Dive 2: Hope …Why you need it. How to make it.
Hey! It’s Alvin.
Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, said that hopelessness destroys your health. First mental, then physical. So, when all seems like doom and gloom, when the future looks grim, what we need most is hope. It isn’t free, though. It’s earned.
So today, we’ll dive Below the Surface of hope (and hopelessness) to understand:
Why hopelessness seems so prevalent in 2022,
The effects of hopelessness on people, and
How to create hope for yourself
Because you have the power to live a happier life even when the world says otherwise.
I was speaking with a childhood friend recently. She spoke about how she’s glad she’s not bringing a child into this world because of how bad things are. And I know others who feel the same way. But I also, personally, know people who don’t feel so hopeless. The key difference between the hopeful and the hopeless is:
Whether they look forward to something positive in their lives.
Let’s call this, a Positive Vision. The lack of a Positive Vision in the 2020s is worse for your mental health than you think.
I know because for a while, I lacked a Positive Vision. So, what happened? My daily focus shifted to whatever caught and held my attention most: the news. That’s what the news is supposed to do. The problem is the news is 95% negative. Every moment I spent focused on the news made me fearful, angry, helpless, and hopeless. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of one of the worst atrocities in human history. And as he observed, hopelessness doesn’t just degrade mental health, but also physical health:
Those who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man—his courage and hope, or lack of them—and the state of immunity of his body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect. [1, p.75]
People continue to underestimate how a 24/7 news cycle impacts their mental health. When I realized what was happening to me, I made a conscious decision to limit news time to 10 minutes a day. I consider myself informed enough about current events. I just don’t dwell on them anymore. Consider trying it because I have to say, I don’t miss it.
My freed-up time was spent on newfound interests that contributed to a Positive Vision of future me. Frankl emphasized how Positive Visions helped prisoners in concentration camps survive:
Any attempt at fighting the camp’s psychopathological influence on the prisoner… had to aim at giving him inner strength by pointing out to him a future goal to which he could look forward….It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future—sub specie aeternitatis. And this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence. [1, pp. 72 - 73]
Viktor Frankl’s observations apply today, too. Let me give you an example from my own career…
Imagine your dream job. Now imagine that one day, you’re let go.
That happened to me.
I once worked for a company of my fondest dreams:
They served cake every month
We got a half-day off before every long weekend
Every teammate I had supported and elevated me
My work was challenging, but not too challenging
The pace of work was just my speed
I had a hands-off manager who trusted in me
Their office building only had one restaurant downstairs, but the food was sooo good
It was surrounded by nature
My commute was short
It was perfect. I loved everything about it. Everything.
Then, my contract ended, and they didn’t renew it. In an instant, the dream was over.
I reached out to my former managers and colleagues to see if I could return… somehow. I was told it would be hard. A few months later, I found out several former colleagues were laid off. A few months after that, the company was acquired.
At that moment, I felt like all hope was lost. Not only did I have to leave my dream job, but even if I returned today, it probably wouldn’t be the same. What I had fit me so perfectly, I knew I may not find another in my lifetime.
It was over.
But then I remembered my mentor. While I worked my dream job, I also had the best mentor I ever had. He left the company before I did, and on his last day, I thanked him for all his help. I said, “we couldn’t have succeeded without all your amazing ideas.” He replied, “they’re your ideas. I just took them as far as I could go.” I was like, “really?” But he was right! I didn’t have enough faith in myself, but he showed me my potential.
It was this brief interaction that made me realize I don’t need to go back to my dream company. I can make my own. I have a Positive Vision. I envision a future in which I can do what I want, when I want, how I want – a dream no one can take away from me. I just need to take it as far as I can go.
This is hope.
I feel more energized, lively, and engaged than I’ve ever been. I don’t feel doom, gloom, or misery because I have hope for a better future. In the words of philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche:
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
So, if you’re done, tired of being gaslit by a 24/7 news cycle of negativity, leave it behind. Understand that you have the power to effect positive change in your life. Don’t let people tell you otherwise.
Find your “why to live for”.
You’ll live a happier life, make a positive difference, and nothing will stop you.
I hope you found this Below the Surface look into hope and hopelessness helpful. Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or questions for me—especially if you have questions about living a more hopeful life.
BONUS: Today’s Song
When people talk about songs of hope, they’re usually referring to something sappy and melodramatic. I want to share with you a “song of hope” that’s more consistent with what I talked about today.
If you’re a movie fan, maybe you saw the recent hit, Top Gun: Maverick. One song in its soundtrack is topping music charts, and it’s called, “I Ain’t Worried” by OneRepublic. But the band has another song that’s been stuck in my head for some time called, “Run”. It’s nothing deep, but here’s the chorus:
They tell you that the sky might fall
They'll say that you might lose it all
So, I run until I hit that wall
Yeah, I learned my lesson, count my blessings
Look to the rising sun and run, run, run
It feels so aligned with the spirit of today’s dive, I had to share it with you. Check it out but I’m warning you: it’s upbeat and full of positive energy that comes from real hope. If you don’t want that, the song’s not for you.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. And I’ll see you in the next one!
 V. E. Frankl, H. S. Kushner, and W. J. Winslade, Man’s search for meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.