Hope is not just a feeling. It is also something we can create. Our actions and choices, and how we design our cultures, play a significant role in the amount of hope that we have.
What Is Real Hope?
It is worth asking, given all of the problems we have, if hope is something that some people do not like. I think it is true that very structured cultures where people are assigned a place in the hierarchy will want to keep people in their place as a matter of convenience, so hope can be thwarted to maintain the status quo.
Additionally, social competition combined with a consumer culture can cause us to feel like we are outsiders looking in as culture passes us by. It can feel like a party is going on, and we are not a part of it and are always missing out. I know a lot has been written about FOMO, the fear of missing out, and we can recognize that it is not necessarily true, but that does not mean we are not affected by images of those who seem to be having such a good time or living with greater ease while we are struggling. We may think we are defective in some way as a result. We may think if we were only this or that, we would be favored, or if we worked harder or smarter, we would also be so favored. Much as we would like to believe in merit as the basis of success, and it does matter, choices are often based on some favoritism.
We are taught to think that hope is something that is outside of us. We are taught to think that if we are a certain way, we will be successful, and therein lies our hope. It is more than just pleasing someone. If you own a restaurant, to some degree, you need to please customers if you are to have a business. But this is more than that. This is demanding that you be what others want, which will be where your hope is. I cannot tell you how often I hear people talking about how they cannot be who they are, that the culture demands something else. So, what appears to be a source of hope is really a form of exploitation.
How A Joy Practice Creates Real Hope
How does a joy practice change this? Well, the first thing a joy practice does is help us get our feet on the ground so we get our priorities straight. If you are not taking care of yourself and making sure basic needs are met, whatever you are doing is likely to also be shooting yourself in the foot. That is why working ridiculous hours, even when that is what is needed to survive in your work, is actually counterproductive because you are harming your health. It can be OK as a short-term fix but not a long-term one.
So, by taking care of basic needs first, you make space for your own thriving. You do not set yourself up for failure by taking a path that is self-destructive, which long-term overwork is. So, a joy practice, which is constructive, caring, and serving the common good by its very nature, lets you build quality of life and thriving. This is how you create hope as a natural outcome. It is the inevitable result of a thriving world that is healthy and creating quality of life.
Joy is not just a feeling. Joy is an intelligence, an anchor, a practice, a skill, and a compass. When we are embedded in joy as foundational for our well-being and our lives, then a lot of things fall into place, and life becomes good. This is how we create hope by pointing our attention in the direction of creating quality of life for ourselves and others.
Hierarchical cultures put us in the position of having to please those with power over us in order to survive. As a result they create a lot of fear, resentment, and other negative feelings which come because our life is not in our hands. Even if we take control over our own lives we are still at the mercy to a degree of those with greater power and control over the resources we need to make our lives work.
A joy-based culture is not interested in making people feel bad and wasting time and energy on unnecessary social conflicts. It does not invest in power over strategies; it wants power together strategies instead. This alone can create a lot of hope when people see that they will not have their basic needs pitted against the basic needs of others. A joy practice is conscientious about avoiding that kind of dynamic.
A joy practice, by its very nature, is healthy. A healthy system is a hope-creating one. When you invest in your own joy practice that is what you are a part of creating – and it feels very rewarding.