Rapid Life Improvements Via Mentality Shift (3/30)
One year ago I decided to move to Republic of Moldova, and this is (part of) what happened.
During the summer of 2015 I had chaired the first GirlsGoIT coding summer camp for teenage girls organised in Moldova and I loved it! I loved the vibe of the country, I loved the group of 36 girls and their enthusiasm and determination. I was as inspired by them as they were hopefully inspired by me. I still to this day stay in touch with a couple of them, and I am grateful that I can contribute to their professional development.
A few months ago, the mother of one of them said that her daughter became a different person after attending that camp! That now she studies more, and is more motivated to learn, because she knows she has other opportunities than she ever thought! The power of internet and knowledge…
After having returned from the camp, I have decided to move to Moldova and see if I can contribute more to their startup community development. I have worked with the Startup Weekend Moldova team years before while I was managing CEE regional operations for Startup Weekend, and having spent more time in the country made me see their potential for development.
So last November I packed my 2 bags, and off I went. From having lived in USA and UK for the past 11 years, this was a new challenge for me, one that will turn out to trigger a complete transformation from a personal and professional perspective. From a professional perspective it was very empowering — I consulted the USAID Moldova Competitiveness Project and Tekwill on entrepreneurial community development. We did amazing things together, and I will write about how one person can ‘improve the economic outset of a country and motivate people’ in another post, but for this one I’ll keep it on a more personal level.
The first couple of months in Moldova were orientation months. Living on my own again, in a new country, very different culture than what I was used to and processing a lot of internal battles. At this time I was recommended a book that would help shift the way I see myself: “Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential” by Dr. Carol Dweck (here is one of her TED’s talks). For some reason, this book just came into my life at the perfect moment, and so many things about the way I see myself made sense. The wonderful thing about this is that when you understand why something doesn’t work, you can do something to change it!
So I went ahead, understood why I react to certain things in certain ways, and I made some changes. During the last year I have quit smoking, drinking alcohol, eating sugar and replaced all these habits with just one: going to the gym. All at the same time. Not one person believed I can do it, the general advice was to take them one by one, that it’s going to be too hard on myself, my body will have a hard time adapting, etc. However, I wanted to see if I am capable of the internal strength required to take such a drastic approach to a total makeover. And I was, and it felt fantastic and empowering!
The fun part is that it was easy, or at least I forced myself to see it that way! Whenever I would need a cigarette, I would wonder myself what thought stresses me out. When I would have the opportunity to have a drink I would ask myself if I really needed a drink, or I would have one just for the need to be socially accepted? When I craved sugar, I would just say no, and focus on the results I want to achieve by going to the gym. I was waking up at 6:30 am to go for a walk in the frozen January park, I would say no to being cozy and I would say no to anything that I did not consider good for me.
My father told me one day that fundamentally, all humans know the difference between good and bad. It is just a matter of choice to pick which one you want to go with.
Thing is, bad things are easier, more comfortable, and the instant gratification feels oh so good! But the moment you realise that instant gratification is like a drug in itself, and you treat it just like another addiction that is bad for you, then you’re empowered to challenge yourself to always chose what is good for you.
By changing the way I react to challenges, I found a way to hack my brain! I hacked my own bad habits, and replaced them with just one good one: getting healthy, both physically and mentally.
I have also started learning Russian (and was doing quite well until I decided I have to pick battles), and decided that I will become a programmer and started learning Python. Still ongoing. But it’s a good fight! One that makes me proud of myself whenever I understand a new line of code, and one that made me expand my brain in a timeframe of 6 months with a speed I didn’t think possible.
It’s been almost a year now. Running and working out have become routine, and I do not even desire cigarettes or alcohol anymore. I do eat sugar now and then, because the occasional cookie is reaaaally not that bad for you. ;)
I am a better me. One that is aware of the difference between good and bad, and one that has developed the strength to pick the struggles of good instead of the instant gratification of bad.
I think that when you place yourself in situations outside your comfort zone, you uncover a potential hidden behind the human need for safety. I was honestly terrified of being responsible for the girls in the summer camp, but turned out to be one of the most rewarding (and most challenging) experience of my life so far. Thank you Moldova, you will always have a special place in my heart!
As for you , my dear reader— I recommend you always challenge yourself and pick what’s good for you instead of instant gratification. You know what that is, deep down. ;)
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson