Losing Hope When its Direly Needed

Some people have an extremely optimistic outlook on life, and they maintain their positive frame even under extreme conditions. Most of us however, are susceptible to unfavourable circumstances which affect the way we think and respond to situations.

Our attitude about hope is very unusual; almost unique. It oscillates between useful and useless. It devalues hope when it’s needed the most and appreciates it when hope has comparatively little to offer. Yet, we go on without questioning it.

So when all is well, and we have no worry or pain, we tend to have more hope, and use it frequently. We are optimistic in our dealings and choices. Our responses to minor setbacks are also somewhat positive. Our frequent use of hope in happy times implies that we need it, value it and believe in its utility.

However, under adverse conditions, when the going gets tough, faced with disappointing outcomes, we employ hope less frequently and become pessimistic in our outlook. Our belief in hope weakens, and we no longer consider it as relevant or useful in our situation. Try to advise a person going through a bad patch, to “be hopeful”, “think positive” and you will often get a strong, emotional reaction, as if you have provoked the person unnecessarily.

Our Attitude About Hope

It’s like a person keeping a lifejacket as he sails, just in case. But when the boat actually sinks in the middle of the ocean, he throws it away, whining that he’s doomed and that “the jacket can’t prevent it from happening”.

Our logic about hope in frustrating conditions is upside down, and we must fix it. Because without hope, there is no hope.

Choices While Facing a Challenging Obstacle

Have you ever had a strong desire for something, worked hard to get it, but then hit the wall and felt, “it’s not gonna happen”. Well, who hasn’t? But the response to it varies and so does the outcome.

Facing a Dead End

We all have needs and desires. We think, imagine, plan, act, and work hard to achieve what we desire. It feels exciting. Achievement boosts our confidence and makes us happy. But at times, we hit a dead end instead; a daunting obstacle, problem or situation that stops our advance. It’s disappointing, frustrating and a bitter experience.

Response to Obstacles

While it’s normal to be frustrated, but it’s important to remember that your bitter emotions are not going to salvage the situation. What you need is to review, analyze and decide about your course of action. Your decision should be based on:

  • your assessment of the situation
  • your opinion about what you can or cannot do
  • the cost: time, effort, other consequences of your decision

You have the following basic options when faced with a barrier that seems like a dead end at first glance:

  1. Go back
  2. Climb it
  3. Break it
  4. Find a workaround

Go Back

Retreat and withdraw. Retreat may be permanent or for the time being.

It’s probably not the right time or place for an initiative like that. As long as you own the decision, are not remorseful, and quickly retain your calm and peace of mind, it’s a valid and reasonable choice. There is no shame attached to it. We all quit from time to time, and sometimes, it’s wiser than lingering on in a futile pursuit.

Climb It

You accept the challenge and approach it with an aim to surmount it. It’s a daring decision, but if you have a strong will and a can-do attitude, then why not?

It’s more of a problem solving pathway. It’s like a puzzle. The solution is there, but you just need to figure it out. Or the obstacle is like a mount, and you need to use the nearby rocks to move to the top. The mount is still there, but now, it has steps to climb.

The key here is to pay less attention to the problem and more on finding a possible solution. By fixating on a daunting challenge you risk to be overwhelmed by it.

Break It

Get rid of the obstacle; eliminate, modify or destroy it. In many cases, it entails more cost (time, effort, risk) than other options.

In some situations, though not always, it’s a confrontational or destructive course; make or break. If successful, the obstacle would either not be there, or would be weakened and may give way. But in the process, you too, may have to bear some price. So it’s taking risk, to avail an opportunity. Do it only if the opportunity is worth the risk and you have the courage and confidence to win.

But note that breaking is not always “messy”. If done tactfully, it may turn out to be far easier than originally anticipated.

Find a Workaround

You acknowledge that the obstacle is insurmountable. You can’t climb it, break it or go through it. But look around, may be, there is another passage that bypasses the barrier altogether. You may figure out a substitute, an alternative, to meet your goal. It’s rare not to have a substitute; but you need to be inventive.

Stop Whining About It

Did you notice? Whining about the barrier is not an option.

So when you are stuck, don’t curse yourself or your misfortunes, and don’t blame others, because that doesn’t change anything. It only aggravates your disappointment.

Unload Your Negative Emotions

As mentioned earlier, if you are unable to resolve the problem and can’t figure out a solution, drop it, at least for now, but don’t feel miserable about it.

