Being here in Paris I’m reminded of how incredibly different your experience can be depending on what you choose to focus on. It sounds obvious, but it’s funny how when we’re abroad or when we’re in our home country we often choose to focus on different things about a place.
At the moment I’m in Paris. A city that I called home for years. A city which I love. And a city that many people dream of one day moving to and creating their own French life. I get it. I understand the dream and the pull of this city. It’s easy to get caught up in the romance of Paris. After all, it’s a city of epic beauty and elegance. It’s home to many of my favourite things…
- morning croissants
- delicious cheese
- fondant au chocolat
- great, affordable wine…
Okay it sounds like all I do is eat and drink (not far from the truth). It’s also home to…
- incredible architecture
- stunning art
- breathtaking monuments
- vibrant markets
- my wonderful friends (the most important bit!)
And a whole bunch of other cool things. I’m always struck by how beautiful Paris is. You can be walking down the street and catch a glimpse of something so incredible that you have to pinch yourself that this is real and that you live here.
And yet, Paris is also home to a whole bunch of things that drive me crazy…
- Smoking is everywhere – if you want to enjoy dining at an outdoor terrace, well you’re going to have to put up with cigarette smoke in your food and in your face
- Outdated and inefficient systems – so many things still require a handwritten letter in France, it’s laughable. And don’t get me started on my experience last week at the bank when I was told that the bank wouldn’t accept cash. You read that right. The BANK wouldn’t accept CASH.
- An unacceptably large group of men who seem to think it’s okay to disrespect women any chance they get
- Weekly and monthly transport passes that only start on the first day of the week or the month rather than beginning from the date of purchase
- The words ‘ce n’est pas possible’ are part of the everyday vocabulary
- Parisians tend to complain about things and forget to acknowledge just how good they’ve got it
- The pervasive stench of urine in certain streets and metros
- Endless strikes about anything and everything
And again, the list goes on…
So what to do about this?
Well it’s pretty obvious that to have an enjoyable experience, the trick is to focus on the parts of Paris that I love and not waste too much energy on the things that drive me crazy.
Yet this simple act of choosing what you focus on can be so easy to forget.
Particularly when you move home after living abroad.
One of the most common things that I see people do when they move home after living abroad is they get caught up in the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome. There’s a tendency to focus on all of the things that they loved about their life abroad and the ways in which their own country is lacking.
And this can happen to expats too.
They focus on everything brilliant that their home country has, which they are now missing, and they spend their time venting about how their new home isn’t what they thought it would be.
It’s called selective memory and it’s a pretty quick way to make yourself feel miserable and stuck.
But here’s the great news – whilst you might not be able to change the external circumstances (I’m never going to be able to make French administration simple), you absolutely have the power to choose what you focus on and completely change your experience for the better.
Take right now for example. I’m sitting at a really cute co-working cafe in the street where I first lived when I moved to Paris in 2006. The space is cute, the atmosphere is great and the coffee is delicious. Yet the wifi connection is so bad that nothing will load and I can’t connect. I’m actually handwriting this blog post in a notebook which I’ll transcribe later because it turns out my macbook is useless here. So I’m going to focus on the cute workspace, the friendly atmosphere and the great coffee and the fact that even though this might not be the co-working experience I was expecting, I’m still getting my work done.
It really is about viewing the world through gratitude glasses. And it’s amazing how this simple shift can make you feel so much happier.
So when I’m in France, I choose to focus on savouring my morning croissant, strolling through breathtaking streets, going to world-class museums and having the opportunity to speak French everyday.
And when I’m in Sydney I’m going to focus on being able to start my day with a swim in the ocean, enjoy the smoke-free fresh air and complete nearly any admin task I can think of entirely online.
And I know, from personal experience, that I’ll be a whole lot happier for it.
So if you’re tearing your hair out at all of the things that you wish were different about your current situation, I want to ask you to reflect for a minute…
What are you choosing to focus on?
This isn’t about being in denial. I accept that there will always be good and bad times and that life has its ups and downs. But I also accept that I have the freedom to choose whether I focus on the good or the bad in any given situation and that this one simple choice will have a drastic impact on my happiness. And how empowering is that?!
It’s time we take responsibility for the role we play in how we feel each day and the freedom we have in every moment to choose thoughts, actions and behaviours that make us feel good.
After all, isn’t that the point?
So, if you’ve been having a rough time of late or are too busy reminiscing about the past or stressing about the future, I want to ask you this…
What’s one thing you could focus on that would make you feel better and happier to be alive?
Let that be your focus for today.
And whenever you feel that things aren’t going your way or that life is hard, remember to ask yourself – what am I choosing to focus on?