Is there hope for me in the new year, many of us ask? Like thousands of others the new year came and went. I stayed up late, reflected on the previous year and out of habit started to plan how I’d finally reach the goal to care for myself better just like last year and the year before. Sound familiar? Year after year many of us abandon our resolutions by March and the failure erodes our self-confidence. It’s not only in January that this happens, but throughout the year we decide to put ourselves first and take care of our physical, mental, and spiritual health. The months go by and somewhere along the line when we don’t achieve perfection, we give up. We don’t allow ourselves the confidence to believe that small steps sprinkled with defeat can still get us to our goals. The narrow path will get us there, but so will the wide path. It just may take longer and that’s ok.
I’ve come to the realization that it’s not how specific our goals are or if we have the time or money to pursue them that leads to success, although those are factors. What I’ve learned is that we’ve lost the ability to engage in hope or even believe that it’s possible. Like the word love, hope has been diluted in our everyday language. We think of the noun more than the verb. These days hope is expressed as states of mind like “wishful thinking” or just an “optimistic outlook”. This type of hope can feel like making a wish on a dandelion. Just as the seeds blow away in the wind so does our belief in ourselves that we can do what we set out to do.
In my world as a therapist, I encounter all kinds of people with many different strengths and challenges, but one thing many have in common is that they’ve lost hope. I’ve been there myself in the past and I know personally and professionally how difficult, but not impossible it is to switch the mindset and heart from hope being elusive to possible. To hope as a verb is to expect with confidence. It’s not a state of mind, it’s an action of anticipation. It’s less like making a wish on a dandelion and more like expectantly awaiting spring after the long winter. It may take a while, but it’s coming.
What we know about confidence is that it can build over time tiny bit built on tiny bit. It’s remarkable. I see it in my practice. It starts with engagement. That may look like talking to a friend, spiritual leader or making that call to seek therapy to address your past trauma or seek that grief counseling you know you need but have been putting off. It may mean identifying the things you enjoy and focusing more on your likes than your dislikes. This winter, start by saying one encouraging thing to yourself and challenging the old negative tape that keeps replaying. Tell yourself that, “I can do hard things.” Make a choice to get some movement, sunlight, and fresh air. It’s in those small steps that confidence rises, and hope is built.