Finding Hope In The New Year

I met a few friends for coffee before the holidays.  We usually meet this time of year to catch up and enjoy the cheer of the season.  This year, many of my friends were unhappy and bothered by many things that had happened during the past year. One of my friends said, “I feel so hopeless because of the multiple terrorist attacks, California wildfires, losing net neutrality, and the tax bill has finally put me over the edge.”   As I used to practice tax law, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the new tax bill, so I immediately jumped into the conversation.  I probably got too technical with some of the details, but it was clear to everyone at the table that I was unhappy about the bill.  After I was done speaking, my friend turned to me and said, “You sound just like me. You obviously also feel hopeless.”  I responded that I actually feel more hopeful than ever, which confused her and our other friends. I explained I feel hopeful because the FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN and that means MAYBE what is happening can lead to something good, MAYBE things can get better or MAYBE we can find a way to accept what is happening and still be okay.  Even during difficult times, MAYBE there is something special to experience in the moment.  I told them that I have a Maybe mindset and there is no reason to abandon hope.

I know many people have different opinions about the idea of hope.  Some people think hope should not be part of our daily experience and others believe that hope is the root of our suffering.  For instance, in the Taoist philosophy, things are neither good nor bad and everything changes, so hope has no role. In the Buddhist religion, many believe hope is an attachment that leads to suffering because we cling to an outcome in the future that may or may not occur. I have also heard people say hope “blinds us” to reality and creates inaction and complacency to face the world’s problems because we hope tomorrow will be better.

I disagree.

I believe most of us would find it impossible to get out of bed in the morning without hope. Every business, every investment, every first date, and every other situation we embark on has hope packed into it. It is not hope that causes us emotional pain. Instead, it is our inability to be flexible and fluid in the face of change and uncertainty.  It is our addiction to certainty and not our addiction to hope that paralyzes us to make the changes in our own lives and in the world.  This is why I spend so much time writing about the Maybe mindset.  Maybe encourages us to look at every situation we are facing and recognize that things change. Instead of seeing change as bad we can view uncertainty as offering endless possibilities, many of which we can’t even imagine today. So, with a Maybe mindset we can stay hopeful and at the same time recognize life might not go as planned, and that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean we won’t achieve our goals or the world can’t get better.  It just helps us find a different path with new possibilities.

Sometimes when I write about the Maybe mindset and the idea of hope, a few people email me describing very difficult situations they face and suggest hope is a pipe dream leading people down a path of disappointment and suffering.  With this in mind, I have met with several notable humanitarians and discussed the idea of hope – Sasha Chanoff from RefugePoint, who works with international refugees, Katie Ford from Freedom For All, who works to eradicate Human Trafficking, Maggie Doyne from, who works with orphaned Nepalese Children, and Rachel Lloyd from GEMS, who empowers girls and young women who have experienced sexual exploitation to exit the commercial sex industry. These humanitarians have witnessed tremendous suffering in the United States and in the developing countries in which they work, where often every sign they see points to more death, abuse and poverty.   Yet, they all have one thing in common – they all have hope in the face of what sometimes seems impossible.  Does this hope ever lead them to fail? Of course, they tell me there are times their hopes do not come to fruition, times of frustration and even suffering. Overwhelmingly though, they all say hope has led them to have a huge positive impact on individuals and communities that have been abandoned by society.  It is hope that gives them the inspiration to continue and never give up.  It is their hope that saves lives every day and is a lifeline to continue their work to make the world a better place.

Maybe in a philosophical debate, one could tell us to abandon hope, but when you go where people are really suffering, you will find their suffering is not a result of their hope, but of the very real challenges that they face every day. It often takes more courage to have hope than not because you’re being asked to look into the unknown and still believe all things are possible. Sometimes it is only hope that feeds our spirits and launches us to find the strength and power to carry on.

If we are hopeful, can bad things still happen in life? Yes, but we must remember good things happen too and sitting around feeling hopeless doesn’t help anybody.  Feeling hopeful can help you develop a more open mind, which can help you access more possibilities, making it more likely you will find a resolution to your problems or a new way to live with whatever you face in the new year.  I am not saying we should live in illusion or not accept what is happening today, but the FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN which creates a wide open playing field for so many possibilities.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”   So, let’s try to be more hopeful in 2018 because hope is the beginning of all that’s possible to make the world a better place for everyone.

Wishing all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year!!!!

If you would like to learn more about the Maybe mindset and learn an exercise to help you embrace HOPE for the new year, you can listen to 10 minute my podcast, Finding Hope in the New Year.   

For weekly information on how to reduce stress and worry check out my podcast, 10 Minutes To Less Suffering, follow me on Twitter @giftofmaybe or Instagram, follow my Blog or check out my book The Gift of Maybe.