Don’t waste your energy on negative thoughts; there is no point in carrying on the weight. If failure is a pain, don’t linger it on by ruminating about it. It’s not the end of the world. There’s plenty to do next. And the lighter you are (emotionally), the faster you would get to your destination.

So stop it and move on!

Examining the True Character of Doubt

What is doubt?
Is it good?
I don’t know; I have doubts!

A Case Against Doubt

Doubt is uncertain, confusing, preplexing
It’s a nonbeliever and condemns belief, conviction
Doubt despises zeal, imagination, openness
It shuns ideas, kills creativity, innovation
Doubt intimidates, threatens, silences
It decays, erodes, consumes
Doubt is suspicious, dismissive, contemptuous
It ridicules, mocks, taunts
Doubt is cold, indifferent, heartless
It makes you feel like a fool, moron, shit

Oh, how I hate doubt!

But wait a second… I’m not sure…
May be, doubt is bearable, acceptable?

Doubt Fights Back

Doubt questions, probes, examines
It’s calm, deliberating, not hasty
Doubt is rational, not emotional, sentimental
It’s deep, reflective, insightful
Doubt critiques, improves, perfects
It challenges, tests, screens
Doubt sees through, reveals, exposes
It’s a keen observer, ceaseless learner, seeker
Doubt inspires learning, research, science

You see, doubt is good, necessary, imperative.
I respect, love and cherish doubt.

Doubt is the foundation stone of human civilization.
Life without doubt is unimaginable.

Stay Within Limits: Don’t Overstretch

Our Natural Ability to Perform Under Stressful Conditions

Our mind and body are very flexible and resilient systems, and are capable of performing wonders under extreme conditions. They can withstand enormous pressure, especially when faced with risks that threaten our existence or well-being. What we are able to achieve under such unusual circumstances is mind-boggling when we look back.

Temptation to Perpetuate Extreme Performance

In view of our capabilities, some people constantly live in a state of emergency, often boasting of their fitness, exceptional strength and endurance. They enjoy facing great, almost impossible challenges and proactively seeking new ones. Their notion of fun (or professionalism) is breaking all barriers and going beyond limits to set new records or crush competition. For them, being engaged in intense, exceedingly stretching and high risk challenges that put off most people is a way of life. It’s their primary motivation and purpose of life without which life is meaningless. They include hobbyists, sportsmen, professionals and businessmen.

Is it Rational to Overstretch Continuously?

Is it really desirable or sensible to continuously put your mind and body to test? Should the display of extreme performance be an exception or a norm? After all, would you drive your car at full throttle every time and everywhere? Including, around schools, hospitals and traffic jams? Would you continue to lift and carry weights throughout the day, long after your weight training is over? For how long would you keep the pan on stove, on high heat? It would burn out and so would you!

Thus the above cited attitude and lifestyle entails a heavy price.

The Cost of Chronic Stress

Our body and mind are very responsive to environmental conditions, including physical, social and psychological stimuli. They constantly adjust their function to support the conditions and our actions. Body’s response to stressful conditions is part of our fundamental defence and survival mechanism, also called the “fight or flight” response. Extreme activities lead to spikes in heart rate, blood flow, blood pressure, respiration, muscular tension, brain activity and overall stress. While these physiological changes are necessary to enable us perform, the condition is not sustainable with high intensity or prolonged exposure to stress. That increases our physical and psychological wear and tear and can cause numerous health issues, including:

Stress fractures, tendon and joint issues, osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, Gastrointestinal and eating disorders, obesity cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health issues, depression, suicidal thoughts and personality disorders etc.

Chronic stress also has a terrible effect on relationships. In addition, our energy reserves are rapidly depleted just like the fuel consumption when you hit the gas. An exhausted body is also susceptible to disease, dampening your immune system. Your capacity to prevent, fight and cure disease is significantly reduced under high stress. And ironically, exposure to prolonged, high stress level tends to result in poor performance.

Moderation or Short Bursts of Peak Performance

From a long term perspective, moderation is the key to optimum performance. Though, admittedly, it doesn’t sound that sexy compared to the short term alternatives. Alternatively, you could plan and go for short bursts of intense, strenuous effort to achieve specific target, followed by period of moderation. And you may repeat the pattern until your higher order goal is achieved.

Working hard, going all out and giving it your best shot for something you love or hold dear is not only acceptable but a commendable human quality that we should all cherish. But that does not necessitate adopting a path that would likely jeopardize your health and well-being. We must avoid pain and regret as our final destiny.