Sticking with those New Year Resolutions

The presents have been unwrapped, a few kilos have been gained through holiday food, the sports shoes are gathering dust in the cupboard and the new year is starting to loom ahead.

This is a great time of year to reflect, regroup and strategize. And we all have the best of intentions, but how do we stick them out, beyond February 1st?

Keep it Realistic, Attainable and Actionable

When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, it always helps to keep things realistic and attainable. Think about it:

  • Is it easier to target losing ten kilos next year or to aim for logging in around a minimum of two and a half hours’ worth of exercise every week for the first few months and then increase from there?
  • Will it be easier for you to “get rich” by the end of next year or “deposit at least 15% of my salary every payday”?

The smaller and more actionable the goal, the more likely you will keep it and be motivated to see it through. This article  on setting more realistic New Year’s resolutions will explain it further.

Keep Inspiration Close

Weeks (or even mere days) into your New Year’s resolution, you may feel a bit of slump or boredom. This may be for lack of progress or you simply find it dull to keep up with what you started. When this feeling starts to creep in, it is very important to turn to inspiration to keep your drive up. Inspiration can be sourced anywhere. Think motivational posters, vision boards, keeping a role model in mind, or seeing your personal progress in the form of a blog or a photo journal (best for fitspiration!). Inspiration helps you see how far you’ve come, especially when you feel like you’ve reached an impasse in your journey. These motivational quotes are good to read, memorize by heart, print out and stick to anywhere and everywhere just to keep you going.

Use Tools and Trackers

Keeping tabs on your progress in your mind may not be the best thing to do, especially if you are a very visual person. There are many tools to help with day to day jobs: filling out a grocery list, monitoring heart rates, staying updated on the whereabouts of the kids… and keeping your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t give yourself a hard time when it comes to keeping resolutions; everyone knows staying with it is already hard enough! These apps may come in handy for a variety of resolutions and keep progress tracking right within the palm of your hands.

You are Your Competition

And finally, always keep in mind that in keeping a New Year’s resolution it is never a “me against them” mentality. Each person is on her own journey. The only competition you have going on is beating YOUR last best time/loss/gain/development – and that’s it. Everyone else is a mere spectator and cheerleader in your quest towards self-improvement. These ten tips can help give you the drive to be better than you were yesterday and help you forge on ahead with your plans.

Still in want of tools, inspiration, focus and motivation? A vision board workshop may be just what you need.

vision board

Woolf Works, together with Tangram Fitness’ Integrative Health Coach and personal trainer Aimee Barnes, is hosting a fun and inspiring workshop entitled “Creating Your Vision for 2015”. It aims to help you “develop a more positive frame of mind, map out your desired future and set you into forward motion” no matter what resolution or goal you intend to keep in the coming year. This 4-hour workshop will be held at Woolf Works on January 24, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. Slots are limited and are going fast so it’s best to reserve yours today here!


Herstory: Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp

The name Florence Nightingale summons up images of the devoted nurse who patiently and tirelessly made rounds to check on her wards late at night. But this ‘Lady With the Lamp” was not just a compassionate carer to the sick and wounded but also a pioneer of modern nursing and the sanitation practices that we know of and follow today.


Image courtesy of

Born in Italy in 1820 to a wealthy and extensively connected British family, Nightingale had a comfortable upbringing in England which included a good education. As a teenager she felt a deep calling to help those less fortunate and she found the social obligations of her affluent family very uncomfortable, preferring to be away from the attention of others. At the age of sixteen, she preferred to minister to the poor and the ill in their village. Her family was opposed to her decision to become a nurse, as the expectation of women in those times (and especially of her status) was to become a wife and a mother. Despite this opposition, Florence threw herself into her study of nursing as an art and a science, waving off the prospect of marriage, as she believed it would be an obstacle to her goal of becoming a nurse.

In 1850, Nightingale was visiting a pastor in Germany where she observed him treat the sick and the destitute in an institution. She wrote a paper about her findings on the institution, Kaiserswerth which became her first piece of published work. Her foundation for nursing care also came from this institution, where she spent four months developing her medical training.

A year later, she began to work at the Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in London. Her parents supported her financially during this time, ensuring she led a comfortable life and also allowing her to travel extensively and further her career.

