Often people will ask my wife and me if we have children, and my answer is, “We have three dogs and no children.” Some married folks with multiple children will frequently respond, “I can’t imagine not having children.”
The truth of the matter is that I feel I have many children and a very extended family from my work at Hosparus Health with patients and families, from my ministry as a priest, from the articles and motivational talks I do, and from the many weddings, funerals and services I perform. I believe at my senior age that I am in the world to be a mentor to others and to impart hope.
Most of us make the mistake of counting on hope to “just happen.” We don’t consider it a mental discipline that can be practiced. The schools didn’t teach us that this is a skill we should develop.
But hope is far too important to be left to chance. We need to work at it consciously so that hopefulness becomes an active part of our everyday thinking process.
Basically, hope is an act of mental focus. The positive spirit it produces comes when you manage your attention toward the following concepts:
· What you do control rather than what you don’t.
· What you can rather than cannot do.
· The positive aspects of your life; for example, what’s working in your life.
· Possibilities rather than limits.
· How to best engage your strengths and resources.
We need to practice hopefulness like the professional musician practices playing scales or like the basketball star practices shooting baskets – daily, with a relentless discipline, and with a fierce determination to improve.
We ordinarily don’t give much thought to how precious hopefulness really is until it slips away. It’s an emotional asset that we just take for granted. But the profound value of hope becomes achingly clear when we start feeling the ravages of hopelessness.
All of us know what happens when hope notches down. We lose confidence. Our willpower starts to slip. We quit stretching, lower our sights and start calculating fallback positions. The energy drains out of us, and we drift toward a “Who cares” or “What’s the use?” attitude. Our creative thinking shifts away from innovative angles we might play and instead gets wasted on imagining things bleak, dry and difficult.
So give hope a fighting chance. Turn it loose on your problems, wishes and needs. Let it play a meaningful role in shaping your response to whatever life brings your way. Psychological research shows that hopefulness helps people cope with difficult jobs, handle tragic illness, avoid depression and achieve more academically.
Events don’t write our future. It’s our response, not the events, that determines both our future and our satisfaction in the present.
By Bob Mueller Bishop of the United Catholic Church: bobmueller.org | Photo by Alex Gruber
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