For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived as an expat in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing is a megacity of 30 million people. Often abbreviated as CQ, and pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring, Chongqing is located in south-central China on the Yangtze River. I’ve come a long, long way from my small hometown located in (pause for effect) … south-central Missouri on the Little Dry Fork Creek. How long? How about 14 time zones-long? CQ is one of the world’s largest cities but I am on a quest for a simple life. I want to “simplify, simplify”, as Hank Thoreau beautifully stated it. Thus, even in the middle of a huge metropolis, I publish these observations and admonitions from my 18th Floor Homestead.
I am currently working on a new book, The Expat Life. It will deal with expat experiences, lifestyle, and mindset. Welcome to come along for the ride. If you find this invitation intriguing, become a subscriber to my free weekly newsletter at http:/theexpatlife.substack.com. Yes, it’s free and yes, it’s in the form of a weekly email sent directly to your Inbox. Substack also provides an opportunity to leave your comments if you wish. Welcome!
Living Your Life 100 Days at a Time
As an expat, we are forced to and blessed with the necessity of reinventing our lives. Obviously, one does not board an international flight, and, upon arrival, simply resume your old lifestyle. Before you make those adjustments in your lifestyle, it is an appropriate time for some serious reflection. What is most important for you? Why are you doing this? Is this the right path for you? Is this even the right mountain? To illustrate this concept, let me insert a brief excerpt from my journal. This entry was written a few months after stepping off my own international flight.
I am currently reading one of the “Four Classics” Chinese novels, A Dream Of Red Mansions, and enjoying it immensely. One of the characters talks about what she thinks are the most important things for a person to acquire in life. She lists riches, nobility (of character), and leisure. She then notes that it is difficult to achieve any two of these accomplishments but only the rarest individual manages to have and hold all three. For me, these things are the most valuable qualities as well, rather than the single-minded focus on material success which seems to be the most popular viewpoint currently in America. To that list, I would add education and friends to share our experiences with. It is interesting to consider what we think are the most important things in life. The fact that I am living a life where I can discuss such issues with students over breakfast – instead of the latest celebrity scandal, invasions, and publicity stunts – tells me that I am in the right place.
Experts assure us that the most successful people are those who have clearly defined their goals. Yet, they also tell us that very few people have ever done that, despite the examples of the few who do. So why do most people not set goals? Perhaps part of the reason is that selecting goals requires intense thinking, abstract thinking, and projecting. Such thinking is difficult and may be uncomfortable.
Therefore, I offer an interim solution. Instead of the worrisome challenge of setting Lifetime goals (with a capital “L”), why not choose goals for only the next 100 days? Then, every 100 days, you revise, renew, or replace your goals. You are not making a long-term commitment; it’s only for 100 days. This eliminates the pressure to choose your most important goals for your whole life. No, 100 days is a very short period with the end always in sight. It is easy to visualize 100 days.
100 days doesn’t feel intimidating. When setting a 100-day goal for a project, you can easily visualize what needs to be done and the steps that need to be completed to achieve that particular objective. It is short; with only 100 days, there is a sense of urgency. 100 days is not such a lengthy period that you have the luxury of too many deferrals before starting. However, it is also long… long enough to allow us to think big. Authorities also tell us that it’s very common to overestimate what you can do in one day or one week, but underestimate what can be accomplished in one year. 100 days, about three months, is in the middle of those two extremes.
100 days allows for many opportunities to complete small steps towards achieving our goal. Indeed, if we think of 24 hours a day for 100 days, we now see 2400 one-hour time blocks to work on our goals, step-by-step, one hour at a time. But 100 days is also a short time. When things get tough, you remind yourself you made a commitment for only 100 days. All you have to do is follow your plan for 100 days – only 100, no more. You have the comforting reassurance that, if you wish, you will be released from the present commitment at the end of the 100 days.
As an expat, we have an automatic opportunity to reinvent our lives. As we begin an expat life we can replace many of the suddenly irrelevant activities from our old life with meaningful new activities. This proposal to live in 100-day segments can achieve amazing results while reducing the pressure that often prevents us from starting. What would be your first 100-day goals?