To have hope is to have positive expectations about our future. It can bring us peace in the face of challenges and motivate us to envision a better life, and take steps to make it happen. It can be hard to do in a society that fuels skepticism and negativity, but with conscious effort we can stay hopeful. Stay hopeful (no matter what you’re going through, with these five steps. (Estimated reading time: 7 minutes)
“When the world says ‘give up’, hope says ‘try it one more time.”— Unknown
It was a pleasantly cool night in spring. I was seated on a bench facing Cinderella’s castle, which glittered as if it was just showered with pixie dust.
Both children and adults around me hustled, with their popcorn in hand and glowing Mickey ears on their heads, to find the perfect spot to watch the fireworks spectacle.
At ten o’clock, the castle changed colors and the show opened with these words: “When stars are born, they possess a gift or two. One of them is this: they have a power to make a wish come true.”
Onlookers gasped as two streaks of golden light shot up the night sky. The poem Star Light, Star Bright and the Disney classic When you Wish upon a Star played in the background.
The next twelve minutes was an awe-inspiring display of fireworks that were synchronized with an eclectic compilation of Disney melodies. A tear rolled down my cheek, as I watched, and I felt like I was flooded with grace.
I couldn’t tell if it was the waves of nostalgia or an overwhelming sense of inspiration that triggered these tender sentiments within me.
What I did know was that I felt comforted because I was reminded that magic could be found everywhere if I was open to seeking it. Like many other people, I was plagued by my worries about the future. But being in places like Disney World reawakened the childlike hope that I once had.
That’s probably why many individuals flock to mystical places like Disney parks, nature reserves, religious and sacred sites that offer such transcendent experiences. Art, scriptures and natural wonders offer an easy passageway into the unknowns and the mysteries of life.
Whether you’re—a farmer, hoping for good rainfall during monsoon, a student, waiting for college application results, a mother who wants the best for her children, a singer, waiting for his next big break, or someone dealing with a personal tragedy such as a job loss, divorce or losing a loved one—we all need hope while we go through these tests of faith.
But hope can only be accessed once we get out of our heads and quit over-rationalizing. We need to be truly convinced that better things are in store for us. Even if things may not seem to be going right in our present, we need to believe that there’s a bigger plan that we cannot yet see.
The historical past was mired with challenges. Human life was fragile because of a lack of advanced medical care, basic human rights and modern conveniences. Our ancestors could not survive without hope! They turned to religion and spirituality for comfort and counsel on matters like reaping a good harvest, dealing with illnesses or surviving wars and hostile regimes.
We’re fortunate to live during times when most of us have our basic needs met, but this advancement has made hope less prevalent in the emotional makeup of people today. Today, people view hope with disdain, as it brings up a picture a naïve chump, living in state of denial, viewing life through rose-colored glasses. They have no desire to drink the Kool-Aid of hope.
But this wasn’t always the case for us. When we were kids, we had an abundance of hope. We were inspired by our idealistic model of the world, believing that fun and excitement were right around the corner. As we grow up, hope dwindles because our heart hardens with each disappointment. It gets calcified with distrust and our perception gets imbued with cynicism.
The truth is that life is tough and potentially full of ups and downs, but without them, we can’t build character. No matter how many skills and talents you have, you absolutely cannot enjoy the journey of life if you can’t maintain a steady flame of hope within you because that’s what will keep you going. Those who lose all hope lose life force and usually spiral into depression.
Science has repeatedly proven the positive impact of hope on our wellbeing. Even though hope isn’t tangible or easily measurable, experts like Jerome Groopman, who wrote The Anatomy of Hope, says that researchers are learning that a change in mindset has the power to alter our brain’s neurochemistry.
“Belief and expectation–– the key elements of hope––can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can also have important effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation and motor function.”
Hope is also a natural stress reliever, which strengthens our immune system. Beyond physiological benefits, hope improves social relationships, makes you more resilient and willing to take chances to progress in your life and to broaden your horizons. More importantly, being hopeful makes you a happier person who can glean wisdom from every experience.
Being hopeful, however, doesn’t suggest that we should bury our heads in the sand and become Pollyannas. We should have the maturity and foresight to understand what exactly we’re dealing with are, while also knowing that things will improve and get better.
Shane Lopez, author of the book Making Hope Happen, says that there is a profound difference between hoping and wishing. Wishing denotes a passive stance, while hope represents an active one. He says, “Wishing is the fantasy that everything is going to turn out okay. Hoping, on the other hand, is actually showing up for the hard work.”
A hopeful person is someone who understands and acknowledges the obstacles that lie ahead and has an unwavering commitment to dealing only with the truth and reality of a situation. They are aware that false hope will result in poor choices and flawed decision-making because of an unwillingness to recognize the risks and dangers. True hope will find the best way around them.
Here are five ways that you can feel more hopeful in your life:
1. Find sources of positive reinforcement: Hope is like a candle flame that can burn out without constant positive reinforcement. We need reminders to stimulate us with hope about the future. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to be inspired, such as acknowledging our small successes along the way and remembering the times when we were able to overcome obstacles. You can also find inspiration in books, music, movies, affirmation, and other people’s stories. I also love being in the presence of young children who radiate with optimism. Find your own unique sources of motivation that work for you.
2. Have a strong circle of support: As social beings, we benefit tremendously from having support from a community of people that matter to us. Friends and family members are the primary lifeline for most of us but we can also extend our network to include a trusted group of mentors, coaches, counselors or a support group who are open to hearing our story and who believe in the vision we have for our life. Whenever we’re down and out, these are the people who can be a source of comfort and help us get back in the game.
3. Stay in touch with your vision: It’s easier to feel hopeful when we’re guided by a clear vision of what we want to manifest in the future. That’s why it’s essential to invest ourselves in activities that boost our self-awareness and clarify our vision. Goal-setting, vision boards and visualization are a couple of techniques that can give form to our dreams. By committing to these practices, our vision will become more tangible and within our reach. Touching base with our goals will make them feel real and give us a focal point towards which we can direct all of our energy.
4. Stay well-informed and be proactive: Without knowledge and action, hope is just psychological fluff. Hope should propel us to seek out more information about what we desire and take directed steps towards realizing it. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and it gives us the capacity to make more mindful choices. It strengthens our belief that we have what it takes to influence outcomes and to consciously move forward.
5. Stay focused on the present moment: Hope has a future orientation and can therefore direct our thoughts away from the present time. It’s essential that don’t spend too much time planning for the future. Even though we want things to get better, we have to make peace with where we are in our current lives. This quiet acceptance will give us inner peace and prevent us from becoming overly attached to future outcomes. The truth is that the present moment is all we’ll ever have, and we should make every effort to capture its beauty and its essence as we go through it.
Hope is the calm voice within us that reminds us that we’re part of larger universal dynamic, where everything is being orchestrated with purpose. With this wisdom, we can let go of our worries and surrender to this intelligent force, trusting that, in the end, all will be well.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you feel hopeful about your life and where it’s going? If not, what is preventing you from having hope?
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