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The problem with resolutions

Posted: 3rd January 2012 by R.AGE in Stories
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We’ve all been there before – making our lists in January and telling ourselves that things will be different this year and that we’ll actually stick to our resolutions.

But sometimes it feels like the only sure-fire way to fulfill your New Year resolutions would be to resolve to NOT fulfill them.

What exactly is the deal with resolutions anyway, and why are they so darn hard to keep?

New Year resolutions - what's the deal with them?

According to professional life coach Sharmini Hensen, a trained Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) master practitioner, one of the main problems with New Year resolutions is people make them just for the sake of it, without any real purpose.

“When you are setting goals for yourself, you have to ask yourself ‘why?’,” she said. “You can’t just say you want to lose weight, without asking yourself why you want to lose weight. Is it just so you can fit into a dress, or for your personal well being?”

Of course, most of you will say “that’s not me”. But think about it – how many of you have resolved to lose weight? The way Sharmini sees it, you could gain 5kg this year and still be healthier than you were last year. So, maybe you should ask yourself exactly why you want to lose weight, or even why you want to quit smoking, before adding it to your list.

Nobody knows about health and weight-loss goals better than Armin Baniaz Pahamin and Dr Malek Aziz, the duo running the Chief’s Original Bootcamp (COBC), an outdoor military-inspired fitness training programme that’s becoming increasingly popular around the Klang Valley.
The concept of COBC is not just about exercise and losing weight, but forming “platoons” with the participants at their various training locations. The people in the platoon help encourage each other to push themselves physically and mentally towards a healthier lifestyle, both on and off the training field.

“New Year resolutions are like a fad,” said Dr Malek. “You have to do it every year because everyone is doing it, and it feels good to have a long list. But most of the time it doesn’t come with a burning desire, a reason why you want to achieve it.”

For Armin, setting and achieving goals has been a huge part of his life ever since he was diagnosed with leukaemia and was told he had three years to live, all when he was just 15.
Fortunately, Armin received a bone marrow transplant a year later, and it has been 20 years since his last relapse.

Since his diagnosis, he has set – and achieved – countless goals for himself every year as if it would be his last; so naturally, he doesn’t find the usual trivial New Year resolutions very meaningful.
“The thing with New Year resolutions is people always think there will be another year. It’s just like a routine.

“But for people like me, just living another year is an achievement. Every year is important,” he said.

Armin Baniaz Pahamin (L) helps people achieve their fitness goals through the Chief's Original Bootcamp's (COBC) military-inspired fitness programme.

Apart from running COBC, Armin also owns several businesses, and he’s taken part in 60 races – including eight full marathons – over the last seven years to help keep himself in shape.
“Young people don’t appreciate the time or the years they have. If they truly appreciate that each year could be their last, then they could be achieving so much more,” he added.

Being flexible

Another problem with New Year resolutions is that they are often too rigid.
In an ever-changing world, Sharmini says you can’t just have specific goals for the entire year.

Life coach Sharmini Hensen recommends young people setting resolutions that are more generic and flexible.

When Sharmini first started out as a life coach, the school of thought when it came to goal-setting was to be as specific as possible.

Now, Sharmini is reading about new concepts where people are encouraged to make more “generic” resolutions, and to be flexible with them.

“New Year resolutions are traditionally for the whole year, but that doesn’t work now. We can’t set goals like our parents did. Things change all the time now. We have to be dynamic, be adaptable.

“Young people today are more dynamic. They can’t have static goals. They have to be constantly evolving,” she said.

The burden of rigid, year-long goals often leave young people frustrated and disappointed as things change and they are no longer able to commit to a particular goal.

What young people should do instead is to live in the moment, and grab whatever opportunities that come by.

“When you see a wave these days, and you don’t ride it fast enough, you’ll lose out,” she said. “Don’t be hooked to your future, because you miss out on the present. Do the best you can and eventually your goals will be achieved.

“You should have a general vision to guide you rather than a specific goal. That way, whatever you do, if it pulls you away from your vision, you will feel a discomfort, and you will come back to the vision.”


Sharmini, who does pro bono work with university students on a regular basis, believes that young people struggle with resolutions also because their sense of who they are is very “externalised”.

