Perhaps there is no life quality that is more important than hope.
Since Nelson Mandela’s death the media has focused on the life of this extraordinary leader. Hope was integral for the vision given to his people. Hope played an important role in the South African journey to achieve democracy — hope for a better life without apartheid.
Martin Luther King Jr, another inspirational leader, said this about hope “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving. You lost that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today, I still have a dream…..”
Hope also plays an important role in achieving retirement happiness. It provides the foundation to realize our deepest aspirations. It carries us through times when life brings disappointment and loss.
It’s Easy to Lose Hope
As we grow older it’s sometimes difficult to stay hopeful.
We may feel that our life contribution happened during our work/career years.
We may feel that we’ve fulfilled the role as parent once children become adults and need us less.
We may feel that we’ve achieved all major life goals.
We may feel ignored and useless.
If sickness or disability or chronic pain strikes, hope becomes more illusive.
The profound loss faced by many who experience the death of a loved one brings overwhelming sadness and heartbreak. Sometimes giving up and not facing the hurt and pain seems the easier course to take. Hope that life will ever again bring happiness feels impossible.
There are many circumstances in life when failure, grief, disappointment and hurt cause us to lose hope.
During such times it’s easy to make negative interpretations that lead to feelings of helplessness and despair.
How to stay hopeful
Everyone faces difficult times — times when all meaning and purpose in life feels elusive.
We encounter situations that have the potential to make us feel good or bad. How we interpret and describe these situations to ourselves affects our feelings of hopefulness.
Postworksavvy readers may wish to reflect on these tips to keep hope alive and, thus, increase retirement happiness.
- Reflect on strengths and accomplishments. Writing a list of life accomplishments in a journal is a way to remind yourself of past achievements. This tactic will also serve as a reminder of actions you’ve taken in the past when faced with difficult times.
- Remain optimistic. Focus on the future you want even if it is weeks or months away. Through positive thinking and pinpointing positive outcomes you can reduce stress levels. Positive thinking will bring new ideas for ways to problem solve current difficulties.
- Be generous to yourself. When you nurture your body by eating well, sleeping enough and exercising regularly — you take care of yourself. Taking the extra steps to nurture your heart through spiritual practises or meditation often leads new perspectives about your life’s purpose.
- Forgive yourself and forgive others. By setting aside past differences, those stubborn feelings and animosities that dampen relationships can be resolved. This clears the way for positive affirming relationships and strong social networks.
- Avoid ‘all or nothing’ thinking. Using rigid dichotomous thinking leads to seeing the world in its extremes of good and bad, wonderful or awful. Most situations contain elements of both extremes. Engaging in win-lose thinking leads to disappointment and not hope.
- Avoid comparisons with others. Although it’s part of human nature to make comparisons with others, such comparisons are self-sabotaging. There will always be people who are richer, happier, smarter or healthier than you are.
- Learn to deal with change. Both expected and unexpected events in life can knock us over. When changes involve loss — of a partner, a relative or a close friend — allow time to grieve and heal. Try to mentally prepare for changes you can foresee such as health changes when diagnosed with certain illnesses or changes you will face if you must move away from your family home. The reality of change can’t be avoided but reactions, feelings and behaviour can be controlled.
Remaining hopeful requires courage. Courage to use the wisdom acquired through life experiences and through facing adversity. But hopefulness is the life quality that has the greatest potential to bring happiness.