Living outside the box

Future of Work

I’ve been lucky to be working from the beautiful island of Madeira over the past week. Something about waking up to a gorgeous view with sunlight streaming through the window, having the ability to venture outside first thing in the morning without freezing my toes off, and feeling as immersed in nature as I am in the screen, has made me feel significantly more creative and motivated.

There have been a couple of other times in my life when I’ve felt a similar way. The first was 5 years ago when I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After just a few months there, it actually felt like the expansive atmosphere, the embodied culture, the multicultural food and the general pace of life were starting to rewire my brain. Not only did I feel more motivated, I felt more capable.

Turns out, I wasn’t going crazy.

A few days ago, I wrote about the Candle Problem. A study that Adam Galinsky, from the Kellogg School of Management, conducted way back in 2009 showed that participants who had lived abroad were more likely to solve this creative thinking problem successfully.

While there’s been no proof of a causal relationship between living abroad and enhanced creativity, Galinsky’s research, along with other studies, shows us that there’s at least a strong correlation between the two. Specifically, the more students who had lived abroad had adapted themselves to the new culture around them, the more psychologically pliant they became.

I often say that if I could give one gift to every student in the world, it would be the ability to study or live abroad for at least a year. The proven psychological impact this has on how you think, behave with others, and interact with the world around you is astounding.

Even if the results aren’t as obvious as solving a lateral thinking challenge more successfully, living abroad affords you with a felt sense of enhanced creativity that seems unmatched by pretty much any other experience.

February 17, 2024