It was during the Crimean War that Florence was able to give what was said to be her most significant contribution in the field of nursing and sanitation. On October 21, 1854, she and several others were deployed to the British camp in Crimea to tend to the wounded that were suffering in what could only be described as horrific conditions. Nightingale arrived in November of the same year and immediately noted the shortage of medical supplies, neglect for proper hygiene, poor nutrition, an alarming rate of infection spreading and a lack of food processing equipment. She noted all this in a letter to the The Times, and the government responded accordingly by erecting the prefabricated Renkioi Hospital

With this act, she was able to reduce the death rate of the wounded to 2% from a staggering 42%, along with personal improvements in hygiene and persistently calling for action from the Sanitary Commission. Ever so humble, she refused to take credit for her part in drastically improving the hospital and care conditions of the wounded. Her time at Crimea was also where she gained the moniker ‘The Lady With the Lamp’, often seen as the gentle angel who faithfully came to check on her wards late in the night.


The Lady with the Lamp, image courtesy of

Her experience in Crimea formed the foundation of her advocacy for sanitary living conditions for both war times and in peace. Upon returning to Britain, Nightingale focused her attention on hospital sanitary design and introducing better hygiene standards in working class homes.

In November 1855, her efforts were rewarded with the establishment of the Nightingale Fund, with the aim of training nurses to improve proper care and sanitation practices. This fund had many wealthy donors, and so she had enough money from the Fund to also open the Nightingale Training School in July 1860. Apart from training, she also tirelessly campaigned and raised funds for hospitals in need of better sanitation and nursing.

Her book Notes on Nursing (1859) is considered to be the classic foundation tome on nursing and was well-received by the public, even though it was simply the curriculum material used at the Nightingale School and many other nursing schools. Its significance was such that she was able to cover important topics that went beyond patient recovery and care for infection: it also touched on topics such as sanitation of the environment and the importance of cleanliness. Her school for nursing gave the public nurses and caregivers who were more than just able-bodied: they were knowledgeable in the fields of medicine and science, and could dispense proper care to patients. This set a standard in Ireland and England beginning in the 1860s and onwards.

Nightingale spent the rest of her life promoting and improving the nursing profession, with her work also being noticed in the United States during the time of the Civil War. She was requested by the American government to help organize field medicine and she became the inspiration of nurses there, and spurred volunteer work through the United States Sanitary Commission. She also personally trained Linda Richards, who is considered to be the first trained nurse in America, in the 1870s. Thanks to the tutelage of Nightingale, Richards was able to set up high quality programs for nursing schools in the United States and in Japan.

Her hard work and dedication resulted in the receipt of several prestigious awards: the Royal Red Cross (1883), the appointment of a Lady of Grace of the Order of St. John (1904), the first woman recipient of the Order of Merit award (1907), and the Honorary Freedom Award of London (1908). Today, her birthday is commemorated as International Chronic Fatigue Awareness (CFS) Day.

Florence Nightingale writing letters

Image courtesy of

In 1857, Nightingale began suffering from depression and was frequently bedridden due to brucellosis and spondylitis. Despite this, she was remarkably productive in her work on social reform and spent her bedridden years mapping out pioneering work in the study of hospital planning. Despite having very little written output in her last years (due to her blindness and deteriorating mental faculties), she nonetheless was able to provide improvements that were quickly applied by Britain and other nations.

Florence Nightingale peacefully died in her sleep at the age of 90 on August 13, 1910, leaving behind not only her legacy of a textbook on nursing and the establishment of key educational and training facilities for nurses but also hundreds of notes and unpublished works which are a testament to her tireless devotion to her advocacy and her unwavering compassion for those who most need it.

Useful Resources about Florence Nightingale:






HuffPost: Holiday Tips From 12 Women in Tech and Female Entrepreneurs From Silicon Valley

Great article from Caitlin Robertson at HuffPost on work-life balance, with great perspectives from different female entrepreneurs.

Especially liked this quote attributed to Joel Peterson of jetBlue:

“…life is not about daily balance, but episodic balance. The key is not expecting to have a perfectly balanced day, seven days a week — but to recognize that for some periods you will necessarily over-index on work, some on family, some on other responsibilities in your life that you choose, and perhaps some on others that you don’t. I interpreted these words of wisdom to mean that the goal is to achieve balance over the long-haul, recognizing when it’s time to shift in order to not lose the possibility for balance altogether.”

Read the article here.