“They have no clue what they want. They think they want to have something because magazines tell them, friends tell them, Twitter tells them.

“Their sense of motivation, confidence, achievement. It’s all external,” she said.
And because of that, they find it hard to stay motivated and achieve their goals, especially when it comes to their jobs.

“You have to find the passion for work yourself. It won’t come to you. Not everyone will find the perfect job. A lot of young people bail out too soon and start looking for the next high. No matter how motivated you are, if you keep bailing out without achieving anything, your passion will die out eventually,” said Sharmini.

Three steps to making better resolutions

IF THERE was a 100% guaranteed way to help us stick to our New Year resolutions, we’d have world peace and everyone would have a body like Brad Pitt/Miranda Kerr.
So instead, we’ve decided to provide you with two three-step methods – suggested by some people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to goal-setting (and achieving) – that could increase your chances of finally ticking all the items off that pesky list. It’s up to you to decide which one would work better for you:

Sharmini Hensen, life coach

1. Reflect on your achievements
Before you write anything down, ask yourself what you achieved in the past 12 months, and what you learned about yourself in the process of achieving it.
Sharmini says it could be something like “I didn’t realise I was so resourceful”, or “I didn’t know I had so many people who could help me”.

2. Reflect on your failures
Identify what goals you failed to achieve, and what you learned from those failures.
“Were you distracted from your goal? Did you find that you didn’t have enough support? It’s important to consider these things when setting new goals,” said Sharmini.

3. Make a “state-based” resolution
The final step is to make your resolutions, but make sure they have something to do with who you are, your state of being, and not what you do.
Sharmini explains: “There’s a formula in goal setting – You + Action = Results. When people fail to get the result they’re looking for, they often go back to the ‘Action’ part of the equation and try something different.

“But they always neglect the ‘You’ part. How can you change who you are, your ‘state’, to help you achieve your goal? That’s more important.”

It could be as easy as changing your resolution from “I want to lose weight” to “I want to be more health conscious”. That, Sharmini says, will naturally help you fulfill many smaller, more specific resolutions, without the pressure that comes with targetting specific goals.

Another example Sharmini gave was for those working in the corporate world. Instead of burdening yourself with resolutions that revolve around beating the competition, focus on your own state – resolve to be more creative, more resourceful.

Once you have your resolution, decide on one thing you’ll do every day of the coming year that will help you achieve the state you want to be in.

“It should be something simple, something you can’t get wrong, like saying ‘thank you’ to the person at the check-out counter,” she said.

Armin Baniaz Pahamin and Malek Aziz, Chief’s Original Bootcamp (COBC)

1. Share your resolutions
Don’t keep your resolutions a secret, because you’ll need someone to help keep you on course.
Find a buddy that you can share your goals with, someone who has a similar passion.
And if possible, Armin and Malek recommends people join a community that can provide some support, something which has worked very well for participants at COBC.
“We burn around 500 calories a session, so when we go out for breakfast after that and someone orders a nasi lemak, the rest will remind him – ‘hey, that’s 800 calories!’” said Armin.

2. Find something to motivate you
You need to find a strong enough reason to achieve what you want to achieve, and you have to constantly find new reasons too.

Malek said: “The targets keep moving. Let’s say you want to lose weight for your wedding – what happens after your wedding? You have to set another target, find something new to motivate you.”
Armin suggests a combination of a long-term goal and several short-term goals throughout the year to keep yourself motivated. A long-term goal could be to stay healthy, whereas a short-term goal could be to complete a 10km run before the end of the year, or to climb Mount Kinabalu.

Armin and a group of COBC participants have done just that, signing themselves up for a run in Bali.
“We bought the flight tickets early and registered for the run; so there’s no excuse, no quitting,” he said.

3. Have a game plan
Once you have your long-term and short-term goals, work on a strategy to help you achieve them.
Armin says it helps to break your goals into smaller bits you can chew: “Say you want to lose 10kg this year. That might seem like a lot, but if you say you want to lose 2kg every month, then it seems more realistic.”

Your strategy should also include a measureable outcome at each stage, something that tells you whether or not you are on track.

See also: "2012: The new Book"


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