IT’S that time of the year again. You’ve clearly made it through the Christmas and you are beginning to gaze out over the horizon into the wide-open savannah of a bright new year.
Despite all the worries regarding ‘the overarching public health situation’ (I promise not to mention the C-word in the course of this article) you feel the potential for change seeping into your consciousness.
I can see you. You are a wide-eyed dreamer trapped in a body full of a Christmas pudding. You are a New Year’s butterfly bursting to emerge from a chrysalis of Baileys and After Eights and you are not just going to live your best life – goshdarnit, you are going to live the best life that has been lived ever!
It’s a case of out with the old in the first instance. I’ve seen you these last few days, walking around the garden sneaking bits of turkey onto the lawn through holes in your pockets, like your man in Shawshank Redemption. Anything to get rid of the thing. You’ve had turkey wraps, turkey sangers, turkey curry. You’ve sprinkled it on your cornflakes and dipped it in your tea and if you see the sight of another turkey you’re going to send it to fecking Eurovision.
You crave change like a newborn craves milk. But you also crave chocolate. Which is why you need to change in the first place.
So now you must actually do something and you are on the cusp of a very important decision. You seek a clearer path. A better way. A path, if you like, away from the butter and in the general direction of the kale.
But you must tread very carefully. You are teetering on the precipice between a stairway to a wondrous new dawn and a pit of failure and disappointment. You are going to decide on a number of things in the coming days, resolutions if you will, and you say you will stick to them no matter how difficult things get. Especially in the context of that global public health kerfuffle, you know, the thing I said I wouldn’t mention.
But change is not a straightforward process. We’ve all done the Couch To 5K And Back To The Couch Within Six Weeks routine. We’ve all done the follow-on programme popularly known as Couch To Pub. I’m not judging you. I’ve power-walked in the streets and mainlined Tayto in the sheets, too.
We’ve all edged through the front door of the local gym on January 6th with a wheelbarrow full of Roses wrappers, wondering if we might trade them for a gym membership.
The thing is, you need a plan. There’s an acronym called ‘Smart’ coined in the journal Management Review in 1981 which can be applied to any form of planning and stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
It’s easy to declare you’re going to lose a stone, take up yoga, floss regularly and aspire to divide your time between New York and London. Be more specific. Go for something achievable ... like not eating chocolate on a Thursday between the hours of 12pm and 2pm. And, for what it’s worth, you already divide your time between New York and London because you live in Ireland.
Make sure to put in place a system to measure your progress. There are expensive options, of course, like smartwatches, personal trainers and subscriptions to apps etc. A cheaper solution is to tell a family member, for instance, your mother. She won’t be long letting you know how you’re measuring up. ‘I see you’re after easing off on the pilates and you don’t seem to wear them skinny jeans much anymore?’
The next thing is to make your goal achievable. If you are 43 and over 14 stone, you may have to think again about aiming to play in an All-Ireland senior hurling final with Cork in September. Know your limits. Go for something more realistic like walking for thirty minutes three days a week, or playing a Munster semi-final with the Cork senior footballers.
Make sure the resolution is relevant to your life. There’s no point taking up something for the wrong reasons. We’ve all seen those lonely lads on golf courses staring into the rain with their silly socks, pining for the cinema. Do whatever feels right for you. I, for example, am going to play to my strengths by doing absolutely nothing in January. Some people would call that a cop-out. I call it deep self-knowledge.
And finally, your goals must be time-bound in some way. You need to give yourself enough time to adapt to the changes you have resolved to make. A six-pack can be drunk in an evening but it takes a bit longer to forge one out of your stomach muscles. So give yourself a chance to get to where you need to go.
I find that projecting far, far into the future helps here. Approach your own life goals like the Department of Finance approaches the national debt. Cross your fingers and hope that the grandchildren will be able to figure it out.
But whatever you do in this New Year, take it easy on yourselves, lads.
We’ve enough to be dealing with and that’s before we even consider that microscopic, airborne pain-in-the-arse I said I wouldn’t name.
Maybe just staying the course with what we’ve got and making it through to spring is enough for us all to aim for in 2022. In the meantime, there’s a box of sad-looking chocolates in the corner that needs my attention before New Year’s Eve.