Hope is important because it makes the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
Following the news of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade last week, many of us have taken some time to reflect on what it means to be happy and what keeps us going. From the outside looking in, here are a couple of individuals who appeared to have it made. They were hugely successful and at the top of their respective industries.
And yet they felt like it wasn’t enough, like the burden was too much to bear. They reached a point in their lives where the best way to cope was to find the final exit. They’d lost hope.
The quote from Thich Nhat Hanh at the top serves as such an obvious and simple reminder when you read it, but it’s one we so often overlook. The thing that helps us survive today is the possibility of a better tomorrow. We work hard at our jobs, because we’re saving up for a vacation or to pay off the mortgage. It’ll be better tomorrow. We endure the frustrations of parenting, because we’re trying to raise decent human beings. It’ll be better tomorrow.
When you lose hope for a better tomorrow, the actions you take today start to feel pointless. Meaningless, even. Why should you even bother trying if nothing is going to improve? That’s why a sense of perceived progress is so important. We want to feel like we’re always moving forward, even if the path is meandering and we might need to take a step back now and then.
There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
How many of us have slipped into the trap of “I’ll be happy when” thinking? We think we’ll be happy when we finally land that dream job and buy that dream home with that dream life partner. And even if you’re so lucky, you’re stuck with the “now what?” moment when you get there. This line of thinking puts the cart before the horse.
As Thich Nhat Hanh points out, happiness must first start from within. It’s not “out there” to be found. Happiness is much more about a manner of living.