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We kept our resolutions

Cynical about one too many broken new year resolutions? These 10 people show it is possible to keep them, having met their 2015 targets with some courage, focus and oodles of discipline

RESOLUTION: SET A RECORD

Mr Dick Yip, 68, retired physical education teacher, married with two daughters, 44 and 39; grandfather of five


Mr Dick Yip played the ukulele for 32 hours to set a new record to mark SG50.ST PHOTO: BENSON ANG

Last year, Singapore turned 50, so I wanted to set a record to put my country on the map in my own way.

I love the ukulele, so I decided to set the record for the longest ukulele marathon.

An Australian man previously set this at 25 hours in 2013. I aimed to play for 32 hours. This, I felt, was achievable for me and would not be easily broken by others.

I had an opportunity to play at a fair at the Waterfront Promenade outside Marina Bay Sands, so I performed with the Serangoon Community Club Ukulele Club there on July 31, starting at noon.

The rules: I could take only a five-minute break for every hour I performed. Only a 30-second pause was allowed between songs. And I could repeat songs only every four hours.

So I started playing. In the past, I had stayed up the whole night playing my ukulele at home. But this was the first time I officially kept count of how long I played.

Although Guinness World Records did not reply to me when I wrote to it, staff from the Singapore Book of Records were there to authenticate the event. And I have a certificate to prove it.

During those 32 hours, I fought against tiredness constantly. At times, I felt my eyes were about to close. But I pushed through by drinking lots of kopi-o gao (thick black coffee) and ginseng drinks to keep my energy level up.

I ate only light meals - sandwiches, porridge and bee hoon - quickly during breaks so I would not feel drowsy after eating.

After a few hours of playing, the fingers on my left hand began to feel numb and stiff from pressing the chords. But I did not want to stop the performance and pushed through. During my breaks, I constantly massaged my fingers to improve the blood circulation.

By the 25-hour mark, the pain was overtaken by the adrenaline I felt at breaking the record.

From then on, all I cared about was enjoying the music.

Although I did not have to, I sang along throughout my performance, such as the country ballad I Don't Care If Tomorrow Never Comes by Hank Williams Jr and George Jones, and Sailing by Rod Stewart. I must have played more than 400 different songs.

My performance ended at 8pm on Aug 1 and there were fireworks from the National Day Parade rehearsal nearby. I like to think they were also celebrating my new record.

By then, I was exhausted and my fingers were as stiff as a rock. But I felt on top of the world.


RESOLUTION: LOSE 30KG

Ms Chang Mei Ling, 29, clinical data manager, in a relationship


Ms Chang Mei Ling now weighs 83kg, down from 113kg about a year ago (right). PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG, COURTESY OF CHANG MEI LING

Since my teenage years, I had been on the heavier side. Losing weight had always been on my to-do list, but I never got around to it until last year.

I am 1.6m tall. But in October 2014, I weighed 113kg.

My friends would go rock- climbing and do other fun activities, but I couldn't do them. It all reached a point where I felt very unhealthy.

That was when I decided I needed to take some action and get serious about losing weight.

First, I read up on weight loss online. Then, I installed MyFitnessPal, a calorie counter and diet tracker app, on my smartphone.

It helped me to limit myself to 1,200 calories a day. And with this limit in place, I began choosing what I ate more carefully.

I went on a low-carb diet, cutting out rice, noodles and potato altogether. McDonald's was a no-no and I avoided eating there for six months. Instead, I cooked at home more often.

I also cut out soft drinks and about 90 per cent of fruit juices. Most of the time, I drank water.

Of course, I had cheat days and ate cakes and cookies occasionally. But having the app helped me to keep track of how many calories I took in and I never went over the limit.

To burn more calories, I began exercising in January. For a start, I swam or did aqua-aerobics twice a week. I also got a personal trainer friend to give me advice on weight training.

Two months later, I started jogging.

First, I would jog for one minute and walk for the next. Then, I would jog for longer intervals.

Before long, I was running. I ran the 5km at the Osim Sundown Marathon in July and 10km at the Standard Chartered Marathon last month. Of course, my timing was not fantastic, but finishing those runs was already a great achievement to me.

Now, I weigh 83kg and I do not intend to stop. By the end of this year, I hope to be 53kg, the ideal weight for my height.

My journey so far has taken a lot of time, energy and discipline. At times, I felt tired and hungry, but I pushed on for the sake of my own health.

It is worth it. I definitely feel more confident and attractive now.

If I knew I would feel as good as I do now, I would have lost the weight earlier.


RESOLUTION: READ 40 BOOKS WHILE WORKING FULL-TIME

Ms Nicole Kang, 24, English and literature teacher, single


Ms Nicole Kang. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

I was an avid reader and used to read about 50 books a year.

