Declaration Of The War Against My Classmate
Every year when people start talking about New Year’s Resolutions, I always remember one particular year when my stupid new year’s resolution made my life a living hell every single day for about 6 months.
I was 13 years old in my first year of middle school in Japan. Everybody in the class was assigned to come up with great new year’s resolution as a part of a school project, and we were all expected to share it with our classmates. I wanted it to be cool and sophisticated, difficult and inspiring, funny but dangerous – something totally different that no one would ever dare to do. It had to be something grand that would have earned me the respect of my classmates.
When it was my time to share with the class, I declared loud and clear, “I will finish my lunch faster than anyone in the classroom everyday for the rest of the year!” Everybody knew I was a pretty fast eater by then. And I was sort of known as a guy who did silly things all the time, so they all laughed. Girls dismissed it as one of my silly jokes. But boys knew how serious I was. When I saw the grin on their faces as I was returning to my seat, I knew I was in trouble. I knew they were going to challenge me everyday. Seeing me fail at my new year’s resolution just became their new year’s resolution. Basically, I officially declared the war against them.
Perfect Battle Ground For Fast Eating Competition
Before I go on, I must first explain the difference between a typical American school cafeteria system and the old Japanese public school lunch system, which I loved dearly as a child simply because every meal was delicious beyond comparison. In American public school, kids have a choice to either bring their own lunch from home or buy it at school cafeteria which, according to my kids, doesn’t offer many options, and the quality of the food is very poor. Kids get to pick and choose whatever they like to eat, as much or as little as they want. However, in old Japanese public schools (at least in the area where I grew up), bringing my own lunch was not an option. All the kids were required to eat the school lunches in the classroom, not in the cafeteria which actually didn’t even exist. Surprisingly, hardly anyone complained about it because the food was so good!
Everyday, a few people in charge would go down to central lunch distribution area inside the school to pick up different tubs of hot meals back to the classroom. Then everyone was served the exact same meal in the exact same amount regardless of their height or weight. It didn’t matter how hungry (or not hungry) you were. You were expected to finish everything on the plate. In many cases you weren’t even allowed to leave the desk until you finish. And when everyone in the classroom sat down with the meal on their desk, we would be allowed to start eating only after saying a few words of appreciation for the meal at the class leader’s command.
As you can see, it was a perfect level ground for fast eating competition. Everybody ate the exact same meal in exactly the same amount at the exactly the same time. No one was allowed to leave the desk until meal was finished. It was impossible to hide or throw away the food without anyone noticing it. There was no way to cheat.
Amateurs Were No Match, but…….
As I mentioned every meal was so good, I had looked forward to lunch time everyday, and enjoyed every bit of it. But it all changed the moment I set the stupid goal of eating and finishing the lunch faster than anyone else as the new year’s resolution. Now everyone’s eyes were on me. Pressure was on. I could sense a tension in the air because of the determination of some of the boys trying beat me. Of course I was more determined to keep my resolution.
A few weeks went by without a hitch, I was still undefeated. Amateurs were no match for a Pro like me. I quickly established a reputation as the fastest eater in the class, probably in the school too. I was proud of myself. I thought that they would simply give up and stop challenging me. How wrong I was. They were like a persistent pack of hyenas circling around a lone lion with a fresh kill, waiting for a moment to snatch a meal. They were annoying but did not pose any threat to me yet.
A month passed by. The constant pressure to perform like a champion was not a easy task. Lunch was no longer enjoyable. I was still the fastest, but it was like a running a 100 meter dash at the Olympics every single day. The pressure was becoming too great to handle for me, yet I still pressed on. They never gave up either. In some days, they were only a few seconds behind me. They were quickly closing in on me.
A few more months went by. The constant pressure began to take a toll on me both mentally and physically. I was tense and nervous at all times. My abused digestive system began to give me stomach pain. I dreaded the lunch time every day. I was exhausted almost to the point of depression. I was still undefeated, but I started to lose the will to continue.
The Aging Lion Decides To Leave His Pride…
All of a sudden, the pack of hyenas started look like a gang of young lions ready to attack an aging lion at the sign of weakness. The old lion appeared strong and healthy outside, but inside he was battered and injured from the months of battle. I had to decide whether I should continue to defend my throne, or simply give up and walk away. Knowing defeat was inevitable, I chose the latter. I told my classmates I could no longer stick to my New Year’s Resolution. I was like an undefeated, but tired heavy weight boxing champion suddenly announcing the retirement at the height of his career.
Was I embarrassed? Did I feel like a loser? No. It was quite the opposite. Even though I couldn’t make it through the year, I was pretty proud of myself for keeping at it for 6 months. It was very stupid, but it was one of the toughest and the most challenging New Year’s Resolutions I had ever set. I think I was even able to earn a little respect from my classmates.
So what drove me to continue when I could simply choose to quit after a week? After all, it was a totally meaningless, silly New Year’s resolution that no one really cared about. I was even aware it was damaging to my health. Yet I pressed on because:
“…I told everyone what I was going to do, and they were monitoring me every single day. And some of them even wanted me to fail…”
Let The World Know Your Plan
So, I simply could not back out. I just had to continue, otherwise I thought I would be the laughingstock of the class. I didn’t want anyone to look down on me for not keeping my words. I didn’t want to be embarrassed.
You see, avoiding the pain of embarrassment is the one of the most powerful motivators. People often never make promises just because they don’t want to be laughed at when the promises are not kept. So it is far easier not to promise. Setting a New Year’s Resolution and keeping it works the same way. If you don’t set it, you don’t even have to worry about keeping it. If you ever set it, but never tell anyone, no one would ever laugh at you even if you don’t keep it. But imagine if you were to announce your New Year’s Resolution on national TV network, you would do anything to keep it no matter what, wouldn’t you? Because you know everyone would laugh at you if you failed.
So, just like how I told my classmates what I was going to do, tell everyone you know about your New Year’s Resolution. Tell them what you going to do. Tell the whole world. Find someone who will hold you accountable for your actions. Your spouse, a mentor or best friend can monitor your progress or accomplishment. They might even help you through encouragement. Or even better, find an enemy – (anyone who could be mean to you) who couldn’t wait to see you fail. Then you would do anything to prove them wrong. That’s how you keep your New Year’s Resolution. This is by far the best method you can employ when your iron will is not strong enough.