I Gave Up Hope (And I Feel So Much Better)

This might seem strange to you, but I gave up hope a few weeks ago, and I’ve never felt better. Let me explain.

I’ve been toiling away at the profession of writing now for over a decade, and I don’t have much to show for it. Here is where others would tell you about their multi-book contracts or Pushcart Prizes or professorial gigs. Yet here is where I come up empty. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my successes (I won’t bore you with them.) But chances are, you’ve probably never heard of me outside this blog.

During the last decade, I spent a lot of time “hoping” for things that never came. If you’re a fellow writer (no matter how successful or unsuccessful), I’m sure you’ve been there. Heck, if you’re a citizen of Planet Earth, I’m sure you’ve been there. We all hope for things in our daily lives–a better career, a better car, a better cup of coffee. Some of them come. Some of them don’t.

On vacation, I had the mental space to “get away” from my day to day problems: can I finish that short story? should I book this promotion? is that cover in need of changing? Ack! So I picked up a book on Zen Buddhism (a subject I’ve studied before) to calm myself, and I read a chapter on hope vs. aspiration. Here is what I learned:

Hope is the domain of the future. It is out of our control. We are powerless to change it or affect it. It is dashed again and again when it slips from our grasp. Hope is for dreamers.

Aspiration is the domain of NOW. It is within our control, completely and entirely. It never fails because an aspiration is just that, an acknowledgement that you are moving in a particular direction. If you didn’t reach your goal today, then you will continue to “aspire” tomorrow. Aspiration is for doers.

At the risk of boring you with a cliche, the proverbial light switch flipped on in my head. I woke up from my “dream of hope” and turned to the power of aspiration. This meant reframing many of my thoughts. I no longer “hope to make full time money” from my writing. I aspire to make a living from my writing. Have I achieved it today? No. Then I will work a little harder tomorrow. I no longer “hope to get a big readership.” I aspire to create a large following. Have I achieved it today? No. Then I will try something new tomorrow. It’s a way of looking at those things in your life that you’d like to change or make different, but in a way that does’t make you crazy or depressed or “hopeless” when they don’t happen.

Like I said before, aspiration is not just for writers. Don’t “hope” to get a better job one day. Aspire to have a different career, each and every day you wake up. Don’t “hope” for a better relationship with your significant other. Aspire to create harmony, each and every day. (or aspire to find a new man/woman!)

By reframing these “hopeful” thoughts into aspirations, we feel more powerful, more in control, and the motivation to do something about them springs forth. And when we’re crawling into bed at night to assess how close we have or have not come to these goals, that feeling of despair disappears when we realize that we will not be any worse off than before if we did not achieve magic. We will still be “aspiring” to greatness.

And that’s not a bad place to be.


How about you, dear readers? Have you struggled with hope before? Has yours ever been dashed? How did you pick up the pieces and carry on? I’d love to hear from you!


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