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How You Can Build a Life Full of Hope

Bill Abbate
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Can you imagine living a life without hope?

That simple question says a great deal about the importance of hope to us as individuals and the world. Hopelessness is not a state in which any of us wish to live. As author Jobie Hughes wrote:

"When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope." Pittacus Lore

Fortunately, the world is full of hope. It is full of hope because so many people are full of hope. We have hope we will see tomorrow, work another day, and accomplish something great in our future. There is abundant hope in love and in caring for others.

Hope comes naturally for some of us, yet it is more difficult to access for some. Our natural disposition has a lot to do with our hope, as the more optimistic we are, the more hope we tend to have.

What is hope?

“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” Orison Swett Marden (1848-1924)

What exactly is hope? According to the Oxford Dictionary, hope is "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen." Yet to those of us who possess hope, it means far more than that.

Hope adds a great deal to our lives, like feelings and emotions, romance and love, happiness and joy, satisfaction and fulfillment, and so much more.

Things like worry, stress, and depression lead to hopelessness and can require medical attention if severe enough. Fortunately, most of us live with temporary bouts of hopelessness that dissipate over time, sometimes quickly. At other times, a loss of hope can happen in an instant.

For example, I was feeling amazing this morning. A message for a birthday of an old client and friend who lives in Australia popped up on Facebook, so I responded, "Happy Birthday Adam!" It has been about a year since we spoke, so I decided to check his Facebook page. In a flash, I went from happy to extremely sad. Some of the birthday wishes were from people saying they missed him, wishing him a happy birthday in heaven! I was heartbroken.

I knew he had been sick, but he seemed okay on our last telephone conversation. He was so optimistic about the future. He would have been 50 today. So young, so sad, and I can only imagine the grief his wife and children are experiencing. When Charlotte, my wife, died at 51, I remember how hopeless I felt. Life became so meaningless for a time.

Yet, we are resilient creatures. Given time we heal as the hopelessness slowly wanes. What would we do without time to heal?

Time indeed heals many wounds, but the pain of losing someone can remain sharp, even decades after it has happened.

How to build hope

As mentioned, our intrinsic hope is tied to our natural disposition. The more optimistic we are, the more hopeful we will be. Those of us who are more naturally pessimistic usually have less hope and must work a little harder to increase the hope we possess.

One way to become more hopeful is to think about our past and the victories in our life. We can build future hope on the many successes, such as finishing school, getting that raise or promotion, marrying and having children, and a thousand other good things. Stop for a moment to think about how many accomplishments you have had to date. You have had more than you may realize!

"Learn From Yesterday, Live for Today, hope for tomorrow." Orison Swett Marden (1848-1924)

When I was in the depression of losing Charlotte, I recall how I journaled for weeks about our life together. This journaling lifted my spirits tremendously. Sure, I was sad, but our lives had so much to celebrate. To this day, I am far more grateful for life than I ever would have been had Charlotte not died. Her example of optimism in my life has not only endured but has grown in me over the years.

If you are naturally pessimistic as I am, it helps to have someone optimistic in your life. Jane, my wife, is one of those people. Her optimism keeps my pessimism in check and lifts me higher almost daily.

Another thing that can help you boost your hope in life is appreciating other people and all you have available to you. For example, I am incredibly grateful each day for my wife, family, friends, home on the lake, and the many blessings in my life. I take very little for granted. So many things add so much to my life I regularly make a conscious effort to remind myself how fortunate I am and how much I appreciate them.

A few other things you can do to build hope in your life are to:

  • Stay healthy with regular exercise and good eating habits.
  • Expect good things to happen in your life and look for them to happen.
  • Limit your intake of negative news and other such media (99% of it!).
  • Develop your spiritual life by belonging to a church community and through study and prayer.
  • Reframe failures and heartbreaks in your life as lessons that help you live a better life in the present.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude! Be thankful and appreciate all of the good in life. Learn to enjoy life!
  • Journal about all of the good things that have happened, continue to happen, and that you hope will happen in the future.

What other things come to mind you would add to this list?

Final thoughts

I don't know about you, but I believe most of us cannot imagine a life without hope. While a life without hope can be the reality for some, we have much to be hopeful for in a country like The United States of America.

Henry Ford's old saying, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right." applies to seeking hope as much as it does anything else. If you seek hope in your life, you will find it. If you seek despair, you will find that too. Better to seek hope, don't you think!

I leave you with the wisdom of a wise public servant and diplomat from the past:

"Of all the forces that make for a better world, none is so indispensable, none so powerful, as hope. Without hope men are only half alive. With hope they dream and think and work." Charles Sawyer (1887-1979)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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