With the start of every new year, the stress is on for it to be better than the last. Our minds drift into reflection mode, pondering over the achievements and setbacks we've faced in the last 365 days.
We burst into every new year with an unbeatable tenacity and a list of resolutions, ready to conquer the world. But everything possible always seems impossible two to three months in, when the first roadblock hits. If you've ever made your new year's resolutions blinded by the naivety of a "clean slate", you'll know exactly what we're talking about.
If you're tired of the same stagnant resolutions year after year, we've narrowed the list down to 10 worthy resolutions you'll actually be able to keep this year.
Here's how you'll be well on your way to becoming a better version of yourself this year:
1. Equip yourself with a new life skill
Remember that photography course you said you were going to take two years ago, but never got around to? Or the guitar in the corner of your room gathering dust, because you promised yourself you would sign up for lessons? The time for change is now!
Keeping to it: Picking up a new skill is a lot easier than you think, especially with such a wide selection of recreational courses and workshops to choose from. One such platform is Public Garden. It offers a wide variety of workshops ranging from pottery and modern calligraphy to local cooking classes; there's bound to be a class that appeals to you.
Alternatively, you can also hit up your local community club for more adrenaline pumping activities like abseiling, sea rafting and kayaking. Check out this list of extreme sports you can try right here in Singapore.
You can also sign up for courses at your nearest community club. For example, PAssion WaVe @ Marina Bay is a specialist community club that offers abseiling, sea rafting and kayaking.
2. Always be punctual
Getting to appointments on time can be a lifelong struggle for some. You know that one friend who shows up at least half an hour late to everything, from group projects to birthday dinners – you might even be that friend. It's as though time has a personal vendetta against you. No matter how far in advance you prepare, it's never enough and you'll always end up apologising profusely for your tardiness.
Being late is never a good thing. Punctuality shows your friends and colleagues that you are dependable, responsible – and best of all – that you have your life in order. Even if you might not.
Keeping to it: Trick yourself into thinking the meetup time is half an hour than it actually is. With an extra buffer time, you'll never be late to anything ever again. This trick works well on unsuspecting friends who are perpetually late as well – what they don't know won't hurt them. #lifehacks.
3. Do something meaningful
There comes a time in everyone's life when we stop to wonder if all the things we're currently doing will amount to anything good. Sure, those nights spent binge watching sitcoms and reality shows were gold, but there's more to life than just keeping up with the Kardashians.
Maybe we've told ourselves to stop pretending to look busy whenever a student armed with a donation tin can starts slowly approaching, or buy a packet of tissue from the aunty at the MRT. But sadly, more often than not, we'll start making up excuses for ourselves – eventually closing one eye and carrying on with life.
Keeping to it: Nobody's asking you to be Mother Theresa 2.0. There are other less far-out ways of changing the world that you live in. One of them is as simple as volunteering. A small help goes a long way, so start doing something meaningful today, find out how you can make a difference as a volunteer here.
4. Getting that Baywatch bod
Keeping fit – a promise we make to ourselves every year, but is often the first promise we break. This resolution is one that’s been on the top of many people's lists for years. Exercising sounds great in theory, but getting down to nitty gritty of the actual workout routine is enough to drive us from the gym to the nearest fast food joint.
Even the thought of exercising tires us out.
Keeping to it: Getting started on your workout routine is always the hardest part so here's a little incentive. An ActiveSG membership is your passport to healthy living. Open to all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, each sign up earns you ActiveSG$100, which can be used to offset the cost of various sports programmes, and the admission to swimming complexes and gyms around the island.
5. Eating clean
When we try to imagine a world without pizzas, burgers and Four Fingers chicken wings, it's an instant gateway to all things miserable. If it wasn't already general knowledge, the word 'diet' wouldn’t exist in our dictionaries.
With the vast array of food available in Singapore, stuffing ourselves silly has almost become a hobby. But as we grow older and our metabolism starts slowing down, eating the same amount of food now equals to a greater weight gain.
Keeping to it: We're not asking you to completely cut your favourite foods out of the equation; we're saying that there are healthy alternatives in place that are just as tasty. Think whole grain pasta instead of regular spaghetti and you'll be on the right track.
