I listen with curiosity as Chan Hellman, PhD, delivers his TEDx Talk.
He explains how interviewing a young man who was recently diagnosed with an incurable disease, changed his life and career forever. This young man not only had the burden of a life-long illness on his shoulders, but he had spent the last few weeks living on the streets.
Chan explains how he began listening for hints of depression, anxiety and social isolation that he assumed must be there.
Instead, he heard the young man explaining his future goals and ambitions. The young man had just enrolled in community college. He had chosen his major and had mapped out his upcoming years. The young man spoke with excitement and hope.
Despite the odds, this young man was focusing on what was right with him, rather than what was wrong with him.
Chan spent the next twelve years of his life studying hope.
In his TEDx Talk, Chan goes on to explain what hope is, how hope shows up in our lives and how you can cultivate it.
One of the most important points is that you can cultivate it. You can grow hope. If you have a goal, willpower and a pathway to get to that goal, you can create and build hope. It’s as simple as these three elements.
I reflect on this idea.
I’m brought back to my early twenties. I had no positive or long-term goals. I was forever focused on each day not being worse than the day before. My main priority was to not feel pain. The only way I knew how to achieve this, was alcohol. I had all the means and willpower I needed for this but not much else. No wonder my life was a mess.
Chan explains that people who experience trauma and adversity tend to set avoidance goals rather than achievement-orientated goals. They tend to feel stress when trying to set pathways and their willpower is usually driven by fear. This combination is never going to lead to hope.
It makes perfect sense to me.
I know that my life began changing when I started to feel hope. I know that I had allowed ideas of a better future creep into my mind. I subconsciously set goals of better health and better days. I envisioned a better life. I moved towards these goals with willpower and baby steps to get me there.
Of course, I didn’t know that I was following this simple technique for hope, but I was. The more I changed, the more I could imagine a brighter future. My goals grew. My idea of a better life grew. It’s still growing.
“Hope is the belief that your future will be better than today and you have the power to make it so” – definition of hope from Chan Hellman.
That’s a powerful idea. That we have the power to make our future better.
Watching this TEDx Talk is the first time that I’ve heard this concept laid out so simply and yet I have lived this idea and know it so well.
I used to feel very lost. I focused on avoiding pain and getting through. I had no hope. Now my life is happier than I ever thought was possible. It’s fulfilling. I didn’t wake up imagining this life. I set one goal at a time. I worked towards each goal with well-planned ideas and determination. I achieve one goal and I set the next. Momentum meant that each time I achieved a goal, I was in a position to imagine an even better life than I could have before. I set a new goal according to my new beliefs. Hope is contagious.
We have so much more control over our lives than we often give ourselves credit. I often tell people this and I’m not sure if they really believe it.
Maybe understanding this simple formula for hope can help bring people closer to a life they want. Willpower. Pathway. Goal. You have these, and you can achieve whatever you can imagine.
Chan notes that a contributing factor to willpower is balanced glucose levels in our system. i.e. good nutrition = good energy = good willpower. As a Holistic Wellness Coach, I love this affirmation of what I already know to be true. A good diet creates a healthy happy mind.