• Tanya Arler

Navigating Change - 3 top tips

Updated: Aug 26, 2020


The first time my husband and I decided to move to a foreign country I was so excited!  Scared, a little trepidatious, but excited nonetheless.  We were moving to Italy for goodness sakes!!!  I mean, ROCK ON!


I knew it meant that my life would change.  There would be adjustments to a new culture and I would live far from my friends so I would need to make new ones. 


What I didn’t know is that the life skills I might otherwise learn in a gentle, more subtle way, would be amplified to a point that I felt like I was thrown into a raging sea of waves and told to swim!


Boo-hoo, poor me? Not at all.


Don’t get me wrong. Moving to another country is hard.  The change is far bigger than people can imagine and your learning curve needs to be quick, but you acquire life skills that can apply anywhere! 


Since our first move to Italy, I have lived in 6 different countries and those moves have pretty much turned me into an expert in change.


Is your life changing right now?  Or are you about to embark on change and want to feel prepared? 


Well then sit back and read on!


Regardless of what kind of change you're going through, moving to a new country, a career change, divorce, a move or watching your kids go to college, there are certain universal skills that will help.  Here are 3  basic tips:


1. You’re not a Fortune Teller


It’s important for your sanity to feel prepared for your upcoming change, but there’s no way in the world that it will all unfold according to plan.


That doesn’t mean you haven’t prepared well, it means that – by definition – if your life’s changing, you can’t possibly see what new discoveries stand before you.

It’s like when Christopher Columbus set off to discover a new route to the Indies.  He actually discovered the Americas.  Who could ‘a known?


That’s what major change is like… or any change for that matter.


The fact that it’s change means you’ll experience stuff you haven’t before, and therefore can’t predict it.


So, whether you chose to make the change or it has been thrust upon you, remember that no matter how you think it will look, it will be different, and that’s ok.


You might just discover America.



2. You’re Gonna have the Blues


Whether you’re super excited about the change, or you feel it’s happening slightly against your will, you’ll go through a grieving process. 


Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance are all part of this process. 


They don’t necessarily come in order, and might repeat themselves when you least expect them… the little buggers!


The thing is, you’re leaving something behind that you knew well and were comfortable with. Even if it was something that made you unhappy, you loved it for what it was at some point in your life. 


Weird right? 


Losing 50 pounds will incite a grieving process because you leave behind everything that a larger version of you held onto. 


Yes, you’re happy to be a slimmer, new you.  But you were used to the pre-conceived ideas, limitations and personal image you portrayed. Not that you liked them, but they were familiar. You’ll grieve these, no matter how happy you are they’re gone.


So you’re gonna have the Blues.


When you’re happy and blissful, do you spend countless hours trying to figure out why?  Of course not! 


You just enjoy it and live in the now.  Do the same with sadness…. just let it be, this too shall pass. 


The Blues, in NO WAY, reflects the choice for change that you made.  It’s just part of the process that change incites, so don’t over think it.


Tomorrow is a new day!



3. Catch Yourself!


Remember when you said you had absolutely no expectations and then got frustrated, sad or angry because things just weren’t what you thought they’d be?


That’s because there’s just no way in the whole wide world that you don’t have expectations. 


Our brain is programmed to make extrapolations.  To calculate the predictable things in our life so we can absorb the things that aren’t predictable.


And that is when you have to catch yourself. 


Your brain still hasn’t caught up with the fact that everything in your life is different, so it continues to calculate and predict things that it thinks it can rely on. 


When you are feeling disappointment, more often than not it’s because you've been confronted with an expectation you didn’t know you had.


It’s just human nature, but you can learn to manage your response.


Instead of whirling into the world of ‘See, the world is against me’, reposition it to ‘oh Man, there’s a different way to do things and it seems to work for them… who knew?!’


If you can recognise that the frustration stems from your expectation, not because something in the world around you is wrong, you’ll start to see that change isn’t bad…  it’s just more different than you thought.


Then you can get back on track and embrace the change in front of you. 



When faced with change, everyone has a different attitude and response to it, but going easy on yourself, finding humour where you can, and understanding that change comes with some bumps on the road and that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, will ease the way.

Enjoy the ride!



Tanya Arler is the author of the book UNPACK - a guide to life as an expat spouse and founder of A Happy Expat. A HAPPY EXPAT offers expat spouses practical tools, mindset coaching, and advice on how to navigate the staggering change they are going through, all the while remaining the rock their family so desperately needs.

So they too can become...

A HAPPY EXPAT​​


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