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Resolve to make no dramatic resolutions

Thursday, 16th January, 2014 12:00am

Gerry Collins is dying but he is using his last few months to make a difference. The former Dublin footballer is currently fronting an ad campaign for the HSE's QUIT anti-smoking campaign. It's not Mr Collins' first time working with the HSE or indeed his first brush with cancer. In 2011, after he had been given the all-clear from throat cancer, he appeared on the QUIT adverts.

Unfortunately, doctors found an inoperable tumour in his lung last June and told him he had between eight months and a year to live. For Gerry Collins, one of the cruellest ironies of his condition is that he had given up his 60-a-day habit over a decade ago. The damage was already done.

Having listened to Gerry Collins speak on the Ray D'Arcy show on radio this week, I could not help but be struck by his lack of self-pity and his dedication to helping others stop smoking. The texts from listeners poured in. Smokers, shaken, vowed to quit in droves. Reformed smokers fretted that they may have already done irreparable harm to their bodies. Several people said they would quit 'as soon as they had finished this last pack'.

One text stood out. The listener asked those who vowed to quit after the last pack what their delay was. Throw the box away. Last fags be damned.

It's easy to live as if we have infinite time left. It's easy to put things off. As we hurtle into the second half of January, those good resolutions have faded away.

If you're anything like me, a resolution to stay off the internet and get more productive means you've pinned 12,000 pictures of puppies to your Pinterest and Netflix has started asking if you're still alive at the end of a US 'Office' marathon.

So where do we go wrong? The human mind is excellent at lying to itself, and even better at making excuses. In theory a vow to start the New Year off in positive way is a great idea. Unfortunately, it follows directly after the last great blow-out of the previous year.

Such is the folly of New Year's resolutions. We begin them in January, the gloomiest month of the year. Maybe if your birthday falls this month, it's not so bad, but for the rest of us, it's a miserable month. As I write this, the day is hurtling to its inevitable sunset, a freezing rain tickles the windows and all the neighbours' cars are coated in a thin film of frost.

The jollity of Christmas is just under twelve months away. For someone who loves everything about the festive season, January is a horrible time.

If you went out on New Year's Eve, the idea of beginning a new life the next day is laughable. Picture the scene. You struggle to open a sleep encrusted eye, your overloaded digestive system and creaking liver moaning silently against the weeks of festive excess.

Then you reach over the bed and see a note with a lengthy list scribbled on it. Highlights include: lose weight, join gym, eat better, write a novel, learn Japanese…

So you simply roll over and go back to sleep.

I have given up on resolutions. Putting undue pressure on myself is a sure-fire way for me to fail. I'm sure that I am not alone in this. A great piece of advice I got when I was learning to drive was to keep the test date under my hat. Like a New Year's resolution, the pressure from those around us can be too great for some.

So how about forgetting New Year's resolutions, and just make gradual, positive change? If you want to give up smoking or lose weight, don't beat yourself up if you have slipped off the wagon. Just dust yourself off and try again. Pinning yourself to an arbitrary date in the calendar and not sticking to that doesn't mean you have failed as human being. It means you are a human being.

Quitting smoking came too late for Gerry Collins. And yet he's not bitter, or telling anyone to stop trying. He's making the most of what he has left. So what are we waiting for?  

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