Cultivating Hope

It can feel really scary to hope, especially if your hopes have been dashed many times in the past. It can start to feel fruitless, pointless, like why even bother--it didn't work out before, so why should it work now?

And yet, if we don't hope, then there really is no chance of accomplishing our goals, or of realizing our dreams. Hope is the fuel that keeps us going, moving ever forward step by step. Believing that we are capable, that our vision is attainable, and that perseverance will get us there.

Recent studies have also found that hope helps us be more creative in problem solving, so that an obstacle a hopeless person might see as insurmountable, a hopeful person can navigate relatively easily.

But if you're not feeling hopeful, what can you do? When the world has beaten you down and you can't imagine getting up for one more round--but you can't give up either, because your dream is still there, beckoning. How do you rekindle the fires of inspiration and aspiration?

The first step is to look at what you have learned. What are the lessons you've taken away from the struggles you've encountered, and how can you apply them to your current situation? Even if you can't find something concrete, everything we learn changes us. It might be enough to be able to say, "I'm a different person now, with new skills and understandings. I've got this!"

If you still feel on shaky ground, try borrowing some hope and inspiration from others. Movies and books can be incredibly effective ways to remember that the world is not as dark as it may seem. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Hidden Figures, even animated movies like Moana and Finding Dory, stories in which people (or fish) care enough to come together and make a difference in the world around them.

Or get out of the house and get some fresh air, and find a tree to sit underneath. Feel its strength and vitality. Meditate on the wonder and majesty of the natural world, and how incredible it is that millions of combinations of events had to take place in order for you to be on this world right now. That's pretty remarkable. You're pretty remarkable!

As they said in The Last Jedi, "Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it... You'll never make it through the night." Sometimes that hope is fleeting, and the night is really long. And that sucks. A lot. But it doesn't have to be a permanent condition. It's your choice.