2016: Hope Less, not Hopeless

Ah yes, the new year!

By now you’ve seen countless examples of “New Year, New You!” followed by “I think New Year, New You is bullshit and this is why!” posts, so I’ll try my best not to dwell on either. I appreciate people who try to make themselves better even while recognizing that they use a fresh Calendar as an excuse to keep delaying their development. I talked about this a calendar year ago. I also recognize that a lot of people who are criticizing “New Year, New You!” are not doing it because they want people to educate themselves better on consumer culture or because they want them to properly educate themselves before tackling diets, but because it’s a lot easier to hate on people who try to improve themselves than it is to recognize your own shortfalls.

That said, I want to talk a bit on hope.

“Hope is the denial of reality. It is the carrot dangled before the draft horse to keep him plodding along in a vain attempt to reach it.”

“Are you saying we shouldn’t hope?”

“I’m saying we should remove the carrot and walk forward with our eyes open!”
– Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragonlance

I’ve seen and heard a lot of friends and family say they hope 2016 will be better than 2015 and I’m no different in that regard. But how much of 2015 could have been better if you did better? I’m not talking the stuff you couldn’t control. It is never about the stuff you cannot control. That’s the concept of karma and quite frankly it does not exist (look at who is the Presidential candidates for the 2016 American Election and tell me if karma has ever hindered them.) I’m talking about the stuff that happened in 2015 because you didn’t make a better effort, you weren’t listening when you should have, you had the energy to work harder and you didn’t use it, or you had the time to think something over and you did something else. That’s the stuff that hope has nothing to do with. That’s the stuff hope won’t fix.

Understand that this is not a bootstrap speech. I’m not telling you to deprive yourself of fun, of friends, of sleep, or that you didn’t accomplish what you wanted to in 2015 because your best wasn’t good enough. Life can be hard and there’s no shame in stepping away, regrouping and coming back at it harder. You’re still going to have slip-ups in 2016 even if you try harder because life isn’t a videogame. You don’t just accomplish a few pre-set tasks and suddenly you get to the next level. I’m talking about the times where you knew you could be doing something to make yourself better and you didn’t “just because”. Try to count how many times that happened in 2015. I bet you can’t. It’s okay to have a few (we all need a “Netflix and Chill with myself” day or 10) but it’s when you have so many you forget the days of the year and then focus on the stuff you couldn’t change. That’s when you suffer a persistence of loss. That’s why you hope for hope.

So in 2016, before anything else, don’t be hopeless. Hope   less. Control as much of your destiny as you can without succumbing to stress.

“‘I remember Raistlin saying something to the effect that hope was the carrot dangled before the nose of the cart horse to fool him into plodding forward. Yet we did plod forward and, in the end, we were rewarded.’

‘We were,’ said Tas. ‘I ate the carrot.’”
– Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragonlance

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