The Philosophy of Cheating


pain

Everybody thinks that whether someone cheats or not depends on how much they respect their partner. I can’t speak for everyone, but the reason I don’t cheat has a less to do with the person I am with, and a lot more to do with myself.

We make choices every day as temptation swirls around us in all its magical forms. Get out of bed—or don’t.  Work hard—or don’t. Apply to grad school—or don’t. Drink a beer—or don’t.

Cheat…or don’t.

Every choice we make, no matter how small, has an impact on what we think of ourselves. In turn, your life situation is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. When you make choices that grate upon your system of beliefs and betray the person you want to be, you’re disrespecting yourself more than anyone else.

Maybe you could cheat on your partner successfully for a long time—

Maybe it feels like you’re having your cake and eating it too. It’s warm and safe in the effervescent candyland of denial. But at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to look yourself in the mirror and like the person you see. If you make decisions you don’t respect, you’re the one who suffers the most.

I could cheat on my boyfriend and he’d probably never find out. He trusts me completely and we have a very healthy relationship. I could get away with murder. But then I’d have to wake up each day knowing what I’d done and knowing I don’t respect myself. I’d have to live with the pain of my betrayal. I’d have to look straight in his loving, trusting gaze, and send right it back, knowing how disgustingly unworthy I am.

And then once there’s a hole in my moral dam, why not indulge in a few more immoral gratifications? A lie here, a betrayal there, a slippery slope. I’d spin bulletproof webs of justification. Slowly my moral compass would loosen and swing free. Before too long, I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. It’d be so foggy and empty inside that I wouldn’t be capable of finding any truth and integrity inside myself, let alone recognizing it in others. I’d begin to doubt that I’m a good person. I’d trust no one, especially me. Pretending things are fine is all that I’d have. So I’d cling to it.

Sometimes, it’s not just a few random mistakes that chip away at your sense of self. It can be years of poor decisions that you didn’t even see until they’d stitched together and woven a tapestry of confusion. A beautiful tapestry that keeps you warm and comfortable, but oppressed at the same time—pinned down, lying in the bed you made.

How did all these choices come together to create a version of yourself that you don’t like?

Maybe all these decisions felt right and perfect in the moment. And you remember why you made them. But now, deep down inside you know it’s all wrong. You’re dying, you’re suffocating, you hate yourself. And what’s scarier is, you haven’t a clue how to fix it.

But then the next minute things seem so fun and easy, and do you really have it that bad? Could it work out after all? Are you worrying for nothing? Yes…yes. It’s so easy to pretend…

I’ll never forget the day I hit rock bottom. Five years ago, I was in my parent’s kitchen talking to my mom. She asked how I was and I began to vent about the tension between my brother, his girlfriend, and my alcoholic boyfriend; the tension at work with my boss. The apartment. My car. The police. A lot of difficult things had occurred in the past few weeks.

She sat there for a few moments quietly and I was waiting for her to say something comforting—offer some sage advice. Instead, she started shouting (very out of character).

“Jessica, you are making everyone in this family uncomfortable with your problems. We are all sick of hearing about and dealing with the messes you’ve made. You can deal with all these problems in Boston, but don’t bring your issues here. Not in this house.”

That was the moment I knew I couldn’t continue forward anymore. I needed to make some big changes in my life if I was ever going to feel ok again. I applied to the University of Sydney the next morning.

Figuring out how to escape the oppression of your own life choices is one of the toughest challenges in life. Some people never succeed. They creep toward old age feeling like sad wasted sacks of organic matter, garbage bags caught in the breeze. I had to put myself outside my comfort zone and make some really painful decisions to set things right. And it was a slow process. Nothing ever happens overnight, if it’s worthwhile. But pain and struggle is better than feeling nothing, right?

Nothingness is life’s default setting for a failed mission. It’s resolving yourself to the path you’re on and not thinking you have the strength or the will to do better. But you do and you can. One of the greatest things about traveling and living abroad is that it forces you to completely change your lifestyle. I clearly don’t have all the answers and I have to keep working hard to make the right choices. But for anyone who knows what it’s like to feel out of control of your life and totally off track (professionally, romantically, economically), the best advice I have is not to dwell on the past or the future. The future happens one decision at a time and we are imperfect beings. Try to think of the thing you dislike the most about yourself, and work on that, only that.

