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Why I'm not making any promises when it comes to resolutions

By Paul Hopkins

My father was a great man for keeping lists, not least his list of New Year resolutions – a quirk my daughter has inherited, the lists ... not necessarily the earnestness of resolutions.

And it seems his list of such resolutions was pretty close to the mark of the average list of the average man or woman, if research is anything to go by. You are probably familiar with such resolutions yourself: you know the ones – get fit, stay healthy, improve economic wellbeing and try and spend more time with family and friends, as if the time spent in close proximity to kit and kin over the Christmas was not enough to make you want to distance yourself a little in the first few months of the New Year.

Among other favourite resolutions are those hardy annuals of quitting smoking and cutting down on the drink, two which have always eluded me, mainly because I think life's too short to be denying oneself the odd self-indulgence.

And while man, I believe, is intrinsically good, he is also intrinsically weak when it comes to sticking to his guns.

That's me, a poor excuse I know but there you go – with the best will in the world and all that.

My friend, the Magherafelt GP with whom I shared a sup over Christmas, tells me the biggest mistake people make is setting the benchmark too high with their goals. "When it's all or nothing, that's really hard to keep focused," he says.

"I always tell people, you can set smaller goals, easier to stick to."

People are also too quick to ditch resolutions when they fall down. "If you fall of the wagon, you don't have to wait until next January 1 to start again! Every Monday, every day, is a fresh start."

We mere mortals need to shun the 'all-or-nothing' scenario. Don't try to make a lot of changes at once. Make one positive change a month and keep at it until it's a habit. Then tackle the next change you'd like to make and so on. (I know, I know: this is kettle calling pot black.) In the end, because of my dismal record, I intend making only one resolve for 2014 and it is this: to learn something new and different. I'll keep you posted on this new, avowed, learning curve.

On a more serious and wider note, the New Year should show promise on a number of world fronts, if I am reading the soothsayers and commentators right.

Inter-galactic space travel apart – see Page 27 – politically the world stage should be interesting to watch, what with elections to be held in countries with about 40% of the world's population.

The biggest of these, India, could deliver a bit of a shock if Narendra Modi, a controversial Hindu nationalist, who now talks mostly about 'development', emerges victorious. Meanwhile, a chappie called Jukowi could shake up Indonesia.

Even those forever-boring elections in the European Parliament – I mean, what do they ever do but make daft laws that cannot operate evenly across the whole EU – will cause a hiccup or two as, I predict, we will see an increase in Eurosceptic parties.

I'll be surprised if the people of Scotland vote for independence next September, but if they do the repercussions will be felt as far away as Catalonia and Quebec and a lot nearer to home too.

While the poor old euro will continue to struggle, those in the know tell me there will be a 'renewed momentum' of the West, America and Japan in particular, with a push for transpacific and transatlantic trade deals being further evidence of the West's rediscovery of economic leadership.

That old bogeyman, China, meantime, will be adjusting to a more modest if still rapid rate of growth, while, if you have a few bob to invest, you could do worse that look to South Sudan, Mongolia and that place of 'gross national happiness', Bhutan (go check the atlas).

Meantime, the depressing awfulness that is Syria will go on, while here at home one wonders will the 'two sides' ever get their act together and let the rest of us get on with our lives.

It's not all depressing. There are plenty of technological advances to look to, from a breakthrough in household robots to reusable rockets to electric cars that hit 70mph in three seconds.

And if none of this fires your fancy, there's always the World Cup in Brazil.

By the time of the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, Brazil's leaders will be happy if the event has passed off without the popular protests that went with the warm-up event of this year.

Happier still, if Brazil pulls off a record sixth World Cup win.

Happy New Year – and don't beat yourself up too much over those resolutions.

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