Happy Chinese New Year! This Saturday comes the year of the Rat, when all the families across China reunite from all over the place to celebrate after another year’s hardworking. Like Christmas, my family has a special family dinner on the Eve, followed by burning incense at temples or at ancestors’ graves the next day for new year’s luck. Overseas Chinese students who are far from home usually choose to spend time with friends, watching the New Year’s Gala and making dumplings together.
The New Year is also a time for resolutions. Most graduate students, with the beginning of another new semester, could easily write down formidable lists of “Dos” and “Don’ts”, hoping to improve themselves and become better people. We may resolve to get up early, make healthier meals, work out more often, meet more people, make time for our hobbies, not miss any deadlines, or read books each month etc; and the list goes on and on. However, past experience has taught us that the same old favorites recurring year after year with monotonous regularity may still be needed. There are even people jokingly saying online that their 2020 New Year Resolutions would be to finish the goals set up in 2018 but didn’t finish in 2019. What’s even worse, we tend to announce our resolutions to everyone either in person or on social media, hoping that the self-imposed pressure will push us to be more likely to follow through with them, which makes it look even more foolish when we don’t achieve them in the end and it would be so embarrassing that we just want to hide ourselves. It isn’t uncommon for people to experience such frustrations from failing in our efforts at self-improvement.
Most of the time it’s because the plans are too ambitious. They may not look so challenging considering they are the resolutions for a whole year. However, executing them all at once actually requires huge amount of mentality and thus makes it fairly easy to fail after a couple of unusually productive days. Self-discipline or willpower, just like our muscles, needs gradual training. Going all-out at the gym early in the year is hardly a sustainable plan; we eventually burn out, and without time to recover our performance will only suffer from there on. Similarly, carrying out resolutions at the same time would exhaust our mentality and very soon we would find ourselves slipping back into our bad old ways and the resolution thing essentially just collapses inevitably.
This makes me wonder if it is even effective or necessary to make New Year Resolutions in order to keep us productive in the first place? Would it be better if we start from something small or just one single resolution at a time? For example, instead of saying I want to work on three different goals all at once from day one, why not focus on one goal until it becomes a habit? That way we can internalize good habit-making decisions, just like we build muscles at the gym. For example, when it becomes more natural for us to eat healthy than binge on preprocessed junk food, dieting essentially has become part of our life and we no longer feel that we are “making efforts” or “on a diet”. It may seem slow in the beginning, but small steps are the key to building and maintaining momentum. We can take pride in what we’ve accomplished, and that positive feeling can push us to go further.
This coming Chinese New Year I will have dinner with my friends at Sakura Sushi Restaurant followed by a game night at home. QUIC also has hosted several events such as Lunar New Year Crafts and New Year themed film series to accommodate. For me, my 2020 New Year Resolutions would be to go to bed before midnight and to finish thesis writing before August and then move on from there. What are your thoughts on New Year resolutions? Feel free to leave us a comment for further discussions! 😊