Monthly Archives: February 2016

True, But Not Useful

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Happy February, lovely reader.  How is 2016 treating you so far?

I realise that I’m a bit late to discuss this, but today I want to chat to you about new year’s resolutions.  I think I’ve told you before that my friend Paul and I observe a slightly strange tradition: every year, we write five new year’s resolutions on coffee stirrers, and then play pooh sticks with them on the Hungerford Bridge.  Our vague/specious/utterly unprovable premise is that whoever’s pooh stick comes out the other side of the bridge first is most likely to succeed in their resolution.  Yes, we think it’s silly as well.  But what is friendship about if not exuberant silliness?*

The slightly more mature aspect of our annual custom is that we always talk our resolutions through before we write them.  Paul and I have been friends for a very long time, and our relationship allows us to be very honest and compassionate with one another.  We talk each other out of insanely ambitious ideas (“You can’t write an entire novel in a year.  You have to sleep and eat at some point.”) and we encourage each other to pursue things that we will enjoy. (“Write one about archery.  You love archery.”)

Every year we sit and assess the choices we made twelve months ago, and we try to work out what effect they have had on our lives.  If we fail to stick to a previous resolution, can (and should) we roll it over to this year?  If we try our best at something that doesn’t pan out, is sadness a good enough excuse to let it go?  How vague are we allowed to be about the fact that, underneath all of these promises to ourselves, we would basically just like to be happy?  And rich, ideally?

As he ages, Paul is becoming incredibly wise (which sounds insane to those of us who remember him at university), and this year as we sat and wrote our resolutions he advised me to approach things as either true or useful.  For example, there’s no point in making a resolution like “I will not fall madly in love with someone who is bad for me”, because it’s usually based on something that is true but not useful, such as “I have in the past fallen madly in love with people who were very bad for me, and I got hurt”.  And how the heck are you supposed to predict something like that, anyway?

It is important to know the difference between what is true and what is useful, my lovely reader.  It may be true that bad things have happened to you, but it is not useful.  It may be true that people have hurt you, but that is not useful either.  It may also be true that you have made mistakes in the past, but guess what?  It ain’t useful.  Thinking about your future plans under the umbrella of previous pain is negatively reactive, and your future should be all about being proactive.  God, I sound pretentious.  Sorry about that.

But the point stands: your future is an exciting thing, and what you decide to do with it should be based on how fabulous you want to feel, not how much negative stuff you want to avoid.  And I implore you, you lovely thing: be excited about the future.  Don’t be scared of it.  It’s only a metaphysical concept of an aspect of the fourth dimension, after all.

Also, have your favourite dinner this evening.  You deserve it.

*It’s also worth pointing out that last year Paul won with a devastating 4 sticks to 1, which corresponds almost exactly with how our resolutions panned out in 2015.