Couple these small changes with regular exercise, and within a few months – you'll be rocking the body of your dreams.
6. Fixing your sleep cycle
With our late night rituals of clearing our work, supper affairs and occasional partying, sticking to a regular sleep cycle is nothing more than a distant fantasy. We know not having enough sleep is bad and sleeping at ungodly hours is even worse, but there's just not enough time in the day to get things done and our sleep is unwittingly sacrificed.
Plus, how do you go to sleep when your phone keeps calling out to you?!
Keeping to it: This sounds silly, but it works: set yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Turn off your phone, or leave it far from your bed, then go to bed and force yourself to not do anything. It will take loads of discipline the first few nights, but your body will get used to it after a week or so. Proper sleep cycles ftw!
7. Getting your life together
Making a new year resolution to get your life together is like moment in a movie where a protagonist hits rock bottom before making a life-altering decision and rebounding into a happy ending. That's not going to happen in real life, but if you take the right steps, this is where your life could really begin to change – if you take the right steps.
Keeping to it: The key to getting your life together is to make small, specific goals that are achievable, like saving $10 per week, or to watch only one movie a month. Use a planner to organise tasks, appointments and goals as a start. Ask your best friend to do the same so that you have a buddy to keep you in line!
8. Reconnecting with old friends
In the wise words of Ted Mosby, "You will be shocked, kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That's why, when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it."
It's inevitable that some friends come and go, but keeping in touch with them is your choice. In this age of social media, reaching out isn't the hard part – you'll definitely be able to reconnect with old friends through social media. What we're most worried about is whether these people actually remember who we are or not.
Keeping to it: The worst thing that could happen when you text that friend who you haven't spoken to in 5 years is a curt reply saying "I’m sorry, who are you?", which honestly isn't that scary. So get off your butt and reach out to an old friend now!
9. Saving a substantial amount of money…
You will never know the true meaning of saving money until your parents stop giving you an allowance and you have to start paying for every single thing yourself. The struggle is real when you're trying to balance maintaining a decent social life and cutting down on your spending.
The compromise usually involves either ditching your friends and going home or spending half of your allowance for the week. Having to resort to just waiting for "jackpot seasons" like Chinese New Year and Hari Raya to roll around again just seems so much easier than painstakingly saving up.
Keeping to it: Everything always works better once you have a goal in mind. You might want to try giving yourself something to save up for. A graduation trip maybe? Try out this 52 week savings challenge and by the end of the year, you'll have a pretty substantial amount without even having to work! You can also learn about some savvy tips on saving here to get you started.
Alternatively, if you lack the discipline to put aside money every week, look into getting a savings plan instead! Savings plans "force" you to put money into a piggy bank where you won't be able to touch it, then returns everything to you at a time of your choice. This guarantees you won't cheat yourself into slacking off from saving money!
10. … and using the money you saved sensibly
Saving up is one thing, but learning how to spend it wisely make your savings grow for you is a completely different story. Usually, we're buzzed with the excitement of getting our paycheck for the month and start to think about all the things we want to do and need to buy with our temporary wealth.
More often than not, we give in to the temptation to squander our money and before we know it, we end up with too much month at the end of our money.
Keeping to it: The key to spending right is rationing how much money you'll spend on essentials and luxury items. As a general rule, don't spend more than 10% of your money on luxury items – use it on essentials or save the money instead. And if you want to get a super expensive luxury item like a Macbook Pro, save a few months for it!
Before you start tearing your hair out figuring how to make each dollar count, check out the many easy-to-use financial calculators available online to ease your worries.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
When it comes to New Year's resolutions, we often have the misconception that thinking about change itself is a start. After all, it's the thought that counts right? WRONG. Resolutions don't count unless you take action and see them through. You need to plan. Plan your time, your schedule, and your finances.
Planning your finances sounds easy, but it really isn't. We often can't see further than our week's expenses, which movies we want to watch, and where we're going for dessert on Friday night. If this sounds like you, a consultation with a professional financial adviser representative could do you a world of good.
This article first appeared in The Smart Local on 3 February 2016. Republished with permission.