Hope. More Than A Feeling
Hope is the belief that your future will be better than today, and that you have the power to make it so. That doesn't sound like a feeling. That sounds more like a way of thinking. It sounds like there may be a way to make a plan and forge a path towards this "better tomorrow". So, can our thoughts impact our capacity for hope? How does that work? What does that look like? Does trauma bear any weight on our ability to have hope? How so?
Join us today as we look at the whole concept of hope, and the importance of having it, using it, and sharing it.
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welcome back to another episode on Life’s Seasons Speaks. I’m Tina and I am so grateful that you’ve decided to join in today.
I want to talk about a word that we use often, at least I do, but I know that I use it kind of freely without really thinking about it. And it’s the word HOPE.
I can use this word to say that I hope there will be cherry cheesecake at the family gathering this weekend, but I know I also use it to say that I hope my kids are all safe today and nothing bad at all happens to them or around them.
Now I think we can all agree that using hope in those two different ways is using the word HOPE on two very different levels. So, I got thinking about this word HOPE, and really what all is behind it.
Because I do hope my kids are safe and healthy and happy today, but I actually do hope for cherry cheesecake at our next get-together too.
So, what is HOPE really? Is it a feeling? I think that’s what we tend to believe. But as I go looking really deeply into it – it can’t be just a feeling. I think it’s more than that. I think it’s actually a way of thinking.
Let’s look closer at this. I found this definition of hope…
Hope is the belief that your future will be better than today, and that you have the power to make it so.
Now when I look at this, that is a way of thinking, isn’t it? Have the belief – the thoughts – that your future will be better than today, and that you have the power – ability – to make it so.
In its entirety there, it really seems like it is about having optimism for the future and linking it to actions to make it so. Doesn’t it?
So, would it make sense then to say that hope is dependent on our ability to have a positive thought towards our future, but also our willingness to DO something to put that optimism into drive?
Because you see, when I look at it this way, it feels like it is easier to have hope and convey hope because we can make it about more than a feeling or a thought, we can actually set some goals and make a plan. I like that. Especially as a gold personality color, I like goals and plans and strategies.
This feels much more do-able, that just having to think positive, when I might very well be in a situation that has it very hard to see the positive, much less believe it will just happen.
Because especially in this situation, whatever it is that is so hard to deal with and get through, the last thing you feel like doing is mustering up a positive attitude. For what? Just to say I have a positive attitude? To make others around me feel better and more comfortable?
That’s not what HOPE is about. It is for believing that tomorrow could be better than today AND setting goals and making a plan to catapult that probability.
So first we would have to be very clear about what it is that is so hard, that is wanting to destroy any hope of a better future. And that’s just being very honest and genuine and vulnerable about what is going on in our life today.
From there, we set out to identify the routes it would take to make it around these obstacles, or to make these obstacles as manageable as possible if they are things we have to go through.
So, when we speak with someone who says that they feel hopeless or find ourselves in times when all feels hopeless around us, its because we cannot see a path to get somewhere better than where we are right now. And we don’t feel like we have what it takes to find or forge one.
That is a point of crisis for many people. That is the place they find themselves in when they start questioning their existence, and what it’s worth to try and stay alive.
It almost sounds like I am saying that HOPE is matter of life and death. I am absolutely saying that HOPE is a matter of life and death. Yes, I think it is that important and that’s why I think we really need to have this discussion today.
If we can wrap our minds around the concept of HOPE more clearly, maybe we could communicate it better, offer it to others in need, or even decide that we have what it takes to make it through this situation, because we can make a path to somewhere better just up the road.
So, what’s the difference between someone saying, “I wish things could get better” and “I hope things get better”?
Wishing is about desire. It’s about wanting.
Hoping is about taking a desire or a want and putting it into action.
Does trauma bear any weight on our ability to wish, and to further that into hope?
Well, actually it does and if you’ve experienced trauma in your life, you may recognize what I’m about to explain when it comes to trauma and hope…
If we have experienced trauma, we tend to hope as a prevention measure, and we are likely to set goals of avoiding problems.
For example, I hope I don’t fail my test. I better study all night to try and pass it.
Someone who has had less adversity in their life is likely to say, even in the same situation, I hope I get an awesome grade on this test. I’ve been studying so I can ACE it!
Same situation, but different way of thinking about hope.
Those who have survived trauma also tend to set shorter term goals, while others have an easier time setting long term goals.
And for many, especially children of trauma, setting goals and looking for routes to achieve them can actually be quite stressful.
And for one reason, trauma robs your problem-solving skills.
Even when we look at motivation and will power… those who have had trauma, have willpower and motivation that is driven by fear. When they push through and keep going, it’s due to fear of failure, or fear of letting someone down, or fear of what will happen if they don’t make this happen.
Let’s look at a made-up scenario to put this all into perspective.
Let’s say you have no idea how, but you have to drive somewhere, and all you have is a farm tractor with a manual transmission.
So, you climb in and look around at the gear shifter and clutch and all that’s in front of you.
What’s the goal? To get this tractor started and moving.
Now, imagine you are on a hill and there is a brand-new Cadillac behind you.
Has your goal changed? Mine has. I’ve experienced very stressful situations before. I’ve had traumas. I know bad things can happen. My goal now is to not hit the Cadillac!
Say we get the tractor started and we lurch forward, and we stall it out. We didn’t hit the Cadillac, but we also didn’t get too far. What do we say to ourselves?
I’d be saying, I can’t drive this stupid tractor.
Now for those of you who can drive tractors, how did you learn? How did you eventually figure it out?
Oh, you kept trying? You asked for help? You had someone to sit beside you and talk you through it as you learned? Someone believed that you could do it and they encouraged you to keep trying?
