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5 Ways Going Abroad Alone Increases Your Performance at Work

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What is your first thought when one of your co-workers decides to take a two-week vacation abroad? Sure, now you have to work overtime in their absence, but would it be worth it if they came back better than ever? At a crossroads in my career, I decided to spend two weeks in South America to gain clarity about what I want to do with my life, and as great as this experience was for my personal growth, I underestimated how much this trip would impact my professional life.

Here are the 5 ways it changed my performance and how it can change your performance too:

1. You Learn to Build Relationships from Nothing

As important as your time alone is for your personal development, finding ways to effectively socialize while abroad is probably your greatest challenge. Solo traveling forces you into uncomfortable situations where you must find common ground with people who speak different languages, have different beliefs, and come from different backgrounds.

Traveling alone gets lonely with minimal socialization, and the way you learn to respond to challenging social moments oftentimes is the personal development you seek when choosing to travel alone.

The ability to introduce yourself to new people and build relationships quickly is a skill that translates immensely at work. Whether you are at a company event, meeting a new employee, or building a relationship with a client, your experience socializing abroad gives you a new confidence in your conversations.

2. You Gain Self-Awareness

When traveling alone, it is a gift and a curse that you make every decision for yourself. You very quickly learn more about the things that you enjoy doing and the ways that you like spending your day. Every decision you make offers immediate feedback that further reveals your priorities and preferences, and from that you gain a new sense of self-awareness.

Although self-awareness can be practiced deliberately, a foreign setting brings about organic opportunities to develop self-awareness through cultural and natural introspection.

Self-awareness is hugely valuable at work because it allows you to be more critical of yourself.  Being in tune with your skillset makes you a more productive and efficient member of your team.

By identifying your capabilities in different areas, you can focus on your role and add value in the way that is optimized for you. The first step is to understand more about yourself and what you offer, and travel is a great way to hone in on exactly that.

“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” – Marcus Aurelius

3. You Learn How to Take Ownership of Poor Results

When sharing any experience with another person, the blame, guilt, pride or triumph dilutes into the entire group. When traveling alone, however, everything that happens is directed back at you, and you are responsible for every consequence of the decisions you make. You must learn to take ownership of your own mistakes when abroad, and learn to manage negative situations proactively.

In the workplace, accepting fault is especially important because blame is a huge source of conflict, and can greatly affect your office relationships along with your team’s willingness to work with you.

Taking ownership might be a source of immediate animosity, but serves well in the long-term because it builds a foundation that will help you overcome issues that arise in the future.

On a personal development note, when perceiving the error as your own, you assume the role of correcting the system that caused the error and gain experience as an individual while setting the company up for success moving forward.

4. You Learn How to Problem Solve Independently

I’d be remiss to not mention that traveling alone is stressful. You need to navigate public transportation, manage travel itineraries, and book all accommodations, which is not easy to do solo. Nonetheless, this challenge is valuable, because it makes you practice new skills in a high-stakes environment along with growing a sense of autonomy.

Independent problem solving is an irreplaceable skill in business, and being capable of finding an answer to a tough question on your own saves your team from unneeded distractions. Alternatively, when a peer presents you with a difficult and important problem to solve, you now have more faith in your ability to come up with a creative solution.

The skill of solving problems for yourself is an asset at work, and can develop quickly when being alone while abroad.

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” – Duke Ellington

5. You Learn to Trust Your Own Impressions

As a solo-traveler, you have a lot of time to internalize everything you experience. Although I do suggest everyone keep a journal while they are traveling, your impressions are limited to your own vantage point. With this limited input, you begin to value your own instincts more than you did before.

In your job, trusting your own impressions will increase your productivity at work by accelerating your work-flow. Certain projects require that you just move forward, and instead of second guessing yourself, you will have more confidence that you can handle the task. Time abroad brings a new-found confidence in difficult situations that will manifest in all areas of your life.

Outside of the unmatchable personal exploration you experience while traveling alone, you develop certain traits that prove to be extremely beneficial in a professional setting. By learning to build better relationships, gain self-awareness, take ownership of poor results, solve problems on your own, and trust your own impressions, traveling abroad hands you a polished set of skills that can deployed upon your return.

Where do you want to travel to and why? Let us know where you want to go in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Brian Ford is a former Division 1 college soccer player and standout scholar-athlete at UC Davis.  Having studied neurobiology and psychology, Brian completed 2 years in medical device sales where he provided consultative support for spine surgeons in the operating room.  More interested in applying his scientific background in a business setting, Brian will soon begin working for an exciting Silicon Valley biotech startup as the Director of Marketing and Sales while earning his MBA from Santa Clara University.  Brian is the host and founder of the Top-Rated Amazon Alexa Flash Briefing “Self Improvement Daily”, and continues to manage a local community service organization he created in college.  Brian is motivated to have a large social impact with everything he does, and the best way to follow his progress is on LinkedIn.

