Often writing about the Department of Veterans Affairs leaves my mind dark and argumentative. My solution is to write something more uplifting, taking a mental break from the drudgery of bureaucrats abusing people. Thus, this article was born from a desire to uplift, guide, and offer hope during a confusing, chaotic, and calamitous time.
In junior high school, I was first exposed to a proverb, saying, blessing, curse, or Chinese expression, “May you always live in interesting times.” I like this saying and consider it a gift. How boring would life be if we lived in uninteresting times? More to the point, consider all the opportunities found when living in interesting times. Opportunities to learn, grow, help, and more, all because we have personally learned to ride the whirlwind of interesting times. With utmost sincerity, I hope you also will always live in interesting times.
Ken Blanchard offers some guidance:
“Asking for others’ guidance helps you see what you may not be able to see. It’s always important to check your ego and ask for help.”
Two things about this quote stand out:
- Ask – Asking for help, guidance, or support is one of the toughest things a person can do. Unfortunately, point number two is always getting in the way.
- Check your EGO! – How often have you asked for help, only to find the support provided clashed with how you thought, and time was wasted not listening, not doing, and not trusting the information provided?
I do not know about you, but I need to check my ego, lock it in a box, and listen more reflectively a couple of thousand times a day. Apologizing to the person rendering guidance after wasting time not believing the advice the first time is even more difficult than not heeding the support the first time and having to ask a second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. time. Instead of exemplifying myself, learn from my scars, listen, check ego, and ask for guidance.
I offer the following as an appendage to guidance:
“Train your mind to see good in everything. Positivity is a choice. The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”
Our minds require training; this is a universal principle applicable to every mortal. Training happens through the choices we make and the consequences natural to each choice. Emotion is a choice, feelings are a choice, and thoughts can be controlled through training. Can someone make you mad? No! You choose to respond to external stimuli based on how you judge the social situation and your desires. Hence your inner peace and mental well-being are a choice.
In affirming the choices and emotions/feelings, let me succinctly express that what you eat, drink, think, listen to, watch, etc., all plays roles in how you train your mind. Choosing to see the good in other people will never happen if you surround yourself with negativity. Feeling depressed, anxious, or worse, start within yourself. What are you reading, watching, listening to, eating, drinking, etc., that worsens your depression, anxiety, or ability to enjoy good and feel good? In psychology, this is called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT),” and the research is fascinating on the application and self-help through taking charge of your inputs to change the outputs and outlooks.
I am not trying to negate the need for professional help in extreme cases, and before making medication changes, please talk to your mental health provider. While there, discuss CBT, and do some research on this topic. The quality of our lives depends on our thoughts, and the quality of thoughts relies entirely upon the inputs into our brains. I struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, but when I am more intentional about what goes into my brain, the less these issues can affect me. Often, I have to take my inputs on a minute-to-minute basis to maintain positivity. You can take charge of your brain and train it to output more positivity.
On my second trip through fourth grade, I was encouraged to learn the following and make a choice:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
The author was unknown, but the school principal made the challenge after a visit for being a jerk. My principal explained that what I was exemplifying, being a jerk would mean that the world would be a jerk back. So, if I wanted to be treated differently, I had to be what I wanted returned. A tough lesson in fourth grade, even more difficult to remember as time passed, even though I accepted the challenge to change.
What do you want to see in the world? Unfortunately, a colloraly question demands attention: is what you want to see in the world positive or negative? For example, a person I met wanted to see more violence in the world and worked exceedingly hard to create more violence around themselves. Unfortunately, violence has a way of escaping control, and this person received more violence than they started. Call it Karma, Murphy, or something else; the universe seems to have an excellent boomerang device, and what is sent out many times is multiplied and delivered in such a manner as to inspire changing values when returned to you.
Hence, while guidance might be akin to a small tea light, everything might not become apparent immediately, but your next step is clearer than the darkness. Ask for guidance, check ego, and be the change you want through mental training, but first, believe you can do this!
Hope is an interesting power. Hollywood made this clear when a demon on Angel (a TV Show spun-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1 Episode 14) made the following comment:
“I had given up… Hope.”
The demon character spoke of the blackest pit, the harshest and most hellacious place they had ever entered. A mind devoid of light, humanity, and hope led the demon to give up hope and begin to fear, contemplating never being able to escape. While fiction, the point is clear, hope is a powerful tool, and with it, our minds can grasp, cling, and strive. Without it, there is a bottomless pit of black despair.
