The Secret to Keeping a New Year's Resolution? Humble GoalsJanuary 12, 2022

Struggling with New Year's resolutions? Your old mate could help, he assured you. Doubt was your first reaction after he ranted about the Australian Border Force saga the other day. You were too young for disappointment and cynicism, yet you were affected by your neighbour's worries about the fate of his (medium-sized) business. Some of his staff were infected (with the coronavirus), which didn't surprise your parents. The election was coming, but your parents didn't talk about it. (Yet?) You're gutted about breaking your first resolution, as the new year is barely two weeks. Humble goals?

Your mates were chatting about the premise of the sequel to "Spider-Man: No Way Home" when you overhead your parents' conversation with your neighbour. He didn't like the Victorian government granting a medical exemption to Novak Djokovic (to play in the Australian Open). The government assured Australians that we would all be one during the pandemic. And he acted like a good soldier. (You recounted this conversation to your old mate, and you were quite surprised that he shared your neighbor's sentiment. You never thought that he was a huge tennis fan, but he didn't reveal his interest on social media. You didn't ask him either.) You're lukewarm to the topic because you're more invested in movies. And you're amazed at the fact that Marvel Studios is going strong after 14 (or 15?) years. You couldn't help but tell your lack of enthusiasm on the mid-credits scene, where Doctor Strange's spell brought Eddie Brock - and Venom - closer to Peter Parker. It was a win-win situation, your coursemate said. (Toxin is the new antihero to grace the big screen. You weren't thrilled at all.) On the other hand, everyone (in the chat room) was excited about the post-credits scene, which was the teaser trailer of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness". Sam Raimi would direct it, and from the looks of it, this upcoming Marvel feature might be the scariest Marvel flick. (Your coursemate was unable to have a good night's sleep after watching "The Evil Dead".) You were indulging, which wouldn't be bad at all. You deserve your (summer) break, but you would recall how you managed the coursework last year.

You were annoyed at your (geeky) coursemate after your professor praised his essay on overpopulation, climate change, and "Soylent Green". It was an essay topic that he kept on pressing, and his persistence paid off. Dystopian literature wasn't one of your favourite (literary) genres, but you don't want to use it as an excuse. You wondered about your lack of enthusiasm for pop culture after your coursemates talked about BTS. K-pop wasn't included in the curriculum until you studied space opera. And one of your coursemates recommended one Korean writer. He was a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise, he claimed. (You seemed to believe him, as you read a few titles under this subgenre. It was better than eating ice cream.) This recollection led to your New Year's resolutions. Were you lacking in self-discipline? Were you too young for such a thing? Did you set yourself up to high expectations?

Ask and Learn

Do you really know yourself? No. As a matter of fact, your tutor once told you that it wasn't a discouraging sign in the lecture room (or recorded lecture). You need to focus on one resolution, and nothing else. You remembered your procrastination on meeting the deadlines to your assignments. It didn't bother you at first, as this habit was a trait of perfectionists. Your mates haven't noticed it, but it affected your routine last winter. You were getting up (from your bed) late, and your mother reminded you that this habit was a luxury of old people. What to do?

What's your plan? You tried to allot a few hours of the day to paper writing, but it worked after your first few assignments. It was hard to describe what happened afterward. Did you become complacent? Yes. Were you distracted? Yes. Did the pandemic affect you? Yes. You panicked after you were unable to think of another plan, but you forgot something. A plan would give you some control, which should be a good thing. There's one question, if not two.

One resolution? Multiple resolutions? You weren't good at multitasking, so you asked your mother about it. You swore that she arched her eyebrows a bit, but you didn't take it hard. You wanted to ask for some tips from your mates, but they seemed to be reveling in the joy of attending a high-school reunion. (You wondered if it had something to do with Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire appearing on the big screen together.) You decided to settle with one resolution, and it would be the 90-20 rule. Your brother suggested it, where ninety minutes of work (or studying) must be followed by twenty minutes of rest (or getting a snack and drink). It made him more productive, he added. Would a familiar title help? How about least-liked (literary) genres? Can you say "NO" to your mate's (chat) invitation? You couldn't answer those questions, but it didn't bother you at all. It can wait for next month. The next question will be more important.

Why? The reason, or reasons, should determine the extent of your motivation to keep your resolution. You want to complete your degree, but it might not be good enough. (Your brother's coursemate confessed that a stray cat gave her the inspiration to study with zeal. She treated him like he was her best friend. The cat became her fur baby.) Your Lego (toy) collection can't give you a pep talk, but you can holler your mate(s).

What are you anxious about? The answer to this question reveals your fear. If it's a failure, then you might have forgotten what your tutor told you (during your first meeting). The university staff has your back. You tried to recall it one more time.

Is there a next time? Yes. You're planning for the next term. (You cleaned your room, and you couldn't think of anything better to do.) It mustn't make you impatient, though. Summer will be different from the previous years, but you should have accepted that fact. If not, talk to your family about Australia Day. You don't want to sit in front of the telly. Again.

What is willpower? It's the ability to control one's action. It may or may not be linked to motivation, but willpower is a finite resource. In other words, you must spend willpower wisely. This thought struck you, as you recalled writing your assignments at night time. You were quite exhausted from a day of recorded lectures and small-group discussions. There was no such thing as "willpower for writing" (or "willpower for reading"). And then you recalled something. Your brother preferred to run every other morning. You will write your assignments every morning, and you will stick to them.

Meet Your Future Self

You learned that keeping resolutions would be a motivational marathon, so you promised to be compassionate with yourself. You won't get upset over a setback, so you decided to forget your first resolution. It happened to be the number of hours you spent in front of the computer screen - and phone screen. You haven't thought about fall, so you would make another attempt (on keeping your resolution). Next month? Yes, more or less. Making it to the end of Hot January shouldn't worry you at all.

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