The Expat Woman

Setting clear goals as you transition into a new culture

“The only real purpose of a goal is to inspire you to fall more deeply in love with life.” – Michael Neill

Are you ever overwhelmed by setting goals and then following through on them? Our most exciting dreams can sometimes become goals that just get postponed and delayed again and again. It can be easier than we think. When we know how we want to feel and what we value in life, our goals come into alignment more fluidly and naturally. We are even more motivated to reach those short term and long term goals when we become clear on what we value and how we want to feel.

How often do we stop and think about what truly matters to us?   It’s easy to lose sight of this or simply forget to check in on how we are living out our values. What we value in life is our foundation for all of our choices. Each choice or decision we make either supports us and is aligned with our values, or is misaligned with our values system.  We usually get that feeling that is all is well with the world, when we are living in alignment, make decisions effortlessly and sense in ourselves what is best and true for us in the moment. When our highest values and our actions are not congruent with each other, we can feel confused, frustrated, depressed, sad, as if something is missing, or simply feel out of place with life.

As you acclimate to a new culture, it is normal to feel out of sync as cultural values are in conflict. You might feel that you must “be”, act or respond in a certain way that is uncomfortable and not natural to you. However, it is key to remember who you truly are by retaining your own cultural beliefs and values, even in spite of “trying on” new cultural practices and acclimating into a new culture. Holding onto your own beliefs and individual values will guide you in setting goals even in a new culture.

A few questions to let simmer….

What do you really truly want? When guiding yourself through a transition of any kind, ask yourself what do you really want right now?

What is most important to you?

How do you want to feel right now?

These questions can help you to determine your highest values which will lead you directly to goals that feel most appropriate for you and will be so much easier to follow through on.   Why? Because when you start with what your heart and instinct are calling you towards, know what you value most, and how you want to feel and experience life, you tend to choose goals that fit with your values. This is organic and natural to who we are and what we are meant to be doing.

*An interesting values exercise and list of values to check out-

After a values clarification, look at setting goals the SMART way.

Specific: Get as specific as you possibly can. Keep zoning in until your goal is clear to you – a broad goal such as “I want a new job or career” can become more specific, “I want a full time consulting job with a fortune 500 company that allows me to work from home, by the end of the year.” Pay attention to how it feels. Does it inspire you, excite you, and energize you to think about taking steps towards this goal?

Measurable: Your goal should be measurable and quantifiable so you can track progress and create accountability. “I would like to start my own business this year” becomes “For the next month, I am going to spend one hour each day, on my marketing plan and strategy for my business.”

Achievable: Ask yourself, Is my goal possible to achieve given my current circumstances? You might decide to simply adjust your goal, not let it go, but simply alter it to be achievable for you. You want to set yourself up for success.

Realistic: How realistic and reasonable is it that what you are saying you are going to do can be done at this time?

Time oriented: Setting timelines and due dates, holds us accountable. Perhaps you also share these dates with a friend or coach, so that you have additional support and accountability. How will you track your progress?

Then, try this same SMART process for the first step in your identified action/goal. For example, my goal is: “I am going to spend one hour each day for the next month, developing my marketing and business plan.” My first action is to identify a Specific first step: “To block off the one hour, daily, in my calendar.” Then, I ask myself the next questions around Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time oriented for that step.

Your goals and action steps must support you – it doesn’t matter what might work for someone else. Design and adjust so that they feel manageable for you. Share them with friends or coaches, and celebrate your progress!

Thank you to our contributing expert : 
Rebekah Kane (, spends her time between Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. She is a coach, educator, and intercultural trainer, with experience training, advising, and coaching professional adults along their career and life changing journeys. She empowers and supports women in career and life transitions, cultural adjustment and in pursuit of their personal and professional development goals and dreams.

Photo by Zahra Talieh

Model Camila Franco




Nyna is the Founder and CEO of The Expat Woman, a global platform focused on connecting, supporting and empowering women who have moved abroad or plan to relocate. She is also a LinkedIn coach, consultant, trainer and speaker. LinkedIn played a huge role in my professional journey abroad, helping me build a network of powerful expat women and allies.

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