And, when faced with temptation, be selfish. Think of yourself first. Can you live and love the person who gives in? Will it be worth it?

It’s what we get for waking up in…Buenos Aires?


Buenos Aires-Subte-Perú-Andén

Buenos Aires Subte, Perú-Andén

 

It’s been just over a year since I bought a one-way ticket to Argentina.

I’d been dreaming about South America for years, but the actual decision was conceived, made, and booked into reality in less than an hour. I think some people take longer to shower.

With no plans or agenda besides a violent ambition to learn Spanish, I was vacillating somewhere between curiosity and boredom. I knew nothing about “the city of looking up”, or how duplicitous that expression can be. (To put it mildly, there are a lot of reasons to watch your step here.)

2015-10-11_1444531924Exiting the plane on that first day, I was greeted by grey skies and a smattering of gusty droplets. The clouds were saturated, but they clenched their waterlogged pleats. It was as if the universe was holding its breath right along with me, waiting to see what lay in store.

As with most mildly successful freelancers, my future was utterly unwritten.

The first few days

It all began on the couch of a man named Miguel.

He was charming, polite and unassuming; just the way strangers should be when you’re at the mercy of their goodwill.

It was my third time Couch Surfing, and it was a crash-course in Porteño (local) culture. Miguel and his friends serenaded me with Argentine folklórico, fed me wine and asado (traditional Argentine BBQ), and helped me learn the lay of the land. They taught me slang and shared scandalous tales of Argentine romance. What was I getting into??? (Spoiler-alert, I still have no idea.)

2015-10-11_1444529108 2015-10-11_1444532367

I spent my first few days getting hopelessly lost and playing around with the few Spanish phrases I knew; “No, the duck is not yours. What’s your favorite color? Please forgive me, I have a mountain of shame.”

Thanks to my die-hard quest to absorb the language, I’d wake each day with new Spanish vocab scrawled across my hands…or forearms. Or face. They all loved to teach me new phrases and showered me with praise when I (oh, shock!!) actually remembered one.

It was a magical time. Although they offered to keep me forever, the couch life had to end. I was growing fat and lazy in proper San Isidro style.

Hostels, pickpockets, and poor decisions

The next few weeks passed in a blur of boliches and backpacker shenanigans.

I felt like I was living the real-life version of Katy Perry’s song “That’s what we get for waking up in Vegas”. Every day was do-or-die and I was shaking glitter (cookie crumbs?) out of more places than I care to remember. I imagine this is what kids would feel like if school was canceled, Halloween lasted for a month, and the candy was also laced with crack.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that stealing is “a thing” here – kind of like how not showering is a thing for teenage boys. We all hope the trend will pass, but for now we just tolerate the odious realities.

After loosing a phone, Ipod, wallet, and a Mac charger in a stupidly short space of time, it was time to change the game.

image (57)I gave backpacker Jess the flush, enrolled in Spanish classes, and started sketching out life as a local.

The new me lived in Palermo, ate WAY too much pizza, and had a really hard time discerning her front door from the other 10 on that block.

The learning curve

As the days ticked by, I learned not to pet the street dogs and never ever to wear flip-flops when it rains. (It’s like the story of Noah’s Ark, only with lots of trash and dog poop instead of animals.)

Comical disgrace is life’s greatest teacher, and here are the lessons Argentina has taught me:

1.) Argentine pizza is eaten with a knife and fork. If you try to pick it up, the toppings will slide gracefully into your lap, like tiny passengers exiting a crashed plane.

2.) Argentines will ask you the following two questions when they first meet you.

#1 How long have you been here for?  #2 Oh, really? Why isn’t your Spanish better?

pigeons3.) Pigeons will live in your windows, and spiders will live in your shower. YOU WILL NAME THEM ALL.

4.) Dog poop is a fact of life. Get used to it, and don’t ever take a clean sidewalk for granted again.

