxic people in life? This article can help you:

      10 Toxic Persons You Should Just Get Rid Of

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      24. Learn to deal with difficult people.

      There are times when there are difficult people you can’t avoid, such as at your workplace, or when the person is part of your inner circle of contacts.

      Learn how to deal with them. These people management skills will go a long way in working with people in the future:

      How To Deal With Negative People

      25. Learn from your friends.

      Everyone has amazing qualities in them. It’s up to how we want to tap into them.

      With all the friends who surround you, they are going to have things you can learn from.

      Try thinking of a good friend right now. Think about just one quality they have which you want to adopt. How can you learn from them and adopt this skill for yourself?

      Speak to them if you need to. For sure, they will be more than happy to help!

      26. Start a journal.

      Journaling is a great way to gain better self-awareness. It’s a self-reflection process.

      As you write, clarify your thought process and read what you wrote from a third person’s perspective, you gain more insights about yourself.

      Your journal can be private or an online blog. I use my personal development blog as a personal journal too and I’ve learned a lot about myself through the past year of blogging.

      27. Start a blog about personal development.

      To help others grow, you need to first be walking the talk. There are expectations of you, both from yourself and from others, which you have to uphold.

      I run The Personal Excellence Blog, where I share my personal journey and insights on how to live a better life. Readers look toward my articles to improve themselves, which enforces to me that I need to keep improving, for myself and for the people I’m reaching out to.

      28. Get a mentor or coach.

      There’s no faster way to improve than to have someone work with you on your goals.

      Many of my clients approach me to coach them in their goals and they achieve significantly more results than if they had worked alone.

      If you’re looking for a mentor, don’t miss these tips:

      What to Look for in a Good Mentor

      29. Reduce the time you spend on chat programs.

      I realized having chat programs open at default result in a lot of wasted time. This time can be much better spent on other activities.

      The days when I don’t get on chat, I get a lot more done. I usually disable the auto start-up option in the chat programs and launch them when I do want to chat and really have the time for it.

      30. Learn chess (or any strategy game).

      I found chess is a terrific game to learn strategy and hone your brainpower. Not only do you have fun, you also get to exercise your analytical skills.

      You can also learn strategy from other board games or computer games, such as Othello, Chinese Chess, WarCraft, and so on.

      31. Stop watching TV.

      I’ve not been watching TV for pretty much 4 years and it’s been a very liberating experience. (Here’re 10 Reasons To Turn Off Your TV)

      I realized most of the programs and advertisements on mainstream TV are usually of a lower consciousness and not very empowering.

      In return, the time I’ve freed up from not watching TV is now constructively used for other purposes, such as connecting with close friends, doing work I enjoy, exercising, etc.

      32. Start a 30-day challenge.

      Set a goal and give yourself 30 days to achieve this. Your goal can be to stick with a new habit or something you’ve always wanted to do but have not.

      30 days is just enough time to strategize, plan, get into action, review and nail the goal.

      33. Meditate.

      Meditation helps to calm you and be more conscious. I also realized that during the nights when I meditate (before I sleep), I need lesser sleep. The clutter clearing process is very liberating.

      Have a try with this 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime.

      34. Join Toastmasters (Learn public speaking).

      Interestingly, public speaking is the #1 fear in the world, with #2 being death.

      After I started public speaking as a personal development speaker/trainer, I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate better, present myself and engage people.

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      Toastmasters is an international organization that trains people in public speaking. Check out the Toastmaster clubs nearest you here.

      35. Befriend top people in their fields.

      These people have achieved their results because they have the right attitudes, skill sets and know-how. How better to learn than from the people who have been there and done that?

      Gain new insights from them on how you can improve and achieve the same results for yourself.

      36. Let go of the past.

      Is there any grievance or unhappiness from the past which you have been holding on? If so, it’s time to let it go.

      Holding on to them prevents you from moving on and becoming a better person. Break away from the past, forgive yourself, and move on.

      Just recently, I finally moved on from a past heartbreak of 5 years ago. The effect was liberating and very empowering, and I have never been happier.

      37. Start a business venture.

      Is there anything you have an interest in? Why not turn it into a venture and make money while learning at the same time?

      Starting a new venture requires you to be learn business management skills, develop business acumen and have a competitive edge.

      The process of starting and developing my personal development business has equipped me with many skills, such as self-discipline, leadership, organization and management.

      38. Show kindness to people around you.

      You can never be too kind to someone. In fact, most of us don’t show enough kindness to people around us.

      Being kind helps us to cultivate other qualities such as compassion, patience, and love.

      As you get back to your day after reading this article later on, start exuding more kindness to the people around you, and see how they react.

      Not only that, notice how you feel as you behave kindly to others. Chances are, you will feel even better than yourself.

      39. Reach out to the people who hate you.

      If you ever stand for something, you are going to get haters.

      It’s easy to hate the people who hate us. It’s much more challenging to love them back.

      Being able to forgive, let go and show love to these people requires magnanimity and an open heart.

      Is there anyone who dislikes or hates you in your life? If so, reach out to them. Show them love.

      Seek a resolution and get closure on past grievances. Even if they refuses to reciprocate, love them all the same. It’s much more liberating than to hate them back.

      40. Take a break.

      Have you been working too hard? Self-improvement is also about recognizing our need to take a break to walk the longer mile ahead. You can’t be driving a car if it has no petrol.

      Scheduling down time for yourself is important. Take some time off for yourself every week. Relax, rejuvenate and charge yourself up for what’s up ahead.

      41. Read at least 1 personal development article a day.

      Some of my readers make it a point to read at least one personal development article every day, which I think is a great habit.

      There are many terrific personal development blogs out there, some of which you can check here.

      42. Commit to your personal growth.

      I can be writing list articles with 10 ways, 25 ways, 42 ways or even 1,000 ways to improve yourself, but if you have no intention to commit to your personal growth, it doesn’t matter what I write.

      Nothing is going to get through. We are responsible for our personal growth — not anyone else. Not your mom, your dad, your friend, me or Lifehack.

      Make the decision to commit to your personal growth and embrace yourself to a life-long journey of growth and change. Kick off your growth by picking a few of the steps above and working on them.

      The results may not be immediate, but I promise you that as long as you keep to it, you’ll start seeing positive changes in yourself and your life.

      So here you are, 43 solid ways for self improvement. Pick one or a few to start doing today.

      If you want to see yourself improving, you must take some actions.

      More Self-Improvement Tips

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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