Hope is a relief to grief, music in a tuneless void, light on the darkest path, and a rescue rope flung to others. Yet, to express hope, society claims you’re a “cockeyed optimist,” all while society flails about without hope. Society will always scorn what they do not have; lacking hope, society will always try to negate hope in others while denying it to themselves. Why is training thoughts so essential; to shield your mind from the inputs of negativity. What is the shield you raise; hope!
Samuel Johnson, speaking about hope, said:
“Hope is itself a species of happiness, and perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.”
Suzanne Collins expressed a similar thought stating:
“Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”
But, many ask, what do we hope in? What do we hope for? Sure, Pliny the Elder is supposed to have said:
“Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man.”
Religionists will claim that what we hope in, and for, is deliverance from death. Others will claim we need to invest hope in a god, God, or gods. Yet, does this answer the question of what to hope for or where to place our hope? For some, maybe; for others, maybe not. I struggle with hope and would like to offer a couple of potential answers:
We begin with a firm understanding of what hope is. Hope is a desire coupled with an expectation the desire will be delivered. For example, in the dark of the night, we hope for sunrise. We expect sunrise to arrive eventually, and when it does arrive, we feel something as we witness a new day dawn — expectation coupled with desire, including a feeling upon delivery.
Some will contend, based on Plato, Socrates, or other philosophers and philosophies, that things hoped for are entirely outside the control of a person. Yes, the sunrise is outside a person’s control, but choosing to feel hope in something is entirely inside a person’s control. Remember the demon, who corrupts people for personal gain, felt hopeless and despaired due to external circumstances. You control the mind; thus, you are always in control of feeling hope – an expectation coupled with desire that includes a feeling upon delivery, often associated with feelings of uncertainty and defiance.
Defiance as an aspect of hope allows the prisoner to spit in the eye of the guards and accepts the consequences, which generally take the form of physical violence. Uncertainty will enable us to turn a light switch on to “see if the electrical power is back.” Expressions of hope come in many forms, but the central figure in expressing and feeling hope is our minds; we control, and thus we cling to hope.
Is hope optimism; no, and hope is also not faith. Distinct differences make hope individual, and we must grasp these differences to understand the power and grandeur of hope. The major difference between hope and optimism is centralized around significance that reflects a claim about ourselves. Pessimists possess hope because something is significant and valuable to them that they can hope for. Faith is a firm belief in things not seen but for which hope is invested and the faithful person will work to bring about. Thus, optimism and faith possess elements of hope but remain distinct and individual. The faith-filled person will find faith challenging to work towards lacking hope, and the optimist will find hope without significance difficult to possess. Hence we can deduce that hope is a type of power, and through hope, faith and optimism receive additional capacity in a person’s life.
Imagine Sisyphus for a moment; each day begins, and the rock he is to roll is at the bottom of a hill. Each day ends, the rock is at the top of the hill. The rock moves up the hill daily through his sweat and labor. Why does Sisyphus move the rock? He hopes to keep the rock on top of the hill. He recognizes that the task is arduous, but he possesses hope, and through hope, he moves the rock. The power of hope is an impetus to motivation, lifting any person to work and, through work’s drudgery, to hope for a future different from today.
Hope first lifts thoughts if we choose to allow it, and the person becomes empowered to do something from lifted thoughts. Do we catch the hinge; choice. The human is the one mammal on the earth that possesses the ability to hope, projecting hope into a future changed from the present. The lack of hope is despair, filling the individual with fear, but these are both choices. We choose, and in choosing, natural consequences follow. How we value those consequences determines whether we value or disregard the choice/consequence cycle previously, which leads to new choices and perceptions, producing more consequences and choices.
We invest hope in the future, for a brighter tomorrow, and for improved situations, employment, friends, family, health, etc. Too often, what we hope for is locked in our choices, thoughts, and inputs into our brains in training to make tomorrow different from today. Some people will add religion, and I am not disregarding the power of personally held beliefs that form the basis for religious tenets. Religion helps to lengthen the event horizon, formalize faith and hope, and provides more to hope in and for. Hope is a power fundamental to the human condition, of which all religions, including atheism, agree.
Religionists generally will place hope in something, eternal life, the Savior, a cross, enlightenment, etc., which hope easily leads to faith, and the works needed to obtain the hoped-for desire. How you invest your hope reflects a choice, a passion, centralizes thoughts, and produces an appetite that moves you to action. Recognize the hinge, choices remain central to using hope, and the natural consequences provide opportunities to choose whether that which is hoped in and for to become a reality or to morph into something else more desirable. Truly, we can understand how thoughts become things and the power of thoughts.
May this find you well and help provide new ideas for building your future.
© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images. Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.