This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 12: Milestones
When I take a look back at 2014 I see a tremendous year of achievement. This year signified a big personal milestone: my first year in the USA, as well as, the first year of Alpha Efficiency, created during this turmoil. I’ve managed to stabilize myself to an extent on a new continent and made another move within it. I joined a task management startup (that failed), worked full time as a web performance analyst (and still do) all while running Alpha Efficiency. But through all these hectic things I remember how finite my willpower is, and how after overextending myself I had to slow down to unwind.
Culture Shock and its relation to Habits
Before I proceed I want to go through the basics and define what Culture shock actually is.
“Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life.”
One positive consequence of culture shock is developing a resilience to change. The drastic nature of the change in your environment will destabilize your habit patterns, but you understand the circumstances in which culture shock originates, you will realize that it is fairly easy to recreate a familiar, but new environment for your psyche (psychology, operating pattern, you name it).
During my career in AIESEC, we were being prepared for an internship in a foreign country. In theory, people are perfectly fine for the first three weeks of living in a new country, but after these three weeks, a culture shock kicks in, as they start to notice the differences in the context. you’ll find that your activity elicits different responses to the ones you’re used to, and your internal mental patterns are going through the shock. You’ve passed the stage of assimilating the new environment, but now you are processing the subliminal and non-verbal cues that people around you emit.
No amount of training can help you fight the culture shock completely. In fact, the more you are entrenched in your current environment, the more difficult it will be for you to adjust to the new one. All the things that were environment-related are going to get in the way of having a fluid approach to new circumstances.
Willpower fatigue: Too much change leave you depleted
Looking back, The only part in which I wish I’d been moreproductive, was in the moments when I needed to move fast and make quick decisions, and I couldn’t due to willpower fatigue. Working in front of the computer 10 hours every day makes your lifestyle sedentary, your body soft, and your mood lower overall. But despite the fact that I’ve kept my productivity very high on all things digital, my “real life” problem solving was not that great. Any inconvenience would slow me down significantly, and it could potentially ruin my day.
Moving to a whole new country, without the proper support system, I had no idea what kind of energy I would have at my disposal. It transformed my life into a startup of a sort, where every day seemed like a challenge. I started out living in a cheap place, that was looking much worse than my previous unit back home, which made it very uncomfortable. I got tired and fed up from reducing the quality of my lifestyle, and spent a lot of energy on being irritated by small things, but it was necessary in my pursuit of happiness. My entire habit system was out of whack, because I’d lost the environment that was driving my productivity ecosystem.
When you are not comfortable, you are operating at a much lower energy level, and accomplishing tasks takes twice the energy than it does normally. This is the proof that work and lifestyle optimization yield great results, and should be applied to everyday life. Small changes that bring big results.
When you are “not in your own place”, you realize how much energy, simple every day mundane things can take. This is a consequence of a constant demand for a more conscious effort in conducing your daily activities. In this scenario, your previous habits and routines pay immediate dividends. Reducing negative stress and making your life comfortable and stress-free will liberate a lot of time for you; Enabling you to create and produce more, as well as enjoy more.
People who are living optimized lives, not only have more time, they also use their time more effectively. This has to lead me to the conclusion that people who are living comfortably, and have put a thought process into their habits and rituals, are the people who are able to work less than others and yet achieve better results.
Being exposed to a dramatic and big change in your environment will push your character to a higher level.
When you are forcefully pushed out of your comfort zone, your flight or fight response tends to trigger and enable your ego to reach a new level. For me, moving to the USA was a significant milestone that signified not only a move to a new continent, but a new level of adaptability and resilience to change. This has also forced me to live consistently outside of my comfort zone.
Pushing for a personal milestone
In my experience, a lot can be achieved when you push yourself through extremely uncomfortable situations. Overcoming these obstacles is a significant milestone in itself, but there are other benefits to be gained. . Every time when you are going through the difficult patch, you can accept it as a working ground for your willpower. The more you practice your will power, by demonstrating self-discipline and doing the right things, the stronger your willpower will become.
Getting uncomfortable is one of the best things you can accomplish for your long term adaptability to ever changing circumstances. Not everyone will go and change continents, however, there are numerous other ways to go about pushing yourself.
In the past year, both Darren and I have experienced 100+ hour work weeks, and we understood what rewards came from those short-term efforts. Those are considered as milestones as well. Despite the fact that I’ve hated 100 Hour Workweeks in the past, I’ve learned that they’ve enabled me to extend my comfort zone, and if needed, now I could work longer hours, or simply don’t feel diminished from stress, if I do work longer. Also, they made my regular 40 hour workweek look like a vacation in the process!
The psychological stamina that we get from temporary overwork or a big change is a benefit in itself, but in fact, does come with some damage to your usual routine. When going through a difficult patch of life, before you get totally fed up, realize that this might be a blessing in disguise; Think not only of the difficulties of the present but the potential it represents for an easier future.