But when I entered the workforce in mid-2014, I knew it would be much harder to find time to read because of work.

So I set a goal to maintain my reading habits and read as many books as I can - not counting Julius Caesar and Lord Of The Flies, which I was going to teach in class.

I read young adult fiction, graphic novels, science fiction, historical fiction and poetry collections - often concurrently and mostly borrowed from public libraries - just to keep things interesting for myself.

A thick novel took me up to 10 months to finish, while a graphic novel took just a few hours.

I made it a point to read for 15 minutes every night before going to bed. While on the MRT travelling to and from work, I read on my Kindle.

I also managed to read 10 books while on a two-week holiday to Canada and the United States in June.

I kept track of the books I read on Goodreads, a book recommendation website. Adding a new book to my existing list of completed ones always motivates me to read more.

In August, I joined an informal book club with five friends and we have been discussing a book a month.

In March, I also became the co-president of the Jane Austen Circle Singapore, a group that celebrates the author's works and organises regular dramatised readings of her novels and related events such as Regency dance balls and tea sessions. Being its co-president means I need to keep re-visiting Austen's books, which is wonderful because I love them.

Among the books I enjoyed the most last year was Redshirts, a 2012 science-fiction novel written by American John Scalzi.

It is about an ensign on a spaceship and a shocking revelation he uncovers about himself and the other crew members while on a mission.

It was fun, cleverly written and yet a quick read. While the novel's premise seems to be loosely based on Star Trek, it was accessible enough for a non-Trekkie such as myself.

Although I read fewer books than I did in previous years, I was satisfied.

A resolution need not just be about doing something you have not achieved before.

It can also be about maintaining a good habit, such as reading.


RESOLUTION: GIVE STAND-UP COMEDY A SECOND TRY

Mr Muhammad Siraj, 26, junior copywriter at advertising agency Havas Worldwide Singapore, single


Mr Muhammad Siraj regained his confidence as a stand-up comic after performing at an open mic night in October. PHOTO: HAVAS WORLDWIDE SINGAPORE

I used to perform stand-up comedy, mostly at Comedy Masala, a regular open mic night which used to be at the now-defunct Home Club in Clarke Quay.

From 2009 to 2013, I performed about six times, mostly talking about my experiences as an Indian Muslim in Singapore.

I wanted to be like American comedians Dave Chappelle and Louis C.K., who can hold an audience in thrall with their witty perspectives on life.

But in 2013, I stopped completely. During one performance, some audience members found one of my jokes offensive and heckled. I will not repeat the joke here, but I really was not prepared for the response. It was quite negative and left me shocked.

As a stand-up comedian, I know we should roll with the punches, but at that time, I did not have the courage to perform again. I did not want to relive the experience.

Instead, I focused on other endeavours such as my job, performing in a band and writing poetry.

But I still continued to write stand-up material on the side and performing stand-up was always a nagging thought at the back of my mind.

I knew if I did not perform again, I might regret it because stand-up is something I love.

So in October, I faced my fears and performed at an open mic night at the The Wallich bar and restaurant at Anson House, in front of about 30 people.

At first, I was afraid they might not like my jokes. But the response turned out to be very good. Everyone laughed and after the show, some approached me to say I was funny and should keep doing stand-up.

I felt encouraged. I want to do one performance every month this year.

Who knows, maybe one day I might get my own talk show or get on a bigger stage doing stand-up, such as at the comedy theatre show Happy Ever Laughter? If that happens, it would be great.


RESOLUTION: CLIMB MOUNT FUJI

Mr Simon Chan, 42, founder of Trek For Hope, a social initiative which organises overseas trekking trips that incorporates charity work, and blogger at TravelledPaths.com, married with two sons, 11 and six


Mr Simon Chan went up Mount Fuji during his first trip to Japan in August. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SIMON CHAN

Many adventurers choose which mountain to climb based on its height.

I prefer climbing sacred mountains. I want to walk in the footsteps of pilgrims of the past and soak in the "spiritual atmosphere" of these peaks. So far, I have climbed Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka and Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.

Last year, I wanted to climb Mount Fuji as it is so famous and a symbol of Japan. Whenever I saw FujiFilm cameras or Fuji apples, I thought of Mount Fuji.

So I took a week-long trip to Tokyo last August specially to climb the mountain. I had never been to Japan before that.

Mount Fuji is 3,800m tall and Japan's tallest mountain. I did not think I could climb it from the bottom, so I took a bus to the 2,300m mark on my own the day before and started from there. Even then, the trek up was not easy. I hiked up volcanic rocks and dirt paths, and the incline was steep.

It is not a suitable trek for those who are new to hiking and the temperature was below 10 deg C.

