A few weeks ago, I caught myself in a delusional state of nostalgia, seeking comfort and certainty in clinging to the good old days. In writing about it, I was hoping that self-awareness would bring me a sense of acceptance and contentment, as it often does. And it did. But lo and behold, as I began to feel better, I found myself escaping again, this time into a delusional state of hope.
I was hoping to be done with fires and smoke in California and that global warming would never ever be denied again. I was hoping for rain. I was hoping for our collective common sense to finally triumph over disheartening ideologies that, I thought, were obsolete (racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny and other oppressive systems). I was hoping for RGB to live to be very old, perhaps as old as 120. I was hoping for the universe to have my back, even if I had no idea what 2021 would look like. I was hoping for others to finally give me what I needed to be happy. Et Cetera.
As the impeccable Margaret Wheatley put it, I got ambushed by hope.
There is a certain kind of hope that gets mixed up with our expectations of results and sense of motivation.
In a society where success is based on accomplishments, of course I am going to hope that my endeavors produce a result, or a positive impact – even just a little bit.
This kind of hope is entangled with grasping, and resides between excitement and disappointment. The lack of a result, a setback, or failure becomes an existential blow. Then it can become hard to get up in the morning.
Joanna Macy, another warrior for the human spirit speaks about a different type of hope, an active hope.
“Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take in a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction. Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide”.
There is a similar idea called “élan” at Learning as Leadership – a French word that describes a deep interior feeling that moves us, literally and figuratively – independently from the result we seek.
In our crazy VUCA world, we need non-delusional anchors.
I’ve been listening to Margaret Wheatley’s new program Walking the Songline. Her teaching swept away my delusional optimism about success, but she inspired me by the notion that there is work that is worth doing no matter how it turns out – because there is value in a clear intention. For me, this work is around revealing and protecting the best of the human spirit – our capacity for connection and creativity.
What it is for you?
Reflective question: What it is that is worth doing no matter how it turns out? What are your anchors? Where do you have active hope? Elan?