Saturday, July 27, 2013

Values, Success, and other thoughts before departure

As I am getting ready for my enormous move abroad, I've had a lot of those, "What the hell am I doing moments?"

I've been questioning if this is the right next step in my career, if it is worth the sacrifice I am making, and if I really want to be transformed in this way. 

This had led me to think a lot about myself, and what I really want from this life. What I am all about, so to speak. What is important to me, what I value, what I need to be happy. I have realized that there are three elements most important to the quality of my life:

 Freedom, Access, and Mobility.

Freedom = time x money

Freedom, to me,  is defined by the balance of time and money. Everything costs money, not just tangible goods that we all want and need, but simply being in a pleasant environment, eating good food, and engaging in a healthy lifestyle costs money. For me, the big money-eater is traveling, and the plane-tickets, hotels, food, and sights that are associated with that. 

However, simply having money does not guarantee freedom. Time is an equally important factor. I recently had lunch with an ex-coworker who had accrued so many vacation hours that she was  required to take every Friday off of work. I asked her why she never used her vacation time, and she told me that her husband didn't get vacation time, and she didn't want to go anywhere alone. This is why time is important, not just having it, but having the ability to use it. 

Access = skills
Access is defined by the various skill sets one acquires. For example, speaking a foreign language gives you access to an entirely new set of resources and opportunities you would not have otherwise. You can eat at restaurants with menus exclusively in your second language, you can make friends with strangers and a variety of people who do not speak your native language, and, if your skills are that good, this also opens up professional opportunities in other countries. 

Other types of skill sets that led to interesting opportunities can include what we call "people skills," the ability to cultivate meaningful relationships among a variety of people. One's people skills can lead to enormous benefits: free lodging at a friend's house, a new business venture, etc. 

Of course, it's not just soft skills that give a person access. We can easily see the relationship of certain skill sets to certain careers. Basically, acquiring almost any new skill will give a person access to things to which they did not previously have access.

Mobility = Freedom x Access
Lastly, I define mobility as the combination of freedom and access.  I think this is pretty self explanatory, but I will spell it out. Having time and money is great, but without access a person is still limited in terms of mobility. For example, many Americans refuse to go to non-English speaking countries because of the language barrier. This doesn't mean that all Americans need to get fluent in a second language, (actually, I would argue that they do,  but I'm trying to be realistic), but if they at least acquired skills in intercultural communication or  gained  some knowledge of the host country's culture and practices, they would not be limited in their travel options. Even with the freedom to travel anywhere, lacking certain skills can limit someone to forever remaining a tourists in many countries. 

Conversely, having a diverse skill set is wonderful, but if a person is lacking in freedom, then, well, there is not much they can do in terms of mobility. 

These are the values that have shaped me in the course of my life. I don't impose them on other people, or expect others to exemplify them. And as with everything in life, there comes the ubiquitous disclaimer "conditions subject to change without prior notification." 

That's why this blog is a nice time capsule for my current thought and feelings.

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