Knowing I was writing about hopelessness, my wife asked me, “Do you want to hear the sound of hopelessness?” She walked into my office attempting to play an old flute. She has NEVER played the flute. She would be the first one to tell you she has very little music ability. Years ago, she stopped clapping to the music in church, because she couldn’t keep in rhythm with the congregation. She described the sound coming out of the flute as pure hopelessness. She feels she could never play the flute. We laughed at the sound she made… it’s good to find humor during these times.
Someone once said, “We can live forty days without food, eight days without water, four minutes without air, but only a few seconds without hope.” While you may not agree with this statement’s extreme value it places on hope, it does raise the question of the danger of hopelessness in our daily lives. I’m sure you have at some point in time been in a situation where you felt there was no hope – a broken marriage, a terminally ill disease, a sudden loss of a job, the death of a child or spouse. Sudden unexpected life events that create hopelessness all have something in common – you don’t feel you have control over your life. Loss of control can cause you to slip into a state of hopelessness. If left unchecked, hopelessness can lead to damaging life choices – alcohol, drugs, lethargy, anger, social withdrawal, suicide… all choices no one really wants to make. But because you feel you have no sense of control over your life, you feel you have no other option but to spiral out of control, feeling like nothing you do really matters.
In his book, “Adrift”, Steven Callahan, describes his harrowing adventure of being lost at sea for 76 days aboard an inflatable raft. Being exposed to unbearable heat, stormy weather and shark infested waters, Callahan managed to survive. How? If you read the book, you’ll see what kept him alive was hope. Even when he saw nine ships pass him by and he was on the brink of starvation, hope is what kept him alive. Admittedly, there were times of despair when he could not see the possibility of being rescued, but he was able to overcome those feelings of hopelessness with a gritty determination based on hope.
You need not surrender yourself to hopelessness, no matter how hard your life circumstances may seem. When you feel hopeless, you are deciding to give up and to make yourself a victim. It is the choice you make when you feel like you have no choice.
But the fact is, you actually do have the ability to choose, and this gives you reason to hope. In fact, your past experiences can be a source of building hope. Let me state a premise: Each person can look back 3-6 months in their life and recall something good that happened. This premise gives you the opportunity to reflect on past achievements and positive experiences that can cause you to feel better about yourself. It builds your morale. For example, when a man suddenly lost his job, he struggled with feelings of hopelessness. He had been successful in his vocation and had taken great pride in his success, so when he was let go, he was shell-shocked – he never saw it coming. After going through the initial shock and feeling despair, he decided to meet with his wealth management advisor, and they re-architected his financial strategy that laid out a clear, workable plan moving forward. That was a good choice to make. It created a positive experience, an accomplishment he could claim as a point of pride. So later on, when he was again struggling with a sense of hopelessness, he recalled the healthy, right and proactive choice he had made before, and he decided right then and there he was not going to let himself become a victim. Hopelessness was not going to dominate his life. He decided he could choose a brighter future rather than one of despair. As he made positive choices, he built momentum in his life that fueled a vision for his future he never believed possible.
Hope is a choice we all can make. Hope is built with the gifts we’ve been given and the skills we have acquired in life, both internal and external. Hope enables us to make the right choices in life so we can have a brighter future.
So, I’m going to pick up that old flute off the dining room table and find my wife. I’m choosing to encourage her and to have fun with it. She should play away and not worry about how it sounds. I want to encourage her to have fun while trying to make some music. In her fun she will eventually produce some pure notes… if she chooses to keep trying. I have hope… and some good sound reducing headphones!
A hopeful future for you can begin by checking out the LifeMethod at lifemethodcoach.com. We help people create a vision for a brighter, more hopeful future.
By Tom Riley, LifeMethod Coach