Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy International New Year

From the Internet Cafe on Soi 2

Thank goodness for a break. I sit here thinking about the coming year; and the fact that until recently I neglected to realize we are ushering in a new decade. Perhaps it is the ambiguity of years that end in zero; or perhaps it is Thai culture to start with years ending in one. Or perhaps it's just a clever marketing ploy to get people to celebrate more extravagently. In the end it doesn't really matter a hill of beans - but it has gotten me to thinkabout the next ten year mark.

American society seems very goal-oriented, and I can't say two months is enough time to claim much knowledge of Thai society. From programs like 'Get Things Done,' to educational tracking and progress reports and Growth Model - to daily and weekly tracking of direct sales - there is a lot of overwhelming tracking of things. While sometimes this has its merits - sometimes it is more trouble than it is worth. Most especially when it is counterintuitive to the culture; or as asinine as to track every waking moment of existence.

Certain aspects of my school culture have been driving me up the wall, especially after the years of college training and year in a U.S. school. Here, tracking attendance is a joke. I've stopped bothering. Punishment for skipping, or cheating is nil. After exam retakes for students that failed - giving them the exact same exam - if they still fail you either a) give them the test over and over until they manage a pass or b) falsify their score to 50% (which is a passing score) and call it a day. The other teachers have mentioned having to raise passing scores to better passing scores after parent complaints. Oh bowing to the whims of the Ministry of Education of Thailand (no student can fail) and parental pressure. I see no similarities to the state of American education, nope not at all. That's sarcasm, in case that was lost in translation.

But I digress - goals, tracking, and what it is worth in one's personal life. An exercise at one of my direct sales job meetings was to write down your goals for six months, one year, five years, and ten years. Having just barreled through my five year non-stop dual degree a few months prior, I was kind of at a loss here. Set MORE goals? I finally just finished the one I'd had blinders on to finish - nearly; hit a road block at the end and here I am attempting to sell kitchen knives. What are my goals next? Uh... not be so blindsided by goals? How do you enjoy life with your eye constantly forward? Do you really need to set goals? Oh well, you won't fulfill what you want in life if you don't. How do you know? Maybe it just makes one more cognizant of what they haven't attained. This past summer I enrolled myself in a counseling program of my choosing; at the well-timed referral of a colleague. This was mainly to address the grief I hadn't faced up to since losing Dad; having only buried my head under the sand in my degree program and subsequent job search - in any case my counselor gave me a completely different exercise. Dry erase board, marker: What have you accomplished since graduating college? What? But I didn't accomplish my goal - well, so what HAVE I done? By the end of the exercise the marker board was full and I was crying. Less than half a dozen things on the board had been my 'goals' prior to doing them; but some of the things I hadn't initially set out to do were the most important. The exercise was to show me more about positive and negative framing - but I think it also illustrates how easily goals become burdens instead of inspiration. Sure - set more attainable goals, commit to your goals, work harder! But at some point I have to wonder - is it worth it to be a part of the rat race? To set big goals? When I could be happier with less? The phrase settling for less is misleading here - I mean doing without the excess many of us have come to know as our comfortable standard of living (which yes, has taken a hit with these economic times). Not to mention despite all the pep talks in direct sales marketing - you cannot always manage to get around every obstacle with creativity and will power alone along a straight path. Sometimes you have to be like water - and carve a new path. Yes, I stole that from the opening credits of Memoirs of a Geisha. As such I sit here wondering about the merits of setting goals at all. Besides which, my personal 'goals' are not under the governance of any Educational governing body. I will probably make a brief list of resolutions, but I won't publish it. Try and go with things without time frames, with out as much probability of external road blocks. Will it stunt my personal growth not to 'challenge' myself? No, I'll just have less hanging over my head. I'll give credit where it's due and cite the blog ZenHabits for its influence on much of this post. Though I won't claim for an instant to be a true minimalist.

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