Personal Development in a Cheap Country: How to Keep Improving When Others Around You Aren’t

If you’ve read the blog before, you know that I’m all about self-improvement. That’s why I created it in the first place.

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I’m aware of the importance of having your priorities straight, defining your ideal lifestyle and taking daily decisions based on the things you want to achieve.

And it all starts by making small changes and taking one action each day, which will become a big transformation over time.

But what’s going on around you matters a lot.

And even with the strongest mindset, you’ll have a hard time being at your best when your environment doesn’t breed success too.

And one of the most important aspects of environment is the place you live in.

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I’m from Bulgaria.

I’m born and raised there, and am currently living there too.

It’s a small country, and it’s also developing and cheap. Which affects the way the average Bulgarian thinks. And when the masses have a particular approach towards life, it has an influence on those who want different things too.

Here’s my situation: I’m writing a lot. In English. And my readers are mainly Americans (well, there’s not a single Bulgarian, for sure).
And I love it that way.

I’m also working on making money online. And why shouldn’t I? We live in times where all you need is to be a hustler and have a laptop and a PayPal account. It’s the era of possibilities and it’s all thanks to the digital world.

But not everyone around me wants the same. In fact, it’s not a common thing here to believe that everyone can be self-employed.

No one actually gets what’s really going on in the blogosphere, digital nomads are considered more like crazy and weird, and entrepreneurship doesn’t sound like a choice to the individual.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in any way smarter, more talented or successful than any other person in my country.
Also, Bulgaria itself is a beautiful place, with a great history, and people are cool and friendly.

It’s just that we’re taught not to think that big, the fact that the monthly minimum wage is around €180 makes it impossible for people to save anything. The economic state depresses the nation and makes many think that more money can be earned only by disobeying the law.

Imagine what would happen if each of these people followed their passion, started working on side projects in their free time, were more motivated to get work done and perform better and do it faster, if creativity and unusual ideas were encouraged, if self-employment became many people’s goal, if a higher income was equal to offering more value and going the extra mile, instead of trying to work less and get paid more without the knowledge of the employer.

Then things would be great. We’d be more like America, yes.

But it’s not like that.

And it affects everyone trying to achieve it.

However, there are ways to handle this.

As no one has any idea what I’m doing on my laptop for so long every day – and why I decide to spend all my free time reading about extraordinary people who’ve achieved a lot, following their steps, writing, blogging, self-publishing, freelancing, learning about SEO, Internet marketing, creating and developing niche sites, html, etc. – they also think I’m just wasting my time.

So my best option is to ignore it. And that’s alright for me.

It’s great to have all the like-minded people I’ve met online through my blog, other blogs, social media and communities. And it’s great to have the people in my real life that have nothing to do with that. It works just fine.

But I want to point out that environment – as a factor affecting self-improvement – can be overcome.

Here’s how to keep doing what you do even if no one around you is doing it:

What to Do When You’re in a Cheap Country and Want to Follow Your Passion and Transform Your Life

1. Try harder not to become a part of the crowd.

That’s always something we should be doing. It’s easy to just be like everyone else, it’s what we’re taught is the right thing.

But deep inside we all know we’re unique in a certain way. Every person is a combination of dreams and goals, experience and knowledge, attitude and way of thinking, values and principles. And no two are alike.
So embracing that is the right path to changing your life.

But when in a cheap county with people that don’t really want to do it, you should ignore mediocrity even more.

You’ll have to remind yourself more often of your goal, of why you started doing all this in the first place, the possible positive outcome, how bad you want it, etc.

You’ll have to remember that what you’re doing matters. It’s what you chose to do and every day you get closer to becoming the person who’ll lead that new lifestyle.

2. Ignore the common standards.

Forget about the expectations people in this country have. As trying to answer them can make you just another average citizen.

Instead, set your own rules, become 1% better every day, compare yourself to others who’ve achieved a lot, get out of your comfort zone, have your own approach and accept that it’s always going to be different from the one everyone else around you is using.

3. Others don’t need to know about your goals.

Here I explain exactly why I think your big dreams don’t need to be shared before they’re achieved.

