To stay or not to stay in Germany?

To stay or not to stay in Germany?

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How do I know if it’s time relocate? Should I move away from my family? As an expat, you’re confronted with making life-changing decisions like these on a quite regular basis - and that can be a handful. Psychologist Kathrin Lethert walks us through relevant aspects to consider when making big decisions, to enhance wellbeing and reduce stress.

Trying something new has the potential to change things for the better: A new job might come along with interesting new tasks and greater career opportunities. Moving across the country or even abroad provides a promising base for new adventures, meeting new people, and creating new memories. 

However, making major life changes can be difficult, especially because shifting something in one domain often affects another as well. For example, relocating for a new assignment takes a lot of energy because you need to adjust to a new role and a social environment with less support at hand: your social network is far away or dealing with similar struggles.

Working out what kind of change is needed

When something’s not working, it’s important to try something new. But you need to know what is not properly working: Are there really no development opportunities at your company or are you actually missing something else, such as social support?

Has your current city really got nothing exciting to offer or do you actually just feel lonely, missing a friend to spend time with? Is your partner really constricting your freedom and always criticising you for no reason or are you actually frustrated because you feel stuck in areas like your career path that you are afraid to change?

If you’re changing something for the wrong reason, you’ll probably just end up adjusting to a new situation again and still being confronted with the same issues.

2 steps to big decisions

With all of this in mind, therefore, you should take the following steps before you make a big decision:

1. Discover your individual objectives, vision & challenges

Ask yourself: what do you want to achieve, and why? How do you want to feel, and what is really important to you?

Consider what you can change yourself, what might be out of your hands, and how you can deal with this uncertainty. Further, be aware of what you really want to change and what should stay put. If you’d like to take the next step in your career, but don’t want to relocate again – for instance because your child just started school – prioritise job options accordingly. 

2. Reframe your mindset and break up fixed patterns.

If you’re feeling unsatisfied with something or the same problems tend to reoccur in your job or relationships, reflect on your mindset and the way you handle things in these situations. When you catch yourself thinking like “it’s always like this; it never works; there is nothing I can do about it”, take some time to objectively observe the present situation.

Are there really no open-minded people to spend time with or have you actually stopped looking, going out or trying anymore? Ask yourself whether you developed a rather unrealistic expectation based on previous experiences. Be patient. Goal-setting strategies can help you with realistic expectations that take off the pressure.

Preparing for your new journey

Having considered all of this, you might decide that you’re up for a change. If this is the case, you now need to prepare your new journey properly.

1. Establish a solid base

When you’ve developed the true reason and vision for your change, communicate it clearly to yourself and to the people you need to have on board before quitting a job or looking for a new city to move to. You need to make sure to establish a solid base on which to proceed. Take your time!

2. Use all your energy to adjust to the new environment.

Don’t get stuck with nostalgic memories of the good old times if it’s not that easy to adjust or the new job doesn’t seem to be as promising as expected. Rather, take an active role in making the change a successful one: Ask yourself what’s currently missing? What strengths and available resources could help you?

3. Boost your positivity by focusing on your goals

By bringing your desired outcome to mind – for instance a better financial situation or a beautiful home – you can emphasise positive emotions. This increases optimism and willingness to accommodate to challenges like ambiguity or uncertainty. Research found that positive thinking actually enhances persistence, versatility, and self-confidence – characteristics that help you to experience major life changes in a less stressful manner!

Make big decisions for the right reasons

From a psychological perspective, both the amount of change and the role the affected domain plays for you influences your stress level. Whereas positive life changes can increase resilience, negative ones can unravel your world and affect your mental health.

However, neither does a single negative life event decrease your wellbeing permanently, nor is the beneficial effect of a positive life change permanent, since every change requires something on your part. Just be aware that, as Paracelsus said, “The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.”

In a nutshell, be considerate and make big decisions for the right reasons. Otherwise you end up changing like the wind, wasting a lot of resources. If you’re uncertain, it can help to switch perspectives: What would you recommend a friend in your situation? How will you think about it in five years? Don’t forget what Steve Jobs said: “Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

Would you like to chat to someone neutral about your major life decisions? Visit Kathrin on her website to arrange an online coaching session.

Kathrin Lethert


Kathrin Lethert

I'm Kathrin, a psychologist (M.Sc.) passionate about empowerment. Having lived abroad for several years, holding a business degree and having worked in different areas myself, I know that not all...

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