5.) Argentines love Whatsapp voice notes. Even if you tell them you hate voice notes, they will continue to send you voice notes. Asking why you don’t like the voice notes.

6.) Sorry to the Argentines who will take offense, but I think Tango music could be more accurately renamed “creepy elevator music of death”.

7.) If some kind strangers let you enter the lobby of a building that you don’t have the keys to, you will be trapped for hours. (Argentines would rather trap their thieves inside so everyone can die together in a fire, rather than make keyless exits.)

8.) Argentine Subway does not take their slogan “eat fresh” very seriously.

bus9.) You need to tell bus drivers where you’re going when you get on. This means you need to know where you’re going.

10.) Dating will confuse you. THE END.

11.) “On time” is 30 minutes late, and “late” is never. Unless it’s your day to bring facturas to the office – then you for-damn-sure better be there first.

12.) Racism, like many concepts here, is not defined by syntax. There is a bluntness to the way people deliver information and they don’t see anything insulting or wrong about it. The American phobia of prosaic indelicacy does not exist. The good news is, if you make a tragic fashion decision or gain a little weight, you’ll know right away!

Mystery, intrigue, and a slap in the face

In the following months, I became infatuated with the paradoxical forces governing this city. Passion and apaSan Telmo, Argentinathy; glamor and decay.

One minute I’m drinking in stone porticoes and Parisian antiquity like a poet on crack – the next, I’m watching homeless children bath in a public fountain.

Everywhere you turn in this city, your faced with a new impression or feeling. It’s like living inside a kaleidoscope – if also inside that kaleidoscope lives a tiny old lady who likes to slap you in the face every once in a while.

Particularly, the way that locals treat foreigners is unlike anything I’ve encountered before. It can be great – but also horrible. Sometimes you feel like a celebrity, some rare and exotic creature that everyone wants to be close to. But other times, it’s like you’re at the zoo on the wrong side of the bars.

As I start to learn Spanish more and more, I begin to see an entirely new dimension to this culture. When it’s late at night and I’m taking the bus home after a long day, I can understand as two women discuss the color of my hair, my shoes, my height – and whether I’m pregnant or just a “gordita” (little fatty). I try to see it as flattering.

In general, the way that people interact is both enchanting and exhausting, depending on the day and my mood.

Sydney VS Buenos Aires

sydneyIt’s been a weird transition after two years in Sydney, a city of my native tongue that welcomed me with open arms. Leaving that continent behind truly broke my heart.

The thing is, Sydney is the canine of cities – loyal, friendly, and consistent. I always felt like I was home. Buenos Aires on the other hand, is like a cat; duplicitous, discriminating, and unpredictable. It purrs when you pet it and nuzzles your hand, then viciously attacks you a moment later.

Like BA expats and cat lovers, we wind up completely intoxicated by the passion and excitement; whether it’s a laser beam steeplechase or a neighborhood protest. You can’t walk three blocks in this city without stumbling onto some kind of urban spectacle.

2015-05-03_1430689725 2015-10-11_1444532089

At the end of the day, we need both the cat and the dog. Without one, you can’t fully appreciate the other.

Assimilation: What does it mean to you?

A year later, I still wake up with Spanish words written all over. I still embarrass myself most days, but I can chart my growth in confidence and conjugated verbs.

One of my fellow expats figures you’ve really made it somewhere when you can direct the taxi driver on the route you prefer to take. Since my internal compass is eternally on quaaludes, I had to come up with another benchmark for my success.

The moment I knew I’d “made it” was when the kids I nanny for asked me to tell them a story in Spanish. Twenty minutes later, I had given rise to the life-long legend of the chicken-rabbits, a species of telepathic, power-hungry aliens that tirelessly roam the galaxy in search of interstellar domination.

Who’s going to explain to those kids in 10 years why they’re terrified of poultry, I do not know.

photo 4 (5) photo 2 (8)

Besides conversational Spanish and an appreciation for life without dog poop, living in Argentina has taught me an invaluable lesson: the importance of having goals.

I don’t think there’s any single idea that’s more powerful, because if you have something that you truly believe in and are working hard for, you’re never waiting for anything.

