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How to Create a More Hopeful Life

How to Create a More Hopeful Life

When we hear about crimes, failures of governments and other institutions, public or private, it is our hope that takes a hit. Hope is a necessity. It is our emotional engine, the basis for engaging with life.

How do we get and navigate this important human need?

What Is Hope?

Hope is directly related to our sense of possibility. The greater our perception of possibilities, the greater our hope. The most constricted view of possibility, of course, is hopelessness or despair.

Hope is not the same as happiness or optimism. It is what we feel when we think that life is worth living, that our work is worth doing. Hope is what we have when we have a positive relationship with our existence. It is the deepest of the three emotions. Happiness and optimism cannot exist without hope, but hope can exist without happiness or optimism.

Hope answers the question, “Why bother?”

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Hope Affects Our Minds And Bodies

Doctors know that hope affects our ability to heal. Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine, endorphins and other neurochemicals which promote wellbeing and the energy for living.

Hope is our energy, our fuel for living, so people will go to great lengths to create it and protect it. Without it you lack energy to engage with life. Hope is so essential that a negative childhood can reduce the brain’s ability to create dopamine which may lead to addiction because drugs increase dopamine levels in people who do not have the ability to create it naturally.

Why Does Hope Make Such A Difference?

Hope has to be real. It has to be based on something tangible. We can fake optimism and pretend to be happy but deep down inside, we know whether or not we have hope. We cannot really be fooled.

When we are sizing up our hopes we are essentially taking an existential account of where we are.  It is an assessment of our ability to survive now and into the future. Our assessment tells us where to put our energies and our time. Hope is the serious emotion.

Hope recognizes our interdependency with our families, culture, society and our environment. So a genius in a war torn country probably is less hopeful that an average person in a peaceful place.

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When hope is damaged it affects more than one person. When real hope is denied it is hard to replace. When a person has lost hope it can be hard to find motivation again. The most important impact we have on each other is through how we affect each other’s hopes. One of the silliest things we can do is destroy another’s hopes because then there is less room for our own. Hope breeds hope.

What Does Hope Look Like?

    When hope exists we engage with our environment more. We give more of ourselves to what we do – as does everyone else around us. Hope engages our creativity and our problem solving skills. It is a factor in our ability to appreciate ourselves and others and our ability to be grateful for our lives.

    What is wonderful about hope is that it is not pollyannish. Hope has a roll up your sleeves and get to work quality. It gets its hands dirty in the business of creating our lives. It values all of the details, skills and challenges that go into creating our world.

    Hope requires a willingness to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t so it cannot see failure, only steps on a learning path. It does not fall for false optimism or empty promises. Living hopefully simply means taking care of your contribution and supporting the positive evolution of human life. It’s motto is “Progress, not perfection.”

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    Hope is grounded in present reality. It does not sugarcoat. It thinks enough of our creativity to present us with real problems to solve not phony problems of overindulgence, status and social climbing – real problems like quality of life, the development of human potential, the well being of our environment and all human  living systems.

    Hope is serious about life. It is our link to each other, the past and the future. It enables us to respect the efforts of our ancestors even as we decide not to repeat their mistakes. It respects the needs of other living creatures and future needs as well. It is the “something larger than ourselves” that we are all a part of.

    Hopeful Living

    Living a hopeful life is to recognize that everything and everyone matters. That includes you since you are part of the hopefulness in the world. Taking care of yourself matters. The quality of the work you do matters. It matters how you are treated and how you treat others.

    In order to be an effective part of a hopeful world there are certain things that you need to do regularly:

    • conduct a hope audit of your life. How are you doing? in health, work, relationships?
    • take good care of your health.
    • have a stress reduction strategy. Meditation, breathing exercises, physical exercise and favorite forms of recreation all reduce stress. Being in nature does as well.
    • create hopeful relationships. Learn to forgive. Develop a daily journal writing habit if it helps you to let go of negative experiences and emotions.
    • help others see the best in themselves, notice their desire to make meaningful contributions and help them find their path to becoming hopemakers for themselves and others.

    Being In Hope With Others

    The easiest way to control others is to destroy people’s hope. Hope is so important that totalitarian regimes will go to great lengths to control or destroy it. Divide and conquer is an old social control mechanism. It creates fear instead of hope. So when we level the playing field, or bring down barriers, we are inevitably increasing hopefulness by reducing obstacles to it.

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    The human race is like one giant disco ball. Each one of us is a small mirror of talents, love and joy that we have to offer each other to create our world. So hope is energy – your positive energy, your talents, value and your soul. It is the lifeblood of the human race.

    The easiest way to support a hopeful world  is to support hope in others and ask that others do the same for you. If you surround yourself with people invested in creating a hopeful world with you, then you are fortunate. However, not everyone will necessarily have a hopeful outlook. You can still support hope in someone else’s life whether they are able to value it or not. Helping to restore hope when it has been lost is a noble thing to do.

    Look for ways to make hopefulness tangible. Don’t let it be just something for the future. Hope is all of the little things we do each day to make our lives. Everything you do contributes to hopeful living or takes away from it.

    That may seem heavy.  But hope is that important. It needs to be treasured.

    Photo credits: Freedom via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on November 20, 2018

    10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

    10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

    A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

    Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

    1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

    Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

    If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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    2. You put the cart before the horse.

    “Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

    3. You don’t believe in yourself.

    A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

    4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

    The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

    5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

    If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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    6. You don’t enjoy the process.

    Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

    The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

    7. You’re trying too hard.

    Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

    8. You don’t track your progress.

    Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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    9. You have no social support.

    It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

    10. You know your what but not your why.

    The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

    Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

    Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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    Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

    Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

    Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

    • The more specific you can make your goal,
    • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
    • The more encouraged you’ll be,
    • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

    I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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