Hope: The Catalyst For Action

October always seems to me a hopeful month. There are festivals and fairs, celebrating the bounty of autumn’s harvest almost every weekend. There are fundraising walks/runs happening almost every week- groups of people coming together to support making change in the face of difficult circumstances. Some areas of the areas of the country are putting in a second crop of cool of weather vegetables. As piles of leaves begin to grow kids will be whooping and jumping into them. And it is football season, and every team believes this season, this week will be a winning one. In all it seems there is still time to make the most of a fruitful season, to carry forward the momentum of September’s back to business character.

Yes the days grow shorter, but that does not hamper the sense of gathering of hope. There is no real resistance to the innate changes that are part of the seasonal shift. You can practically see the Zen Theory of Change in action.

“I free myself, not by trying to be free,

but by simply noticing how I am imprisoning myself

in the very moment I am imprisoning myself.”

Lao Tzu

Zen Theory of Change  is Hopeful Change. It is at its core about not fighting the reality, rather seeing it for what it is and is not then deciding to do something about it. We see this in nature when the seasons change. Nature does not fight leaves turning colors and falling from trees, and the temperatures dropping, it is simply part of the larger cycle of growth and life. Still there is action taken.  Harvests are brought in and put up in glass jars and freezers filled with fruits and vegetables. Squirrels are busy burying nuts in my flowerbeds.  Both of these acts are underscored by hope. Hope that doing this work will provide enough for future months were less action can be taken.

Hope, it is complex and often misunderstood. Hope is not denial, optimism, or simply wishing. True hope is based in reality. It is not passive in nature and does not only take positive factors into account. Hope is a prerequisite for action. Coaches and social workers (I am proud to be both) know that hopeless people become helpless people. Helplessness is a paralyzing state, inflexible. No sense of self- efficacy, personal agency, or of compassion for one’s self (or anyone else) is present. Pity maybe present but that is rarely useful when you need to refocus, and take action. Enter the pep talk:  the coach’s talk at half time and a sudden turn around in play for a football team or the chat with one’s dance instructor after a less than stellar first performance (something I know a little about). Conversely see a pep talk that keep’s the momentum building and a person grounded when things are going well. Both are designed to inspire action through hope.

Combine the Zen Theory of Change with Hope and you’ll stop fighting, simply beginning to notice more and that is the start to change. You see what is real, and what is not real. You create enough distance between you and the problem, that more than one possibility exists. Most of us get stuck on autopilot that sounds like “there is only one way to do that”, or “I have tried that in the past and it did not work”, or “I don’t know where to start.”  Instead of playing tug of war over a gaping forbidding pit with whatever the problem is you can simply decide to drop the rope (not literally). The problem is still there, but you are not being pulled by it or towards the pit. Now both hands are free to be put to work in a more useful way.  That alone is a change and helps to ease the discomfort that is a natural part of change.

Part of what I love about my work is helping people refocus and restore hope, in service of creating a meaningful life that makes the most your time and capacities within a structure that simultaneously keeps you on track and is flexible adjusting to changing circumstances. Together we line up the dots between where you are now and a lasting solution a pressing issue. Doing so has the added benefit of making bouncing back from life’s inevitable adversity and set backs happen with greater ease, because there is hope. And hope is what gets us moving to Start. Now. 

Deirdre Danahar © 2011, all rights reserved

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