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Must The New Year's Resolutions be new and different?

The year 2023 is here… Setting your New Year’s Resolution? The same one, perhaps.

There is a joke about New Year’s resolutions that have been repeated umpteen times - A: “Do you have a New Year’s resolution?” B: “Yes, of course, I do!” “It’s exactly the same as last year’s!”

For those who continue to crack this joke and others who have laughed about themselves for failing to come up with fresh and different new year’s resolutions should know that it is neither humorous nor incorrect.

𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐠𝐮𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞

In fact, the New year’s resolutions do not have to be 'new,' but rather a recommitment and renewal to the ones we made in the prior years. In truth, there is sound reasoning behind why we should keep renewing the same resolutions year after year.

One or more short-term or long-term objectives that are aligned with our lifetime vision (here defined as a grand state that may take years to reach) might make up our list of New Year's resolutions.

It should not be the common items on our Santa Clause wish list such as getting daily tasks done, slimming down, becoming more productive, being healthier or achieving a job promotion. (Does this sound familiar? This is because most resolutions sound precisely the same.)

Resolutions should be well-thought-out directions that are impactful for ourselves and those around us. In addition, it should also serve as a guide for us when we are at a crossroads and faced with difficult choices. If this is the case, your resolutions may take years to achieve and may warrant an annual renewal year after year.

𝐒𝐞𝐭𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐫𝐨𝐝𝐞 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐟𝐬

I would like to share a life-altering experience that occurred a decade ago that has influenced how I set my work and personal resolutions in life. I hope that the sharing of this experience can contribute to your success in 2023.

Our company was commissioned by a client to conduct a customised customer service workshop for their fifteen front-line employees in their teenage years. Our team subsequently designed and developed a robust three-day programme that was both integrative and practical. Everything seemed to be going smoothly as planned and I was looking forward to delivering it to the learners.

On the first day, I drove from our office at Chinatown to the training venue at Punggol East. Upon arrival, I was briefed by the Manager in-charge to be ‘cautious’, as the employees whom I was going to train are actually usually notoriously non-responsive and could potentially be ‘problematic’.

Being the non-judgmental person that I have always considered myself to be, these facts did not faze me. Just fifteen minutes into the course, I realised the manager was probably right. The students didn't seem engaged in the material, and they avoided my queries. They were sitting back comfortably, and much of the time they appeared to be doing nothing more than looking aimlessly into the void.

As the training progressed, I found out why the manager may have used the word ‘problematic’ to characterise the learners. Some of them have tattoos and based on my previous experiences as an officer from the Singapore Police Force, I could tell that those are not engraved for artistic purposes but to mark themselves as being part of a street gang. As a matter of fact, I could see that one of the learners was still wearing a police supervision band around his ankle.

I kept at it and tried to engage them throughout the entire period, but despite my best attempts, there were zero responses from any of them.

As a trainer, I felt dejected and saddened that I have failed as a trainer in my responsibility of imparting knowledge. While I managed to conceal my negative emotions and continued to deliver my customary high-performance enthusiasm (my developed trademark over the years), I remembered driving back with a heavy heart and being in a lousy mood.

𝐇𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐲 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬

A week very quickly rolled around and it was time for the second session. On the day of the workshop, I remembered calling my colleague Cheryl and asking her if she would be able to deliver the session instead. I even informed her that I was not feeling well (which was technically true because I was mentally unwell as I was quite badly affected by the learners’ behaviour).

Cheryl proceeded to give me a lecture on why I should not give up and that I am better than what I think I am capable of. Her “reprimand” was unfiltered, spot-on and surprisingly also motivating at the same time. In doing so, she shed light upon the core reason on why we are in the education industry; fostering learners’ growth, development and transformation.

Because I wasn't exactly looking forward to what I would be doing, I drove more slowly than usual to the same location.

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐡 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the learners were already seated (15 minutes ahead of time) and ready for the session.

What struck me was the way they were seated. They were upright like bamboo and looked very eager to learn. I am not able to describe to you my exact feelings in response to their change in behaviours but I can tell you that it felt great, even as I share it with you now.

All the learners had full eye contact with me and attempted to answer my questions. Even though they got most of the answers wrong, I knew that they were trying.

The second session ended with me driving home beaming and sharing this breakthrough development with Cheryl (who lectured me a second time on how I nearly gave up hope hours ago).

𝐀𝐰𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐮𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐭

Soon, another week went by, and this time, I drove significantly quicker (but still within the road limits in case any of you forward this to the traffic police) to the venue.

It was a total transformation because when I entered the room, all of them greeted me with wide smiles on their faces. To me, they radiated the boundless energy of youth and the possibilities of life.

