For most, moving from your home country to a foreign one is one of those things that you briefly imagine for a moment as your post-holiday blues are setting in at the airport just before you fly home.
I’ve done just that countless times, trying to imagine what life would be like. My dominant thought was always that I’d probably feel a lot smaller, more insignificant. From one of a few hundred thousand in a land I know inside-out and backwards, I’d go to one of millions in a country that is completely unfamiliar to me.
In any case, I’d think about it briefly, then board the plane to the life I’ve known and have been comfortable with for my entire life.
I grew up in the not-so-mean streets of Gharghur and Naxxar in the 90s. I attended private schools and church schools, stumbled my way through university and didn’t have much trouble finding a decent job.
I’ll admit I’ve lived a relatively sheltered life without above average drama.
So when in May 2021 my partner told me “Luke, they offered me the job.” I stood blankly for a moment. See, the job itself isn’t particularly outlandish.
Except that is literally outlandish, as in, out-of-this-land.
Specifically, in Madrid. It was also a no-brainer career move for her, so what began as a fleeting airport thought years prior suddenly became a reality. And so, during a year and a half plagued rather literally by change and uncertainty, we were going to throw an overseas move into the pot.
The planning began in earnest.
I won’t bore you with the details, but it was busy enough that the reality that we were moving country didn’t have the chance to properly set in until much, much later.
While I’ll admit that we had been toying with the idea of moving to Spain for a while, nothing could have really prepared us for the actual transition. We had most of the main aspects of the move well-planned, but inevitably, things slipped through the cracks and caused problems and stress.
Thankfully, nothing really went horribly wrong, but the list of things to pack/do/fix/buy/plan seemed endless and daunting. Not to mention the pure emotional upheaval of leaving family, friends, and home behind.
We persevered and supported each other through countless issues that would crop up throughout the move itself. But upon arrival, we spent most of our time trying to find ways to turn our apartment into a place we could re-establish as a home base. It felt like once the biggest change was made, it was just about making incremental ones that would improve our quality of life over time.
That’s probably what any successful major change is all about. Having the courage and determination to take a dive into the deep end, knowing that it’s impossible to have all bases covered.
Then, make the necessary adjustments to solidify your position and adapt. In many ways, those small changes are the most important step to ensure long-term success.
Successful change can’t be out of character either. While I may have slightly downplayed it here, I had always been fascinated by a move abroad. While I didn’t necessarily think the opportunity would present itself, it was on my bucket list. So when the opportunity arose, I had the determination to see it through. That motivation is essential.
Here’s my 5 tips for anyone looking to make a similarly huge change in life or business:
- Major changes must be made in character. If a change clashes with an essential value that you hold, you’re going to find it very difficult to see it through. Believe in the change, or work on changing your beliefs if you have no other choice.
- Plan ahead as much as possible, but prepare for the plan to fail. Very few plans are bulletproof, and putting pressure on yourself to execute the plan perfectly is a recipe for disappointment and frustration. Give yourself wiggle room to make mistakes, and more importantly, the energy to bounce back.
- Invest in a support system. Emotions run high during periods of stress. Forcing a change through without considering the impact on mental health can only lead to even more errors, more frustration, and eventual burn-out. Vent frustrations to others, find activities that relieve stress, and plan for plenty of down time.
- Take the leap, then adjust slowly. Attempting to, or expecting to have every single aspect of a change done immediately will likely lead to burn-out too. Once the major change has been done (mostly) successfully, take the time to pat yourself on the back before moving to the next step.
- Finally, monitor your progress and state of mind. This is where I find myself at the moment. Regularly pause and take stock of how you’re feeling. The major change and many adjustments may have been done, but only time will tell whether more changes will be necessary. Upkeep and maintenance is essential for longevity.
I’m certainly not the first or the last person to go through a major change. And I’m definitely not the first to put together those tips. But having gone through it now, these tips feel more real than ever, and I can personally vouch for their effectiveness.
We’ve all had a taste of major change over the past year and a half. Switch moved from a vibrant office full of personality and energy, to everyone working from home within a couple of weeks back in March 2020. We even shifted focus and are on the road to becoming a fully-remote team. We already have team members across Europe and clients literally on the other side of the globe.
But it took months for many of us to adapt to the change. Speaking for myself as someone who loves human contact (especially from humans I genuinely like) the move away from the office took a significant toll on my mental state. But the adjustments that we made over time, and the awareness of the impact that major change can have, allowed me to recalibrate. Enough to even make room in my life for yet another huge change.
In any case, change isn’t easy, but it can be made easier. So, whether you’re a business leader planning to shift a major part of your business strategy, a couple deciding to move to another country, or any other major life-shifting change, give yourself the best chance to succeed with a solid but flexible plan and realistic expectations.
On the subject of planning, we’ve been running a series of articles on the importance of planning ahead when it comes to your marketing. Take a look at the first one here!