Optimism and Hope: A Daily Practice

I love myself some Brene’ Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. That’s the short version of her work. If you want more information on the books she has written and her work, please visit brenebrown.com.

On my way to a professional learning for my work, I listened to her book, Dare to Lead. She shared a definition of despair, “The belief that tomorrow will be just like today.” Hope on the other hand has three parts that consist of goal, pathway, and agency. We can identify a realistic goal, choose a pathway that is usually not a straight line, and, lastly, agency, the belief in our ability to stay on the path until I arrive–I can do this. The cynic says this is impossible and loves to spit out sarcastic and despairing remarks. Did you know that sarcasm’s root meaning in Greek is “tearing of flesh”. When I heard this, I thought to myself “so very, very true”. Sarcasm hurts when we receive it, and when we are the givers. It is like spitting nails, and words hurt.

Hope is the antidote to despair. According to Snyder, hope is a cognitive process, not solely based on personality and genetics. You can teach yourself how to be more hopeful in the midst of a pretty difficult reality. Hope and optimism are not about ignoring but recognizing and doing.

As soon as I wrote about optimism, a flood of challenges invaded my home. Just like your home.  Despite the fact there were things out of my control in my external world, I embraced hope in my actions (my head and heart can catch up later). Our pathway to change is truly a crooked line. Embrace the detours. They are a part of the journey.

Interestingly, God used others as well as His push in my life to study optimism and hope. He used my husband through a morning conversation about change and connection. He used my parents through support when I needed a connection for my youngest. He used my youngest through her day-to-day activities of laughter, words, and helping me purchase an outfit at Target. He used my oldest who asked, “How can I help?” and she really helped. He used a friend who always seems to be there when you need to talk. Simple things. The greatest in the moment was my youngest deciding, out of nowhere, to read our gratitude jars from two years ago. Nothing spells hope like reading all the events and happenings in your life that brings gratitude. You take a jar, decorate it, and through out the year on little pieces of paper, when something great happens, you write it down and put it in the jar to read on New Year’s Eve the next year. She read off events like Adelaide’s birth, a yummy meal, going to a concert, love of family, and we even had a note from Aunt Polly.

Oh my friend, I do care so much about your despair or lack of hope. I don’t care how positive you are in life, reality can hit you like a freight train that just wont slow down, so know that you can practice hope and you can lean into God who will show you over and over again that you can trust Him.

One of my favorite hymns! I hope you can listen and sing the lyrics! I’m singing with you!

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