Does hope always seem beyond your reach? Is there something What strategies can help when you’re feeling hopeless?
In his book Everything Is F*cked, Mark Manson explains what to do if you’re struggling to find hope and wondering how to cope with negative emotions and beliefs. He argues that feeling hopeless is a common human experience, but learning how to find hope is not impossible.
Keep reading to learn Manson’s strategies for learning how to find hope.
Why Do Some of Us Feel Hopeless?
In self-help author Mark Manson’s book Everything Is F*cked, he explains that people without hope may try to numb the pain of existence by suppressing all their emotions, languishing at a baseline of dull pain. He asks the following question: If we all devalue ourselves to cope with the pain of existence, how can we ever learn how to find hope?
Many lucky people grow out of their “hopeless” phase in adolescence, according to Manson. As children, they find that by following the rules that their parents set, they can earn praise and avoid punishment—in other words, they can reliably do unpleasant things that bring about a better future for themselves, attaining hope.
However, if a child’s parents fail to give their child consistent rules (either by neglecting and abusing them or by spoiling and rewarding them no matter what they do), the child internalizes the idea that nothing they do has predictable consequences. Without the faith that they can create a better future through their actions, they can’t hope. If this happens, the child must learn how to find hope as an adult, which is more difficult.
|How to Teach Children Through Discipline|
How can parents provide their children with the kind of clear discipline that allows them to learn how to hope so they don’t have to struggle to find that hope as adults? The authors of No-Drama Discipline argue that the most important guideline is to put your children in a mindset that’s receptive to learning while disciplining them. This aligns with Manson’s perspective, as he claims that the purpose of discipline is to help children learn the predictable rules that allow them to hope.
The authors of No-Drama Discipline argue that punishments like time-outs and spanking are ineffective forms of discipline because they make children feel threatened and defensive. This activates more emotional parts of the brain that prevent children from learning how they should behave and why. Instead, parents should empathize with their children and talk to them as people, setting clear boundaries and explaining the rationale behind those boundaries.
Once a child learns these predictable boundaries and gains a sense of hope, they’ll start to feel healthy guilt and regret over their bad behavior and will naturally strive to do better. Organizing your own emotions in this way is also the primary way to teach yourself how to find hope, as we’ll see next.
How, specifically, can adults learn how to find hope if they feel hopeless? We’ll discuss this next.
How to Find Hope: Manson’s Strategies
Manson offers two main strategies for learning how to find hope. First, find hope by changing your beliefs about yourself. Reflect on your past experiences and find a way to reinterpret them so you believe that you do have the ability to attain something of value rather than believing that you’re inherently worthless and powerless.
|You’re Already Valuable|
Arguably, changing your beliefs about yourself doesn’t require reflecting on the past. The authors of The Courage to Be Disliked contend that generally, reflecting on your past is a distraction that prevents you from taking action in the present. Instead, they recommend living as if the past doesn’t exist.
Additionally, it may help you feel valued and empowered to know that the authors of The Courage to Be Disliked argue that every human helps others by simply existing. Many people find human life to be inherently valuable, and coexisting with others makes these individuals happy. Everyone else is actively helping those people to be happy just by being alive. In short, feeling valuable is an extremely attainable goal because being alive is something valuable.
Second, Manson argues that you can learn how to find hope by aligning your emotions with your values. In other words, encourage yourself to feel good about doing the “right thing” and feel bad about doing the “wrong thing.”
Most people fail to realize that, ultimately, emotions control all our behavior. We assume that we use logic to decide what to do unless our emotions steer us off course—but biologically, the truth is the other way around. Manson explains that emotions are the mechanism by which our brains push our bodies into action. If we feel like doing something, we do it, and if we don’t feel like doing something, we don’t. For this reason, when it makes you feel good to lead a disciplined life and progress toward a better future (which is necessary to feel hope), you’ll do it automatically and effortlessly.
To align your emotions with your values, Manson states that you must learn to regulate your emotions. To do this, first, cultivate awareness of your emotions and unconditionally accept that it’s OK to feel them. Shaming yourself for any emotion will only make you feel worse about yourself, which will make it more difficult to act. Then, remind yourself how good you’ll feel after you’ve done the “right thing.” By anticipating a pleasant future, you’ll become excited to spring into action. Regulating your emotions in this way is the only way to build self-discipline, according to Manson.
|Align Your Emotions and Values by Structuring Your Environment|
In Atomic Habits, James Clear expands on the biological information Manson provides. Clear acknowledges that emotions drive our behavior, but he also notes that if we’ve done something enough times that it becomes a habit, we’ll continue to do it on autopilot, even if the emotions pushing us into action aren’t very strong. Thus, if you can build the emotions necessary to perform a meaningful task enough times, it’ll eventually become a habit and feel effortless.
The strategies Manson offers for learning how to find hope and creating the emotions needed to push you into meaningful action are both entirely internal tasks (increasing emotional awareness and connecting to a pleasant future). Although these strategies are likely effective, changing your psychology by learning to regulate your emotions can be very difficult. If you’re struggling to make progress, you may want to try Clear’s simpler strategy for pushing through this first stage and building a habit: creating an environment in which doing the right thing feels good.
Clear offers many strategies for implementing this practice. One option is to pair unpleasant yet important activities with pleasant ones to make the pair as a whole feel gratifying. For example, keep your favorite book on your treadmill and only allow yourself to read it while jogging. Another option is to track your habits visually to make completing them feel more satisfying. Every time you put money into a savings account, you could color in a hand-drawn “progress bar” that shows how close you are to an exciting major purchase.