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 BlinkNow.org, 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

Can We Really Make The World A Better Place?

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The other night I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie Doyne, the founder of The BlinkNow Foundation, who is truly changing the world one child at a time.  At the age of 27, Maggie has 42 Nepalese children who call her mom and live with her in Kopila Valley Children’s Home, which was built brick-by-brick by Maggie and the local community in Nepal. Maggie has also built the Kopila Valley Primary School, which is attended by 400 Nepalese children, and a women’s health clinic. Maggie truly believes that if every child in the world is provided with their most basic needs and rights—a safe home, medical care, an education, and love, they will grow to be leaders and end cycles of poverty and violence in our world.

A few nights later, I had the pleasure of introducing Maggie to Maro Chermayeff, the Executive Producer and Director of the movie Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women. Maro has traveled all over the world with award winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof bringing to light dramatic stories of oppressed women and children, and introducing us to people that make a difference.

I was honored and overwhelmed to be sitting with these two women who are having such an important positive impact on the world.  At the age of 27, Maggie is having such a profound impact on the children of Nepal, and Maro is preparing to leave to film in Haiti and parts of Africa.  At one point in the evening I blurted out, “I need to do more.  I don’t think I am capable of doing what either of you do everyday.”  Maro turned to me and said, “It doesn’t matter what you do.  Just do something.  One act. One thing that makes the world a better place.  Just something. That will make all the difference.”

I think that is why some of us don’t act because we feel that our small acts won’t make a dent in the numerous problems the world faces. But Maybe what Maro said to me is true: every act does matter. It reminds me of the story about the Boy and the Starfish.  The story is told as follows:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.
Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean. As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied, 


“I made a huge difference to that one!”

If you are interested, you can check out the work that Maggie is doing in Nepal through The BlinkNow Foundation and help her build a high school for the beautiful children.  You could also find something to do in your neighborhood, local school or charity, or even help an elderly neighbor.  If we all create more acts of kindness each day MAYBE we can make a difference and actually make the world a better place!!  It is DEFINITELY worth a try!!