IT professionals like you and me are always ready when it comes to planning, predicting, and strategizing. We can tell how many days it will take to complete a task, which parts will be harder, and how to avoid bugs. But what happens in situations that are not under our control?
The Problem With Needing to Be in Control
Moving to Portugal was a big challenge. It was my first time traveling to a new country by myself and I was also leaving my family and friends back in Brazil. I had to say goodbye to my old life and make room for a totally new one.
I had a few concerns at first: Would I adapt to the weather? How difficult would it be to meet new people? Will I be able to find a nice and affordable apartment? I had to do some really hard thinking to figure out how I’d handle these issues.
I’ve been working as a developer for a few years and I’m used to having everything under control. Developers are trained to think about issues around potential solutions. We figure out how many days it will take to complete a task, which parts of the development process will require more effort, and how we can avoid or fix bugs. Because we control so many different aspects of our work it’s easy to find answers to most problems. But the truth is technical skills are important but soft skills, such as perseverance, having a positive mindset, and others, are as much or even more important!
When I moved to Portugal, I quickly realized that a lot of things were out of my control. I frequently felt uncomfortable and found myself questioning if moving was the right thing to do.
A Shift in Mindset
One day, I was watching a post-game interview with NFL head coach Bill Belichick, when a reporter asked him about how he helps players navigate outside criticism. He said:
Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it does but, in the end, you control your preparation, effort, attitude, and toughness. Those things are under your control and you just need to do the best you can with those.”
You can see the full interview transcription, here.
This answer opened my eyes and helped me change my mindset. I was focusing too much on the things that I couldn’t control, trying to strive for perfection. Instead, I tried focusing on things I could control. This helped me overcome my concerns as well as some bothersome situations I faced in Portugal.
Choosing Your Battles
When I arrived in Portugal for the first time, I landed in Lisbon. I was supposed to embark on another flight to Oporto when the airplane company communicated that the flight was canceled. We were going to have to wait for a resolution.
Then this exact scene happened at the airport:
This is a scene in Bug's Life, a Disney film. The ants were trying to go back to their anthill, but a problem happened: a leaf fell off on their way. The ants started to become desperate and didn’t focus on solving the problem.
Such as in the movie, in Lisbon’s airport everyone was upset (me included) and people started queueing to complain to the company’s representatives. However, I realized that this was something that wasn’t under my control, so the best option was to change my perspective, not thinking about the problem, and instead, trying to find a solution.
So, instead of focusing on the leaf in the path, I should focus on how to go around the leaf. Like the ant, who pointed out to the others the way to go around it.
My solution was to enjoy my first time in a new country, so I took the time to get to know the Lisbon airport. I began walking around, checking out the shops and the views, and I even took the opportunity to talk with my family and friends.
A few hours later, the airport company managed to get us a bus ride to Oporto. This wasn’t what I expected, but it was a solution nonetheless. In the meantime, I realized that I had learned how important it was to enjoy the present, instead of trying to control the future or wasting energy on things that were already in the past. My flight was canceled and I knew I would have to wait for a solution to get to my destination. There was no point in arguing with the airline representative or being upset about the situation.
Instead, I remembered a lyric from Mac Miller music, called Self Care:
I have all the time in the world, so for now I’m just chilling!”
So I decided to relax at the airport and I actually had a great time!
The Power of Patience
Unlike many of my colleagues at KWAN, I came to Portugal without a project (even though I was in the process of starting one). Because of this, setting up a contract and bank account took a lot more time for me.
It was extremely frustrating to wait around for things to be solved, and there was nothing I could do about it besides waiting, and waiting. It felt endless at times. Getting angry at the people involved wouldn’t do me any good, and I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and go back to Brazil. So, once again, I had to change my perspective.
I decided that the best course of action would be doing the best I could everyday, having faith in the people around me, and being patient.
I quickly realized that I had time to get to know the city that I decided to live in: Aveiro. This was the perfect opportunity to enjoy the different markets, find new places to visit, go to the beach, and look for an apartment.
A few weeks later, all of my problems were solved. I started a new and amazing project and truly began living in a great city. In the meantime, I made new friends and collected new experiences that helped me put together this article.
Reflecting on Previous Experiences
The different situations that I faced after moving to Portugal had me thinking about other challenges I faced in the past. I realized that I often avoided jumping into new experiences because I was so afraid of “falling” at the things I couldn’t control.
Shifting my mindset and focusing on the things that were under my control helped a lot in this regard. Now I’m not afraid anymore and, as one of my favorite artists, Mac Miller, would say:
It feels good to fall!”
Sometimes we only learn when we face challenges we are not prepared for, that’s when we test ourselves emotionally, our adaptability, and our capabilities. So if you are afraid as I was, here’s another piece of advice from Mac Miller:
At the end, life ain't a life until you live it.”
It’s fine to be afraid, it’s your own conscience telling you to be prepared for the challenge, but don’t reject it, you could be rejecting a great life experience!
Positive Mindset - A Key Element That Helped Me Adjust to a New Country: Final Thoughts
If you’re considering getting a work visa, or are already in the middle of this process, this is the time to try and change your mindset. Begin by doing your best to organize your documents and deliver them to the company that is helping you obtain your visa (VFS, for example, in Brazil).
You’ll probably begin to worry about how long you’ll have to wait to get a passport or even if you’ll get one at all, but that isn’t under your control. Try being positive and invest your time in things that will make you happy and that can be useful for the following steps in the challenge.
If you’re still in your home country, be sure to enjoy your stay as long as you can. Visit your favorite places, hang out with family and friends, and enjoy your hobbies. If you’re waiting in a new country, explore different cities, make an effort to meet new people, and try some local food!
Here are a few extra tips that can help you plan when moving to a new country:
- Search for videos, news, articles, and guides about different cities in the country you’re moving to. This might help you find the perfect spot to live in.
- Try calculating living costs before arriving at your destination. Make sure you know how much you can afford to spend.
- Take advantage of Facebook communities. Many of them were made for foreigners by foreigners living in the country you’re moving to. This is a great opportunity to meet people that are going through the same changes as you.
Finally, at KWAN’s blog there’s a whole section just for international career articles, check it out.
You can try to make perfect plans as long as you want, but sometimes things will go wrong. What’s important is that you’re able to remain positive and find new ways to adapt and learn from change.