International students, you’re not setting new year resolutions the right way

set goals
Whether you're from the Land Down Under or the Land of the Free, we all set goals in different ways. Source: Andrej Isakovic/AFP

Did you know that our culture, tradition and belief can influence how we set goals?

study showed that countries like the US, UK, or New Zealand practise an “individualist culture,” where people tend to pursue personal success, seek social independence, or build their influence. 

The opposite refers to the “collectivist culture.” It focuses on social harmony and working with one another to achieve success. Think of countries like China, Japan, and Indonesia.

Why does this matter? Understanding these differences deepens your self-awareness. Or you can spot why some of your friends are faster in picking up a new language, managing their finances or excelling in their studies. 

Let’s take a look at how people in different countries set goals — and what you can learn from them to make better new year resolutions

set goals

Harness the power of the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang when you set goals. Source: Jung Yeon-je/AFP


Did you know you can use the “yin” and “yang” approach to set goals? They are two opposite but complementary principles in Chinese philosophy and culture.

“Yin” refers to darkness, femininity, passivity, and the earth. “Yang” represents light, masculinity, activity and the heavens.

By harnessing the direct, action-oriented energy of “yang” and the intuitive, introspective power of “yin,” you can achieve a harmonious balance that will drive you towards your desired outcomes.

Take yoga, for example. Applying a “yang” approach, you could dedicate 20 minutes of yoga on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next three months. During these sessions, you can check your progress and evaluate your goals for the future.

“Yin” relies more on your intuition. If you feel that 20 minutes of yoga three times a week is too much to handle, set goals to something you’re comfortable with. You can start small by doing yoga once a week.


“Kaizen” refers to changing for the better. Initially used to help businesses improve, it focuses on consistency. This way, you make small improvements in your life and improve little by little every day.

Doesn’t it feel less intimidating and more manageable? As legendary basketball coach John Wooden says, “When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually, a big gain is made.” 

Try journaling your progress daily. Tick off the small wins, and celebrate your milestones. As the year comes to a close, there’s no better way to reflect on how far you’ve come and look at where you can go in the future.

set goals

Achieve your dreams in the Land of the Free. Source: Michael Chang/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

The US

You might have heard of the “American way of life,” but what does the phrase really mean? 

It refers to the values and ideals that underpin American society, such as personal liberty and individual opportunity

These principles shape how we set goals and aspirations. Research into goal-setting among students shows that factors such as hope and optimism can significantly impact our ability to manage and achieve our goals.

The UK

Some common British values include respect, tolerance, and individual liberty — which mirrors the American way of life. 

study shows that this change can impact your motive in achieving your goals. For example, individuals in Asian cultures are more driven to set goals that meet the expectation of others but less so in terms of achievements that relate to their passion, hobbies, or interest.

The reverse is true for Western cultures.