A few weeks ago I was leading a workshop, and the topic centered on hope.
How can we have hope in our crazy difficult world? How can we have hope when we have just been diagnosed or are living with a demanding chronic illness? How can we believe in hope when the daily battle with pain takes away our joy?
Well, as the participants and I shared together, we decided, how can we not have hope?
Hope isn’t a fuzzy warm feeling of everything being all right, or a sentimental viewpoint that sees a gauzy happy future.
Hope is defined more pragmatically. The researchers C. R. Snyder and his colleagues have defined hope as a something that comes when you articulate clear goals, believe that you can attain those goals, and chart a course of action or a path towards the goal. It involves both a thinking or mental element, and an emotional or feeling state.
A client of mine, Mark, came to work with me at a time when all he could see in his life were the things he no longer could do. As his disease progressed, his joints were frequently swollen and painful. He had to give up running and his beloved rock climbing. These activities had given his life meaning. They made a boring job manageable, and created the place where he had friends and a tribe of folks who lived for the weekends as he did.
Mark had little to look forward to, and his biggest goal was to make it through the day. When we discussed his sense of the future, his mantra became, “I don’t care.”
Hope is what some social scientists call a “magnet attractor.” It magnetizes positive feelings, like happiness or contentment, calm, and even clear thinking into someone’s life. Mark was pointing his magnet the other direction, repelling the positive and the sense of any possibilities.
One day as we talked, I gave Mark a task. “Write down at least twenty five experiences you want to have,” I instructed. Mark balked. “There isn’t anything I want to do. There isn’t much I can do,” he replied.
“Just try it,” I urged. Mark reluctantly looked at the paper I gave him. He frowned. Then he wrote two things. “Think about this, and bring it next time,” I told him.
At our next session, Mark confessed that he had thought of a “few things” he might actually do. Over the next several weeks, Mark did those things. Then he began to think of some other things. It was nothing dramatic. There was a gallery opening in the next town he thought he might attend. He went to a movie for the first time in months. He began to think about some bigger goals – ones that would take time. Bit by bit, he began to build a future for himself, and the hope began to magnetize some other positive feelings.
There was no instant magic, but the possibilities of a life he could imagine began to become real.
How can we not build some hope into our days? I encourage you to find some inspiring and realistic goals, and see what might be magnetized into your life.