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Using hope as fuel to soldier on through difficult situations


Hope is intrinsic to humans.


Why else would we make 1-year, 5-year, 10-year plans, or spend time and resources on retirement planning when we don’t even know if we’ll be there when the time comes around? We may not think it consciously, but at a subconscious level, we’re hoping to be there when that time arrives, that’s why we make these plans, right?


Yet, hope is the first thing that seems to desert us when we’re in a crisis. We start imagining the worst possible outcomes.


You might’ve heard of the expression “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. That’s not a bad philosophy but don’t you think that, in difficult situations, our mindset often goes more along the lines of “hope for the best but think of the worst”? We quickly start believing that we’re in a hopeless situation!


WHAT IS HOPE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

In meaning, hope and wish can seem quite similar, but hope is generally associated with a desire that is possible or likely to happen, while wish can mean a desire that seems unlikely. When we hope for something, it’s often a thing that’s quite likely to come true or at least be possible.


For instance, if you were facing your upcoming performance appraisal at work with the thought of “I hope I get a raise this time”, it is likely that the hope stems from your good performance during the year. So there is a belief that the outcome you desire is quite possible, hence you’re hoping for it.


On the other hand, if you wished for a raise, would it be reasonable to suggest that you probably haven’t had the best of years, so while a salary increase would be a welcome bonus, you know deep down that it may not happen?


There’s a subtle difference between hoping and wishing, but an important one nevertheless.


Specifically hoping for a particular outcome is different from optimism. An optimist has a nature that is hopeful about most things in life. “I hope I do well in this test” relating to a specific test would probably translate to being positive about any test for an optimist.


According to Psychology Today, hope can help make everyday life better because it provides the belief, motivation, and determination to overcome obstacles. Hope helps people build a vision for their success, thereby making their endeavor seem more in their control and hence achievable.


Dr. Neel Burton, psychiatrist, philosopher, and author, writes in one of his books that he always asks his patients what they hope for because, according to him, if they answer “nothing” in reply to his question, that is a sign of depression.


Hope drives performance because it carries with it the possibility of a better future if the required actions are taken. The expression “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” works better for someone who hopes for a positive outcome than for the one who simply wishes for it.


In my life so far, hope has often provided the fuel whenever my life appeared to be stuttering. Whether it was during the study years, some phases of my career, the tough times just after migrating to New Zealand, or the decision to switch career paths a few years ago, it was my hope for better days ahead that pulled me through the swamp of despair.


Ponder this…If not hope, what are your other options when you’re feeling cornered or stuck in life? Pretty much nothing, right?


It’s often said, “you got to be in it to win it”. When you’re in a difficult situation, the most crucial factor in the ability to ride out that phase is being able to hang in there. Hope helps you stay in the game.


Hope can help with everyday situations like having the will to keep applying for jobs despite numerous rejections. It can also help with grim situations like recovering from a crippling and supposedly irreversible illness, as detailed by professor and author Norman Cousins in his book “Anatomy of an illness”.


As Dr. Judith Rich, psychologist, and author, puts it, “Hope is a match in a dark tunnel, a moment of light, just enough to reveal the path ahead and ultimately the way out.”


Here’s hoping that you take on the challenge of whatever you might currently be facing with hope and get through your tunnel successfully!


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