Self Growth

The Unexpected Ways You Can Grow as a Person

An Expat’s Unexpected Personal Growth

Sometimes the biggest lessons in your personal development come when you’re least expecting it.  That happened to me in the last few years. Things were kind of looking down for me so I took the opportunity to move to Cebu Philippines.  I have been living in the Philippines for a bit more than four years now.

Though I didn’t move for personal growth, it has turned out to be one of the biggest benefits of my new life in the Philippines. I primarily moved for the lower cost of living. I did gain that but I have also seen a remarkable improvement on my outlook in life.

Here’s how:

 

Personal Development Though the Culture of Others

It started within a few days of moving to Cebu. I was sitting on the back of a motorcycle with a large sidecar attached. I looked around at all the poverty, the wild noises one will hear here and the unsafe mode in which I was traveling.

I thought to myself, “What have you done?”  That was a moment of fear and thinking I had made a huge mistake. Then I looked around and I saw all the happy people. Filipino people living with far less than I have. These people are often living in huts with no air conditioning, sometimes with no electricity, in homes that look like they are falling apart and often even without running water.

I noticed how happy these people are and I thought to myself, “There are millions of happy people here. If they can do it, I can do it.” Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the beginning of a journey. This journey didn’t require a plane or a car, it required an open mind.

I then began to delve into the culture of the Philippines. I began to ask a lot of questions and many times when I asked Filipinos my questions they seemed to be defensive. I often explained, I do not think the Western way is better. I simply am seeking to understand. Once I did that, I found the defensive answers would disappear.

 

As I began to understand, I thought about why these differences would come about. I concluded that the differences in our histories are the main factor. Humans adapt to their environment and the environment of the USA, England or Germany is very different from that of Asia and the Philippines.

With this open minded approach to the Philippines, I found myself beginning to take on some of the culture of the Philippines. As I did, I became a more contented person. Some of this I feel comes from understanding how much I have in the way of material things. I find it harder now to complain about things that don’t go my way when I have so much going my way.

I not only grew in my outlook toward material things but more importantly, I’ve learned to relax a bit. The Philippines has a curious combination of formality yet casual. Filipinos are quite formal, especially in dealing with people they are not close to. However, they usually do it in a rather causal way.

For example, there is a concept here known as “Filipino Time.” This is something that often drives Westerners insane. Myself, I’ve learned to laugh it off and I notice many Filipino take the same approach. Filipino time is not a time zone. If it is, there are about ninety million times zone equaling the number of Filipinos living in the Philippines.

When trying to arrange a get together that includes Filipinos, it is generally a complete waste of time to try to setup a specific time. Recently a friend of mine sent me a text message stating, “I’m suppose to meet four people at the same time in different places.” I could only laugh.  He had spent most of the day trying to put together an outing with several of his friends.

Filipinos have a habit of showing up mostly late but often early but rarely on time. They just arrive when they get there. While this isn’t something that would go over well in the West, it is completely acceptable in the Philippines.

This laid back approach to life is something I have absorbed into my own life. This is really about control. Westerners are sending themselves to an early grave by trying to control that which we cannot control.
Filipinos seem much better at going with the flow of the life rather than fighting it. Some Westerners complain that is why things don’t improve in the Philippines and there might be some truth to that. However this is usually overstated by those that travel to the Philippines; I can’t say there is no truth to that at all. I think though the benefits far outweigh any negative consequences.

I have noticed that others that live in the Philippines for an extended period of time often become more relaxed too. An American I know related a story to me regarding this. He has been living in the Philippines for more than twelve years. Once he was trying to park and someone beat him to a parking place that he was really in position to claim. When he didn’t go ballistic after his parking space was taken, his wife said something like “I can’t believe that is my husband.”  Based on the first part of their life together in the USA, she expected him to make a scene. He referred to himself as a reformed “Ugly American.”

It seems he too has become more laid back, more relaxed and accepting of things the way they are. Really, what good would have it done to get upset and make a scene. The chance of a positive outcome in such a situation is rare. How often has loosing your temper resulted in anything good?

I worry too much, I probably always will but I also notice a clear difference in my attempts to control the things that I cannot control. Many times, these things do not really matter. After observing the more laid back approach of Filipino, I worry less about the things I cannot control. Also, I am far more aware of things that are not deserving of my attempts to change them or even worry about them..

An Open Mind Enhances Growth Potential

Though moving eight thousand miles is not something everyone can do, it certainly took me out of what was common to me. Stepping outside the familiar with an open mind can clearly lead to growth. You don’t have to travel such distances to accomplish this though.

