What impact does living abroad have on your happiness?
Through research and own experience, we found out that every person is driven by specific factors in life. The factors that will be impacted when living abroad, can be grouped together in four main needs.
Does living abroad makes you happy?
To feel happy living abroad, these four needs, also known as the Wheel of Needs, must all be met sufficiently.
The wheel of Needs contains:
- the need feel secure
- the need to feel valued
- the need to belong
- the need for challenge & variety
1. The need to feel secure
Feeling secure is about safety, certainty, comfort, control and consistency. This can be found in having a safe environment, a steady job, enough financial resources, being in good health and knowing what to expect and whom to trust.
The need to feel secure often suffers when moving abroad since everything is new and overwhelming which can lead to feelings of insecurity. Ironically, the need to feel secure is sometimes the main reason for moving abroad (e.g. for a steady job with a good income), so in some cases the move abroad may both fulfil and fail to meet this need at the same time.
2. The need to feel valued
Feeling valued is about to be seen, heard and listened to. This is also about a sense of self-worth. For this it is important to live according to your purpose and true values.
The need to feel valued can be harmed when moving abroad in multiple ways. One way is when you can only find lower-level employment in your host country than you were used to back home. Another factor that can leave this need unfulfilled is when you are not able to express yourself the way you were used to, since the differences between cultures can be the source of much misunderstanding.
Failure to sufficiently master the local language is also not benefiting the need to feel valued, since it can damage your self-esteem and other people might underestimate you.
3. The need to belong
This is about having meaningful relations but also being able to identify with the people around you. Meaningful relations is related to your inner circle, consisting of your partner, children/grandchildren, parents/grandparents and close friends.
Identification is about fitting in within a broader context. It can be hard to fit in 100% when living abroad, since you will feel a bit different for a long time – and perhaps forever. There can be situations which both fulfil and fail to meet this need simultaneously – such as when you’re moving abroad to live with the love of your life, but are also going to miss your family and friends back home.
4. The need for challenge and variety
This is about becoming the best possible version of yourself through study, religion/spirituality, learning from life, seeking adventure or chasing a dream. It’s human nature to be curious and wanting to have fun and adventure. Also many of us want to maximize their potential by breaking out of our comfort zone.
A move abroad often means you are having a steep learning curve in experiencing new things. This can cause you to see things from a different perspective and this may even mean a shift in your ideas about what’s right and wrong. This sometimes can be a difficult and confusing process.
Depending on where you live and what is your situation, it can also be that it is the complete opposite and you are actually not having enough challenge where you are living now.
The Weel of Needs
In order for you to feel happy living abroad, these four needs must all be met sufficiently. However, there is no universal order of priority, since each person attaches a different level of importance to different needs at different times.
To check the extent to which your own specific needs are being met, simply award a score from 1 to 10 for each need by answering the following questions:
- Do you feel secure?
- Do you feel valued?
- Do you belong?
- Do you experience enough challenge and variety?
The centre of the wheel equals zero points, i.e. ‘not met at all’, and the outer edge equals ten points, i.e. ‘fully met’. Plotting the scores for all four needs produces a spider chart that reveals at a glance which areas need more attention in order to maximize your happiness.
Are your needs met, when moving abroad?
When answering the four questions, it’s very important to realize that you’re being asked about your own feelings, not about generally held beliefs and opinions. For example, you might still feel quite safe despite living in a country with a high crime rate, in which case you’ll probably still award a quite high score to the question ‘Do you feel secure?’.
In other words, your score is subjective and may also be influenced by your expectations. For the best result, try to award the scores as honestly as possible for yourself, irrespective of how you think other people might see things.
After completing your own Wheel of Needs, you can evaluate your scores as follows:
A score of 8-10: This need is optimally fulfilled
A score of 6-7: This need is fulfilled at an acceptable level, but there’s always room for improvement
A score of 4-5: This need is not sufficiently fulfilled, so some action is advised
A score of 0-3: This need is not fulfilled at all, so urgent action is advised
If you have mostly high scores, then it means your Wheel of Needs is well balanced. If you have one or more scores below 6, then it’s time to look at what you can do to fulfil those low-scoring needs and improve your happiness.
In a one-on-one coaching session we can create a deeper insight why certain needs are not met well enough and how you will be able to get them fulfilled.