The diary of a penguin


2015-07-18_1437249922

It was a penguin sort of day,
In that penguin sort-of-way

When the shipwreck landed here
Vagrants lost and full of fear

I watched them hug and curse and cry
And one by one they said goodbye

The earth is round and feet are cold,
The penguin truth is sharp and bold

What lies ahead we never know
Rain or fog or sleet or snow

But one thing goes without a doubt
For penguins out and on the scout

We have each other in the end
This loyalty won’t break or bend

Stand on me when you get froze
I’ll help you warm those furry toes

For when the wind blows hard and fast
It’s friends that help the living last.

It’s not about luck: How traveling makes us happier people


unnamed-2 2

A wise person once told me that luck is when opportunities present themselves and you’re ready to take them.

I think this is the most realistic view of life we can have. It explains why some people seem to have it all figured out, while others repeat the same mistakes over and over again. You’re not unlucky; the common denominator in your failures is you.

I’ve never been someone who believed in fate or destiny, but I do think there is some kind of science to the crazy patchwork of decisions that navigate us through life. As I stumble my way from one serendipitous exploit to another, there’s one thing that consistently drives me toward the right path – and that’s perspective.

Perspective is the key to happiness

Happiness has a lot less to do with what actually occurs in our lives, and a lot more to do with the discrete inner workings of our mind. American motivational speaker and writer Denis Waitley says this means striking a balance between finding value within yourself and expanding your horizons for a greater understanding of the world.

monkeyMany of us are so preoccupied with our individual struggles and relationships that we don’t factor in the monkeysphere (The idea that our brains are only capable of seeing 150 people or less as real people). We don’t recognize ourselves in terms of a global collective of loving, feeling individuals – we think only in limited, localized terms. I’m fatter than the girl next door. I earn less money than my coworker.

When we have a terrible day it can feel like we have the worst life in the world. But that’s generally an unfair conclusion, unless you are Nicholas Cage. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel frustrated or have negative emotions, but we should never let these feelings effect our general happiness in the long-term.

This is why according to the 2013 World Happiness Report, expats and people who travel generally report higher levels of happiness. Because of their lifestyle, travelers are forced to develop a more solid relationship to reality. Cut off from their native support system, they learn to handle the swing of the luck-pendulum better than others, while investing in other cultures expands their frame of reference. As a result, travelers can more realistically weight their failures and are less likely to get swept away by false hopes.

Overcoming struggle

But what if your dealing with something worse than the usual tempest of daily disappointments and #firstworldproblems?

Perhaps, you burst beyond the bogs of insecurity to take a big risk. You shake the surrealist snow globe and chase something you soul screams for; to gratify the creature of hope and anticipation that viciously burrowed into the cavity of your heart and made a nest.

slowlorisThen, as you see it there glinting on the horizon, your ship of dreams crash-lands in a blue lake of smurff blood and unicorn tears…surrounded by windmills full of fairy godmother corpses built from the brick and mortar of childhood nightmares.

At one time or another, we’ve all known what it feels like to watch the thing you want most evaporate in a gut wrenching fog of disappointment and regret. But in the end, it’s not how you deal with painful situations – it’s how you collect the broken shards of yourself and what glue you use to mosaic a reflection.

As human beings, we are the most adaptable creatures on earth. We can get through any pain, and we can acclimatize to any reality. We use perspective the way a lion uses its sense of smell to hunt prey. It’s this skill that’s the key to staying happy, healthy, and inspired in the face of life’s greatest challenges.

Adopting a realist view can change your life

realistsssNo matter how hard you work in life, there is always someone who achieves greater things. And there is always someone who manages, somehow, to accomplish less. Crappy things could always be worse, and great things could always be better.

We are given a choice every day to assess the world and our place in it. It’s those of us that chase imaginary hopes or wallow in misappropriated grief that stand to repeat history’s failures.

As Ingrid Michelson points out, you can live forever inside of a moment. But we have the power to choose which moment, so I challenge you to make it a good one.

