Hope: A Manifesto

When I was asked to share my thoughts on hope, I started where anyone else would start. The dictionary! OK, so maybe not where everyone else would start, but it’s where my mind went first, and I think it worked out pretty well. The definition of hope I ended up with was this:

A few words jumped off the page at me: feeling; expectation; particular thing. I was reminded of a segment from a televised debate I had watched on the subject of happiness. Both parties agreed that true happiness was not a goal itself, but a byproduct of having goals, and knowing that you were working towards them. What if hope was somehow related?

“If you live in search of happiness, you’ll never get it. Happiness only exists as a byproduct of having a goal; it cannot successfully be a goal in itself.”

Slavoj Žižek

More than a feeling

Let’s deconstruct the definition of ‘hope’ to figure out a little more about the concept. What is a feeling? An emotional reaction to a stimulus. What is the stimulus for hope? Expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. Suddenly, something starts to become clear – to be hopeful, you have to know what you want to happen.

But simply knowing what you want isn’t enough to expect it to happen. If you really expect something to change, you have to do something about it.

Hope and goals

Goals, put simply, are the outcomes of your ambitions and effort. Goals play a key role in being hopeful because they are the vehicles of progress. If you know what you want to happen, and you’re doing something about it, congratulations! You’re smashing goals without even realising. And remember what we said about happiness – it’s the byproduct of having goals and knowing you are working towards them.

Hope is an action

So we’ve established that to be hopeful, you have to know what you want to happen, and you have to be doing something about it. Is it fair to say then that hope is an action? I think it is! Hope, as a feeling of expectation, demands you be an active participant.

A note on despair

Despair is defined as the complete absence of hope, and there are many times in your life where you might feel that all hope is lost – usually times of immense grief and trauma. I believe the key to overcoming despair is allowing yourself to have a full emotional response to hardship.

Great internal conflict arises from suppressing or repressing your instinctive emotions. You can’t help what you feel, but you can help what you do about it. Give yourself the space you need.

Making hope work for you…

So this is the part of the manifesto where I lay out my vision, and tell you how to live your life. If I wanted you to take one thing away from this, it would be this: You have more control over your happiness than you think.

Let me explain that a bit , because I’m definitely NOT saying you can wish away mental health issues: What I mean is that hope is something you can essentially conjure out of thin air if you know how, and a set of skills you can fall back on when times are tough. So don’t consign yourself to the whims of the fates – respond to adversity, reflect on the circumstances, and react in a positive way.

…and your community

I am a firm believer in the common good. We ultimately depend on each other for the lives we lead. We depend on our families to nurture us, our friends to support us, and our leaders to guide us. So I believe any examination of hope would be incomplete without even a slight nod to community.

Be excellent to each other.

Bill S. Prestion Esquire

In the definition of hope, we find expectation. Unspoken in that is the expectation that if things go badly wrong, we have some sort of safety net to rely on. In practice, this takes the form of support from the state, or from friends and family.

For this reason, I believe that we all owe a debt to each other – a debt to try to leave the world a better place than we found it. To make every effort not to pass our traumas on to our children. To spread compassion, joy, and above all, hope.

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