expat woman journaling new year's reflection questions

A few years ago, I wrote a list of New Year’s reflection questions for expats for the now defunct I Am a Triangle website. I had thought they were lost to the internet graveyard. However, in doing some World Tree Coaching housekeeping, I’ve found them and realized that they still hold up – even in a year like 2020!

I’m so happy to be sharing these expat-centered New Year’s reflection questions with you all here. Expats and globally mobile people ask a lot of questions. I don’t know if we’re a naturally reflective bunch, but we sure are forced to contemplate, ponder, imagine and question in ways that go far beyond, “What should we have for dinner?”

Why New Year’s Reflection Questions?

Here is a bit of the background on New Year’s reflection questions – something I used to do each year as part of the World Tree Coaching blog…

Many years ago I gave up on the idea of creating New Year’s resolutions. They always seemed so forced and arbitrary. The challenge of coming up with and following through with New Year’s resolutions became even more challenging when we started moving between overseas postings. Even if I knew we weren’t due to move for another year, I never felt confident that things wouldn’t change at the drop of a hat…leaving my resolutions at the bottom of a box on a boat to who-knows-where. And after a year like 2020?! Who can even plan at all!

In the end, it just seemed easier to ignore the resolutions tradition all together.

However, somewhere along the way I began to think about the idea of New Year’s reflection questions as an alternative to New Year’s resolutions. I started wondering if it didn’t make more sense to check in with how I was feeling about life, to ask myself tough questions about whether or not a life outside my passport country was really something I still wanted to do.

What started as a kind of January 1 reflection in my journal, has become more formalized as my coaching practice has grown and changed, as my children have settled into their lives as third culture kids, and as I’ve had to adapt to a lifestyle of near-constant unpredictability. Every year, I realize more and more that there is so much to be gained from getting curious about the experiences of the past year. It helps me to consider the path ahead in the year to come.

How to Answer Your 2020 Reflection Questions

I love this process of answering the reflection questions I set for myself each year. It has become a really special process for me. In the past few days, I’ve filled pages and pages of my journal. Some years I set aside some quiet time to tackle all of the questions at once. This year, I wrote down some questions and am taking time to answer a few each evening, even allowing myself to get sidetracked into new reflections I hadn’t considered.

It can be nice to take time to answer the questions in a comfortable, uninterrupted space – maybe along with your morning coffee or with an evening cup of herbal tea. You may decide to sit down with these all at once or, like me, take a few at a time when the moment strikes you. No matter what you decide, I invite you to honor yourself by diving deep into the reflections that these questions inspire. Set a meeting with yourself where you can focus, without distraction, on what you find here. Take the questions in order, or not. Write a lot, or a little. Keep reflecting even after you’ve written, or allow one question to lead into another.

You set the rules. You have everything you need.

15 New Year’s Reflection Questions for Expats

I’ve slightly altered the questions from the original I Am a Triangle article I wrote three years ago. And, yes, some of the questions are stacked (several in one) – I couldn’t resist it. Enjoy!

  • What kind of person do I want to be in the world? In what three ways did I live true to that in 2020? What are three ways I’d like to do that in the upcoming year?
  • What cultural practices of my home country or culture am I honoring in ways that I feel positive about? What adopted cultural practices or learned perspectives am I embodying? How do those various practices show up in my life?
  • In what ways did I positively represent the globally mobile or expat community in 2020? How will I contribute to positive understanding of the international living in 2021?
  • What global relationships did I nurture most in the last year? Which relationships did I move on from? In the upcoming year, what relationships across the world would I most like to tend to?
  • What were the losses I faced in the last year? How have I worked through those losses? In what ways do I still have work to do?
  • What were my greatest joys in the last year? With whom did I share them?
  • In what areas of my life do I need to move closer to the community in which I’m currently living? In what areas may I need to pull back?
  • What people in my life supported me in the last year no matter where I was? How can I return that support in the upcoming year?
  • What unexpected roadblocks did I encounter in 2020? In what ways was I able to overcome those challenges?
  • In what place or moment did I feel the most at home this year? What were the traits of that place, event or situation that fostered that sense of home?
  • What potential challenges might I face in 2021 that are related to my international lifestyle? What support systems can I put in place in advance to ensure that I am as prepared as possible?
  • Is living an international lifestyle still working for me? If yes, in what ways? If no, in what ways is it no longer serving me? Or for those that have repatriated: Am I feeling secure with the repatriation process? If yes, in what ways can I see that security in my actions and behaviors? If not, where do I see challenges and where might I need to get support or make changes?
  • In 2021, what new skills will I need to learn? What strategies will help me in learning those new skills?
  • If my life in 2020 were a novel, what two themes would have been most present? What 5 adjectives would I use to describe myself if I were the main character in this imaginary book?
  • If I were to choose one word to guide me in 2021, what would it be? What does that word mean to me?

Are there any questions you’d like to ask yourself that aren’t included here? Do these questions inspire other ones? Be flexible, kind to yourself and open – you’ll never know what new insights will come.

With gratitude, solidarity and blessings for a wonderful start to 2021 – xo Jodi

To work with me in 2021, learn more about my individual coaching programs and mindfulness training programs for expats.

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