Turning Hopeless Back Into Hope
Brian M. Murray, MS
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison
Hope can be a powerful force. It drives the future with a sort of romanticized vision with excitement and enthusiasm. Whether it is with marriage, having children, an exciting career or a certain lifestyle, hope and dreams drive the motivation and inspiration to achieve that dream.
Sometimes, however, those dreams get crushed. Reality steps in and begins to paint a bleak picture of that future and over time the anticipation begins to fade. The vision gets lost, the hope disappears, motivation wanes and life can feel stuck. It’s almost as if the color gets washed out of the dream and it loses its luster appearance and develops that sense of hopelessness.
How does someone who is feeling in despair about their life bring hope back into the picture? Feeling like being in a hopeless situation does not necessarily mean they have to abandon hope itself. How a person chooses to view their situation can make a big difference. There is a quote from the Greek Philosopher Epictetus that says “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Pastor and author Max Lucado in one of his devotionals UpWords points out this example regarding someone who is optimistic in the midst of a hopeless situation…
On the wall of a concentration camp, are carved these words:
I believe in the sun, even though it doesn’t shine.
I believe in love, even when it isn’t shown.
I believe in God, even when He doesn’t speak.
Whoever wrote these words may have been in a tough place, but they refused to surrender their heart. Viktor Frankl in his book “Man's Search for Meaning” talks about how after being held prisoner in a Jewish concentration camp during WWII he lost his wife, children and all his possessions. He explains how he developed the mindset that even though his captors have taken away everything from him they cannot take away “my ability to choose how I respond.”
So what is a person to do when they find themselves suffering, in despair and feeling hopeless? These are normal feelings, however uncomfortable as they may be there are some questions that a person can ask that may alleviate unnecessary suffering. Eric Thomas is a motivational speaker that often talks to college students who are failing or dropping out. He tells them to “get a reward for the pain they are enduring, to go through it, they are already in pain, get something for it.” Mr. Thomas was homeless and took 12 years to get a college degree. He suffered, he endured but when he decided to change his mind about his situation was when things began to change. He helps other students come to this reality.
The people and quotes mentioned have some things in common for not losing hope even though their situation seemed hopeless. They kept their dreams alive by changing the way they looked at their situation. Here are some of the common characteristics they share regarding resolve and keeping their hope.
· They keep their vision alive by changing their tactics. They understand there are different paths to achieve goals.
· They learn from life. The take what they learn and apply it to future situations. A setback is not defeat or failure, it’s a learning experience. They gain understanding from it and move on.
· They keep negative self talk to a minimum. Negative self talk rarely helps achieve goals or inspires hope. Self talk is habit forming, monitor which language is being used.
· They don’t worry about what others think. This is different than caring, worrying about what others are thinking requires time that could be put toward a goal or self improvement.
· They understand that results may vary. Two people can do the same thing but they don’t let the results define or validate who they are.
· They rarely let their emotions cloud up their reasoning. Emotions can tell a person a lot about what they are experiencing in life. Emotional reasoning is about “if it feels bad then it must be bad.” Staying objective and being reasonable is about taking another perspective, or to think of alternative viewpoints. What is another way of looking at the situation that contradicts the bad?
Life can be difficult and at times it can feel hopeless. Changing the view of a situation can go a long way in turning things around. Take some time to examine life, find the good, monitor the self talk, take a different path and look for renewed hope.
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – C.S. Lewis