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How Your Psychological Blind Spots Keep You Stuck in Life

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Sometimes, life doesn’t seem to make any sense. Albert Einstein once said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Here’s the funny thing. We will say that line about someone else, have a good chuckle, and then DO THE SAME THING OURSELVES! This time, it’s not that funny, is it? I know. I’ve done it myself. (more…)

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3 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself and Live an Optimized Life

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The secret to happiness lies in the way you live your life. People think of happiness as some destination they’ll reach when they’ve accomplished the hundred things on their life to-do list. Happiness is often associated with money, material possessions, or even great relationships. (more…)

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These 7 Daily Resolutions Can Change Your Life

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4 Reasons Why Content Is Pivotal For Mental Health Healing

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One of the most important things for an entrepreneur’s mental health is expressing their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. This is where content creation and writing becomes pivotal. Whether you read something that resonates with you or you write a compelling blog post, the act of expressing yourself through content can help to put a smile on your face and make you feel better about things.

Most entrepreneurs don’t spend as much time taking care of their mental health as they should. Over the course of your career, you will experience a lot of ups and downs; these emotions have the potential to take a toll on your mind and body if you don’t learn to manage them properly.

Here are four reasons why expression through content is pivotal for healing, slowing yourself down, and giving yourself grace when the going gets tough.

1. Content can be a form of self-expression

When you are an entrepreneur, you frequently face feelings of insecurity, doubt, fear, apathy, and exhaustion, just to name a few. Some days it feels like no one is on your business’s side and everyone else has it all figured out. On those days some of us try to look at our website’s analytics to cheer up. 

But an even more freeing task is creating content. You create content to improve your business and reach more people’s lives. But, there is something special that happens when you write with the intention of expressing your thoughts and feelings — you open a door to yourself. 

Content is inherently personal, which means content creators open themselves up when they share their thoughts on a platform. Everything from the title of the post, the keywords they choose to include, and even the content itself helps you to understand who the author of that post truly is. And as an entrepreneur, this can be an important experience because it allows others to empathize with you.

2. Self-reflection will lift you up

As you think through what to write about and how to express yourself, the process of self reflection is a valuable step you need to go through. You’re able to reflect on the blessings you have, assess what you learned from the negative experiences, and create a plan on how to maintain the positive experiences you’ve had. 

There are a few ways that self reflection can help you with mental health healing. The act of reflecting on your experiences helps to create clarity in feelings, thoughts and emotions which will eventually lead into acceptance for what has happened or is happening currently without feeling overwhelmed by it all. This process also leads people towards finding new things they enjoy doing. Self reflection is therapeutic and can be implemented anytime you feel the need to overcome overwhelm.

“Writing in a journal each day allows you to direct your focus to what you accomplished, what you’re grateful for and what you’re committed to doing better tomorrow. Thus, you more deeply enjoy your journey each day.” – Hal Elrod

3. A sense of belonging and camaraderie

It is important to have a support network of people who will listen and understand what you are going through. When you post a blog or upload a video on YouTube, there are others who feel the same way and experience a sense of connection with you.

When you put time, attention and thoughtfulness into your writing, it is amazing when someone reads what you’ve written and comments on it thanking you or expressing how they resonate with what you’re going through. It’s hard to put into words how powerful it feels when someone who has gone through the same experience and reads your words then reaches out.  There is power in expression but miracles happen when people bond over a similar experience.

4. Library of content to share with more people

It can be very difficult to know what content to share with people as the symptoms of mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.) vary from person to person. But as you accumulate more and more content, this will increase the number of articles or videos available for readers to choose from depending on their specific purpose. It also builds your personal library of resources you’re able to share to different people you encounter or engage directly with.

As chaotic and distracting social media can be, it can also be a beacon of hope with the right content. Many people share viral posts, or content that interest them. Since your content is valuable and personal, the more you share it, the more likely it is to be shared with the right audience.

You never know who is watching (reading)

Your content is speaking to someone and even though they may not be actively engaged, their experiences with your work are impacting them. Think about the last time you watched TV: did everyone in the room have something entertaining to say? 

You never know who’s watching because there’s always somebody reading your posts or viewing your videos-even if they just skim through it briefly. This is why creating content worth consuming is critical, not only to get you out of your funk, but also to serve your audience.  Be authentic and stay true to yourself; make every post count as an opportunity for connection with your best self and for potential readers to bond with you.

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