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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Imagine the following situation. You are single and live in New Jersey just outside of New York City (NYC). Your employer wants you to work in London for a few years. You are excited about the possibility of living overseas and are interested in the job. Assuming that the costs of living for New Jersey and London are roughly equivalent, which option would you choose?

1. Temporary Option: You stay an employee of the NYC office and are “on loan” to London. You continue to pay your mortgage/rent in New Jersey, but can rent/sublet your place to someone during your absence. The company pays all of your expenses in London: housing, food, and travel to and from the US. They cover the difference in taxes between the US and UK. Basically you have no expenses for the three years you are there and you can sock away 100% of your salary. Your stay is temporary. After your time overseas, you will return to the US.

2. Permanent Option: You transfer from the NYC office and become an employee of the London office. You are paid in British pounds just like all other British employees and you pay UK taxes which are higher. Although you sell your house in New Jersey and have no expenses in the US, you need to cover all of your expenses in London. There is no guarantee of a job in the NYC office should you decide to return to the states.

Financially, option #1 is a SIGNIFICANTLY better deal.

But when faced with this situation in real life, I chose option #2.


Three years is a long time. I wanted London to feel like home. I wanted to live like a native. I wanted to know that there was no return to the US. It forced me to be present to what I was doing and to take full advantage of England. I formed new social circles. I dated. I lived as though I would be there forever. London became my home. A little more than three years later, I was back in the US, without a job.

Although from a financial perspective, it may not have been a great decision, it was the right decision. I had the most spectacular three years of my life. Had I chosen option #1, I may never have felt settled. I always would have known that I was leaving. It would have been a missed opportunity.

How often do you live with uncertainty? How much of that uncertainty is created by you in your mind? How much does this uncertainty ruin your present moment experiences?

Have you ever been in a great relationship…yet continually worried about it ending? Maybe you were concerned that your partner didn’t love you as much as you loved them. Or perhaps you thought that your relationship was just too good to be true. Although you have great times together, these concerns permeate your mind. Doesn’t the uncertainty about the future affect your pleasure now? Doesn’t it also this increase the likelihood that your greatest fears will materialize and your partner will leave? Let’s face it, most relationships eventually end. You leave your partner, your partner leaves you, or your partner dies. But if you live with the anticipation of that ending, you will never enjoy the present.

Have you ever been in a job that you didn’t like? Did you daydream continuously about leaving…yet three years later you are still in the same job? Instead of dreaming about the future, be present to what you can do today in your job. Look for new opportunities internally. Do the best job you can. Find ways of adding more value. If you are focused on leaving, you will be miserable. And the odds are, you will lose your job because of poor performance. That’s when you will begin to daydream about how great your job used to be.

Being present, without worrying about the future, is not easy. Could I have chosen option #1 and treated London like my home? Quite possibly. However, for me it was better to take what seemed like a permanent option, even though it was just as temporary.

What if everything is temporary? But what if the option we choose – temporary versus permanent – is the one thing that determines our happiness?

Where in life are you living the “temporary option,” where you think/hope/fear that your current situation will end? Where is this not serving you well? How can you choose the “permanent option” so that you are living fully in each moment?

This may be THE key to happiness.

  1. Thanks for sharing this story, Stephen.

    It seems to me that your situation was kind of a case of multi-tasking vs. single-tasking. If you had kept your attachments to New Jersey, you would have had your mind on two different places. By fully committing to London, your single focus was on your present physical location. Your limited mental and emotional RAM could all go to one place.

  2. I too spent three years living in London and loved every minute of it. Then we had a baby, and decided it would be better to move back to the USA while our daughter was small.

    There was a mourning period as we coped with leaving all of the great friends we made there and all the things that we loved about the city, but now we’ve committed to living in our brand new city – Seattle.

    Once we made that switch mentally, all kinds of great things started to happen for us. So now we love Seattle, are living in the moment, and plan to stay (at least for now).

    You never know how life will develop, so all any of us can really do is enjoy the here and now, beginning with wherever your here is now.

    Braden Kelley

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