Hopeful vs. hopeless
Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.
- Angela Duckworth
I've recently been listening to the audiobook Grit by Angela Duckworth, which I highly recommend for anyone who's either trying to find purpose in their life, or cultivate the strength to succeed with the purpose they feel called to.
It has so many insightful and motivating things in it, but it's not your typical motivational book. In fact, it's more of an exploration of why people have grit, or the capacity to continue on in the face of adversity. Through this exploration, there are many stories that helped me to see, first of all, what it is in me that keeps me going and facing challenges, and also, what it is in other people that I don't have (but want) that gets them to continually rise back up and overcome obstacles.
One thing in the book that struck me was a discussion on what makes us feel hopeful and what makes us feel hopeless. The author has a PhD in psychology, and therefore is aware of and shares a vast array of psychological studies. One of them was on this subject of feeling hopeful or hopeless.
What she shared is that a hopeful feeling comes from a sense of feeling you can control something. When you feel hopeless, it's because you feel you've lost all control.
I never connected these two feelings before, and I was only able to see this in my own life because I have recently begun feeling I can control something. I have learned, through a regular meditation practice, that I can control my feelings. I can control how I respond to things. Basically, I have let go of trying to control my outside world and have put all my eggs in the basket of my inner world.
And don't you know, I have been feeling so optimistic and hopeful lately that it's like I'm seeing a new world.
Angela shares that feeling hopeful is crucial in being someone that overcomes obstacles and setbacks.
She also shares that for many people, the feeling that they can't control something comes from negative self talk that speaks as if these states are permanent. E.g. "I am a loser" is a permanent state. When you think this, you believe it's fixed - it's out of your control. It just is.
On the flip side, when we phrase things in a way that tells us we can grow and change, we feel we have CONTROL, which makes us feel hopeful, such as, "I feel like a loser because my presentation went bad. However, with public speaking classes, I can master this skill and succeed."
Next time you are feeling things are utterly hopeless and you are stuck where you are, ask yourself to find something you can control. You can always control something. As I've learned, you can control your thoughts. You can trade a negative one for a positive one. You can control what your body is doing. You can stand up and go for a little walk when you feel stressed. You could even jump up and WHOOP for no reason at all. I'm not say you will. But you could.
At the very least, you can control your breathing. Right now, you can take a deep breath in at will. You can hold it. And you can decide when to let it out.
Take another deep breath. Focus on it. That's you doing that. That's something you can control.
When you feel you can control your happiness, or your stress, you become more confident in your ability to keep going. This does not change the obstacles you face, but rather gives you the courage and willingness to keep going.
You don't try to change what others are doing, or how the world responds to you or views you, but rather you change how you feel and what you believe, and you go from there. This, in turn, makes you feel hopeful.
And when you're hopeful, you find a way.
When you're feeling hopeless, you give up. So keep coming back to the hopeful. Keep coming back to your breath, that beautiful thing within you that you can control. You can do so much more than you believe you can. As I've learned through this book, the capacity to keep going, to find your grit, is more important than your talent, intelligence and education combined.
In other words, it doesn't matter if people seem more qualified than you. What matters is that you keep going. Successful people are simply people who never gave up.
For more on Angela and her book Grit visit her website. You can take her grit quiz there and find out how your grittiness compares to others on average.
Not feeling you have so much grit? Don't worry about it. Remember, who you are not is a fixed thing. You can change. You can grow. You can evolve. You just have to talk to yourself in a way that affirms growth. I may not feel gritty now, but with a meditation practice, I can master these negative thoughts, and that will make me more resilient.
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