Is absence of hope, the loss of a compelling future vision, an experience largely exclusive to the over 40 man? When did this feeling—or lack there of—show up and what you do to reignite hope and a passionate future.
In my 20’s I recall frustration. If an obstacle rose to great me I got active, maybe angry and then and only then, if it would not succumb, frustration found me.
In my 30’s things soared but no matter how much I was “winning” some things are still hard. When things got challenging I relieved stress, trained, played or rallied more resources to conquer. Ultimately, I either overcame of went around the obstacle.
I can’t say this for certain but so it seems that I didn’t know the feeling of hopelessness until my 40’s. A combination of wisdom, life experience, accumulated fatigue, overwhelm and a little post traumatic stress disorder is a fine cocktail for the emptiness of hopeless.
To many hope is a pointless illusion, an investment in fantasy to avoid this moments reality. But I see it quite differently.
Hope is the ray of the human spirit. A belief deeper and wider than the current challenge that life is essentially good, that things are always trending for the better.
One can face all manner of set backs, challenge, losses and with hope find a way. We get back up, dust ourselves off and smile.
Hope is like light in that one pin drop of it vanquishes darkness instantly. Even in the worst of situations the seemingly smallest gesture can ignite the flame of hope in us that that craves ignition.
A thoughtful message from a stranger on a dark day. A “thank you” for what you do that is delivered when no one could know how much you need it.
Even in our worst negative mindset there is something in us that wants to believe things can and will get better, that there is reason to hope. Thus, we constantly scan the world for the smallest reason to believe.
I know that the depression that many burnt-out Type-A guys get in the middle years of life is different from “clinical depression” –the sort of mental illness that Robin Williams suffered with. So, let us be careful not to make light of it by comparing the two.
That said, I wonder if the more “run of the mill” depression and the clinical sort have a component of hope involved. Being depressed, simply by definition, means hope is absent. For hope is to depression as water is to dehydration.
When Hope Vanishes
Hope is an elusive thing for it seems like, for most of us, it’s always been there. So, the first time you wake up or try to sleep in the empty dark of hopelessness can be very unsettling; a sort of terrifying free-fall into the abyss.
The tricky thing is that hope always held a room in tomorrow, the future. We could be getting our ass kicked but at 30 there was always tomorrow. Suddenly you wake up 45 and tomorrow was yesterday. Hope has given way to the stress of life, the ticking time-bomb of years and responsibility.
Work, an unrewarding shit-show you indulge to pay the bills. Kids are lovely, rewarding but a constant drain on the life you can barely remember—that once included you. And your marriage high-points are the rare moments when you’re not wanting to run away or feeling attacked.
Without the dreams of tomorrow, the reality of today is kryptonite to hope. You’re living in an ocean of responsibility, stress, obligation and debt. Where does a guy find an island of relief—of recovery—a rainbow of hope?
Fact is nothing fuels hopelessness like fatigue, overwhelm and pure, simple energy debt. That’s why chasing the relief of hope in activity always fails. We think we can catch up, work until we get some success and then find some relief in renewed hope.
Hope that depends on success isn’t hope it’s fuel for the trap of doing—of chasing. Hope that exists for no good reason is where the magic is.
The Antidote to the Midlife Crisis
When a guy is lost or losing it, when the entire charade seems pointless the unconscious “way out” is often to blow it up. To passively create an even bigger crisis; financially or emotionally. Hence, the midlife crisis. A man his blows life up, steps into righteous justification and goes about chasing childish relief from the hollowness that he’d gradually come to accept as life.
This unconscious, like most choices made out of the light of awareness, rarely works out the way we want. In part because he didn’t make a choice in the first place—he hasn’t addressed the feelings that he ran from.
If you’re near 40 or over, I’m here to tell you you don’t have to blow your life, your career, your marriage up to find yourself and awaken your mojo again. It’s not as simple as a new car or a new house but it is a hell of a lot easier the “etch-a-sketching” your life.
Some times real change will be in order but those must be made from the light of awareness, of some objectivity on your life. When you’re floating in the darkness of hopeless, when life feels dull and uninspired almost anything looks like “a solution.”