Originally Published in Psychology Today

Acceptance Is A Path To Less Suffering

      For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In Episode 6 of my podcast, 10 Minutes To Less Suffering, I discuss the concept of acceptance.  Acceptance can be difficult for some of us because it is about making peace with something we don’t like or that causes us physical or emotional pain. Also, the world around us often tells us to focus on overcoming our problems and persevere until we achieve our goals.  Many of us believe this means we should not accept things in our lives that we don’t like, however, this is the biggest misconception about the idea of acceptance.  When you accept something, it does not mean you will not try to improve your life or achieve your goals. Instead, acceptance is about not arguing with reality and letting go of the pain we experience when we resist what is happening.  It often takes courage and strength to accept life the way it is in the moment. But, the ability to accept things is the beginning to finding peace and MAYBE even making our situation better.

So, if you are still struggling with the results of our last presidential election, upset you did not get a raise, concerned your child is struggling or unhappy about how things are going in your life, this podcast will give you tools to help you accept situations in your life and find a way to move forward and create the life and world that you desire.

Here is the link to the podcast. It really only takes 10 minutes to suffer less!




When This Moment is Enough

If you would prefer an audio version of this post, you can listen to Episode 5 of my podcast, When This Moment is Enough.


“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life — the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. To suffer is not enough.” –Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh

It was November 3, 2014–the night before I was to launch my first book, The Gift of Maybe, at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York City—and I was a suffering.  My agent had called me a few weeks ago.  She is a lovely woman and has always been supportive, but what she told me on that call sent me into a tailspin. “Allison,” she said, “If you don’t sell 25,000 copies of this book, you’re not going to get a book deal for your second book.”  Now, my second book wasn’t even completed yet, and my first wasn’t officially launched. It had been a dream come true to publish with Penguin Random House. I had been able to change careers, leaving my first profession behind for one I truly loved—working with people to transform their professional and personal lives.

Initially what my agent said didn’t bother me, but the night before my book launch, I was in agony about the uncertainty of my own future as an author. With that one comment from my agent, I had started to feel the pressure and stress of having to sell 25,000 books to continue my journey.  Instead of reveling in the moment, I was beginning to obsess about what I did not have or what might not be.  What if my path was limited? What if the seemingly triumphant moment I was in was not enough?

I sat there trying to release the thought that I needed to sell 25,000 books to be successful, joyful or to continue my journey as a self-help author. It wasn’t working. So I took a few breaths and decided to see if I could take my own advice.  I cracked open my brand new book. After about twenty minutes of doing a Maybe exercise at the end of the first chapter, I was finally able to let the maddening thought about 25,000 books go. I now look back and laugh at the image of a self-help author desperately poring over her own book to make herself feel better!

The next day, I was able to enjoy the launch of The Gift of Maybe. Still, in the year after I published, the worry about how many books I’d sell and whether my second book would ever see the light of day returned to haunt me. It became such a familiar pain I even gave it a name –“second book suffering.”

If I appeared on a radio show and did not sell a lot of books in the days that followed, or if I failed to secure an appearance on a morning television show, my “second book suffering” reared its ugly head. The Maybe mindset always helped me get out of the trap, but so did embracing the idea: This moment is enough.

I simply got tired of the suffering and the inability to enjoy what I had and what I was experiencing.  So whenever I wrote a blog, spoke to a client, or appeared on the radio, I would choose to say to myself before the event, “This moment is enough.”  When I heard from someone that my book had helped him or her, I thought, “This moment is enough.”  I still work very hard each day, I have goals and dreams, and I am still working on that second book and hoping to see it published.  Yet, most of time, I am satisfied with what is happening in this moment and this makes my heart feel open and completely joyful.

One of the key reasons we all suffer is because we believe that this moment is not enough.  We might be dealing with a problem or working on a goal and we believe if we can just get through the issue or achieve our goal, then we will be able to rest, smile and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  But what if we could see that, in focusing so exclusively on that one thing that will bring us future happiness, we are actually creating suffering for ourselves? Regardless of what is happening in our lives, we always have an opportunity to transform our suffering and experience something wonderful in the moment.   So when you hear the phrase, “Let this moment be enough,” take a deep breath. You might find that you feel immediately relieved.

It is also possible, of course, that the idea of letting this moment be enough makes you feel nervous or agitated.  You might feel that you have so many dreams or goals in your life and you want more than this moment is offering you.  These thoughts are, paradoxically, the root of suffering.  It is truly life changing to let this moment be enough.  When you allow this moment to be enough, it doesn’t mean you stop working on what you want your life to be, it just means you are opening your heart to a more joyful life right now.

Here is an exercise to help you embrace this moment as enough.

