In this issue ~~
At the turning of the new year – and this year in particular – it seems fitting to speak about hope. It's a word we've heard a lot in the last few months. Hope can be something we cling to in desperate times, a way to pull ourselves out of a pit of despair. It may be the single light that gets us through a very dark tunnel. But it's so much more.
We may see hope as something passive, something we're at the mercy of. We wish for something to happen, but then we must sit and wait for it to come to us. Or not. It may feel out of our control. But hope is also a positive, creative force and an energy that we can actively contribute to.
In Greek mythology, when Pandora's box was opened, it unleashed a swarm of evils into the world. And while it was too late to corral the evils back in, one thing remained in the box: hope. The question is, Is hope the last evil or the antidote to those already unleashed?
Certainly, there are times when hope can lead to frustration and disappointment. But hope can also empower us to dream and create beyond what may logically seem possible. According to C. R. Snyder, in The Psychology of Hope, "Hope is the essential process of linking oneself to potential success." When we have real hope of a positive outcome, it can give us the impetus to take a leap of faith into the future we dream of. When we live in hope, we expect and anticipate success, and we take steps to pave the way for that success.
So, how does hope fit into a creative process? Creation begins with a desire, some object or goal that you want. You have some level of expectation that this desire is attainable – a realistic expectation. Hope is not pie-in-the sky, but needs to be grounded in reality, even if it's a long shot. If your goal is pretty much impossible – or "hope-less" – then pursuing it is a fool's errand, a form of self-delusion, and not a true object of hope.
Once you've determined that your hope is based in some degree of realistic expectation, the next step is to anticipate its achievement by taking steps that will bring you closer to it and that will prepare you for when it happens. You may take some classes, change the way you dress, print a new business card, change your lifestyle, change your attitude, start acting the part. This does not mean buying the new house or car before you know the money is a sure thing! That's self-sabotage. Remember, even though we're dreaming, we want to stay grounded in reality here.
Even if your hope is for something as big and intangible as world peace, there are numerous options for actively contributing. You can donate money to or volunteer in an organization, write articles, travel to distant locations and experience cultures that are strange to you, or even make efforts to bring peace to your own family or community.
The last step may seem passive because it's an internal one. It's to have a receptive willingness for your hope to come true. In Fire in the Soul, Joan Borysenko, says that "to hope is to create a sacred space, a space of possibility, in which the goodness of the Universe can express itself. The stance we adopt in that sacred space is one of readiness, openness and non-attachment to a particular outcome."
But so many times, we envision something we want and then, with our self-talk and our talk with others, convince ourselves that we can't have it, we're not worthy of it, the statistics are against us, and so on. Our hope turns into anxiety and doubt.
Once in while, you'll set a goal and it will happen magically. But more often than not, you'll hit a few snags and detours along the way, and sometimes big ones. The trick is to keep your eye on the goal and not let what's happening deter you. Yes, I know I said a few paragraphs ago that your hope should be grounded in reality. That's still true. But that doesn't mean you won't be thrown a few curve balls along the way that make you wonder if you're doing the right thing.
The sisters to hope are persistence and commitment. Certainly, you need to deal with the obstacles that show up. And you may need to reevaluate your goal along the way. If your level of realistic expectation has diminished significantly, perhaps due to changed circumstances, you may choose to relinquish your goal. If it continues to be valid for you, keep going, allowing hope to be your driving force.
Hope is a state of mind supported by action. It is an optimistic stance, a sense that what you hope for is possible, grounded in reality, and not just positive thinking or a repetition of affirmations with no real substance. It is a powerful force that has been the impetus for so many achievements, great and small.
So, let us move into the new year with hope held high, a beacon
to lead us into a better world, individually and collectively.
If you find your hope flagging, listen to what you're saying to yourself, and turn the negative to positive. It may not be a reality yet, but it can, and perhaps will be, because of your commitment to it.
"Hope is born of participation in hopeful solutions."
"We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting."
"True hope dwells on the possible, even when life seems to be a plot written by someone who wants to see how much adversity we can overcome. True hope responds to the real world, to real life; it is an active effort."
"Optimism is a kind of heart stimulus – the digitalis of failure."
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