There are vast differences in people where you live. If you can open your mind and learn from those differences, you might discover which ones could benefit your own life. This can assist you in your growth as a human being. It could just make you a happier person.

I have clearly become a happier person since I made the big move. I expanded my opportunities in life sustainably by moving to a developing nation. My own personal development came about as a completely unexpected and beneficial side effect. The change in me has been substantial. At the very least, traveling to a developing nation will open your eyes to how much you have, especially if you live in the USA.

I write about my life in the Philippines. Follow me in the Philippines at Cebu Experience.

Photo credit: ‘Philippines‘ by Big Stock

  • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

     Hi folks, Rusty here. If you have any questions I’ll be happy to try to answer them. I know more about the Philippines than I do personal development but I’ll take a shot at just about anything. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Ani_LifeProb Ani

    Really nice post. I have been licing in different countries since I was 12 and think that the best in me was formed due to interactions with new cultures. It is the fastest way to grow!

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Hi Ani, one sure learns a lot by living in another country. I learned just how rich the USA is after only a few days.

  • Maverick Juanico

    I admire this post, especially that I am a Filipino myself. To be honest, I look down on my poor country, but because of your post I have realized that I have forgotten to focus on the beauty of my country. What I did  was I focused more on our problems. Thank you for this moving post. The Filipinos salute you.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Hey Maverick, when foreigners come to the Philippines and look down on it, it riles me up. Now you’re Filipino so you don’t cause those feelings. Things could be improved BUT I quickly learned that these poor people are far more wealthy in many ways. I sure wish I had the strong family bonds the Filipino do. They often can’t understand why I can leave my family because that is so important to them.  The same is just not true in most American families.

      I do think there is too much wealth concentrated in the hands of two few and eventually that is going to lead to MAJOR problems. I don’t think there is anything to look down on. I did too until I understood what the Philippines has going for it. The Philippines is my home now and I love the place.

  • http://www.thoughtful-self-improvement.com/ Natalie

    Thank You Rusty for  a wonderful article. A nice reminder to look at our lives through the eyes of someone else. And to be open to different viewpoints. Anytime we do this we grow.

    If we could all stop judging others and appreciate the variety of ways of looking at things, the world would be a much better place.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Judging others is probably my pet peeve. I’m a bit of hypocrite though as I judge those that judge. haha It really is one of the things I don’t like about the Philippines. I think it comes from the collective culture found in Asia but people are a bit judgmental here. I’m from the southern USA and I have a bit more rebel in me than most. So I’ll quickly give them something to talk about. haha

      No place is perfect and I do find that Filipinos are generally forgiving of foreigners for not following their ways. I have learned much here but having an open mind and being able to adapt is crucial. Looking at things objectively is also important.  That is one of my stronger points but I may carry it to far.

      If we could all learn to accept the ways of others, I think most of our wars would cease.  It will happen someday but I fear much more misery is in store for us first.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Judging others is probably my pet peeve. I’m a bit of hypocrite though as I judge those that judge. haha It really is one of the things I don’t like about the Philippines. I think it comes from the collective culture found in Asia but people are a bit judgmental here. I’m from the southern USA and I have a bit more rebel in me than most. So I’ll quickly give them something to talk about. haha

      No place is perfect and I do find that Filipinos are generally forgiving of foreigners for not following their ways. I have learned much here but having an open mind and being able to adapt is crucial. Looking at things objectively is also important.  That is one of my stronger points but I may carry it to far.

      If we could all learn to accept the ways of others, I think most of our wars would cease.  It will happen someday but I fear much more misery is in store for us first.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Judging others is probably my pet peeve. I’m a bit of hypocrite though as I judge those that judge. haha It really is one of the things I don’t like about the Philippines. I think it comes from the collective culture found in Asia but people are a bit judgmental here. I’m from the southern USA and I have a bit more rebel in me than most. So I’ll quickly give them something to talk about. haha

      No place is perfect and I do find that Filipinos are generally forgiving of foreigners for not following their ways. I have learned much here but having an open mind and being able to adapt is crucial. Looking at things objectively is also important.  That is one of my stronger points but I may carry it to far.

      If we could all learn to accept the ways of others, I think most of our wars would cease.  It will happen someday but I fear much more misery is in store for us first.

  • http://pristineperception.com/ Suzanne

    I like the message you send about control. Not trying to control those things we cannot. Just to relax into our own skin, and doing what ‘feels’ right for us as an individual is what matters the most.
    Good for you for stepping out and moving on into the world! Good luck to you!
     