Amazing! What if that’s the key to hope? What if that’s the absolute best way to learn it and then be able to teach others?
Because we know it’s not just a feeling that we can have or tell others to have. That’s a wish. That’s a desire. But hope we said, was taking that desire and putting it into action and finding the route to get past the obstacles in our way.
Maybe we didn’t have a real desire to drive a tractor. But we had a desire to get somewhere, and the tractor was our only means of transportation. We NEEDED to learn the ability to drive it in order to fulfil our desire to get to where we wanted to be.
Well then, maybe it’s not about feeling like we want to drive a tractor. But it is about wanting to travel and learning to drive the tractor is our route to get there.
So, now we’ve had our moment of what felt like defeat, and stating, “I can’t drive this stupid tractor” but now we are going to try again.
And we do it. We are really doing it. It’s not the smoothest ride you’ve ever had but you are getting somewhere. So, you decide to pull over and shut it off so you can practice again, right from starting it up.
And you try, and you stall it out again.
What do you say this time?
I know me, and my stubbornness would say, “no, I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Let me try this again”. And I would not stop until I was driving down the road again.
And do you know how this happens? Besides stubbornness? It’s hope. Hope begets hope!
One success makes room and increases our belief for future success.
I am going to drive this tractor down this country road!
Am I ready to drive it in town? Nope! But it could be possible if I keep practicing on this country road. What about the city, or the highway? Well – it could be possible if I keep working on these skills.
And let’s go back to looking at willpower. It was at first driven by fear. I’ve got to be able to do this or I am going smash up this Cadillac behind me!
How much willpower did it take when we were first learning? ALL of it!
But sailing down the road, it takes less and less willpower, until it is just reflex and muscle memory and instinct.
Imagine if your everyday questions were, “where am I going to live, what am I going to eat, how do I take care of my kids?”
The energy it takes to live like that daily is draining. It’s exhausting. It takes ALL your willpower to keep going. ALL of it.
But what if it used to take ALL your willpower in similar stressful and traumatic situations, but you learned that having hope can change things? That being able to want better and then believing you have the power to create and find a path towards better was possible.
What if you now decided to sit beside them and teach them to push in the clutch and shift the gear and release the clutch slowly while engaging the gas? And you kept telling them that you know they can do it. You know it’s hard and scary and that there is a Cadillac right behind them… but they can do it.
And then you told them about how you did it. Who helped, how, where, when.
Share your knowledge. Share your wisdom. Share your willpower and share how you climbed out of hopelessness. Share your hope. It will be the most important thing you’ve ever given someone.
We have too many people in this world that think others will be motivated to do better and be better if they reach a low-enough place in their lives. As if hopelessness could be a motivator. It is not and nor should it be treated as such.
Hopelessness is fear of what tomorrow will bring… or not bring. Hopelessness is saying that I don’t know if I can survive today to have a tomorrow, or if I even want to try for that anymore.
Hopelessness is something that comes from the inside, but don’t ever look at it as failure. Because it is triggered by what’s going on externally, around us.
But hope is saying “somehow, I survived yesterday, so I’m going to do that again today… and tomorrow”.
The opposite of hope is not despair. Despair is the absence of hope but not the opposite. The opposite is cynicism. It’s seeing the future as bleak and already damned and believing that it will never change. But if that’s where you find yourself today, it can still simply just be the place where you were, when you heard about hope in a new way.
It is not an indicator of your faults.
A famous 20th century person wrote this…
“I want to speak, yet nothing comes. I find no words to express the depths of darkness.
The darkness is becoming greater.
Sometimes I feel the pain is so great that everything will break.
The smile is a big cloak that covers a multitude of pains”.
That person certainly sounds like they have no hope. They couldn’t possibly have a good life, future, or do any good for the world, could they?
What if we are allowed to have those moments, those days, those experiences? But having hope means they will not remain, but that the future will be better. That is certainly allowed. And it is certainly a normal experience.
Those words I read to you were penned by Mother Theresa. A woman recognized for spreading love and hope to all she encountered. She was not hopeless. She was human. And so are you.
Every one of us is going to have that moment, that darkest moment of our lives. It is not question of “if”. The real question is, “what are we going to do when we find ourselves there?” And that’s why we need to practice HOPE. If we truly believe that hope begets hope, lets start building on it now.
And when we see our neighbor in what looks to be the darkest moment, the same principle holds true. Hope begets hope. We can share ours.
This is a matter that defies the understanding that using something makes it becomes less. This is something that grows the more that it is utilized. This is something that multiplies the more that it is shared.
As we wrap up today, I’m well aware that we have had our hoped tested, stretched, and in some cases destroyed over the last couple of years. So much has changed in our world, our communities, our families, and ourselves.
Remember when we had to make sure we had our keys, so we wouldn’t end up locked out of our homes. Who would have thought we’d reach a time in our lives where we would be scared to be locked in.
This pandemic has had us so fearful of spreading a virus to one another. But let’s be frank – we’ve been spreading much worse than germs. We have been spreading fear, hate, anxiety, division, and well, cynicism.
It is always important, but right now especially vital, that we remember that we also have the ability to spread hope.
The problems, hardships, and even the fallout of this experience through this pandemic – these are not stop signs to our future. It’s merely a detour sign, which we can manage. Because hope is about believing for a better tomorrow and believing that we have the power to find the route to get there.
I truly HOPE this message today has found its way to your heart. To offer, and share hope in you, and to encourage you to offer it to others, and to share it with everyone.
I hope all the best for your future. I believe you have the power to get to that place. I also still really do hope for cherry cheesecake really soon.
Love you guys. All the best. Good-bye for now and we’ll speak again soon.