New year resolutions have a bit of a bad name; they're alluded to -- mostly in tones of mock-weary derision -- as limp self-deceptions that will be abandoned by the end of January.
I feel at least partly responsible; I've been making the same resolutions for at least 30 years, and the currency of my resolve is about as debased as it could be.
But the alternative is resigning myself to perpetual disorganisation, penury, dishevelment and decay, so here we go again -- but 2014 will be different.
In my defence, I'm learning. The way I make resolutions has changed over the decades, and this time I think I may be on to something. However, it's too early to claim a breakthrough after a week.
One of the most beguiling and oft-repeated pieces of paddywhackery is that line from The Quiet Man; 'I wouldn't start from here'. It hints at a concealed sliver of truth; that the destination may be worthwhile, and certainly not impossible to reach, but you've set yourself up with a bit of a task.
After years of resolutions I have reached the profound insight that my first priority this January must be to start from the right place -- and that doesn't mean January 1. It means first building a base from which the determination I need can be found and applied. You can't tap dance on a mattress, if you follow me.
Thousands of people have begun the year with the intention of using walking as a means to a better year and a better future. A large proportion sadly carry the seeds of failure with them in that they don't really believe they can build and maintain the habit.
I firmly believe, with the support of countless wise men, that walking is the core of a healthy, productive and rewarding lifestyle. As a result, I believe that however lamentable your track record in carrying through new year resolutions, the determination to make regular walking a feature of your 2014 is the best decision you can make for yourself right now.
I'm offering this thought in the hope that it might allow you to learn from my mistakes. Strengthen your resolve by leaving it alone for a while. What you need is confidence; in your ability to walk and its power to deliver what you want from it.
Resolve isn't a switch, it's a process -- you won't get to the end of this year on one massive dose of determination taken last week. Build the platform you need to support your aspirations in the most simple way; by starting.
Walk for half-an-hour today, tomorrow or the next day. You will achieve nothing more or less than the realisation that it didn't hurt, but was in fact mildly pleasant. Then let your rational mind reward you with the certainty that the more often you repeat the exercise, the better you'll feel, the better you'll be and the better you'll do in almost every aspect of your life.
What I'm advocating is a sort of creeping resolution; one that doesn't kick in with a bang and end in a whimper, but in fact does the opposite, gaining strength from the confidence it creates, to become a life-changing transformation.
You'll never be done with resolutions, but next year's will be bolder, more ambitious and fuelled by the certainty that you can do it.
Conor O'Hagan is editor of the bi-monthly Walking World Ireland magazine. www.walkingworldireland.com
Walk of the Week: Ballinamuck Bog Loop, Ballinamuck, Co Longford
Distance: 5k Ascent: 120m/20m Estimated time: 1hr 30m to 2hrs Grade: Easy Terrain: Bog roads/green tracks Map: OS Sheet 34, N206 896
Ballinamuck is of historic interest by virtue of the battle fought there in 1798, which pitted Irish and French forces against the English.
In recent years, the village has benefited from Thomas Flanagan's historic novel The Year of the French and the later film.
From the village travel the 1k to the R198 and turn left towards Arvagh. After a kilometre take a right on to a narrow road. The trailhead (marked by a mapboard) is on the right after 1k. It is signposted from the village.
Follow the purple arrow for 200m (passing a roadway on your right) to reach the start of a gravel road on your left. Turn left and follow the road into the bogland area. After 200m you reach a T-junction from where the loop proper begins. Turn right here.
Follow the purple arrows for 500m to reach a green track on your left as the road turns right. Turn right and continue for 500m to reach a T-junction with a surfaced road. Turn left, follow the road for 200m and turn left.
This section is less travelled and gravel soon becomes grass. Watch for sections where people still cut and stack turf for fuel. After 1.5k you regain the junction at B above. This time, turn right.
Follow the gravel road for 200m to rejoin the surfaced road, turn right and enjoy the 200m back to the trailhead.