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Herstory: The Trung Sisters – Brave Heroines of Vietnamese History

Perhaps the most significant women in the history of Vietnam are the Trung sisters, who in 40 A.D. became responsible for steering the very first Vietnamese national uprising against Chinese conquerors who had been ruling Vietnam for more than 247 years. Their acts of bravery are so significant that if they had not done what they did then, Vietnam would not be enjoying the liberties it now does and would likely still be under Chinese rule.

trung sisters

Trung sisters atop giant war elephants, image courtesy of

The two sisters were named Trung Trac, who was the elder and Trung Nhi, the younger. They were born (dates were unaccounted) in the province of Giao Chi, which is now known as Northern Vietnam. They came from a very prominent family, given that their father was General Lac of Me Linh province, and a powerful lord. Living in a military family meant that the Trung sisters were well trained in the martial arts. They spent a good amount of time studying the complicated art of warfare and honed their fighting skills.

The Trung sisters were fortunate enough to experience growing up years that allowed them freedom and certain liberties that were not given to women in the centuries that soon followed their time. These included the right to inherit property that belonged to their mother and they had the freedom to become traders, political leaders, judges and warriors, among others.

A neighboring official came to visit the Me Linh province and brought his son, Thi Sach with him and was introduced to Trung Trac. The two met, fell in love and were soon wed. Thi Sach – a man who was noted for his bravery and fearless disposition, seemed the fitting groom to a fearless and spirited woman such as Trung Trac. For the people in their village, their union symbolized hope as the couple both came from military families and displayed the kind of spirit needed to revolt against the ruling Chinese.

At this time, the Vietnamese were under the rule of To Dinh, a Chinese governor who had made life harsh for everyone. Trung Trac’s husband Thi Sach was also known for being very vocal against the Chinese and had more than once made a stand against their harsh rule. His most significant one is a protest against unjust and increasing tax rates. It has been said that the final straw that spurred the Trung sisters to action was when To Dinh had had Thi Sach killed as a warning to all those who dared stand against the Chinese rulers. Instead of mourning her husband and quietly retreating to their home, his widow was instead moved to do something about the situation of their people. Brave Trung Trac had had enough, and sought to mobilize the people of Vietnam against the Chinese.

Along with her sister Trung Nhi, the two committed acts that were evidence of their bravery and ability to lead the people against the Chinese. These included slaying a people-eating tiger and later on using its skin to compose a proclamation that urged the people of Vietnam to follow their lead in the revolt against the Chinese.

Their acts of bravery inspired 80,000 people to form the Trung sisters’ army. From this number, thirty-six women (including their own mother) were handpicked to become generals. Many have mentioned that this particular piece of information about Vietnam’s history points to the society at that time being a matriarchal one.

Summoning knowledge and experience about the art of warfare from their growing up years, the Trung sisters guided these young, unskilled women through intensive training to become fearless generals that drove the unwanted Chinese conquerors out of Vietnamese territory in 40 A.D. Trung Nhi, in particular, was said to be the better warrior between the two, and led the army to liberate sixty-five fortresses. Trung Tac, on the other hand, was more ideal as a politician and leader – and this soon became a reality when the people ended up proclaiming her as their ruler, with Trung Nhi serving as her co-regent and top advisor.

Trung Trac was renamed “Trung Vuong” (She-king Trung) and established a royal court in the Me Linh area of the Hong River plain. With the good of the people in mind, one of her first mandates included abolishing the much-hated tribute taxes, which was an imposition of the Chinese. Trung Vuong also sought to rid the Vietnamese government of any leftover Chinese influence, making things simpler and more in keeping with their traditional Vietnamese values.

Life for the Trung sisters and for Vietnam did not settle down peacefully after their victory against the Chinese, and the next three years brought about frequent clashes with the government of China in Vietnam. Finally, the Vietnamese army was out-armed by the Chinese and was defeated in 43 A.D.

Legend says that instead of surrendering and accepting defeat, the Trung sisters chose to commit suicide, as is the Vietnamese tradition of keeping one’s honor. Stories circulate about how they came to pass, with some saying they chose to drown in the river and others – more legendary than factual in nature – say that they had disappeared off into the clouds.

trung sis procession

Procession honoring the Trung sisters, image courtesy of

Contemporary Vietnam has not forgotten the sacrifices made by the brave Trung sisters, with temples built in their honor scattered around the country, and their memory celebrated every year through a national holiday (Hai Ba Trung Day) in their honor.

The valor of the Trung sisters is a reminder to today’s society of what can be accomplished with passion, bravery and courage. These Vietnamese national heroines are indeed real symbols of resistance and independence and their uncommon story, as female war heroes, should not be forgotten.