by Amy Sundberg
Let’s talk about hope today, shall we?
One of my friends posted this great thought about hope on Facebook, which I cannot share with you word-for-word because privacy, but he basically talked about the importance of maintaining a store of hope in order to continue accomplishing things in life. And then another friend texted me about hope a day or two later, and I said, “Yeah, I’m going to blog about this now.”
Hope really can be quite useful, I think particularly for more long-lasting and slow-to-reach goals and desires and projects. I don’t need hope to do small daily tasks around the house, but I do need hope to keep writing, for example. Without hope, it would be so much harder to discipline myself to work and do things that I find unpleasant or difficult.
So then, how do we cultivate hope? And not false hope that might keep us stuck, but rejuvenating, inspirational hope?
- We can do our best to be cognizant of progress. Instead of focusing only (or even primarily) on a big end goal, if we can be aware of what we have achieved, this maintains hope. It can be hard to notice these smaller shifts and achievements, but being able to identify progress I’ve made keeps me inspired to keep spending effort.
- We can give ourselves things to look forward to. I’m a huge practitioner of this one. If I don’t have anything at all to look forward to in the next six months, something has probably gone horribly awry with my life because I always make sure I have something, and usually the more somethings, the better. I often use trips for this purpose, but really there’s a lot of choice here: events, holidays, birthdays, parties, concerts, plays, movies, food, friend time, books, a day with nothing scheduled, and so on.
- We can reframe. Catching our negative thoughts and figuring out how to transform them into less harmful ones (or even actively positive ones) cultivates a smoother state of mind and, you guessed it, more hope.
- We can help other people. There is something about building connection that creates hope. It can pull us out of ourselves and remind us of the things we think are important.
- We can choose to celebrate other people’s successes. Your friend reaches a goal that you desperately want to hit yourself. Here is your choice: take your friend’s success as a reminder that the goal IS possible and celebrate with her, or feel unhappy with yourself for not being there yet. The first one builds hope; the second tears yourself down.
- We can remind ourselves of the inevitability of change. All things change, and so in this sense, there is always hope. Not of a specific outcome, necessarily, but sometimes all we need to is to know that things can be different.
- We can attempt to be flexible. Speaking of specific outcomes, the less attached we can be to specifics and the more we can adjust to what’s going on around us, the easier it is for us to maintain a general feeling of hope.
Hope without action is empty, but hope combined with action keeps us motivated to continue working towards our goals.
What do you do to replenish your stores of hope?
Amy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com, where this post first appeared. She can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg.