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Sick of making New Year's Resolutions? Let Paul O'Connell refocus you

The Toulon lock is well used to setting goals for himself, he does it every day.

IT’S THAT TIME of year again. Christmas is over, you can relax… or at least you can for just as long as it takes one of your wise elders to utter that dreaded sentence: So, any New Year’s resolutions?

Paul O'Connell talk's to Coach Eddie O'Sullivan Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Quick, think of something to give up!

If only you smoked, that’d be a handy answer year after year. Maybe crisps are off the menu? Perhaps you’ll pour yourself in to some new lycra and start pounding the pavements. Or, better yet, get a 12-month membership in a gym that seems like great value until you start counting the six or seven months that pass without you darkening its door.

Nothing too serious, obviously: by the time you get paid after a long, bleak January nobody cares for NYRs (yes, we’re calling it that) anymore. You can be yourself again.

On the other hand though, NYRs don’t have to be a chore. They can be more than just a lip service answer you serve up to the mammy to get that look of disappointment off her face.

This week most of us have a few hours spare to sit down and take stock. In between tins of Roses, why not figure out what you want from your life in 2016 – not just in terms of your career or your waistline.


Objectives, goals, resolutions; whatever you want to call them, they can be a fickle mistress sometimes. Some wishes are just that, but if you put a framework of a plan towards those wishes then you might not believe the luck you make for yourself.

Identifying the big over-arching mission is as difficult a task as achieving it. It’s easier for professional sportspeople: the trophies are (usually) cast before the season starts and the efforts of a previous season can be instructive of where the realistic goal now lies.

Paul O’Connell has set many goals over the course of his career. And he will set many more in the 18-odd months that remain on his contract in Toulon. That’s the key for the Limerick man, lots and lots of little day-to-day goals: sweat the small stuff, make sure you’re hitting targets regularly and soon the bigger prizes will come in to view.

“I’d be very short-termist in all that sort of stuff,” the former Ireland captain told The42 at a time when his only goal was to get clearance to take the supportive brace off his hamstring.

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Paul O'Connell, Eoin Reddan and Jerry Flannery Goal for the day, 3 September 2011: win downhill go-kart race. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I don’t get too far ahead. The bigger picture is sometimes very distracting and it seems very intimidating. But if you can look at what’s right in front of you and try to do that as well as you can, then move on to the next thing and try to do that as well as you can, it’s an easier way of approaching things.”

O’Connell reaches and sets goals daily. Be it by powering through a Tuesday training session, making sure he gets a good night’s sleep and quality fuel or by performing well on matchday.

Winning things, there are so many other things that are out of your control that have to go in to that. So for me, any goal-setting I’d be doing would be around trying to get my body right, trying to train well, trying to improve things that I can control.”

That approach, says the double Heineken Cup-winner, two-time Lions tourist and 108-cap Ireland lock, has not always been in place. He has learned over the years to step back when a squad was perhaps getting excited after a good pre-season.

“I think very often we would have sat down as a team and talk about winning this and that.

“Really, you just have to look at what goes in,what’s required to do that rather than the bigger picture. There’s a whole load of little things that are a lot easier to see, to grasp, a lot easier to achieve; the little things that go in to doing that rather than looking at the bigger picture of trying to finish the season with a trophy.”

Paul O'Connell Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

So if you already have a clear idea of where you want to go in 2016. Don’t blur the lines by giving yourself the same targets as you did this time last year.

Give yourself goals for Monday 4 January, give yourself goals for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…

Keep hitting targets, stay on the positive side of them and, you never know, everything else just might fall into place before you know it.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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