What Do You Do When All Hope is Lost?

“Many people seem to think it foolish, even superstitious, to believe that the world could still change for the better. And it is true that in winter it is sometimes so bitingly cold that one is tempted to say, ‘What do I care if there is a summer; its warmth is no help to me now.’ Yes, evil often seems to surpass good. But then, in spite of us, and without our permission, there comes at last an end to the bitter frosts. One morning the wind turns, and there is a thaw. And so I must still have hope.” – Vincent van Gogh

For something so essential to us, hope seems to be endless. It is renewed again and again.

Yet there was a time in my life when I had lost all hope.

How did I lose it all?

It happened fast. Or so it seemed. It happened in such a way that, as everything around me went crumbling down, all I could do was stare blankly. Like watching TV. Like being the observer of your own life. Like being in a car with an unknown driver taking you to a place you never even knew existed.

I had failed in love, in business, and in life in general. I had no friends, no money, and struggled with debilitating health issues. I thought this was the beginning of the end. And I just didn’t feel like going on.

“When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope.” – Pittacus Lore

Even though I did not want to, I kept going on. It felt like walking through an endless desert. It felt like gasping for air, only for every breath to burn inside your lungs. It felt like wishing for water, only to claw your way through an ocean of sand.

Yes, some defeats can destroy your hope. Just like willpower, hope is easily drained and depleted. When you spend your time worrying, stressing about hypothetical outcomes , and contemplating your greatest fears, it’s easy to lose heart.

However, I realized that all hope wasn’t lost. Failure and defeat were a sign of life — they indicated progress, or the potential of it. Even though I was headed in the right direction, I had to crawl before learning to walk.

You know that terrible cliche, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Well, like all cliches, it’s terribly accurate. But there’s also a part that no one talks about.

Yes. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But first, it makes you wish it did kill you.

What happens when it seems like your whole world is breaking apart? How do you keep hope alive?

There are, in fact, four simple and straightforward methods for not losing all hope.

1. Re-frame your predicament.

If you’ve lost hope due to some major failure in life, then it’s time to reframe the situation. The first thing to understand is that some of the most successful people have failed many times at first.

You can have anything you want in life as long as you do not give up.

Do not lose faith. Do not lose heart.

Keep going.

Tell yourself that nothing lasts forever. Not even your suffering.

Try to find a reason to smile. Tell yourself it’s all for the better.

This pain you’re going through, someday you’ll be grateful for. When you’ll understand that it made you stronger, braver, smarter.

Simply put, life is about the journey, not the destination. Reassess your goals to determine just what you wanted out of life and why you wanted it. If your why is strong enough, then you won’t let failure stop you. You’ll keep going.

2. Be grateful.

I know that this sounds like some new age mumbo jumbo, but there’s something to be said about appreciating what we have rather than longing for what we don’t have.  Focus on gratitude, and watch as your life transforms before your very eyes and your hope is renewed.

Instead of operating out of scarcity, always thinking about what you don’t have enough of, always worrying that you might lose everything, try to focus on the things that you are grateful for. Maybe it’s solely the fact that you’re 6 feet above ground, or that you can read, write, and reason, or that you have food on your plate, a place to sleep, or people who love you.

Gratitude is a habit, one that needs to be cultivated over time. See the good in the world around you and in yourself, and more good things will come to you.

It’s not magic. It’s just the kind of mental attitude that makes it possible for others to enjoy your company more than anything else. Because the folks who seem to have it real bad, who are what you’d call “chronically unlucky” are also the one’s who’ve been assholes all their lives.

3. Don’t lie to yourself.

This is the hardest thing to do. We often take failure and defeat very personally. It’s difficult to remove our innermost emotions and desires from a situation that we put all of our heart and soul into.

It feels as if the Universe is against us, and we cannot understand why.

You might be tempted to put the blame on someone else. To give credit to circumstance, or luck, or karma.

Don’t.

Be objective and honest about your situation, figure out the causes and effects of your behavior, and assume responsibility. Course correct in order to reach your destination, instead of trying to figure out what went wrong, or who is to blame.

4. Ask for help.

Losing all hope can be devastating. When we try to move through that journey alone, it can feel like an impossible battle. But when we can lean on others for support, things do get a little bit easier…

“I’m fine,” is the most popular lie of them all.

Other people can bring new perspective to our situations that we might not have seen before. Because of our ego, it’s often hard to see the forest through the trees, so to speak.

Usually, we achieve our goals through one of two means: inspiration or desperation. Either we’re inspired by events or other people to keep going, or so desperate and in such dire straits, that we push through no matter what.

But the trick is to never lose hope. To keep going. To not let temporary fictions become definitive actions.

I know it’s easier said than done, but hope can be restored over time, and all hope is rarely lost, even when we go through the roughest of times. Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

We weren’t meant to just survive, but to thrive. So, even though at times it might feel like a challenge to simply put one foot in front of the others, take comfort in knowing that it won’t last forever.

As they say, even the darkest hour is only 60 minutes long.

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