1.  What is bothering you most at this time? What is most on your mind? Now ask yourself this: what are these thoughts stealing from your life?  There will always be things in the outside world that might not go as we planned or desired. There will always be something else to do or achieve.  We are always thinking we have another day so this day doesn’t have to be our best moment. We tend to believe the moment we’re in can be “sacrificed” for another time when things in our lives are better.  But what if that day never arrives?  What if we keep putting off everything and never enjoy what is in front of us all along?  And even when we achieve our goals, won’t there always be another goal or unexpected challenge and thus a new type of suffering in our lives?  Take a few moments and consider these questions. Imagine what you could gain if you weren’t worrying about your life beyond this moment.

2.  Now name your suffering. Do you have “career suffering,” “my child is doing poorly in school suffering,” or “I wish I could be happy with a husband or wife suffering”?  When you name your suffering, it has less of a hold on you.  It is as if, in naming it, you separate from your suffering on some level.  You start to see it is not reality, just a thought taking up space in your head.

3.  Recognize that if you persist in believing that this moment you are in is not enough, even if you are able to solve your problem or achieve the goal you are thinking about, the next day you will most likely have a new type of suffering. For example, I had a client who had “my child is doing poorly in school” suffering and she helped her son improve his grades. But now she has “I need my son to get into a good college suffering.”  I also had a client that had “I want a boyfriend suffering.”  She married a great guy and now she has “marriage suffering,” worrying about all the things that might go wrong in her relationship.

4.  Say to yourself, “This moment is enough.”  How does that make you feel? Say it again, “This moment is enough.”  Does it alleviate a burden inside of you?  Remember, you are not saying that you will stop pursuing your goals or dreams and you are not denying you have problems.  You are merely allowing this moment to be and making peace with it.  You are not struggling with what this moment brings. Now you can see its beauty and its depth, which is also the depth of everything that you are and everything around you.  Say it again, “This moment is enough.”  This moment being enough doesn’t mean all your pain will go away if you are struggling, but it does bring the joy of what is right in front of you to center stage.

It is such a relief to let this moment be enough.  We add so many unnecessary layers and complications onto our everyday lives. We place conditions on what needs to happen for us to be okay, or in order for us to finally be satisfied.  But when this moment is enough, our minds can rest and our breaths can calm. We can look around us and see the beauty of being alive. We can appreciate who we are and where we are.  We can enjoy what we have accomplished. We can enjoy the book launch, the sunrise, a cup of coffee or a conversation with a stranger.  Everything becomes important and sacred—a wonder to behold.

Don’t forget – life has Maybe and Maybe, it turns out, is a gift that allows us to create the future we want…without sacrificing today!

For weekly information on how to reduce stress and worry check out my podcast, 10 Minutes To Less Suffering, follow me on Twitter @giftofmaybe or Instagram, follow my Blog or check out my book The Gift of Maybe.

Originally Published in Psychology Today

Episode 4 – Are Current Events Making You Feel Stressed or Worried?


“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”  Corrie Ten Boom

Since my first podcast launched a few weeks ago, I have received many emails from people discussing their anxieties and worries about current events. Their concerns included fear of more mass shootings, losing their healthcare, or possible war with North Korea. Many of us can understand how these people feel and many of us have similar concerns.  These types of events can make us feel vulnerable and it can be difficult to calm our fears and worries when we are bombarded constantly with upsetting news.  In response to these emails, episode 4 of my podcast addresses how we can alleviate our fears about these and other world events by embracing uncertainty as a place of hope and refuge.

Now, I am guessing that some of you are now thinking to yourself how is that possible? How can uncertainty be something good in my life and make me feel better?  Well, there are two aspects of daily suffering:  the first is an experience in the moment that we find painful, which we will call present suffering; and the second is our projection of what this moment means for the future, which we will call projected suffering.  Is there a way not to have any suffering in our lives?  I certainly have not experienced this, but Jiddu Krishnamurti, a brilliant philosopher, said his secret to a happy life was that he didn’t mind what happened.  It makes total sense that if we don’t mind what is happening we would have no present suffering or projected suffering. I do think we can reduce our overall suffering through acceptance and other techniques, but it is hard not to mind everything that happens in our lives.  It is particularly difficult when people we love are suffering and there are things like war, famine, and global warming. However, what we can focus on in this moment is to stop our projected suffering which is a big part of our stress and worry.

The truth is that we don’t suffer because life is uncertain. We experience projected suffering because we think we know what will happen next in our lives based on what is happening today.  The good news is that we have no idea what will happen next and this leaves us open not solely to doom and gloom, but to other possibilities as well.  Embracing uncertainty can actually be our best friend and provide us with the hope that we can still make the world a better place.

Click here to listen to this podcast and find out how to embrace uncertainty to reduce your suffering and remain strong and resilient in the days to come.