The Victory of Hope over Uncertainty
By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP
At the present moment life’s uncertainties seem to be exaggerated. The strategies that people hit upon when they can’t predict the future are often self-defeating. They include worry, complaint, blame, and pessimism. But dealing with uncertainty is a major challenge that some people meet with hope and resilience. Such an attitude needs to be developed if you want to feel safe and move forward despite the ups and downs the future will bring, and inspiring hope in others is essential if you want to improve their situation.
What does it mean to have hope? We all pay lip service with sentiments like “I hope it all works out,” but this is often just a way of backing away and disengaging when we don’t know what else to do. Real hope comes from a deeper source, the core of the self. At your core some important qualities determine how much hope you feel and can offer to others.
The primary qualities of hope are strength, resilience, and optimism. Strength enables you to call upon your own personal power. And to feel secure that this power is real. Resilience means that you can bounce back from disruptions and setbacks. Optimism radiates hope for the future. As you can see, these qualities are the opposite of worry, complaint, and pessimism. Instead of being self-defeating, these deeper qualities enhance one’s self-esteem. If you are strong, resilient, and optimistic enough, you can also lift others out of their self-defeating attitude.
Hope is needed in a crisis, of course, but it should serve as a core value every day. Uncertain times can be on a national or global scale that feels overwhelming, yet uncertainty is present as a fact of life. The only control you have comes from within, where you choose how to perceive the world. Nor does the situation have to be negative — at your core, you know that every moment is open-ended, full of possibilities waiting to be brought to life.
Let’s look a little closer at the qualities of hope and how to develop them as a creative opening no matter what is happening “out there.”
Strength: Most people are far too willing to give away their power, and nothing is more hopeless than being powerless. Keeping your power means that you stand up for yourself, feel secure that you can overcome resistance, and find an opportunity beneath the surface where problems dominate. Too often, however, the image that comes to mind when we think of personal strength is of ruthless egotism and hard-driving competitiveness, along with the ability to step over other people and crush rivals.
Real strength is actually founded on a core of quiet calm; it’s the still point that isn’t disturbed by the rise and fall of events and the turbulence of emotions. There is no need for external bluster and ruthless competitiveness This comes as good news, because few of us are really cut out to be ruthless. By finding inner strength, you establish a sense of power that lasts for a lifetime and anchors your family and those you want to uplift and encourage.
Resilience: If you look at the elderly who survive in good health to great old age, they are not hard-bitten survivors. Nor are they lucky winners in the gene pool or somehow immune to life’s woes. Instead, their most marked trait is resilience, the ability to come through hard times by bouncing back instead of being pushed down and defeated. Resilience is the real secret to never becoming a victim.
Resilience isn’t about positive thinking — when sad events occur, it’s emotionally healthy to be sad; when loss occurs, grief is appropriate. The question is how to recover and return to a state of wellbeing. This is accomplished at the core of the self, where sadness and grief are felt more lightly and then allowed to pass, leaving behind the simple but profound feeling, “Here I am.” In other words, resilience derives from a strong sense of being.
Optimism: Society teaches us that life is hard, that constant vigilance and struggle are often the norm, and that the safest place to live is behind walls. Against this backdrop, optimism seems unrealistic, even foolish. We may secretly envy the innocently cheerful personalities we sometimes meet, but the hard realities seem to encourage cynicism, pessimism and skepticism. Yet these attitudes are actually born of fear and lack of trust.
Optimism is the attitude that life can take care of itself. It is grounded in the knowledge that each of us has a place in the grand scheme of things and is valued for who we are. You can’t turn to outside events to discover this level of trust, because outside events always foster uncertainty. The world’s wisdom traditions teach that time will always bring a mixture of pleasure and pain. But at the core of the self is your essence, which is timeless. This essence is unshakable, and because it is imbued with peace and joy, optimism naturally flows from this deeper level of the self.
I’ve offered a sketch of how to find lasting hope and inspire it in others, but nothing is a substitute for experiencing the qualities of strength, resilience, and optimism yourself. This experience is available through meditation, which opens the way to the core of the self. To support this inner journey, you must have a vision, which is the value of this article. Your personal path will be uniquely your own, but a vision of everyone’s inner essence is universal. Hope is born in the domain of pure consciousness, and aiming your vision at higher consciousness is the royal road to achieving every unshakable value that the core of the self holds in store for you.
DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, FRCP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Living in the Light co-authored with Sarah Platt-Finger. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com