Thankfully, I had done some training before attempting the climb. Since 2013, I had gone on training hikes in Malaysia twice a month, wearing a Fitbit Surge smartwatch to track my elevation and distance covered. At the start of last year, I also started exercising daily at home with a cross trainer and used the smartwatch to monitor my pace and heart rate.

The training paid off. I managed to reach the mountain's peak comfortably after spending the night near the summit and saw the sunrise there.

At about 6am, the clouds in the distance suddenly turned purple and orange. Soon, the sun peeked from behind the clouds and its rays spread out above the clouds.

It was a glorious sight.

Although my whole trip cost about $2,500, I enjoyed it so much that I intend to repeat the experience this year.

This time, I want to start climbing from the bottom of Mount Fuji.

It will be a challenge, but if I train harder, I think I can do it.


RESOLUTION: WIN MY FIRST OFFICIAL GO-KART RACE

Ryan Michael Chapman, 11, student


Ryan Michael Chapman won his first official go-kart race in May. ST PHOTO: BENSON ANG

I love go-kart racing - I am probably among the youngest racers here.

I picked up the sport in 2012 while on holiday in Spain. I like the adrenaline - being hunched over the wheel, with a racing suit on, a helmet on my head.

Nothing beats the feeling of being at the starting line moments before the race.

Unfortunately, my first race in 2014, at the Singapore Karting Championship, was not a good start.

Actually, it was a disaster. So many unexpected things came up - I got stuck in traffic, my kart did not work properly. I did not get a podium finish.

But I took it as a learning experience.

Last year, I set myself the big target of winning my first official go-kart race and had my sights on the STC Rok Cup at the KF1 Karting Circuit here.

It had a mini rok category for drivers aged nine to 13.

To prepare for it, I trained very hard on the track and got extra coaching. I was at the racetracks two or three times every week, two to three hours each time.

I also exercised - biking, swimming and circuit training - several times a week as I knew I had to be in tip-top shape.

As I was in Grade 6 at the Canadian International School, I had to be disciplined and organised to make sure my racing did not affect my schoolwork.

I had to skip a day or two of school to train as the race date drew nearer, so I had to be more focused in school.

Sometimes, I stayed in the classroom during recess to finish my homework.

But it paid off. In round two of the series, I emerged champion in the category on May 30.

In the final, I had the fastest lap time of 51.821 seconds.

I now race in the junior category, for drivers aged 12 to 16 - I joined one year early - and my resolution for this year is to participate in more races, especially those overseas.

I hope to get on the podium in this category this year. Who knows, maybe I can be Singapore's first F1 driver one day?


RESOLUTION: GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL

Ms Nuralyah Razali, 23, recent life sciences graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS), single


Ms Nuralyah Razali got into a post-graduate medical programme after first receiving a life sciences degree. PHOTO: COURTESY OF NURALYAH RAZALI

My dream is to be a doctor. Doctors save lives. They help ease people's pain and this is a very precious ability.

I have always been interested in science and people, so I think being a doctor is my true calling.

Imagine my disappointment when I was not selected for the undergraduate medical programme at NUS in 2011.

At the A levels, I got As in mathematics and economics, and Bs in biology and chemistry. I think my grades missed the mark by just a little and I was really disappointed.

I went ahead with a life sciences course, but every time I walked by the medicine faculty, I would feel slightly sad that I was not a student there.

Because of that and other reasons, I had a shaky start at university and got only a grade point average of three in my first semester. But I picked myself up and figured that the only healthy thing to do was to channel my disappointment into working hard in my current course, and trying to get into medical school after graduation.

I began studying a lot at the university library - sometimes until midnight - as there were fewer distractions there. I also checked my Facebook feed only once a day and deleted my Twitter and Instagram apps.

I pushed even harder upon the encouragement of the professor in charge of my final year project, Assistant Professor Sajikumar Sreedharan, as well as from my family and friends.

Last July, I graduated and got onto the Dean's List in my final semester.

I have also been accepted into a post-graduate Doctor of Medicine programme at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

To qualify, I had to submit an application, undergo a Medical College Admission Test and attend an interview. Later this year, I'll be heading there for a four-year course. I'm really excited to go and think I may eventually specialise in neurology or cardiology.

Some people might call me a late bloomer. Although it took a while, at least I'm still on my way to achieving my dream.


RESOLUTION: DO 60 HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE

Ms Janet Yeo, 40, senior finance executive at CapitaLand, married with a daughter, six


Ms Janet Yeo decided to help children with special needs because she felt they are often misunderstood and isolated. PHOTO: CAPITALAND

Last year, I resolved to help out more actively in the community. I used to participate mainly in volunteer activities organised by my company and other ad-hoc community activities, but I wanted to do more.

