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Why Moving Abroad is the Best Work Hack Ever

Why Moving Abroad is the Best Work Hack Ever

It seems crazy, doesn’t it? You pack up and leave the bulls eye of business in America for the sole purpose of growing your company in the Latin tropics. Who does that? Why leave the glistening sidewalks of Wall Street for steamy rain forest mountain trails? It sounds like insanity, but then again, most brilliance starts out that way.

More entrepreneurs are embracing exactly this strategy. Why? Because they found a new culture was just the catalyst to create the right conditions to launch their best work and mental creativity.

Do You Want to Live Like a Millionaire?

Why do you think millionaires are so successful? Of course there are many factors, but once people reach a certain status, they stop doing more basic, time-wasting activities and pay others to fulfill this necessity.  They stop engaging in household cleaning, cooking, gardening, and driving. They leverage their brain power on their business instead of scrubbing the toilet.  Most people in America don’t think twice about the time that they spend on driving and domestic duties, but when you add up all that time, it can take up a huge portion of your life. Just imagine if you could turn that time into business equity?

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In other countries, domestic help isn’t just for the upper class; it’s common among the middle class. In the Latin tropics, no one thinks twice about hiring cooks, maids, gardeners, or drivers. This is a large part of the local economy. Think of all the extra time this would free up to work on a business venture!  In Central America, you can hire someone to cook, get your groceries, run your errands, and clean for you for about $300 per month. If you really wanted to go crazy, you could hire a driver for another $300 per month to drive you to your appointments so you could focus on work from the car.

With these mentally and physically-draining jobs eliminated from your life, imagine what you could accomplish if you could focus on your business 100% of the time! For example, if you move to Belize, you can have full-time domestic help take over all the household duties for $350 per month on average. While the cost of living in Belize can vary depending on your lifestyle choices, you can live comfortably for much less than living in the US in most cases, including the cost of full-time help. You can hire a live-in maid in Panama for about the same monthly cost as Belize, including the expenses of providing room and board. If you want to simply pay them by the day, it comes out to about $3 to $5 per hour.

You can also hire the same level of domestic help in Costa Rica for about $15 per day. Guatemala can help you stay under budget while still paying a maid to handle the cooking and cleaning for around $150 per month.

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Or, consider Nicaragua, where the cost of a maid or gardener runs about $130 per month for a six-day work week. Ecuador has a low cost of living, and is a beautiful country where you can enjoy fresh fruits and full-time domestic service for about $200 per month. So, when you move to the Latin tropics, you really can live and work like a millionaire, but on a middle-class salary.

You’re Doing What? Are You Crazy?

When I moved to my tropical paradise, I left a very stable job in a strong blue-chip company. I felt a bit guilty and terrified that I was giving up my career, as it was a very valued position. However, it was only when I left the rat race of trading my time for money that I was finally able to really invest in myself enough to launch my own business. Many of my friends thought I was crazy. While it wasn’t an especially fuzzy feeling to experience, I also found it freeing to not be bound by other people’s expectations. Once you move to another country and oceans separate the disapproving glances, you tend not to pay attention to them anymore.

When you do something as drastic as moving to a foreign country, you will rock the boat; but sometimes it’s the only way to move your ship out of the harbor. In the tropical palm-tree paradise, I could finally clear my head enough to understand what I really wanted to do with my life. All the noise of my past life just stopped, and I could finally hear the tiny inner voice of my own desires empowered enough to speak out again.

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Get Ready to Get Uncomfortable!

When you move to another country, you will be forced out of your comfort zone, and everyone knows that’s where the magic really happens. You will no longer have family, friends, or security to lull you to complacency or talk you out of that crazy cutting-edge concept. You will be forced to learn another culture, maybe another language, perhaps drive on a different side of the road, taste new foods and experiences, and will be living a life outside of your previous perspective.

It’s like if an eagle were to hatch in a pasture and grow up around sheep. He’s comfortable, but won’t know his full potential until he discovers the pasture isn’t where he belongs, but in the air. It’s only when he takes on the different median by jumping off a cliff that he can truly soar and experience a new perspective. When you leave the world of cushy job titles, expectations, deadlines, and noise, your creativity is often unlocked and your new-found business mojo can brainstorm more conceptions than you ever dreamed possible.

Clean the Crud Out of Your Filter!

We all see the world through our own experience filter created by years of normality. Imagine if everyone had different shades of sunglasses and filtered each experience through their own judgement tinting. Experiencing only a small part of the world and staying comfortable limits your perspective and can cloud your vision.

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Moving to a new country is a great way to sweep away all of the unproductive things in your life and start fresh in your expectations, habits, and interactions. It’s like you’re given a transparent window to suddenly see everything clearly enough to craft the productive life you’ve always wanted.  First, no one knows you; so there are no old ghosts reminding you of your past, no expectations of how you’re suppose to behave, and no mold you have to fit into. Second, it’s enough of a lifestyle shock to clear away bad habits.

Maybe in your old life, you wasted your time on television or video games. Use the jolt of new adventure to create an improved version of yourself. What better time to begin reading books and working on entrepreneurial ideas on the beach, instead of vegging on the couch with potato chips watching television? Or, start feeding your brain by making fresh smoothies for breakfast with the abundance of tropical fruits instead of grabbing the Krispy Kreme on the way out the door (they probably aren’t available in your new country anyway).

Instead of spending your evenings eating popcorn at a movie theater with friends, start doing barefoot runs on the beach, watch the glorious sunset over the sea, and listen to the sounds of the night awakenings to inspire you to craft your next big idea. The slower pace of the tropics often helps you focus more on your own inward brilliance.

Third, when you leave your old country, you find yourself pulled away from previous relationships and pushed into the networking mentality. You can meet so many new and interesting people by simply being forced out of your old social circles and investing time on new connections that benefit your business. Changing your life really can be that simple, yet that profound. There is a lot of value in a blank slate, as you don’t need to worry about coloring inside any lines.

So What’s Stopping You?

There are many excuses you can craft to talk yourself out of such a drastic move. After all, it’s scary leaving the familiar to embrace such a different life. Others may even see you as dangerously drastic and just south of crazy. However, the house, car, and stuff can be sold. It’s actually not that hard to let it go, and selling all your junk can make you feel fantastically free. You really can quit that soul-sucking job you dread going to everyday and focus your time on the creation of your dream career. Moving to the Latin tropics can breathe new life into your business by giving you fresh vision, help you break free of old baggage, and create additional time in your day by paying others to help you live and work like a millionaire. It may just be the most epic work hack ever!

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Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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