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Hi Suzanne, by nature I’m a control freak. :) I hate it when something goes wrong when I could have prevented it. I’ve been working on letting go of my controlling nature for years. Watching Filipinos who have several sayings about living in the moment has helped. Even Christ told us not to worry about tomorrow as today has enough troubles of its own.  Something like that.

      Most of us do spin our wheels trying to fix things we cannot fix.  “For Whom The Bell Toll’s” is a lesson in that concept for me many years ago. But one has to read between the lines to grasp it. Attempting to control that which we cannot control is a recipe for frustration and anxiety.

      Filipinos usually concentrate their life on their family. By observing that I gained insight into what really matters and if it doesn’t really matter why the heck worry about it. :)  I fail though when it comes the power outages here. They drive me bonkers and I can’t do much about them. I finally bought some battery powered fans, that’s about all I can do about them. That and plan a trip to the beech when I know they are coming.

  • http://easyabundantlife.com/ Joseph D Rodriguez

    Haha!  Filipino time sounds much like ”Mañana time” in Latino America.  I live in Texas but would feel very much at home in these places because we have the same philosophy: We’ll get there when we get there.  Great post.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Hi Joseph, yes, I use to be a little speed demon. Then once I realized that by driving ten miles an hour faster I was cutting a tiny fraction off my total time.  And probably greatly increasing the odds that I actually get there. :)

  • Thea Westra

    Travel and moving myself to new locations have provided me some of my life’s best lessons too. I always think it sad when I hear prejudiced comments from people being interviewed in the street by media outlets. The open minded commentary usually comes from people who have experienced a variety of cultures and broad life experiences. Thank you for this terrific post.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Hi Thea, prejudice breaks my heart.  The hatred between differing religions and race is so freaking stupid. Yet the source of most of the conflict in the world. Each side pointing the finger at the other. Michael Jackson got it right. It starts with the “man” in the mirror. That doesn’t change because one has been wronged by the other side.

      I know a little more about Christianity than other religions and revenge is not the way of Christ. Oh well, I’ll end up preaching here and becoming controlling if I keep on. haha :)  Seems I can’t reach the people that hate, so there is nothing I can do about it. :)

  • Estebana39

    ‘Some Westerners complain that is why things don’t improve in the Philippines and there might be some truth to that.’….Many years ago, Philippines was next to Japan in Asia economically but now we’re at the bottom half.  Singaporeans and Koreans who have superiority complex over their South East Asian neighbors reckoned that Filipinos are lazy, corrupt and have little interest in improving the country because ambitions of many is to go and live overseas.  But to me, the best way to know the heart of Filipinos is to stay and live with them…. and that’s what you have done for the past 4 years.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you in providing an objective assessment of life in the Philippines.  I spent 4 days in Singapore, 4 years ago… Very clean, rich, impressive, and disciplined city. But in those 4 days, the only place where I heard uncontrollable laughter was in a shop almost occupied fully by Filipino OFWs and visitors.  Singaporeans wear designer clothes and obviously well off in their appearance, but I seldom see them smile or laugh uncontrollably.  I said to myself that I rather live in Manila’s slums area occupied by real people than in well manicured city of Singapore where practically people’s movement is monitored.  A Korean wrote about the absence of ‘love’ among Filipinos to our own country compared to them, yet I can not reconcile their deep interest in staying in the Philippines leaving their rich country…… Money and material things are not the only answer to happiness.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Anyone that would write that Filipinos don’t love their country doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about. Look at them right now, standing up to one of the world powers, China. China could wipe the Philippines off the face of the earth. Filipinos know this but their pride in their country is strong so they fight back.

      I really don’t see Filipinos as compliant at all. That was one of the things a frequent VISITOR to the Philippines told me early on. I can see why some think that. I don’t think that.  I think they are a mostly peaceful people but if you push them far enough, they will respond and usually in a way that will end the dispute in a final way.

      Filipino lazy? Yeah I hear that. Those people are walking around with blinders on. The economy can cause people to give up but that doesn’t make them lazy. I see some very hard work going on  here for very little money.

      I’ve even heard Filipino are rude. Where are these people going?  Oh usually its Angeles City. Men go there and decide that’s what the whole country is like.  What do they expect? They come to the Philippines looking only for darker side, find it and decide the rest of the country is like this. Hey I’d like to visit there but that ain’t the Philippines. Neither is Manila, much of what happens in Manilla gets attributed to the rest of the country. That’s only 10 percent of the people,

      There is a lot of misinformation about the Philippines, its a wonderful country and Filipinos should be nothing but proud.  Don’t listen to those complaining Americans!

