Reality Check: A Spirit of Hope

“Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve.” If you are a poetry fan, then you may know this poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge entitled, “Work without Hope.”
Work is more satisfying when it comes with the hope that you are working toward a valuable result. When you know that the product you are making or the services that you are providing have value, it’s easier to be enthusiastic and engaged.
A friend had recently reminded me of the poem and extended the sentiment to “Life without hope…” To thrive, we seem to need a sense of hope. That includes work but it’s not limited to work.
Different people may hope for different outcomes, but we do share many hopes: for health, prosperity, loving families, meaningful work, happy homes, and freedom—from worry, despondency, coercion, and struggle.
Recent years have not been kind to many. Seemingly arbitrary forces over which we have little or no control have interfered in ways that we would have thought unimaginable a few short years ago. Hope can be hard to come by, yet enthusiasm for life comes more readily when we have hope.
Do we have any influence over our sense of hopefulness? I think so. It may not be easy, but it’s possible.
It’s natural to believe that our actions follow our emotions. If I’m not feeling happy, I can convince myself that those unhappy feelings are in charge; they are keeping me from getting out and doing things. “When I feel better, then I’ll…” is an intention that’s easy to understand. But “feeling better” may not emerge on its own.
The good news is that feelings aren’t necessarily in charge. One of the most practical aspects of Dr. William Glasser’s choice theory is that we can change our feelings by changing our actions and thinking. Why is that good news? Because to a great degree, we can control our actions.
We can take hopeful actions. We can get out of bed (and make that bed). We can step up and choose to work, choose to learn, choose to reach out and do something, even if we don’t feel it. As we act, feelings follow.
We’ve been implored to be kind, to love, to think of others. That’s fine. But if you can’t seem to muster those feelings, you may find it’s more realistic to take action rather than to try to create a feeling.
Each day is a new day; each year is a new year. Hopeful action acknowledges the real possibility that the best is yet to come, while not suggesting that better times are inevitable.
Anyone who has ever planted a seed has taken a hopeful action. If you’ve ever taught another person anything—how to hold a hammer, to play a guitar, to sign their name, you’ve acted with hope. If you’ve entered a relationship, raised a family or just reached out to spread some cheer, you’ve acted with hope.
Hopeful actions build, create, innovate, learn, contribute, and more. And hopeful action is work.
So, let’s take hopeful action. Whether we feel hopeful as we enter this new year or not, we can act as if we have hope. And that could create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Do you act with hope? Do you feel hopeful?

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