4. Don’t think you’re successful.

Here’s something digital nomads (the guys from MakingItAnywhere.com) have found out about living in a cheap country (the example includes other parts of the world, but you can safely add to it places like Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Ukraine, etc.):

“In business, a runway is the amount of time you’ve got to make your business generate a profit. The length of your runway is equal to the amount of cash you’ve got in the bank, divided by your “burn rate” – or the amount of money you burn through in a month.

If you’ve got a bit of cash in the bank and you’re doing odds and sods of freelance work (or you’ve got a book on Amazon that sells a few copies a month), that wouldn’t get you very far in a Western country. But in a Southeast Asian country, that’s possibly enough to get by on FOREVER.

… you can live in luxury without any form of business success. And because of this, many people lose their momentum as soon as they arrive and realise they can have a two-course dinner in a nice restaurant for less than the price of a lip balm.

… Basically, you NEED to make good money so that you have the option to move around freely. It’s wonderful to be somewhere like Chiang Mai, but I’m sure we’d think of it as more of a trap if we knew we couldn’t afford to live elsewhere.

You can get massages every day. You can order seafood in restaurants. You can charter a taxi to take you up to a resort in the mountains, wait all day for you, then bring you home again. You can eat fresh fruit all day every day. You can stay in an apartment with a maid service, pool and gym.

None of this means you’re rich OR successful. It means you’re living in a cheap country. “

So even though I’m making (some) money online, it doesn’t mean I’ve done anything big. It just means that almost no one else even tries it here.

Also, if you think you’re talented, it’s because others here don’t rely on talent too much.

If you think you’re smarter, it’s just that you’re reading a lot, learning stuff and educating yourself in order to achieve what you want.

And you’re none of that stuff. But you’re still on the way to success if you keep working that hard and ignore the rest.

5. Focus on self-education.

In my situation, doing the stuff I know should be doing (or if I don’t feel like it, just reading about it) is a must every single day.

It’s what will keep me purpose-oriented, what will remind me of why I love what I’m working on and these side projects have the chance to turn into something huge if I stay consistent.

Did you know that I just graduated from university? Yes, with a degree in Marketing.

But I can safely say I learned nothing there. Simply because I didn’t want to.

Instead, in the last 4 years I’ve spent a great deal of time (I’m pretty sure it’s hundreds of hours) reading about the stuff I’m interested in and which will actually help me acquire valuable skills and get good at exactly what I need to be good at.
So I was writing, editing and formatting, experimenting, researching and making mistakes. And the experience I gained because of that is priceless.

But what is more important is that I totally changed my approach to every other area of life, I accepted many things and defined others I wasn’t sure about. I changed most of my habits, became productive, learned how to get more done in less time, how to go through a lot of information and get only what I need from it, etc.

Basically, I’m working on living the lifestyle someone who makes money online is (doing what he loves and can work whenever and wherever he wants but prefers to hustle all the time), and I’m living it before I actually have it.

In conclusion, I’d make a few points:

  • Living in a cheap country but making your money outside of it is one of the best possible lifestyles.
  • Environment is not a factor if you’re focused and dedicated to your goal.
  • The skills you acquire on your own and that you practice daily become your biggest assets.
  • It’s all about the hustle. Working your ass of, but loving the process.

PS, All that probably wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for my mother, who’s the most creative, hard-working and business-oriented person I know.
She’s created a few businesses from scratch in front of my eyes (before and after the economic crisis), and is sustaining a family making money online (and to this day people look at her in a strange way when she tries to explain what she does for a living in a nutshell. Which, by the way, is mainly focused on e-commerce on Etsy.com. Funny, right?)

Lidiya K

Lidiya K

Author, blogger and podcaster in the fields of self-improvement and life hacking. Creator of Let's Reach Success.
Full-time freelance writer. Lifestyle designer.
Lidiya K

2 Comments

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  1. If you want to up the challenge, find yourself a job where your bosses and workmates assumes that slaving for someone else is the only viable option and you are considered crazy trying anything entrepreneurial.
    You know me, I never take an easy way, so I upped mine.

    Although this attitude is not limited to ‘cheap’ countries. Check out Vincent’s entries on SelfStairway. He is American and half of his family think he is crazy 😉

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Michal.

      But in Vincent’s case, it’s only his family. Otherwise, the entrepreneurial mindset was born in America so it’s considered a popular personal goal to work for yourself on something you believe in. He’s not in our situation.

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