Authorship: How becoming an expat helped me meet life goals


photo 2 (7)
Moving to a foreign country is a lot like writing a book. It’s something 80% of people would like to do but never will. It’s challenging, inspiring, scary as hell, and requires the loyal grit and determination of a cat chasing a laser beam.

You can be the most beautiful, emotive writer, spinning streams of golden prose that dance gracefully across a page – and yet, in the same moment, be a terrible storyteller with no sense of character development, plot, or narrative structure.

Then, there are born storytellers. People gifted at crafting tales that intoxicate readers with just the right amount of complexity, soul, and intrigue. A twist here, a turn there. The polygonal intricacy of origami Narnia. More often than not, these people are not great writers.

Then, there are the experts – we cannot forget factual accuracy. So many specialists, historians, sci-fi nerds, and PHD’s attempt to write books leaning on the near-religious grasp they have of a subject matter – but again, gripping facts and accurate situational dialogue do not, alone, make a good book. In fact, it is almost never that you find that all the qualities of true authorship exist within a single person. It is a game of playing your strengths.

From the moment I learned to read, I’ve been consumed with the dream of writing a book, but the “getting started” part, in the face of impossible deficiencies, has always stopped me dead. And what about self-publishing? This tiny technological advancement has flooded an already saturated market by devastating proportions. Like living abroad, where does one even begin to prepare for such a challenge? For me, there is no point at which I will ever feel prepared. And so I don’t think, I just do. Living the expat life, this mentality has led me through painful challenges, up volcanoes, across deserts, and through a tempest of soul-quaking adventures. Why should life goals be any different?

Facing trials despite a rainbow of insecurities, I have come to believe I can do anything – even write a book. Working in publishing, I am forced to not only contemplate the titanic effort and skill that goes into a novel, but to appreciate every aspect of the literary process and all the tiny details that add up to create a successful publication. Books are the key to unlocking the door to the past, present, and future by forging a genuine, experiential connection – It’s writer’s who achieve this that can truly claim success, and it’s expats who can understand and appreciate it better than anyone.

During my literary trajectory, I have known only a few writers who genuinely surmount the authorial plight and can claim rights to the hat of ‘Jack of All Trades’. (And no, Fifty Shades of Grey author Erika Mitchell is not one of them.) Only creative expression can transport you from the passive condition of thought to the active condition of sensation and there is nothing more creatively inspiring than experiencing another culture.

The expatriate life has given me freedom to know what I want, and the visceral stimulation to deliver it into reality. Through the ongoing cultural investigation that affords me this inspirited perspective and my newfound nomadic confidence, I am now armed with the tools to put pen to paper.

How to see the world with the eyes of a child


There’s nothing on earth more here-and-now than the undiluted enthusiasm of a child.

They observe the world around them with fearless, unadulterated amazement. Days are spent drinking in every visceral joy, basking in a sensual utopia of buttercream and moon shadows.

Children have no scars or wounds, no specters of alternate realities unrealized to choke their relationship to visceral perfection. They have an honest curiosity for existence that percolates more with every fresh second that ticks by.

The smell of wild strawberries growing in the field down the lane. Ladybugs and laughter. A terrycloth towel on smooth skin and the way daddy’s face lights up when he walks in the door. This is the marigold quintessence of being alive.

photo 2 (6) photo 1 (9)

Alas, as we grow older, we develop an alternate state of being – an unreality. This is the land of critical thinking. It is a presence of mind rather than body, a state where we make major life decisions, learning and growing as intellectual, emotionally cognizant beings.

With each passing year, we spend more and more time locked in our cerebral prisons, evolving into the people we are to become. It’s a critical and unique marvel of the human condition. However, before long, we forget entirely how to commune with an uncharted moment. We forget what ‘uncharted’ means altogether.

We stop noticing the plushness of the terrycloth in our rush to get dressed, get out the door, get to work, get home, get to sleep. Life is no longer an experience – it’s something to get through. Just a few more minutes until…

How do we get back to living free and in the moment? Living to live? The one link between self-actualized adulthood and our long-lost childhood selves is curiosity.

Living the Curious Life

The dictionary defines curiosity as a desire to learn or know about anything.

