As your favorite holiday New Year’s approaches, the fated “I’m going to begin/improve/master Japanese” resolution draws nearer. Here is your chance to reaffirm new goals, provide some much needed motivation, and get your priorities straight. It will also make you feel better due to all the slacking off you have been doing from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
I have nothing against New Year’s resolutions. A few weeks after I first started learning Japanese at the end of 2004, I was in this very situation. And it worked out. But often it does not. New Year’s resolutions are often fatally flawed and may be the downfall of your Japanese.
You aren’t superman.
Do you have a New Year’s resolution list? Does it look something like this:
1. Lose weight
2. Work out every day
3. Get a pay raise/get a new job
4. Start a blog and write in it every day
5. Improve grades
6. Keep house clean
7. Save more money
8. Learn Japanese/Chinese/Surfing/Origami/meaning of life.
9. Achieve inner peace
The worst thing you can do for anything you are ever trying to do at any point in your life is overwhelm yourself. As humans, we aren’t the super powered multitaskers that modern culture has made us believe. We handle things best one at a time, without other things on our mind.
New Year’s mentality ends quickly.
I’m sure there are some studies out there that show that most New Year’s resolutions barely make it past the end of January. You go from end of December maximum ambition to end of January maximum complacency. This results from the above trying to do too much, and the below:
Failure for one, failure for all.
Breaking one resolution has an unpleasant domino effect which tends to crumble them all. Your motivation to make a better new year is unfortunately bound together with that long resolution chain you’ve created.
Every day should be New Year’s.
New Year’s resolutions are bad because they impede what is really important to us: goal setting on a normal basis. People feel they have to wait for a special day to start setting goals. This is the worst mindset you could possibly have.
Every day of your life should be a day where you can change who you are or what you do. Why should you have to wait. Here you are. At this exact moment (finish this sentence first), set your goals and do them.
This is so much more powerful because it prevents you from accumulating a surplus of goals and then trying to tackle them all at once. Make a resolution any time and it gets the solo attention it deserves.
Gimmicks are bad.
New Year’s resolutions are cheap and gimmicky. Everyone is doing them. They are a coworker/classmate discussion point after everyone comes back from a vacation. Making your own resolution on one random day that changes the face of your life is not gimmicky. You’ve shown dedication, willpower, and determination. You’ve decided that you can at any moment change your entire life. This is incredibly empowering.
Life is full of failures.
Failure equals trying again. You just made a resolution today, and couldn’t see it through? Well you have tomorrow. Try again, and again, and again. You will get it, eventually. If it is true that habits take 3-4 weeks to create, then you are giving yourself plenty of opportunity. Not the one-time habit creating span of 1/01 – 1/25.
So Don’t Create a New Year’s resolution to learn Japanese?
No. Go ahead and make it. Make 1. Turn it into habit. Then on January 25th, make another resolution. On Feb. 12, make another. Failed that one? Try it again a week later.
When it comes to what you want to do, dates are meaningless. Your life and how you plan to live it right now is what is important.