If you want to get good at something, you have to practice it consistently.
If you want to practice something consistently, you’re going to have to persevere.
If you want to persevere, you’re going to need something to hope for.
Hope is that thing that drives us. It gets us out of bed in the morning, makes us brush our teeth, and encourages us to pursue our goals. It’s that light at the end of the tunnel, the longing for somethig more (and belief that something more can be achieved).
It’s an inspiration and an overall positive attribution to our lives, but it’s complex. It can both keep us up late at night in fits of passion and encourage us to go to bed at a reasonable hour in anticipation for the next day. It inspires action in the heat of the moment with intentions for a future good.
So what is hope in everyday life?
I think about it kind of like how I think about setting new goals.
Let’s use the example of reading more books.
Books are great because logically the value of reading is obvious. You can gain so much knowledge and wisdom, just from reading for a mere 30 minutes a day. Why wouldn’t you want to read more?
So you take action on your goal. You read for at least a half an hour everyday, sometimes more. You even start carrying your kindle around with you everywhere you go because you realize that you can substitute the fruitless doom scrolling you do on your phone when you’re bored with a book.
Things go great for about a week and a half, maybe two at most, then you start getting these pesky thoughts about how maybe this whole reading thing isn’t as productive as you thought.
“Yeah, I’m reading a lot, but how much am I actually retaining?” “When will I actually apply this information that I’m learning.” “Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just watch a YouTube video on this?” And don’t even get me started on the internal battle that is trying to decipher the worth of a fiction book versus a non-fiction book.
So what changed? What’s the difference here?
In my experience, time has been shown to exemplify the faults in our actions. We start to read because we have an idea of how beneficial it could be for us, but at the end of the day it’s just that…an idea. Reading has proven to be beneficial in a lot of different ways, but our expectations don’t know how to translate that into something applicable. As we begin to read, rarely are every single one of our expectations met, so we get disappointed. We cling to all the ways that our expectations are letting us down, and tend to ignore the net positive that we’re gaining.
Long story short…We lose hope.
In the beginning, we’re filled with hope and excitement that reading will make us smarter, better people. When we don’t see immediate results from the act of reading, we lose that hope and it’s on to the next fleeting thing.
But hope is a little more complex than that.
We need hope to carry on, but we can’t only rely on the kind of hope that falls out of the sky and slaps us in the face with giant plastic fish that says “GET TO WORK” when you squeeze it. That hope is nice but those fish are kind of rare…Those opportunities are few and far between.
We need something more accessible.
If we relied on this “inspiration” driven hope, we would never follow through on anything. Our lives would be filled with started projects that have no end.
So what’s the solution?
Have you ever climbed a mountain? (And I’m being generous here…Any hike that involves some kind of semi-strenuous work with a promised pretty view at the end).
The way climbing mountains works is that you start with an idea 💡
“Hey, we should climb this mountain because I bet the view at the top will be really pretty.”
So you climb the mountain, and put yourself through ALL the physical pain, and devote the necessary time and effort to get to the top, and you end up with 1 of 2 possible reactions:
- “Wow this is really pretty! This was totally worth it! I’m so proud of myself. I can’t wait to do this again!”
- “Wow this is is pretty but I’m exhausted and miserable, why do people do this?”
You see, the initial promise (aka hope) doesn’t really “do it” for some people and even the one’s that it does, eventually get tired of views.
I love hiking. I’ll go hiking any day of the week. But I’m not a big “view” guy.
It’s why I used to struggle to convince myself that hiking was worth it. I didn’t understand what my hope was. But after a few hikes, some short, some long…I’ve realized that there’s not an independent, single answer to that question.
There have been hikes that were defined by the incredible views they brought and others that ended with no view at all. There were hikes that were defined by a story and hikes that were defined by perseverance. There have been hikes that were defined by the people I spent them with and hikes that were defined by the things I thought about while I was alone.
I still don’t know what my hope is in when I set out on a hike, but I know that I’m going to find something.
And that’s my point.
There’s a million and one things out there to find hope in. I guarantee you can pick at least one of them.
When I read, the hope of becoming a “smarter, better person” proves to be a little outlandish…But I do realize that I think about things I otherwise wouldn’t have thought about on my own. New questions, new problems to solve. And that, in the long run, is making me a better person. A better thinker, better at reasoning, more compassionate, more understanding.
See, my original hope of reading making me a better, smarter person was too “black and white” for the complex world that we live in. Most of those “inspiration driven” ****examples of hope are.
But there are millions of other forms of hope found in the grey matter between the two. Right now, my grey area hope is found in the new questions that reading is forcing me to ask myself. Next week, it could be that reading is making me a more well spoken person or that it’s encouraging the creative thinking side of my brain…Who knows.
The point is that the details of the hope don’t really matter…as long as they’re encouraging me along the path of my original intention….reading more books.
Sometimes I go hiking for the friendship, sometimes I go for the views. Others I just go to be alone and that’s okay. In the end, it’s all just hiking…And that’s that.
I fear writing posts like these and coming off in a way that makes it seem like I have this truly figured out (I don’t). Instead, I would like my writing to be an encouragement in reflection, and inspiration to ask yourself some of the same questions that writing this piece has forced me to ask of myself. That’s why this piece doesn’t have the firm application or answer that you may have hoped it would.
In the meantime, here are three steps/lessons that I’ve learned in my own pursuit of hope. They’re nothing close to objective truth, just refection’s of my own experience that I hope you can use to guide your own.
1 – Be careful about what you put your hope in
It’s no secret, hope is a double edged sword. When placed right, it can lead to inspiration, motivation, passion, and success. But if placed in the wrong things, it can lead you in the complete wrong direction.
I’m not here to tell you the secret to finding the “right” things to put your hope in. I’m not sure anyone in the world is qualified to give advice like that (and it’s sure as hell not me). But I do want to warn you not to tread lightly. Hopes, dreams, passion; these are all hefty concepts that deserve your proper concern and respect.
2 – When you know, Hope Big
At first glance, this might sound hypocritical from step one, but it’s not. Life is just complex.
The Gravity of our hopes and dreams defines the kind of life we end up with. If you dream big, you come up big…If you dream of nothing, you end up with nothing.
Once you figure out what it is you want, go for it.
Defy every negative thought, fear of failure, and realization of what other people think. If it really fires you up – if you really want it – go get it.
3 – Hold your head up, even when it feels dark.
This is the big one.
Self doubt is the name of the game and you’re going to face it. Everybody does, not everybody comes out on top.
If you rely on hope that you found for yourself, you’re going to second guess. It’s human nature.
But what’s the alternative?
If you were climbing a mountain, and you get 3/4 of the way up and start to second guess if the view at the top will be worth it or if you’re just making a big mistake, are you going to turn around and hike back to the bottom?
NO! Why would you give up and sacrifice all your hard work without even seeing what the end results in?
Hang in there and watch it all play out. You just need to think of the possibilities.