This is the key to life because it lies at the heart of all discovery, invention, creativity and intellectualism. What would the world be like without it?

Travelers and expatriates are practiced in conscious curiosity. We are forced to entertain a deeper existential awareness as a byproduct of the adventurous lifestyle. However, many of us don’t exercise this knowledge actively outside of the experiential haze of backpacking life.

As soon as we settle back into the routine of our host city, the existential magic ebbs away and we’re left with the doldrums of everyday existence. We begin to take the specatularity of our surroundings for granted.

We slip silently back inside of ourselves as the silt of boredom and responsibility blankets our mental repositories.

Getting the Magic Back

The first step to breaking this cycle is awareness. How many times a day do you catch yourself wallowing in unconstructive thoughts?

Fear, regret, anxiety, self-pity, self-doubt.

Whether you’re drifting to sleep at night or in the busiest part of your workday, escaping toxic thought patterns can seem impossible. And in a weird way, they’re addictive. The would-haves, should-haves, mights and maybes that lead us to construct grand romantic narratives in our head; playing out a kind of trick-fulfillment that’s ephemerally gratifying at best.

Dear brain, this is how it should have gone…yes to Fritos, no to Ho Ho’s.

Do you ever stop to think about how much of the day you’re wasting by living forever in the stagnant recesses of unreality?

Luckily, there are several tricks to keeping the magic alive and embracing the present moment with the joy and reckless enthusiasm of a child:

Creative Expression: Art, literature, music, theater, dancing, singing. Whether you’re watching, participating, or creating, there is no better way to enjoy the present – even if it’s just grabbing the soap-mic to belt out “Let it Go” In the shower. According to the University of Washington’s Arts in Healing Program, engaging in creative activities or viewing art releases endorphins, reduces stress and boosts self-esteem. You’re transported from the passive condition of thought to an active condition of sensation and desire via the aesthetic form. When you truly throw yourself into the act of expression, there is no room in your head for anything else but the symphony of inspiration swelling inside you like a circus balloon. It’s rousing, tactile engagement that sweeps you into the here and now.

Meditation: Another great way to open your mind to the present is through meditation. Easy enough to work into any schedule, meditating allows you to halt destructive thought patters and reconnect with the simplicity of your inner self. According to the Brainwave Research Institute, meditation increases production of serotonin, dopamine and melatonin, all of which are directly related to positive moods, happiness and relaxation. By doing just a few simple exercises, you are given an opportunity to reawaken the part of your soul that appreciates the details of living minute to minute. You will be surprised at how much lighter you feel.

Laughter: As E. E. Cummings once said, “the most wasted of all days is one without laugher.” Laugh long, hard, and often because it just feels awesome. According to a recent article on stress relief by the Mayo Clinic, laughter not only rockets you’re brain into the present, but it also stimulates your organs, soothes tension, relieves pain, and releases endorphins into your system. Attitude and perspective are 90% of any battle so if you have the choice to chuckle, don’t, hold back. .

Do less: One of the best ways to re-engage with your casually curious side is to simply, do nothing. In the feverish onslaught of meetings, deadlines, and to-do lists, we can forget how important it is to take a time-out. And with technology at our fingertips, we are so accustomed to filling small gaps of time with checking emails, replying to texts, or browsing Facebook – but none of these things allow our brains to fully disengage from unreality and appreciate the present. According to an article in Reader’s Digest, doing 5 minutes of nothing per day can wildly transform your outlook on life.

Give Yourself a Break: For most of us, the mental to-do list never ends. There is always the next thing after the next thing, after the next thing. So…in the words of Idina Menzel, “let it go! It’s good to have goals, plans and agendas for what you need to done, but don’t let it get out of control. It’s not healthy to constantly harp on yourself for things you haven’t had a chance to get to. This email, that phone call, a bill, an errand, a meeting. Eventually it will all get done so don’t compromise more of yourself than you have to in order to get there.

No matter what is going on in your life, make a commitment to curiosity – cast off the shackles of un-actualized intent and live for today! Because life is what happens while your making other plans.

