Life can take some winding turns – sometimes it can even kick you in the shins. And just when you’re down, something else happens to turn your case of bad luck into something more persistent and debilitating.
A break-up, a lost job, financial setback, or an illness can all be triggers for your feelings of lost hope. “Don’t lose hope,” you’re told by a well-intentioned friend. Easy to say; harder to do.
Wikipedia defines hope as “an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.” It’s about being confident and looking forward with anticipation.
It sounds so Pollyanna. But why is it that so many people get stuck and lose their optimism?
A psychologist, researcher, and educator named Dr. Martin Seligman called the Father of Positive Psychology, coined the term learned helplessness. He studied animals who were forced to bear unpleasant stimuli and who became eventually unable and unwilling to avoid subsequent situations. In the studies, the animals learned to be helpless. They lost confidence in their ability to get out of the situation; they believed they were powerless. They lost hope.
Humans behave in quite the same way. Beaten down and overwhelmed, you, too, can sometimes lose hope - even when hope exists.
The late Wayne Dyer said, “You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be.”
There is a way out by replacing your current beliefs with new, healthier beliefs.
And while you may be tempted to analyze where those limiting beliefs came from, it’s easier and even more important to simply look for sources of hope.
Here are 10 places to find hope, even if it seems like you’ve lost it for good:
1. Find it in the outcome you want.
Close your eyes and envision the outcome you want. What does it look like? Who is there with you? Crystallize this vision with all your senses and bring it to life.
Now, what would it mean for you to have this outcome – this new job, financial security, better health, soulmate relationship, or whatever? How much do you want it?
If you can see it and you want it, you can have it.
2. Find it in a new perspective.
Observe your life from a new angle. Climb a mountain or stand on a chair and imagine yourself looking down at your life. What do you see? What new insights do you have?
Or think of a metaphor. Visualize a beautiful bird, or dog, that has been caged in. Walk up to the cage, open the door, and let that bird fly. Let that dog run through the pasture. Now, free yourself to new possibilities.
3. Find it in spirituality or religion.
For centuries people have found solace in the spiritual world or religious teaching. Whichever practice you choose; it doesn’t really matter. There are enough wisdom and optimism in the fables, miracles, and prayer to comfort you and have faith in something bigger guiding your life.
4. Find it in a book.
You will find more role models – and everyday heroes, at your local bookstore than you can believe. Get into their world and let their stories remind you that with courage, confidence, and determination, anything is possible.
Here is a personal favourite: I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
5. Find it in your past challenges and successes.
Sometimes you need to remind yourself how much you’ve grown in your life to date and what difficulties you’ve overcome already. Think about two (2) challenges you’ve faced in the past. What did you learn from them? How did getting through them make your life better?
Often what we initially think of as a tragedy or a shame, turns into a powerful lesson that we needed to learn. Honor those experiences and remind yourself that what you’re facing now will soon be a notch on your belt.
6. Find it on your gratitude list.
In a journal or on a piece of beautiful notepaper, make a list of everything that you’re grateful for. When you see what matters in your life – the people who are there to support you, the achievements you’ve had, the resources at your fingertips, the pleasures you've enjoyed, you will see the many, many reasons to have hope.
7. Find it in a mindful walk.
Exercise can invigorate the mind and the body. And mindful walking can invigorate your soul.
Take a walk in your neighborhood – and see it as if for the first time. Notice your neighbor smiling hello. See the glee in a child’s eyes as they swing in the park. Feel the wind on your face and in your hair. Smell the lilacs blooming. Hear the birds chirping, calling the beginning of spring.
Fill your heart with joy and gratitude – and hope.
8. Find it with a therapist or coach.
If you are struggling to find hope yourself, reach out for help. A trusted professional can invite awareness you never knew you had and work with you to shift your mindset. A positive attitude, confidence, and effective strategies will lift you up and get you back on track.
9. Find it in a daily affirmation.
There is no replacement for the hope you can build yourself, in yourself. Sometimes you have to say it to think it and think it to believe it. Language embodies thought.
That’s where affirmations come in. Forget about how you feel now; that won’t serve you. Instead, think about how you want to feel. Write it out and say it loud and proud:
“I am brave.”
“I am optimistic.”
“I can and will do this.”
“There is always a way.”
“I have hope for and enthusiasm about my future.”
10. Find it in the pages of your journal.
Keeping a journal is beneficial in so many ways. First, it’s an outlet for your thoughts. Second, it’s a way to problem solve. Jot down things you can do to improve your situation. And third, it’s a way to document and see your journey with fresh eyes. Notice the baby steps you’ve taken, read about your progress. See the light.
You will be optimistic again soon. Get out of your physical and mental headspace and search for that hope you’ve lost in some of these places.
Most importantly, believe that you can find it again, and you will. And when you do, share your story with others, so they can find their hope, too.
Lisa Petsinis is a certified coach who works with resourceful individuals who want to get unstuck. Contact her for a free breakthrough coaching call and jumpstart the changes in your life starting today.