New Year’s Resolutions

The thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they often serve to delay their own enactment. Suppose you resolve to lose weight or gain muscle, something that should have happened last month when you were still working your way through leftover turkey sandwiches. I could go to the gym today, you think, but wouldn’t it be better to start on Monday, when the week is new and it color-coordinates on my Google calendar? Why go out of my way to meet people now when I can just wait and start 2012 off with a bang? That said, properly executed, New Year’s Resolutions can be a source of motivation as well as an opportunity for reflection (akin to writing college admissions essays).

The best way approach to resolutions of all sorts is to take them seriously and, as a consequence, resolve realistically. Treat this as you would packing for a three-month trip to Europe with one backpack. In that case, you distill all the things you think it would be nice to have to one carry-on’s worth of items you know you will need. So when it comes to sizing up your resolutions, try to apply the same ruthlessness. Write down all the things you want to do. Then go through line by line and ask yourself what needs to happen and what could plausibly happen. Are you really going to read Virgil? No. Baby Rudin? Possibly. How about training for a marathon? Doubtful. Anything that doesn’t elicit an emphatic yes should be crossed off the list. Assignments, academic or personal, pleasant or unpleasant, have a way of dragging on once the initial enthusiasm has died down. Read the rest of this entry »

Handling Rejection

It is all too common for a guy to be interested in a girl, to spend a year pining over her without making a move, to finally get the nerve to ask her to a dance or on a date, and to be courteously let down. The rejection is hard because it is honest and it is personal. It is the disheartening culmination of a year’s worth of romantic investment.

What could have been done differently? Remember, “be proactive” is the first of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people. This translates to moving quickly. I’m not saying that you ought to move rapidly in the traditional sense (which only applies within the context of some sort of relationship), I want you to do so in the “get to know each other” portion. A year is a long time to dwell on anything, especially a static infatuation. I suggest taking steps early on to find out if she reciprocates your affection. Ask her on a date. Flirt with her. If she likes you, fantastic. If not, it’s good that you found out sooner rather than later. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Together

A friend recently said something that bothered me. And in some ways, it is depressing: all relationships end in break-up or marriage. Hell, a lot of marriages end in break-up. It makes romance seem futile. Yet in many relationships, there does come a point when the novelty has worn off and the nebulous idea of commitment is the only way forward. A lot of Harvard couples stall at this tipping point.

Why? We aren’t commitment-phobes. There are people here who spend more time planning Women In Business conferences than I would my wedding. If anything, we over-commit. What makes these Harvard relationships go kaput? What value do we place on these partners, who were lovers, roommates, pset buddies, best friends, all at once? Read the rest of this entry »

Being Honest

A friend sent me the following email.

There’s often a tension between honesty and politeness in our interactions… Under what circumstances is it okay to lie to people to make them feel better? Would you admit disliking somebody to his face? Would you criticize her even if you thought it would make her angry?

Similarly, there’s a tension between being “cool” and being honest. How much should you compromise your true self to fit in? For example, if admitting to being a “mathlete” could seriously jeopardize your social interactions, would you lie about it?

For the first question, usually it’s alright to tell a white lie. If you hate your sister’s new haircut, chances are there isn’t much that can be done about it, so go with making her feel good. The truth is great, and honesty a virtue, but only if it is simultaneously constructive. Read the rest of this entry »

Living a Drama-Free Life

I watched the movie Bridesmaids over the Thanksgiving break, and I couldn’t help noticing that if the main character had been emotionally stable, the story would have had no plot. I suppose the same can be said of Crime and Punishment, but either should serve as a reminder that being laid-back isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

This is understandable. We all have bad days; most relationships have low points. How can you chill out when your significant other may be flirting behind your back, when your roommates are growing distant, or when it seems that your friends don’t actually like you?

The first step is to give others some space and to give yourself some time. If in a burst of anger, your classmate tells you that she has no respect for you and can’t stand your vanity, explain politely that you aren’t interested in having that conversation and walk away. If it’s in a group setting, change the topic to last week’s problem set or something equally innocuous. Continuing the argument will upset everyone involved. Read the rest of this entry »