Expat Resolutions: 6 ways to get inspired in the new year


MADDIEFAT

If you only attempt what you know you can do, you’re never going to do much of anything. But reach too high and you’re doomed to fail from the start. Where’s the balance?

This is why setting a New Year’s resolution is such a blind hamster marathon. You never really know if you’re setting off in the right direction.

Expats living thousands of miles from the support of friends and family have the hardest struggle of all to set and achieve New Year’s goals. This is compounded by the fact that the number one fear of those living abroad is not safety, homesickness, or culture shock; it’s the fear of not fitting in.

We’re terrified of not being accepted – not finding our place in natural the order of things. Is there anything worse than a life “on the outside”?

This leads many expats to indulge in a hurricane of social activity as a way to compensate – we want to feel like a part of the local community. We want friends!!! Unfortunately, this leaves typical resolutions like exercise, alcohol detox, and weight loss to fall by the wayside quicker than you can say Margarita Monday.

So what’s the secret to getting inspired in your expat life of 2015? Here are 6 tips to help you to target your resolutions and overcome your deepest expatriate fears:

Choose goals that work with your lifestyle:

One of the biggest mistakes expat resolutionists make is setting goals that grind harshly against the grain of their lifestyle.

For example, if you live in a city like Amsterdam that gets a daily dump of  snow this time of year, don’t set your weight-loss goal around jogging. If you live in a city like Rome where decadence is institutionalized and every dish is loaded with carby, caloric deliciousness, don’t pin your diet plans on avoiding fatty foods. Because you won’t.

Instead, mold your resolution to your city: What do the locals do for exercise? Are there a ton of bike trails nearby or a beach to run along? In Buenos Aires, the “thing to do” is roller blading. Locals gather in groups of 20+ and zoom their way from one suburb to the next with the grace of ballerinas and the attitude of 1980’s street thugs. It’s a great way for expats to bond with the community, make friends, AND keep weight resolutions!

Narrow your focus:

Another classic mistake is making too many goals spread over too many sections of your life; it’s like not having enough butter for your toast. I was never very good at juggling so I always find it to be a safe analogy – you can hold two balls in your hand securely, but as soon as you start to juggle more you’re likely to drop them all! Picking one or two goals your really comfortable and inspired about will make it easy to keep them.

Have confidence in yourself:

According to research by professor of psychology ALbert Bandura, a person’s level of motivation is directly proportional to what they believe they are capable of. People will only take you as seriously as you take yourself so the first step to keeping any New Year’s resolution is to have confidence that you can do it. If you’re doubting yourself, it’s probably not a great choice. I’d love to learn calculous sometime, but that’s just reaching for the stars.

Sorry, that’s a lie – I don’t want to learn calculous even a little.

Plan for obstacles:

Don’t assume it will be easy. If you do, you are giving yourself an easy out. “It’s raining today? Oh, I didn’t plan for that, my run is cancelled”. False! Professor of psychology Peter Gollwitzer reports that people who mentally prepare for obstacles are more likely to stick with their goals than those who don’t. Make sure there is a plan b in your pocket for the likely hick-ups and distractions. If you give up at the first sign of trouble, you were never really in it to begin with. This goes for every relationship, including the one you have with yourself.

Play the tourist:

Nothing is more inspiring about the expat life than the rush of cultural reciprocity. Exploring your foreign oasis with the fresh eyes of a tourist can give boring, tired goals new life. No matter how long you’ve been living in your city, there’s always more mysteries to uncover! Make a healthy-eating goal fun by trying more local dishes or exploring a new restaurant scene. Take a jog to a part of the city you’ve never seen before.

Just do it:

People ask me all the time how I ended up in the expat life, and in reality it’s because I just…did it. Many expats will tell you they spent months or years planning their continental leap, researching every tiny detail and comparing one city to another. That doesn’t work for me. If I sit down and plan too much, I get totally overwhelmed. Before long, I’ve completely lost my ambition in a cloud of risk analysis and apprehensive confusion.

It’s much the same with New Year’s goals – it takes strength of character; you have to dive in with everything you have before you lose heart and direction.

At the end of the day, we only get one shot at living so follow the advice of Howard Thurman:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”