  • http://www.communicationskillsactivities.net/ Steve’s Speaking Secrets

    Hi Rusty. Very interesting story. I definitely agree that changing cultures can spur a ton of personal growth.

    I have one question I’m interested in.

    In many western countries, extraversion is seen as more normal and introverts are seen as more odd. What is it like in the Phillipines in that area?

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Hi Steve, that’s an interesting question and one I’ve not thought about. But I have some thoughts.  Respect is the key to Filipino culture. Everything else seems to revolve around that.

      I know a Filipina that I believe suffers from rather severe panic disorder. In fact, I see more panic disorder among Filipina though most don’t have any idea that is what is going on.

      This girl has “spells” and passes out. I’ve had other Filipina complain about her to me. She sometimes misses the social expectations. One must acknowledge others and before they leave they must do the same. It can be just a look and a widening of the eyes.  Failure to do so is disrespectful and others have commented when she failed to do it. I realize the girl is in a panic and that’s why she is leaving. She is no longer thinking clearly. But this introversion is causing her to make social mistakes in the area of respect.

      As long as that doesn’t happen I don’t believe being shy is a problem at all. Filipina are often very shy, some say timid. I also think they tend to like the confidence that American men display. Even a shy guy like me is seen as confident so that’s a plus for me.

      Its crucial that Filipinos be able to show the respect expected of them, if they are able to do that, I don’t think shyness matters at all. Things like age in relationships don’t matter, skin color doesn’t matter. Respect though, if you don’t show that, you’re done. :)

  • http://twitter.com/2knowmyself 2knowmyself.com

    that’s so right
    i loved your post
    thank you : )

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Your welcome and thank you.

  • http://personal-growthnow.com/empowerment/ Lct1947

    Yes, there is always room to grow and flourish.  Reading excellent work like what is printed here is a very good start.  thank you for publishing.

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Thanks for the kinds words and you’re welcome.

  • AHolisticPath

    Wow, I could so relate. I moved from Atlanta to Ecuador not long ago and
    had a similar experience. I know the importance of stepping out of our
    comfort zone to shift our perception and grow. However, it is harder to
    do that when we can easily retreat at
    the first feelings of disapproval. One must remember that a sign of
    being out of your comfort zone is DISCOMFORT! So get out there, even in
    your own ‘hood and interact with the ones you usually ignore or judge.
    There just might be a big AH-HA moment in it for you!

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       Hi Carol, I spent about six months in Atlanta and that brought out another side of me. A guy that had never been to a bar at age 25 became the party king. LOL :) They don’t call it Hotlanta for nothing. So I learned from that experience as well. Wonderful time for me.

      Yeah, I had that superior thing going on for a while. Luckily I had sense enough to realize just how wrong I was and grow.  There are other ways of being  rich.  That’s good because when it comes to money, I probably wont ever get there but so far it hasn’t stopped me from trying. :)  I’d love to visit Ecudaor and Brazil. I better get back to getting rich or a lot close to it. :)

  • Aartsphl

    Thanks Rusty, my view on this subject too!
    Go on, following you a long time now.
    Might meet some day. Watch your health!

    • http://bestnoisecancellingheadphone.org Flirtilizer

       I hope we do get to meet, that would be nice.  I have become a home body lately. Not really buy choice.

  • http://www.motivation.net.au/ Motivational Speakers

    The article is well written. This blog is a unique on due
    to the kind of information it is carrying. I would like to thanks the writer.
     

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jennifer-Avventura/100001838772186 Jennifer Avventura

    Beautiful post! It’s strange that when I think back to the moment that changed me … it was in the Philippines in 1998. I thought that since I could backpack through Australia that it would be a breeze in the Philippines. I was wrong and I was very young and naive. My stay in the Philippines was set for 3 weeks, I left after one. The locals I encountered were beautiful and welcoming but the poverty I witnessed was overwhelming for me at 20yrs of age. I stuck out like a sore thumb with my blonde hair, and often people would stop, poke me, ask me if I’m famous, follow me, I then realized that there were no other blonde, tall people (this was 1998, Im sure things have changed drastically since then). I also witnessed a sexual harassment take place on Boracay, I remember everything so vividly, it’s scary.

    This being said … I want to travel, again to the Philippines but now with a mature open head.

  • MW

    Filipinos have a love-hate relationship with themselves. Maybe it has to do with having been colonized three in a row (Spanish-American-japanese) without respite. That was what probably drained our psyche. Deep down we know we are a beautiful people, but maybe we haven’t yet regained the self-esteem to shout it out. Thanks for taking the time to see the real us. :)