The 12 Life Hacks you’ll find in The Owners MANual to Living Your 40’s at Full Strength is a simple, effective guide to gaining that perspective and awakening your hope and passion for life that you’ve not known in a decade or two. It’s how to push the “reboot” button on your life and step into a passionate relationship with the present moment and get excited about a life you love.
How to Reignite Hope
1. The first thing we’ve gotta do to allow hope back in is stop: regenerate and recover. You must allow the energy to stop escaping and it flow back in. Hope runs on energy and when depleted the world looks most ominous and overwhelming.
This of this like you’re racing an Ironman. Seems like the last thing you have time to do is stop, rest and recover. You keep pushing on when stopping—taking a knee to recovery—can make all the difference. Allowing you to move on stronger or to move on at all.
2. Next, let go of all that which is draining your energy. This can be huge so let’s focus it in on the crap which is silently draining you like yesterday’s regrets. So much energy is consumed and negative story spun by the regrets of success not achieved yesterday or mistakes made. This “releasing the past” is fundamental to your return to strength in the present—to being here fully.
It’s the essential first move in my book, The Owners MANual to living Your 40’s Full Strength. You can’t fix yesterday. You can only release it and it’s negative story and show up here, now, stronger and wiser.
3. Stop swinging for the fences at every opportunity. Focus on one, two or three small things you can do daily. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Build the strength of ritual, as you build confidence and belief.
Think of a golfer who’s hit a lousy shot. He can replay that shot over and over while he hits another one. Or he can release that shot and focus solely on the next—the present—shot. Allow this one to be good.
It’s one good shot at a time. It’s not focused on every shot or the end of the match but one shot at a time.
Physical fitness activity is especially ideal for this because it can be done every day. It’s a positive move even if you miss the perfect workout. It positively effects your sense of self and even bolsters your mental wellbeing and brain chemistry.
You don’t need the perfect workout. You don’t have to win a transformation challenge. Just focus on the simple, right actions, each day. Celebrate the win of doing it.
4. Fuel your mind-body well, with respect and in support of your best self. When you eat well, you feel well, you think clearer, you get stronger, you send a message of positive power to yourself.
Add some sound nutritional daily anchors. For me and many men, one of these is a nutrition shake daily, like my Full Strength. It’s good for your body, mind and mindset. If just feels good and you know you’re doing something great. It’s reinforcing of the positive.
It’s also essential fuel for the potent, positive brain chemistry. For we must accept that the hope, and the positive perspective is multifactoral. In that it’s part your environment—whom you are around and where; part the “you” thinking and part the mind that is doing the mechanical thinking. If you do some good, positive thinking and have zero fuel for forming the brain chemistry experience, you’re a tree falling in a forest.
5. Get Gratitude… Add to this, so far rather simple formula, the practice of gratitude. A daily ritual of positive focus and experience. It need not take a lot of time nor be perfect but it should be a daily practice. (More on how to set this up in The Owners MANual: Life Hack #4 – Get Gratitude)
6. Share the Strength. Nothing fuels your positive experience of life and rewarding sense of self like paying it forward, sharing yourself with someone whom you can benefit. Do something for someone else. Give back… Pay it forward.
7. Find your tribe. Get involved in a community. Get connected with men whom you can trust, share your experience with and both help and learn to receive help.
Get engaged in your life. Do not sit and wait for happiness to find you. Start cycling and find people to ride with. Start training, belong to a gym where you feel a part of it. Join a Crossfit thing (just don’t’ tell me about the secret hand shake again).
Like love, hope is a terrible thing to live without. Don’t wait for hope to find you, go out there and start beating the bushes and scare her up…. Hope is there waiting for you to wake her from your slumber.
Life’s not wasting away… in the absence of hope, you are. Imagine yourself more alive and passionate about life than you’ve ever known and so it shall be so.
See it. Believe it. Live it.
NOTE: Over 35 Men
Oh yes… And if you’re a man over 35’ish, get your “T” checked. Please. Depression and the experience of “blah…“ is often and easily correlated to low Testosterone. I’m not saying that’s the cause because even healthy “T” in most broken lives will leave you hopeless but a lack of “T” is a serious man-di-kap to a hopeful, positive life.