When Oliver Burkeman wrote the first instalment of his life advice column (appropriately titled “This Column Will Change Your Life”), he stated that it would continue until he had discovered the secret of human happiness.
Over ten years later, he admits that he might have fallen just short of the mark, but as he writes the final instalment of the column, he reflects on the insights he has picked up along the way by offering these 8 secrets for a (fairly) fulfilled life.
As you might expect from someone who’s spent the last four-hundred weeks figuring out ways to help people with their problems, this farewell column is full of great advice. Like this gem for example.
The future will never provide the reassurance you seek from it. As the ancient Greek and Roman Stoics understood, much of our suffering arises from attempting to control what is not in our control. And the main thing we try but fail to control – the seasoned worriers among us, anyway – is the future. We want to know, from our vantage point in the present, that things will be OK later on. But we never can. (This is why it’s wrong to say we live in especially uncertain times. The future is always uncertain; it’s just that we’re currently very aware of it.)
It’s freeing to grasp that no amount of fretting will ever alter this truth. It’s still useful to make plans. But do that with the awareness that a plan is only ever a present-moment statement of intent, not a lasso thrown around the future to bring it under control. The spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti said his secret was simple: “I don’t mind what happens.” That needn’t mean not trying to make life better, for yourself or others. It just means not living each day anxiously braced to see if things work out as you hoped
Brilliant. Do yourself a favour abe go read the whole thing.