We're not in the same boat - we're in the same storm...find hope in, and be hope for - others
Admittedly I was winded by the announcement yesterday of a 3rd National Lockdown (it was the "until February half term" that did it for me). But perhaps because it was needed right then, in the chapter of the book I'm reading "The Book of Joy" - by the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Tutu - this quote stood out:
"Hope is the antidote to despair...Hope is also nurtured by relationship, by community, whether that community is a literal one or one fashioned from the long memory of human striving whose membership includes Gandhi, King, Mandela and countless others. Despair turns us inwards. Hope sends us into the arms of others."
The phrase that sprung to mind was that we are NOT all in the same boat, but we are facing the same storm - and through that we may find compassion, support and kindness for - and with - each other. It is not a case of schadenfreude, but a shared understanding that we are all going through something right now - and if nothing else we can be that "hope" at least to each other.
Hope and Optimism
I am naturally a "positive thinker" but hope, drives further than optimism. When we have hope - when we truly believe - we are more likely to take actions towards that particular outcome. That is one of the greatest benefits of the depth of hope. It is not simply "wishing" - it is conviction to act.
Hope and Resilience
My concluding chapter in "The Leader's Guide to Resilience" covers the role hope has to play in maintaining and nurturing our inner strength. In it I discuss my soft spot for “Inspirational Films” – the ones where people grow from seemingly impossible situations.
I understand that “dramatic license” is taken, but there are some things which seem true in all stories of rising through the ashes:
- Ability to learn (albeit after a few false starts!)
- Ability to adapt
- Support from someone or something
What I find is often underplayed in such films, is the protagonist’s trust, faith - hope in themselves above all that. Somehow, they know they will cope – and the support they get from the other – the mentor, the friend, the trainer – is something that helps them stay strong in that trust.
“Knowing you will cope” (the will being the anchor of hope) is essential, because life is not rewarded in the same way as school may have been. The “rules” are unclear, you won’t always get a “gold star” – and sometimes you have no idea if what you are doing is making any difference at all…unless you look out for it yourself, and then you may not get any form or praise nor acknowledgement for it.
Therefore, the ability to keep going is often based on hope.
That hope, as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu discuss, is best strengthened by support from someone or something. Of course, a point of warning is that you cannot transfer all your hope into an external source. The external source (friend, teacher, mentor, religion) is another cheerleader, another example of your conviction, a means of support to help you keep going. You still need to be in the driving seat.
While difficult to find hope when you’re feeling lost, the external source can help restore your verve – although it does not become it.
And remember - if you are lucky enough to have faith through someone’s belief in you - thank them. They didn't need to give you their time, love, energy (and even if you were paying them (eg. a coach or consultant), the most inspirational will have had traits that go beyond the "going rate" for their hard skills...such as encouragement, praise, recognition that you are worthy), but notably of course I mean friends and family. While life is indeed “what you make of it” – these are the very people who help make you – you.
Find Hope, BE hope:
1. Reach Out Today - whether this is to give or to receive support. Facing adversity together can bring comfort (rather than comparison). Yes, we may have different lives, but we're in this world - and facing this pandemic (for example), collectively.
2. Find a way you can be "hope" for someone else - perhaps by giving them a call, or sending them something to smile at - reminding them they are not alone. Alternatively, consider NOT pulling a thread, or staying silent rather than revisiting an argument...choose a different approach. (That is also how the practice of hope can help you remember that while emotion is instinctive, behaviour may be chosen).
3. Do a "random act of kindness" - maybe gift someone a song, or send them a video they might enjoy. Being a person who brings hope and joy is beneficial to our own wellbeing, as well as that of others.
4. Praise someone - perhaps even recognise hope in them! - One exercise I do with my clients when I look at recognising their own strengths of character (of which Hope & Optimism form one), is to remind them to acknowledge it in others. When we have a strength that is natural to us, we can presume it is natural to everyone, yet for some, they may be working with it - even clumsily - for the first time, so recognition not only boosts them up, but may make it more likely they will use it again.
5. Reflect on hope in others - The quote at the start made me think about how, although we are now looking at 6 more weeks of lockdown, others spent many years at war, or in prisons, or in unconscionable circumstances. Again, it is not so much about berating yourself "If they can do it, I need to get over it!" - but to learn what gave them mental and emotional fortitude. If we can learn to despair, we CAN also learn to be strong.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilienceFor coaching tips and tools including positive psychology: click WORK WITH ME or SKILL PILL and here for Media appearances or Psych Q&A. Twitter/IG @draudreyt
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