Three Must-Have Goals for Expats in the New Year

expat woman reaching her 2019 goals at top of mountain with arms outstretched

Whether you’re staying put or off on another adventure, these 3 New Year’s goals can make all the difference in your expat life.

This year is one of the big years for us. Three and a half years into our life here in Tokyo and we’re now heading into another transition, another transformation, a new destination in our expat life.

My husband has made a science of his to-do lists – mapping, categorizing and sorting every detail in hopes of smoothing the lines from our life as it is now to our life as it will be come June.

We’re asked constantly if the kids are excited, if they’ll miss their friends, if they’re looking forward to a new school or sad about leaving this one behind. It’s barely January and I’ve perfected the answers…to the extent that they can be perfected. I mostly just try to translate their shrugs.

I always spend time at the end of the year reflecting on goals and setting intentions for the year to come. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know I usually pose a set of expat life centered self-coaching questions. I believe taking time in self-reflection is more likely to produce goals that are clear, values-centered and sustainable.

If we simply start making a list of things we want to do, it’s always seemed to me that our intentions will fizzle by the time March rolls around. We may lack direction or a deeper understanding of the why behind the goals we’re setting. This is exacerbated by the unpredictability of expat life. One little glitch can lead us astray.

That being said, there are some goals that are universal. There are habits and intentions that we can bring into our lives that are foundational to creating the everyday, practical goals we hope to bring about in the New Year.

There are three goals in particular that I’ve found are essential to goal setting for anyone, but especially for expats. That’s because turning these goals into habits teaches us to be present and comfortable in our own skin, our own minds and our own hearts. When we’re able to do that, we can feel at home anywhere.

Be present with what’s happening.

Make it your goal to turn your attention towards what you’re experiencing – even when it’s painful or uncomfortable. A common mistake we make is to think that shoving our way through challenge will lead us to our goals of happiness, contentment and life satisfaction.

However, success through adversity is not about pushing out the other side with blinders on, it’s about tuning in to the lay of the land, noticing what we’re experiencing and taking stock of what feels right and what doesn’t sit well. It’s only then that we can confront difficulty with all the information we need to overcome.

Learning to practice simple informal mindfulness techniques – even for just a few minutes each day – can help you establish this habit. Mindfulness meditation is also a wonderful tool for getting off to a good start with this goal.

Take time to regularly look at the why behind your goals.

When we change homes often, it’s normal to reach out to others for insight and guidance. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary. Doing so builds community and reminds us that we’re not alone and that we don’t have to reinvent the rulebook every time we move.

However, it’s also important we don’t fall into the trap of meeting someone else’s expectations of how we’re supposed to be – an especially tempting response when we’ve just arrived in a new place.

We can improve our ability to stay true to our most important goals by taking time to look at the underlying values and beliefs that motivate us. We can start by asking – Why do I want to reach this goal? And then we can deepen our understanding by asking again – Why else? And even again – Any other reasons? This simple process brings clarity to the resolutions we’ve set at the New Year.

Make a habit of self-compassion.

We’re so hard on ourselves. How many times a day do you look in the mirror with faint criticism of the lines around your eyes or the beginning sag in your chin? How often do you think, “That was so stupid!” as you reflect back on something you did or said?

We often speak to ourselves in ways we’d never talk to anyone else we love.

In our life between worlds we find ourselves regularly in situations for which there is no clear and correct response. We’re winging it a lot of the time and even though often we’re actually doing quite well, it’s easy to get hung up on the set-backs. However, it’s my experience that the most adaptable expats are the ones who are forgiving of their faults and loving of their imperfections.

Self-compassion is a beautiful habit to bring in to your goal setting because it’s not about letting yourself off the hook for every mistake – it’s about seeing the challenges you face as a normal part of being human. Because those ups and downs are normal. And you are human.

So this year…

As you sit down to spell out your resolutions or as you look ahead to a horizon filled with another transition, another life yet lived, consider adding these foundational goals as the backbone of whatever outcome you’re reaching for. They’re habits to last an expat lifetime.

Are you looking for a solid start to your goal setting in 2019? Get a boost from my self-paced, online course Goal Setting for Globetrotters.

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2 thoughts on “Three Must-Have Goals for Expats in the New Year

  1. So happy to see self-compassion featured amongst these 3 goals for expats! Expat life really is an invitation for us to improve our relationship with ourselves and to create a sense of home inside of us that we can take wherever we go. And self-compassion (and other mindfulness) practices are an excellent way to do just this! Happy New Year Jodi!

    • Melissa – Yes! I’ve really found that our ability to say, “Hey, it’s all right!” is so important. We face so many unpredictable experiences and are so quick to beat ourselves up for our responses, but each challenge or opportunity we encounter gives us the chance to nurture our true selves into existence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts (and your work!) with the globally mobile community.

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