Last March, my company launched the #100KHopeHours Challenge, which aims to garner 100,000 volunteer hours globally among its tenants, business partners and other stakeholders.

I pledged to do 60 hours of community work by the end of the year, which averages out to just over an hour of community work every week.

This, I think, is meaningful, but also manageable for me.

In recent years, I had wanted to reach out to children with special needs. My nephew has a mild attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a friend's child is mildly autistic.

I feel that children with special needs are often misunderstood and isolated because they do not know how to express their feelings. Their parents may also feel isolated and stressed out.

So I wanted to help these children and their parents feel connected with the rest of society.

In 2014, I started volunteering at Grace Orchard School, which caters to children with mild intellectual disability and mild autism.

Whenever I could, I went to the school and spent two hours reading to the children, playing games with them and organising art activities for them.

I always enjoyed my time there because seeing the children smile warmed my heart.

In November, I also took part in My Schoolbag, my company's annual corporate social responsibility programme, where we distribute schoolbags containing stationery and other necessities to underprivileged children. It felt good to be able to help these families.

With all these, I achieved my 60-hour target. Juggling volunteer activities with my work and family can be challenging, but I am very grateful to have a supportive family and employer.

This year, some friends and I will be working to set up a place to provide support for underprivileged families with special needs children, perhaps offering counselling services or helping parents communicate better with their children.

I feel each one of us can make a difference.


RESOLUTION: QUIT MY JOB AND START MY OWN BUSINESS

Mr Keyis Ng, 27, co-founder and CEO of Cafebond.com, a curated specialty coffee bean e-commerce marketplace, single


Mr Keyis Ng started an e-commerce marketplace for specialty coffee beans. PHOTO: JERICO SOH

At the beginning of last year I resolved to leave my comfort zone and launch a coffee- related start-up with a friend.

Before that, I worked in the public relations industry for eight years. Although I had collaborated with great clients such as Google and Singtel, as well as fashion icons such as supermodel Naomi Campbell, I felt it was time for a change.

Why coffee? Because I am a coffee "addict". Since I turned 20, I have been drinking at least three cups a day. I want my company to be the Airbnb of coffee, where customers can get beans from anywhere in the world.

Setting it up has been a lot of work. I spent the first half of this year researching the global specialty coffee scene to feel confident there would be demand for my business.

I also worked part-time as a barista at two different cafes - an international cafe chain and a local independent cafe - to learn the business of coffee retail. The pay was really low, but I learnt about making coffee professionally and this taught me a lot.

I had to manage my finances and spend only on things I really needed. This meant no social life, no fancy meals and no holidays.

On the plus side, our start-up was selected to be part of Tag.pass, a pre-acceleration programme by Infocomm Investments, the investment subsidiary of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

We also secured funding from venture capital firm QuestVC and its managing partner James Tan is now a mentor for the company.

Our platform will launch in March in Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. My goal for 2016? To double the sales of my company every month.

There will be many long nights ahead. But I will push through them - with a cup of coffee in hand, of course.


RESOLUTION: LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE

Ms Chen Ting, 24, public relations executive at Media Flair Communications, single


Ms Chen Ting learnt Bahasa Indonesia so that she could communicate with her friends. PHOTO: EUNICE ONG

I had wanted to pick up Bahasa Indonesia for about five years, ever since I went on a church mission to Indonesia in 2010 with my church friends.

In December 2014, four of my Indonesian friends visited Singapore. But because two of them understood only Bahasa Indonesia, I felt quite helpless while conversing with them. There were so many things I wanted to ask and understand, but I just did not know the words for them.

That was when I decided to take classes in the language. I had been trying to pick up the language myself through self-study, but without much success. I figured the classes would be more effective.

Towards the end of 2014, I signed up for weekly classes at the Lingo language school in Beach Road.

Every Saturday afternoon, I would attend a 11/2-hour class with about 10 other students.

My teacher, who is from Indonesia, taught us words and phrases in Bahasa Indonesia that could help us in conversations.

She also gave out exercises to increase our vocabulary and taught us to understand written passages.

Although the classes were partly conducted in English, there was always a chance for us to practise using the language with her.

I remember that she would speak slowly and refrain from laughing at the way we spoke.

If I had not signed up for the class, I would have had much less practice with the language.

I have completed the basic level course and am now at the pre- intermediate level. In all, I have spent about $750 on the language classes.

Although I still have a long way to go, I could use some of my new-found language skills on a trip to Indonesia two months ago.

I managed to order food at street stalls and even bargain at the marketplace while shopping for snacks and souvenirs.

It felt good not being at a loss for words.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2016, with the headline 'We kept our resolutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe