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How You Can Use Gratitude to Inform Cultural Understanding

Before you embark on the life of an expat, read these tips.

Deciding to make your mark on the world in a positive way is a noble cause. I get asked a lot in my work for the United Nations and the World Bank Group how gratitude can transform our planet and help to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. One of the questions: How can we support the universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity? I say, we should increase our levels of gratitude and grateful actions.

Previously, I spoke about how gratitude can become part of our everyday lives, but let’s take that a step further and explore how we as global citizens can translate feelings of thankfulness throughout the different multicultural communities we live in. One of the best ways to find happiness, fulfillment, a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging? Help improve the lives of others, thus becoming your own “cultural ecosystem of gratitude.”

This can be an overwhelming goal, I’ll admit. How can you, just one individual person, change others’ lives for the better? How does your global mindset and gratitude work together, and how can you grow them in a synergetic bundle that will help you live a culturally diverse and purpose-driven life? Here’s how:

Find Your Joy

If you want to try influencing the happiness of others, you’ll need to start with yourself. What makes you happy? What brings you joy? Thinking about this will help you figure out how you can brighten the lives of others. For example, when you move to a new country and still need to master the language, it is important to step outside your comfort zone and include cultural activities in your calendar. It is important to make it a priority to set time aside for you to indulge in the activities that bring you pleasure. Even if you don’t have the time to go on long off-trail runs every weekend like you used to, perhaps you can connect with a tandem language partner,  grab a cup of coffee and share a cross-cultural moment to learn more about the uniqueness of their culture and mindset. You may be surprised at how quickly you start to light up after stepping out of the darkness of your comfort zone and into the light.

Influence and Inform Through Stories

One way I have truly learned to be grateful for any global expat experience I have had, is to share stories with others. There is nothing more rewarding and helpful than sharing tacit and elicit knowledge with your community. You can even use social media as a tool for this storytelling and information exchange to make connections with those in your new cultural ecosystem.

Construct an Unstoppable Identity

It’s hard to help others effectively if your own life is a mess. If you really want to make a positive impact on the world, you’ll be better at it if you aren’t too distracted by your own problems. Maybe you’d like to help another global citizen who is unemployed find meaningful work that provides them with a steady income — but you haven’t held down a good-paying job in a long time yourself. This doesn’t mean you should give up on helping your friend, but get your things in order first. Once you manage to figure things out, you’ll be in an excellent position to help others who’ve been in similar positions as you have. You’ll also be able to understand their situation and offer solid, proven advice.

If you want to try influencing the happiness of others, you’ll need to start with yourself. What makes you happy? What brings you joy?

Shift Your Mindset

Your perspective will shape you or break you. Be honest about what you truly enjoy about the global life you are living. An “expat,” “globetrotter” or “global citizen” has become a trendy and cool thing to do; don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is. It is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, and it always forces you to challenge yourself and be aware of your strengths. Knowing what your strengths are, you should also think about whether or not you enjoy doing what you’re good at, as to avoid boredom and burnout. This will allow you to consistently help others and will shift your cultural mindset forever.

Look for Little Ways to Help

Make a resolution to perform good deeds every day. The best way to do this is to look for little ways to spread joy and help others. Hold doors open for people with a welcoming smile. Let someone who is in a hurry move in front of you while waiting at the grocery store. Buy a pack of diapers for the new parents across the street (even if you don’t know them). Sincerely ask those who serve you (your waiters and waitresses, check-out clerks, gas station attendants, etc.) how they’re doing. Even though these are fairly small gestures, they can still have a big impact on others. This could also translate to learning about the traditions and customs of different countries and make them part of your own.

Count Your Blessings

Think about what you appreciate in your life, and the many ways you can share those good things with others. Are you in a fulfilling career in the country where you live? If so, perhaps a good way for you to express your gratitude and help other global millennial tastemakers is to assist them in focusing on finding their own expat calling. The basic idea is to identify the various ways in which you’ve been helped or blessed, and find moments to pay it forward to others.

Make a resolution to perform good deeds every day. The best way to do this is to look for little ways to spread joy and help others.

Start your day by thinking about something you are grateful for and realize that you can level up your achievements and goals to be a connecting thread in this culturally unified planet we call Earth.

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4 comments

  1. I really this idea of showing gratitude on a global scale and showing appreciation in different ways. My favorite part of the article is the point of finding your joy, and sharing what makes you happy. Also including the culture of wherever you are into your calendar into your daily activities to master a language. You have to fully immerse yourself into a culture to learn a language and along with fully immersing yourself you also develop an appreciation of the culture around you.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your article. Finding joy for yourself is an important self care skill that many people lack. A TCKs knowledge of the different cultures they experience is important and should be told through stories so people can learn more. The more culturally mobile we make the world, the more unified the world becomes.

  3. I connected with the ideas you brought in with a cultural ecosystem of gratitude coming from within through “Little Ways to Help”. The personal impact in the video you shared is emotionally profound. I enjoyed the way you reasoned with how to handle the overwhelming task: changing other people’s lives. I like how the goals you set up are achievable ones that contribute to learning the task rather than telling us how it’s done. This article is not only positive but very motivating. Fantastic article.

  4. I love the way this is framed. I am a big believer in the ways that gratitude can affect people’s lives, and I love the way you’ve used it to shape a discussion about compassion both for yourself and for others. Thank you for starting such an excellent dialogue!

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