Living Abroad Boosts Your Decision-Making Clarity by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Technology is enabling us to reconsider the limitations of work and providing an opportunity to redefine our lifestyle. Without the need to be desk-bound, workers are able to work from any place they choose to live in temporarily or permanently. In 2017 the United Nations reported 258 million people are living in a country other than their country of birth — an increase of 49% since 2000. Now, with faster mobile networks, easy access to video chats, and encrypted messaging apps workers have a growing number of methods on how to stay connected with their employers, friends and family members regardless of location.

A 2018 research study produced by scholars of management and organizational behavior at Rice University, MIT, University of North Carolina and Columbia University, showed how moving abroad is rewarding for individuals. The research comes at a time when more young workers are choosing digital nomadism as a lifestyle and technology can facilitate cross-country travel and transition. The multi-layered benefits include career success, appreciation for diverse cultural backgrounds, and expanded perspectives which improves decision-making, stress-management, and job performance. The study examined self-concept clarity, defined as “clearly and confidently defined, internally consistent, and temporally stable.”  The study found that:

Living abroad enhances clarity

The participants were asked to identify how agreeable they were with statements such as “In general, I have a clear sense of who I am and what I am” and “I seldom experience conflict between the different aspects of my personality.” After six studies, including testing on whether the participants had self-clarity prior to moving, the researchers concluded that people who had lived abroad gained a stronger sense of clarity.

The clarity gained by living abroad is due to self-discerning reflections

Participants living abroad engaged in self-reflection explorations of their values and beliefs as they explored a new environment, culture and belief systems different than the ones they were familiar with. This allowed them to discern and reflect on their own values and beliefs.

Deep rather than broad foreign experiences increase self-concept clarity

The study showed that moving from location to location without having the intent to stay for a long period of time did not have a significant impact on self-concept clarity. Participants who had lived in a country for at least three years experienced a clearer sense of self.

The boost in self-concept clarity predicts greater career decision-making clarity

This part of the research studied participants who had lived abroad and the clarity they showed on their future career plans. Those who had lived abroad reported a stronger sense of confidence and conviction in their career aspirations.

There aren’t many research studies focused on the benefits of living abroad like this one. Instead, there is well-documented research that explores the benefits of learning a new language, and there is a growing body of research on third culture kids which examine the characteristics of children growing up in a culture different than the one of their parents. It is clear that living abroad has benefits that expand beyond professional fulfillment. Learning to adapt to new environments and making decisions with sound reasoning in cross-cultural contexts are positive leadership traits. As research suggests, living abroad for a long period of time strengthens self-awareness and the discerning clarity to make decisions in one’s career.

April 10, 2019 at 10:18AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs