How To Nurture Hope When Life Starts Getting Really Tough

Robert Brault

If you knew that hope and despair were paths to the same destination, which would you choose?


Hope: A Positive Expectation of a Better Future

Typically when we think about holding onto hope we envision it as a passive act that evolves from a position of weakness. For instance, we indulge in hope when we run out of ideas or alternate possibilities to improve our situation. Hope therefore becomes an avenue of last resort that just might help us get what we want in the end.

For the majority of people, this is precisely what hope is all about. It’s about digging down at the bottom of a barrel with the intention of pulling off an inevitable miracle at the last second. For these people hope is nothing more but a fleeting thought that allows them to temporarily feel better about themselves when everything is falling apart.

Yes, certainly hope is a positive expectation that we have about a future outcome. Yes, it’s a way of thinking about a situation. However, it’s also so much more than this.

A true and genuine experience of hope is not something that one switches off and on at any given moment. A true experience of hope goes well beyond a fleeting moment, and instead transcends into every aspect of your life. In fact, it could be said that hope is very much a lifestyle that’s reflected in everything you do and in everything you are. In other words, it’s a way of living your life that seeps into every part of your being.


The Advantages of Nurturing Hope

People often look to hope when the chips are down; when they have no other choice but to pray that things will turn out in their favor. This, as we’ve already discussed, is a passive form of hope that does nothing but make you temporarily feel better about yourself and your predicament. However, besides this, there is really nothing of value here for you. That is unless of course you use hope as a platform to help improve your situation.

Nurturing hope will help you alleviate self-doubt, anxiety, fear and stress. It does this because it reduces the uncertainty that you would typically feel while experiencing these emotions. As a result you have a higher level of self-confidence and self-belief that things will possibly work out in your favor. As such, you now suddenly have this level of comfort and a greater sense of contentment, happiness and control despite the adversity and turmoil you face. All this naturally encourages you to think in a more positive way, which of course typically leads to proactive action that helps you work through your problem more effectively.

When you use hope as a platform to help motivate you to take positive and proactive action — rather than just experiencing it as a passive feeling that just makes you temporarily feel better about yourself — that is when it becomes a fuel that helps you make the most of the situation you find yourself in. However, in order to experience hope in this way you must first come to adopt a mindset that hope typically thrives on.


The Requirements for Living with Hope

In order to get the most from feeling hopeful, it must evolve from just being a “feeling” to more of a lifestyle that’s reflected in everything you do, and in everything you are. However, in order to nurture hope in this way requires trust and faith in yourself that you can get through any challenge that life throws your way. Moreover, it requires patience, optimism and a commitment to follow through with your actions.

You must proactively discipline yourself to avoid hopeless thoughts, which of course involves maintaining control over your attitude and perspective. After all, it’s not what happens to you but rather how you interpret what happens, and then subsequently what you do about it that makes all the difference.

Nurturing hope also requires self-compassion and willpower. Making hope a part of your life isn’t easy. In fact, it involves hard work and a commitment on your part to effectively manage your thoughts so that they never get the better of you. And this of course takes time, patience and practice. But with diligent effort you will progressively make the necessary shifts within your psyche that will bring a sense of hope into your life.

How to Nurture Hope


The Mindset and Perspective of a Hopeful Person

For the most part, it’s probably safe to assume that many people would very much like to become more hopeful, especially when facing adversity. However, as much as hope can be switched on in times of need, it’s often fleeting when the true hardships of reality seep in.

Unless hope becomes a part of your lifestyle, it will never truly be of value for you when you’re at your lowest point. Hope will just seem like a false sense of optimism where you try and fool yourself into believing that something good can still come out of a bad situation. Given this, it will just be easy to simply indulge in pessimistic thoughts of doom and gloom in order to give yourself some certainty during uncertain times. In other words, your indulgence in pessimistic thoughts gives you comfort that at the very least you will correctly predict what will happen next.

Hopeful people don’t allow themselves to get caught up within a pessimistic cycle. Hope instead provides them a sense of certainty. It does this because hope for these people isn’t a passive act. It’s rather a proactive form of action that gets them moving in the direction of what they are hoping for. As such, hope goes well beyond a single optimistic thought of better days. It instead triggers proactive action that helps to improve the situation.

However, in order to experience hope in this way, one must learn to consistently make hope a part of one’s life.

Let’s take a look at what it means to live hopefully. In other words, let’s break down how a hopeful person perceives, experiences and interacts with the world around them.

A hopeful person…

  • Is happy and grateful for the life they have, however they are by no means content and therefore are always looking to make improvements.
  • Is a big dreamer who consistently imagines a better world than the one they currently live in. However, they are never really satisfied with just dreaming. They instead turn their dreams into concrete goals built upon their personal values.
  • Has an intense desire for change. In other words, they don’t accept things as they are. They instead want to always make things better; want to always upgrade their life and circumstances. As such, they seek out to make positive life changes wherever possible.
  • Approaches everything with a sense of curiosity. They are curious about life and about the world around them. Given this, they are constantly in the act of exploring and experimenting in an effort to make things better.
  • Accepts that life brings no guarantees no matter how hopeful they are. However, they will always do their best to make the most of every situation.
  • Accepts that every experience has some form of value and benefit for them. In other words, no matter what happens they remain hopeful that in the end things will turn out in their favor.
  • Always maintains a positive outlook on life no matter how grim or dire the situation. This is of course only possible because they are highly attuned to their negative thoughts. The moment negative thoughts take over, they immediately switch gears and reframe their experience.
  • Tends to live in the present moment. Yes, they do spend time visualizing a better future for themselves, however they clearly understand that only by making the most of the present will they ever stand a chance of bringing that future into reality.
  • Consistently takes proactive action in the direction of their goals and objectives. In other words, they don’t just hope that things will be better. They work hard to ensure that things get better.
  • Regularly builds on their past successes and achievements. In others words, they learn from what they have already accomplished in order to make the most of the current situation they find themselves in.
  • Always focuses on being generous and giving. They clearly understand that by giving to others and by helping people overcome their problems, allows them a greater depth of understanding about their own personal struggles.
  • Consistently seeks out opportunities, help and support. They understand that only with other people’s help will they have a chance of getting what they want.
  • Lives with gratitude. They are thankful for what they have however, this never prevents them from seeking out more of what they want.

Given all this, being a hopeful person certainly isn’t easy. It requires a commitment on your part to adopt certain ways of thinking and living your life. In fact, it may require breaking free from debilitating habits that are currently preventing you from experiencing genuine and authentic hopeful living. However, despite all this, it certainly can be done. Let’s discuss how within the final section of this article.

The DNA of Hopeful People


How to Nurture More Hope in Your Life

Hope is not something we are born with. It is instead something that we learn to cultivate over a lifetime of experience and hardship. It’s therefore typically something that we grow into as we make our way through life. There are however no guarantees. One person for instance grows hopeful when facing massive adversity, while another person feels hopeless and helpless. Over time these feelings become habitual emotions that are difficult to shake and thereby lock each person into a predictable cycle of behavior that seals their fate.

However, no matter how you have conditioned yourself in the past, there is still hope for you. 🙂 There are certain things you can do that will naturally allow you to nurture more hope in your life. Now of course some of these suggestions will require you to do something specific, while other suggestions will require you make a shift in the way you think about your life and circumstances.

No matter how many of the following suggestions you take on board, as long as you commit yourself to making these changes, positive things will begin to unfold in your life. As a result you will find the strength to overcome your biggest fears and toughest challenges.

Make the Most of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection can either help you feel more hopeful or more hopeless, it just depends on how you choose to focus on things. You can for instance focus on how things have not worked out in your favor, or you can choose to reflect on the positive events and circumstances of your life.

Reflecting on the positive; on the things that have worked out in your favor, and on the things that you are grateful, appreciative and thankful for will put you into a more empowered state-of-mind. Then within this positive state you will naturally begin to feel more hopeful and optimistic about your future.

To inspire this hopeful form of self-reflection, take time to ask yourself:

What was good about today?

What is there to be truly thankful for about today?

How have I grown as a person today?

What is good about that?

What positive events or circumstances are making me feel hopeful about the future?

Remember that worry and regret often lead to a cycle of hopeless thoughts. On the other hand, gratitude and appreciation will always help you nurture more hope in your life.

List Your Successes, Strengths and Resources

You will naturally begin feeling more hopeful when you feel more confident in yourself and in your ability to overcome the problems and challenges you face.

One of the best ways to grow your self-confidence is to take out a sheet of paper and begin listing three key things:

  • Your past successes.
  • Your strengths, skills and abilities.
  • The resources you have on hand.

Your past successes will prove to you that you have already overcome incredible odds to get to where you are today. Your strengths, skills and abilities will remind you that you are more capable than you give yourself credit for. And your list of resources will show you that no matter what, you have options and tools that you can utilize to help you overcome your problems.

One of the keys to nurturing more hope in your life is to become more resourceful. This is all about making the most of what you have in order to successfully work through the problems you face.

Develop Your Coping Skills

Everyone experiences fear, stress, anxiety, frustration, overwhelm and a plethora of other debilitating emotions at times. These emotions are a natural part of life. In fact, it could be said that these emotions are invaluable in that they help provide us valuable insights into our state-of-mind and into the situation we face [see: How to Master Your Emotions].

When these emotions are mismanaged, the consequences that result can make us feel incredibly hopeless and helpless when facing adversity. However, when we take the time to develop our coping skills — to better handle and understand these emotions — this naturally provides us with the self-confidence we need to tackle our life’s problems head-on in a positive and empowering way.

In the end, how we manage our emotional experiences has a lot to do with how we perceive the situation we find ourselves in. Interpret things one way and you will feel hopeless and overwhelmed. Choose to interpret things another way, and all of a sudden you feel empowered and upbeat. It all depends on how you reframe your situation.

Make a Positive Contribution

Hope often comes with action. It’s difficult to feel hopeful by just sitting there and thinking about it. Instead, hope is nurtured through proactive action that gets you thinking and moving forward in a positive direction. However, at times the situation we find ourselves in kind of seems hopeless. Hopeless in the sense that we kind of feel as though there is nothing we can really do to improve our circumstances.

Within such instances, it’s critical that we turn our attention away from our needs, and instead turn our focus to contribution. There are many people around you who are experiencing hopeless situations. Take time to be with these people and to provide them with a new and unique perspective on the situation. Moreover, inspire them to take positive action towards their desired goals.

As you bring hope into other people’s lives, what you will typically find is that this also inspires hope within you. All of a sudden you naturally begin feeling more hopeful about your situation, and you also potentially recruit an ally who can help direct and inspire you along your own personal journey.

Suggestions for Nurturing Hope

Proactively Seek Out Hope

No matter how grim a situation you currently face, there is always hope around you. This is the kind of hope that can spark an idea or motivate you to take positive action. And of course you will find this hope within the stories that people tell you of the hardships they’ve faced, within your spiritual faith, within inspiring quotes, epic books, uplifting music, and unforgettable movies that leave you feeling upbeat.

Yes, hope is everywhere. All you need to do is proactively seek it out until you come across something that will provide you with the inspiration you need to work through your problems successfully.

Have Trust in Yourself

Hope, of course, requires trust. It requires that you completely trust yourself and your ability to get through any and every situation you face.

I believe in myself…

I will get through this…

Everything is for the best…

Things will not always go to plan, and setbacks will often derail your efforts, however, a hopeful person always trusts that everything is working out for the best no matter how dire their situation. As such, they continue moving forward; fully understanding that eventually they will come across something that will help them work through their problem in an optimal way.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Hope thrives in the right company. What I mean by this is that you will naturally feel more hopeful about your life and circumstances when you associate with positive and upbeat people. I’m of course talking about people who are passionate and who live with a sense of purpose. These are the kinds of people who are inspired, happy and thankful. Yes, they too have their problems, but they always work through them with a positive “can-do” attitude.

Surrounding yourself with these kinds of people will effectively help provide you with the reassurance you need to keep moving forward. They will be there to support you, as you will be there to support them. Together you will successfully work through life’s toughest challenges.

Focus on Things That Will Empower You

One of the best ways to inspire more hope in your life is to always focus on solutions. Yes, see the problem for what it is, but don’t indulge in mulling endlessly over how bad the problem is. Instead, spend your time focusing on solutions to the problem at hand. In other words, focus on what you can control and on what you can do to help move yourself forward.

A great place to start is of course to set some achievable goals. You can for instance follow the SMART goal setting process. However, most importantly, what goals do is they help you focus on something that’s positive that you are working toward, instead of something that you no longer have or that’s not working in your life, which leads us to the next point…

Avoid Focusing on What’s Not Working

Whenever you focus on what’s not working in your life, you will always tend to feel somewhat hopeless and helpless. This, of course, includes focusing on things you can’t control. What you can’t control is simply out of your hands. Therefore, there is no reason to spend your time mulling over these things. Instead choose to make the most of what you can control and then progressively move forward one small step at a time from there. As long as you’re moving forward there will always be hope for a better future.

Make Peace with Things Not Working Out

A great many things will probably not work out as you had expected. I’m of course not trying to be negative, it’s just the reality and unpredictability of life. Life is uncertain and things happen that we wish hadn’t happened. But since they “happened” we need to deal with them in the best way possible.

Yes, of course when situations don’t work out things may seem hopeless, but they are only potentially hopeless in their current form. A lot of good can come out of a seemingly bad situation. In fact, if you think back to various moments of your life you will probably find many instances where this has been proven to be true.

A hopeless situation might yet turn out into a blessing in disguise. However, you must first make peace with things not working out. In other words, don’t resist and get emotionally riled up when things don’t go to plan. Instead, collect your thoughts, make the best of the situation, and figure out your next steps moving forward. Only in this way will you keep hope alive.

Ideas for Nurturing Hope

Make Happiness Your Goal

In the end, there will always be hope when happiness is your goal. We all long to feel happy. In fact, just about everything we do and strive for is because we seek to experience happiness.

Yes, of course you want to achieve all your goals for a plethora of reasons. However, when it comes down to it, you want all these things because on some level it will make you feel happy. Therefore, happiness is always your underlying goal. But what if you made happiness your primary goal? What then?

Every person has a different measure for their happiness. In other words, every person has a certain set of expectations in place — that if met — will make them feel happy. When we meet these expectations we experience happiness, but when we don’t we experience disappointment or any number of difficult emotions. But what if you made happiness a very achievable goal?

You feel happy today to the degree that you feel you met (or surpassed) your expectations. So how about we lower those expectations? How about we create rules that make it easy to feel happiness? For instance:

I feel happy when I face a problem because it means I’m about to grow from this experience…

I feel happy when I can talk to someone about my problem…

I feel happy when I pinpoint something I am grateful for about my problem…

I feel happy when I challenge myself to see my problem in a new light…

I feel happy when I wake up in the morning with a fresh perspective…

I feel happy when the problem I face today is nowhere near as challenging as the problems I have faced in the past…

I feel happy when I’m able to take one small positive action toward solving my problem…

These rules might seem a little silly, but all this is of course incredibly important. It’s important because when we feel happiness we are naturally more hopeful in the moment. Moreover, when we experience happiness we are more likely to take proactive action that can help us move forward through the problem; alternatively it just won’t even matter because the problem just doesn’t seem significant enough. You’re happy after all. 🙂

Given all this, happiness is not an illusory goal, it’s rather a way of living your life. And by living your life in this way you naturally and effortlessly become a more hopeful person.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Nurturing Hope

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam's story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.