By Mary Reitano
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“Hope is the magic elixir that energizes dreams, fuels possibilities, and lets you live beyond the limits of your historical thinking.” Michael Neill, Coach and Author
How do you restore hope when you are overcome by problems and limitations? You can restore hope by changing how you look at your situation and yourself. Instead of looking at negative circumstances or limited abilities, look around, look behind and look up. Let me explain.
Look around to find positive people who believe in you. Talking to those who survived tough times can be particularly inspiring. Also, a relevant support group may be helpful. When diagnosed with cancer 11 years ago, I drew hope from a group with many long-term cancer survivors. Others draw strength from job search support groups, divorce care groups, or grief groups.
Look behind, and recall past challenges you successfully navigated. It may remind you that you are stronger than you feel at the moment. Review history for inspiration; read biographies about overcomers. Howard Zinn, American historian wrote “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”
And finally, look up and consider how spiritual resources can strengthen you–your Higher Power, philosophy or religion. Look at nature’s rhythm. The sun sets daily, but again with new promise. The seasons remind us that life’s circumstances are often temporary. The hope of spring gets one through the cold, snowy winters. Looking at the expansive blue skies over Lake Lure reminds us of life’s infinite possibilities.
According to Dr. Rick Snyder, author of Handbook of Hope, “for people to maintain a hopeful position in life…, we need to have a goal, we need to believe we can attain the goal, and we need to see a pathway to attain it.” When someone loses hope, they feel powerless to change the future. Positive psychology enhances strengths and resources, often restoring hope and self-confidence. Some lose hope due to “tunnel vision”–setting their heart on attaining one particular goal, or being with one special person. Sometimes, people need to consider more options. And, people may not know how to achieve a goal. Talking to others helps–when thinking out loud, many people solve their own problems, or find new solutions by consulting suitable experts. Some people find they temporarily draw strength and hope from others. Irish Playwright, Sean O’Casey, expressed this concept beautifully: “When it was dark, you always carried the sun in your hand for me.”