I found that one very helpful and practical way of bolstering hope and finding inspiration was identifying “Hope Heroes”- people who, even if they’d faced adversity themselves, acted on their hopes and triumphed, or found a way of using their talents and expertise to encourage hope in others and themselves. I want to share a few of those stories with you so that you can feel encouraged too- and please do go out and enjoy finding your own – there are plenty out there, in every street, community, town and city all over the world.
Here are three people I found, with some tips and exercises inspired by them for to try yourself.
Ben Hogbin – Build a “Hope Collection”
Ben Hogbin followed his dream and created a business working with health professionals. Now he’s a facilitator for the Wellness Recovery Action programme, which empowers people to be able maintain positive mental health and fulfil their potential. The programme emphasises the importance of reminding ourselves of what gives us hope and using that to provide the strength to recover from setbacks, worries and disappointment.
“Hope Collection” exercise inspired by Ben: Build your resilience by creating a physical “Hope Collection” – perhaps decorating an old shoe box to keep it in. Inside you might collect words, pictures, photographs, or objects to remind yourself of what gives you hope. Think of it as a kind of positive Pandora’s Box from the ancient Greek myths. Her box also contained hope, nestling alone amongst many troubles such as anger, grief, violence, and suffering, but mighty enough to defeat them all. My collection includes a newspaper clipping about a poacher turned conservationist – to remind me that there is always hope that people can change their lives for the better; a pressed flower to remind me that however tough the winter is, spring always comes again. This exercise will refocus your mind on where hope lies, and you will find that you begin to notice it everywhere once you start looking. Once you receive some bad news or a setback you can look in your box and be reminded of how much hope there is in the world, and how many good, joyful, and beautiful things there are out there.
Dawn Atkinson - Find Hope in Your Community
Dawn Atkinson is a volunteer at a local community food store near me who distribute food for families in need, simply making local people’s lives easier. I help them by donating as much and as often as I can. My hope grew, as I heard about their work, for a fairer and kinder world. Finding the hope heroes in your own community – whether a group or an individual person – it will empower you with the knowledge that the world is full of people working towards positive change, and that you can be part of it, on your own patch.
Exercise inspired by Dawn “Find Hope in your community”: Find out what is going on in your local area by looking on noticeboards, asking at your library, community center or place of worship. Ask neighbours, connect, and find out what is going on and how you can join in. Think about what you love doing (could be gardening, chatting with people, cooking etc) and find a project you could support which you would enjoy too (then it’s a win-win!)
Ian Toothill - Hope and One Small Step
My friend Ian Toothill, who had terminal liver cancer, and had only months left to live, had always wanted to climb Everest. To give him the strength to persevere, he told me that he remembered all the other adventures and challenges he’d taken on. They had also seemed impossible at the time, yet still he’d achieved them. He used this knowledge of previous successes to spur him on and he did climb Everest. We all, in our own ways, will face times when we feel like we’re just not getting anywhere, and feel utterly overwhelmed by challenges. Of course, we can’t all climb Everest. But the spirit of Ian’s quest is the message.
Exercise inspired by Ian “Hope and one small step”: Ask yourself: what do you need to do to realise your dream? Who could you ask to help you? The trick is, to identify who can help and not be afraid to ask, then to begin with one small step and start off in that direction. I’ve always wanted to do an epically long walk, and instead of being defeated by the enormity of my ambition, inspired by Ian, I started walking a little every day. And each day I get closer to my dream of a very long walk, one step at a time. You can do it!
Ask yourself who are your “hope heroes”- like mine they can be friends or people close to home- they don’t have to be famous and well-known figures necessarily. There are plenty of heroes on our own doorsteps- proving to us that any one of us can make a difference to our lives and the lives of others