The learners, who had been reserved now became extremely responsive, and started not just to answer my questions but began asking me questions. Furthermore, many of them shared very heartfelt incidents with me that only true lifetime friends could do.

When we were completing an activity on appreciating our internal customers, a teenage girl shared that she wrote a letter declaring her love for her parents. Sadly, her estranged parents did not read it in the end. Another male adolescent (part of the police supervision programme) expressed that he appreciated his mother because when he was ‘inside’ (meaning in police detention), his single mother still effortfully bothered to change his bedsheets.

The details from the sharing proved that these labelled “unresponsive” teenagers are not only very capable of expressing themselves but are also acutely attuned to their surroundings, fully capable of loving and also yearning to be loved by others.

When I asked them about why they had changed so much within only these three days of sessions, their replies humbled me - ‘because you are real’.

These teenagers felt that I was ‘real’ in wanting them to be better and despite them not answering any of my questions on the first day, ‘I kept going on and on’.

They also vulnerably admitted that it was not that they did not wish to answer but that they did not know the answer and were afraid of getting it incorrect. Looking blankly into space was simply a coping mechanism to avoid my gaze in order to not get called.

At that point, I shared with them that I was grateful for three things: 1) that they accepted me and felt that I was real; 2) that Cheryl berated me and forced me to turn up for the second session; and 3) that I too have learned a lot from them, the most essential of which is the importance of having a true heart.

The final session went well without a hitch, with all of us leaving on a high note. The manager came to have a chat and shared that he was impressed and amazed at their complete transformation.

(Note: The very next year, our company was engaged by this client to embark on a customer service project and we were awarded the Singapore Service Class Certification with a high score band.)

As I drove back that day, I felt hopeful and optimistic that if we have more teenagers with such progressive attitudes, Singapore will continue to survive, thrive and propser despite the world's instability.

My partner Selina and I talked at length about the learning pointers from this incident and more importantly, how we may ensure that our future learners benefit from it.

𝐑𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐰𝐚𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐦𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞

Fast forward 10 years, I have since stopped being a trainer and instead adopt a facilitation approach in delivering our customised programmes.

The efforts over the years and our recent collaboration with the Singapore Management University (SMU) Academy on the Advanced Diploma in Growing and Transforming Enterprises have since clocked in thousands of learning hours.

Every single minute was well spent since it was infused with real care for the growth and development of each and every individual who participated in our programme.

Particular attention was also made to ensure that the principle of being genuine was being incorporated across all nine tracks of the 24 days’ programme.

I trust that this principle of being real has a considerable part to play in the high level of learners’ satisfaction score that we have consistently and continue to achieve and maintained for this programme over the years.

With great joy, I am very proud to share with you that I have since never hesitated to proceed to any learning sessions and have always eagerly anticipated them.

Similar incidents have happened many times since then. A male adult learner was seated in the same manner and similarly also refused to engage me for three days. He remained quiet during the group discussion and didn’t exchange a single conversation with his group members.

On the third day, after the session ended and the usual photo taking, this gentleman stayed back and came to me when all the other learners have left. He said this to me: “Andy, I found that you are very different and I really enjoyed your facilitations.” “I am sorry for not responding to you because I was actually very shy.” “Nobody understood this and my colleagues at work thought that I am not interested and they avoided me after a while.” “What are the other modules that you will be facilitating?” “I would like to attend.”

His boss called Selina a week later and questioned her about the transformation of his employee. “Selina, what did your team do to my staff?” He couldn’t believe that such a ‘disengaged’ person could suddenly change to be conversant, participative and productive in his enterprise.

In reality, this learner has always been a gem. We simply needed to give him the care, concern, and coupled with our ability to connect; he was nurtured and able to shine

𝐌𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐝 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧

Therefore, for 2023, my new year’s resolution is to continue to have the strength, courage and willpower to possess a true, genuine heart in both my work and personal life that I, fortunately, discovered years ago due to those teenage learners.

Sure, this resolution is a repeated, recycled New Year’s goal and it is fine if others were to laugh at me because I truly feel that this is what will have the most influence and impact on my life and the lives of those around me.

On this first day of 2023, I hope you may also set a New Year’s resolution that upon its realisation, brings betterment to more people including yourself.

Happy New Year Everyone.

P.S. Thank you, my friends, who have taught me about being authentic. I wish all of you the very best from the bottom of my heart.

𝐀𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫

Andy Lim Yew Loon is the co-founder and Lead Resultant at Universal Stage. He delivers the Advanced diploma in Growing and Transforming Enterprises awarded by the Singapore Management University (SMU) Academy. Andy enjoys yoga, home gardening, and cooking in his spare time.


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