H is for Hope and allowing ourselves to be human

Originally published 7 May 2017


I was having coffee with a colleague this week who has been a tireless advocate for land and food throughout his career. We are planning to bring conservative farmers and progressive foodies together to share stories and ask themselves, "What is the conversation we need to be having?" If their fates are intertwined, then how can they connect around common causes rather than divisive debates. More broadly, how can we rise above the current din to engage in coaching-level conversations about what really matters—wherever we are? In the course of sharing our experiences, we found ourselves talking about hope—and wondering how to sustain it as the center struggles to hold . . .

In thinking about hope, I came back to the paradox from eastern traditions that nothing matters and everything matters. I find it liberating when I can release my attachment to and dependencies on outcomes (over which I often have little control). Across our lives and careers, some 'wins' vanish as a result of changing circumstances and some 'losses' become our finest hour as a result of changing perspectives. Hope, then, is more about how we live in the present than about how the future turns out. Hope is more about spaciousness for our full humanity than certainty about our final impact.

When we allow ourselves to truly be accountable in the moment, we can often make better decisions and take more courageous actions. This enables us to do the same for our clients. For example, we can pull ourselves and others out of the trance of busyness to focus on what is essential. We can pull ourselves and others out of analyzing whether something is good or bad to get on with learning from and making the most of what is.

As Viktor Frankl noted, “Everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom.”

What is ours to do?

  • Be more courageous with our questions: Be willing to ask, "Is this the conversation we need to be having?"

  • Be more compassionate with our presence: Be willing to notice, "What does this person need most right now?"

  • Be more conscious with our time and energy: Be willing to discern, "What is mine to do in this situation?"

Sandy Lurins