5 Life Lessons from Living in Amsterdam
I first visited Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, exactly three years ago.
It was only for the typical 3 day weekend break, but I knew instantly I had to return. It was unlike anywhere else I’ve ever visited. I went back twice more to truly experience the city and to explore it thoroughly. After this third trip, my girlfriend and I decided we should move there and really get to know the place.
On the 5th of February 2016 we made that dream a reality and started our 2 month stay in central Amsterdam. This has kick started what is already the best adventure of my life, and now after 8 weeks, I’m able to sum it all up.
However this post isn’t about how wonderful Amsterdam is, the great people living here or the great experiences to be had. While all of these are true, this blog is about the personal lessons I’ve discovered through living in this beautiful city.
I have met a lot of incredible people, eaten the most amazing food, had interesting conversations with many strangers and got lost on my explorations. But it’s these unique experiences that carve out our personality, define our beliefs, expand our dreams, enhance our well-being and develop our general outlook on life.
It has given me the opportunity to understand who I am and to be in control of how I shape my life.
Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
1. Think, Act, Get
Leaving the United Kingdom to travel through Europe was not easy, nor did I expect it to be.
When we imagine a future that is significantly bigger then our current reality, we can begin to think that it is impossible for us. This is why the right mindset is important for achieving anything big or significant in life. Your results are usually a manifestation of your thinking.
The first step to acting out your biggest dreams is to shift from ‘impossible’ thinking to ‘possible’ thinking. Yet it’s very difficult to go from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can'.
That’s why I visited Amsterdam so many times before moving. After my first visit I left with the thoughts of ‘what if I could actually live there’. The second time I left thinking ‘how might I live there’ and the third time it was with a confident ‘I can’.
The take away point is that the positive thought process, which has probably been developing for many years in my mind, is key to achieving anything. The most important thing is to believe that you can reach your goals. With this powerful state of mind you naturally start to act on your dreams and before too long you get what you want.
2. Put Your Lifestyle First
Over 3 years ago I first coined the phrase ‘High Performance Living’ which I still use today to highlight the importance of our lifestyles. It first focused on nutrition to look and feel our best but over the years it has expanded to everything we do daily that can impact on our life.
Since starting traveling, I’ve seen again an extension of my HPL mantra, as it’s evolving as I do. It’s no longer just about ‘nutrition’ or ‘exercise’, as I’ve realized there’s more to life than this.
My body isn’t the most important thing anymore. My business isn’t the most important thing anymore. My freedom, my health, my well-being, my beliefs, my relationships, my experiences are all equally important.
By putting your lifestyle first, you will be able to achieve all of these and grow as a person while experiencing life - a high performance life.
My mission now as a writer and educator is to share this with everyone that I can.
3. Stuff Doesn't Matter
Traveling forces you to simplify. This year I said no to big commitments, projects and opportunities in order to pursue my dream of exploring. The truth is we don’t need all of this ‘stuff’ to be constantly going on and the majority of it isn’t really that important.
Instead we should be freeing up more time for improving our health and well being; being with our family; achieving some our goals - or whatever might be important to you. The same goes for personal belongings and items.
We have an amazing ability to convince ourselves that we ‘need’ something. You can’t do without it. You can’t let it go. And yet, this isn’t true. It’s a false belief, a false need.
In order to travel, I had to be ruthless about what came with me and what didn’t. It was incredible to see a pile of things that I didn’t need, but kept in my home anyway.
Since moving, I no longer want to acquire things I don’t really need and it’s been liberating. And I’m not alone in arriving at this point of view – just recently, IKEA’s Global Chief Sustainability Officer publicly stated that Western society has probably arrived at a state of having ‘peak stuff’. So even a major company has accepted that most ‘consumers’ simply do not need more stuff! All I need to acquire now are the new experiences that will make me grow as a human being and will create wonderful memories.
By simplifying, you can find a bit more calm, achieve more focus and make financial savings. Really start to be on top of your life.
4. Reinventing Work and Life
Most people want to achieve work : life balance.
The problem is the majority have got it completely mixed up. They aren’t really working and they aren’t really living. In this world we live in there is one key question: what do you want to do with your one and only precious life?
Your answer will make you take a harder look at what you want and what you can do, instead of following a standard career path and a maybe mundane life. Your work should be about creating ideas, applying knowledge, leveraging talent and harnessing creativity to solve problems. Sadly, very few people get to do this daily.
For me, living isn’t about the car you drive, the clothes you wear or how much you earn. It’s about challenging the status quo, creating your own future and leading your life to try and help others.
Basically, if each of us starts optimizing and taking responsibility for our own lives, we can all achieve more success and reap the rewards.
5. Be YOU
Amsterdam is a city of diversity. Everything is possible in Amsterdam, believe me, I’ve seen it. Everyone can and is allowed to be different here.
This open and forward thinking culture is what draws creative or individualistic people to the small metropolis of Amsterdam more than to many of the larger European cities.
Other countries or cultures don’t promote or encourage this same outlook, and it’s holding people back. Instead we have clones of people saying the same thing, wearing the same clothes, going to the same shops.
Without understanding your individual personality, we develop a strange fear of making the wrong decisions. So we just copy what everyone else is doing. No matter how old you are, what level of experience you have or what position you are in, you should start to find out who you really are.
The aim here is to discover your potential through your personality. Only then can you create more possibilities, opportunities and freedom while escaping the typical pressures, demands and competition that arise from traditional thinking.