Asian Style New Year’s Resolutions

I recently visited the Goodwill on Dearborn and found a wok for $8. I needed this important kitchen tool in order to fulfill my 2013 New Year’s Resolution: practice new forms of cooking. I figured it would be a useful skill to have now that I’m fully moved out of my parents’ house and surviving on my own. Each month I pick a food theme and cook new dishes that I’ve never made before. January is stir-fry month and so far I’ve made broccoli beef and green beans with pork. Last year, my 2012 resolution was to blog more, which I managed to find some success in—if you consider writing for the International Examiner a success…WHICH I DO!

A recent YouGov Omnibus survey reports that about one-third of Americans made at least one New Year’s resolution in 2013. Resolutions that relate to health and fitness topped the list: 37% wanted to lose weight and 28% said they would exercise more.

Just last Friday my friends and I were sharing our resolutions with one another over happy hour. “I plan to be more awesome,” said Stacia, whose 2012 resolution of being awesome was so successful she decided to keep the streak going. “I’m trying read more,” said Quinn. “Maybe we can all start a book club together!” Everyone quickly took another sip of Sapporo and sake to avoid direct eye contact with her. “Go Quinn!!!….…”

Despite everyone’s hopes and dreams of turning the page in life, 11% of Americans have already broken at least one resolution just six days after the New Year. “I wanted to go the gym this year,” said my friend Anna, “but I failed already.” Anna thought you had to complete the resolution right on January 1st and didn’t realize she has another 11 months to achieve this goal. “Why don’t you try walking up to a gym and just look in through the window?” I suggested. “Take baby steps.”

Fortunately for Anna, she’ll get a second chance during Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Tết is an especially important holiday for Vietnamese people because the first few days of Tết greatly determine how a person will live out the rest of the year. One way we do this is by “blessing” our friends and family and spreading goodwill to others. Goodwill = Good Luck. It’s a very simple formula.

I wish my grandmother good health and long life—she’s very old and long retired. I wish my parents happiness and lots of money—they’re about to retire and need the savings. And I wish that M. Night Shyamalan would make better movies—he should just retire already. We even make blessings for our worst enemies because settling disputes before Tết is considered good luck. “I wish you the timeless wisdom to stop being a douchebag in 2013…and peace, prosperity, lots of children, blah blah blah.”

So whereas Americans traditionally make personal goals for themselves, “I want to lose weight, quit smoking, make better movies,” Vietnamese essentially make “resolutions” for others. I personally like the Vietnamese way better because it puts the onus on the other person. If I wish you success and good fortune, but you end up losing your job half way through the year, that’s your fault, not mine. We even gift lucky “li xi” money in red envelopes to help. “I gave you $20 for Tết. Why haven’t you found happiness yet? What’s wrong with you!?”

Ultimately there’s something useful to learn from both cultures. Every year I wish my parents good health and more happiness, but they continue to work long hours and have high blood pressure. It would be great if my parents could meet me half way and make some resolutions for themselves—like taking more vacations, exercising more and eating healthier. At the time same, America could always use more goodwill. Imagine if we made happiness and success a collective priority. Then maybe 88% of us wouldn’t fail to accomplish our New Year’s resolutions. We can start by chipping in to help M. Night Shyamalan go back to film school. Send your support to


3 thoughts on “Asian Style New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. James,

    I have scanned very quick on you New Year's Redux writing and this is very cool. Good for sharing it to other. My self this year also have a resolution even it is simple (having my hair cut short). Keep on growing James.

    All the best,


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