If you ask someone this question, the answers are usually fairly predictable – I want to be happy. I want good relationships. I want a good job. I want more money. I want all the things (whatever they are in their opinion) that will make life happy.
This article by Mark Manson has been making the rounds lately – You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better question. The question is – What do you want to suffer? What do you want to struggle for? His opinion is that if you want a good job, you need to struggle through the work it will take to qualify for and land that job. If you want a good relationship, you have to suffer through the dating, the failed relationships, and the work it takes to build a good relationship. You can want more money, but if you aren’t willing to do what it takes to get more money, do you really want it? It’s what you are willing to struggle for that tells what you really want.
I’m not sure I agree with this. I think if you are on the right path, it shouldn’t feel like a struggle, and it shouldn’t feel like suffering. If it does, maybe it isn’t the path for you.
Take expatiating to another country, like to Panama. This involves a process – researching your future location, making moving arrangements, wrapping up things in your former home, finding your future home, figuring out how to get things done in Panama, learning the rules and laws, the customs, the people, and the language, and building an entirely new life in your new environment.
Of course there are hassles but overall, it’s exciting and fun. You dream about your new home, your new life, and the welcome changes you expect it will bring. Finally, everything gets done and you arrive and reality sets in. How does that feel? Yes it’s hard to learn another language but it’s so cool when you communicate successfully, even if it’s only to buy a pineapple. Getting things done is a process, but each time you navigate through something you feel a bit more empowered and proud of yourself. Overall, the enjoyment and accomplishments outweigh the hassles and frustrations, and you are happy in your new life.
However, there are people who hate all this. They just want to settle in to that life they were promised – good living for less, paradise, eternal springtime, the house on the beach… whatever those publications and salesmen tell you to expect, or whatever others said it would be like. They don’t enjoy all the changes and challenges that come with moving. They don’t want to go to five people and make multiple copies to get something accomplished. They don’t want to deal with a new language and culture and customs. They want their familiar foods and habits, and lifestyle. If this is the case, maybe this isn’t the right path for them? We are all different and what makes me happy may not make you happy at all.
The failure rate of people expatriating to Panama is surprisingly high. Of course there are people who leave for health, family, or other reasons besides satisfaction with their lives in Panama. But, there are many, many people who move here and then find it isn’t want they wanted, and find that it isn’t going to make them happy. What a shame, and at what emotional and financial cost. Were they just not willing to suffer enough, or is the suffering an indication that they would be happier on another path?
We don’t need unhappy people in Panama. It isn’t good for them, for the country, or for the expat community. Of course I can’t evaluate who is a good candidate and who isn’t, but maybe I can toss out an idea now and then that can help people think about this for themselves.