I recently visited the Goodwill on Dearborn Street 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 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 percent wanted to lose weight and 28 percent said they would exercise more.

Just the other Friday my friends and I were sharing our resolutions with one another over happy hour.

“I plan to be more awesome,” said Stacy, whose 2012 resolution of being awesome was so successful she decided to keep the streak going.

“I’m trying read more,” said Quynh. “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 Quynh!!!”

Despite everyones’ hopes of turning a page in ther lives, 11 percent of Americans have already broken at least one resolution just six days after the new year.

“I wanted to go the gym this year, but I failed already,” said my friend Ann. She 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 Ann, she’ll get a second chance during Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Tet is an especially important holiday for Vietnamese people because the first few days of Tet 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 a 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 Tet is considered good luck: “I wish you the timeless wisdom to stop being a douchebag in 2013 …and peace, prosperity, lots of children, etc.”

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 help out by giving lucky red “li xi” envelopes. (“I gave you $20 for Tet. Why haven’t you found happiness yet?”).

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 halfway 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 percent 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 mnightschool.org.

Read more at PlayingAsian.com.

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