Choose Hope

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Like everyone else years ago I was so sad to hear about Robin Williams’ death, and I wanted to bring someone on the show to talk about depression and fear and other maladies that cause people to lose hope. I don’t want to focus on sadness–we have enough of that going on in the world. What I really want to say would be a rant about getting help, seeing your life for what it is and making the hard decision to fight to live another day; but that would add little value to the conversation, so I’ll hold my tongue and focus on what I believe could be your saving grace in our time together and that is, finding hope in your life.

For many years I was not a fan of the word HOPE, in fact there was a time in one of my talks that I spoke about the minute value of the word HOPE that has everyone waiting for something to happen but it wont because we’re waiting… and waiting doesn’t get the job done. I don’t give that talk anymore for a lot of reasons, but one is that as I look around today I see for so many that HOPE might be the one word they cling to, and I have no right to dispel their trust in a word that gives them strength to go one more day.

I think that hope has two sides. You can hope all day the dishes will get washed, but they won’t unless you do it. You can hope to lose weight, but eating a dozen Krispy Kreme Hot Now will not help with your weight loss plan. You can hope to meet the person of your dreams, but sitting at home in front of the TV every night isn’t a very good plan for success, and, friends, you can hope all you want for everything you want, but without action you’re just hoping or waiting or wasting time.

Because hope is an idea, and although that’s great, without action it gets nothing done.

Unless…you’re hoping, because you have little to nothing else to hang on to; and, if so, then go ahead and hope. And that is the other side of this simple word.

Hope that it will get better, because it probably will. Hope that you’ll understand the meaning of the current situation, because in time it will be made clear. Hope that your kids will be okay and your parents will find peace, hope that your life will have meaning to those you love and to those who watch you live your life—oh, friend, if hope is all you have today, then tie a knot and hang on, because as I have gotten older and my type A personality is softening, I’ve become more generous towards the word hope. I see that for many it is all they have in the interim, while hoping for something to happen. I’ve always liked the quote that hope is the little voice you hear whisper maybe when it seems the entire world is shouting no.

Isn’t that odd–the one word that really made no sense to me when I was younger and pushing the envelope of life now is as clear as day to me, as I watch and wonder how some can make it though the night. I’ve heard it said that if you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive.

We toss words around like they have no meaning until they do, and then the meaning is what we cling to, when we feel like we have nothing else. If hope is all you have, then stand firm in the storm.

I doubt we’ll ever know the reasons why people take their life; why people abandon their families; why some just walk away from jobs, friends, church, the community without explanation. I have often wondered, did they just not know that others did care or would have offered more attention if they had known the depth of sadness and despair.

It’s at that time when I think hope might be the best answer to keep one’s head and heart in line to do the right thing, even though it may be hard, because, friends, hope changes everything if you’ll hang on.

If you’re struggling today, I want you to slow down–you might even need to stop and make a list of the good things that have happened to you. I know you think it is a waste of time, but, with all due respect, you’re wrong; it is a good thing to write down and remind yourself of your hopes and dreams and opportunities in life in real time. And the reality is, if you don’t write it down…you’ll forget.

As I was cleaning up my office the other day I came across a notebook where I had started to keep a list of good things that had happened to me, not because I was depressed, but because I wanted to keep a record–a tangible list of success and of answered prayers, because sometimes I forget that I made requests and they were answered, surprising even me of obviously so little faith.

I can remember the big things I prayed for that were answered, but as I read though the other items on my list I was renewed and refreshed at the blessings I had received that to others would have been small and insignificant; to me they were everything from a new car and a new home to adding some new friends in my life.

I have things written in my book of opportunities I was hoping would come my way: of speaking jobs I had hoped for and was chosen, of conferences I wanted to speak at and was chosen… of writing a book that would be published by a real publisher and not self published (not that there is anything wrong with self publishing, but for me I wanted the real deal). I remember the 1st time I was asked to speak at some top campaign schools in the country, I was thrilled and thought, that is cool! I hope I’m not a one-hit wonder, and then I was asked back a 2nd time and that was amazing for me…and then I was asked back again and I’ve been back for many years. Speaking at Harvard and Yale were on my list, because those opportunities mean something to me.

Hope is a funny thing. You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there and test the waters… to see if you can swim or maybe you should stay close to the shore. There is no magic formula to know if something will work, unless you do the work. And when you do the work and are successful, or even if you’re not, it’s okay. Really, it’s okay, because you’re still here—trying—working—pushing—hoping and, who knows, maybe the timing isn’t right, but it will be one day and then it will all make sense.

Now I will tell you truthfully, not everything in my notebook has come true—or at least not yet. There are still mountains to climb, so to speak, but they’re written down in ink not to be removed, but to be accomplished in time…hopefully in my lifetime.

I must say that as I’ve gotten older I have become a very hopeful person, not just for me, but also for so many of my clients. Their success is my success, and I work hard for them to be successful. But there is the other side of life that many times we don’t see or recognize and that is those who seem to be hopeless.

Have you ever met someone who seemed hopeless—not someone who plays games for attention, but someone who really has emptiness in their soul, due to the death of a loved one or the loss of something? It is a very sad acknowledgment of the empty place. If you know someone like that, be aware, be kind, be gentle and, remember, for some, you just being there is all they need. Just make sure they know you’re there by an email or a card or call. Don’t let them wonder if anyone cares—let them know. I read a quote from Desmond Tutu who said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite of all the darkness”.

A friend of mine lost a parent a while back and told me that, over a lunch they had with a close friend, the friend decided to give some of what they thought would be tough love, and told them to chin up, go forward, stop crying, pull yourself together and let go of your sadness. Instead of tough love, it came across as harshness, and to this day that friendship is damaged, due to the unkind words that were spoken. I know it is a fine line, so let’s err on the side of kindness and hopefulness.

I think it is interesting when people tell me that, if they just had more money, they’d be happy; if they just had the career of their dreams, they’d be happy; if people recognized them for their great talent, they’d be happy. Seems like it would make sense, but then we look at Hollywood with all its bells and whistles, bright lights and bigger-than-life dreams and opportunities—we could list all the celebrities and athletes, the well-known and unknown people we’ve lost who had all those things, because when all is said and done, it didn’t matter what they had on the outside—it was what was on the inside that mattered, and the same is true with you and me and those we love.

Hope is a funny thing. Although it takes action on your part, I want you know, if you can’t move right now physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually, hold on! Hold on tightly and give in to the little word that offers you a respite on the road of life, and that is the word HOPE, because, once you choose hope, anything is possible.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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