Updated: Jul 20
Have you ever wondered why? Why is it so hard to sometimes do the least little thing? Why people are difficult to get along with and sometimes just bratty, belligerent, or bully? Why do we sometimes become despondent and give up easily on our hopes and dreams, live in drudgery, and swim in the mediocre?
Doris works in a corporate position where her manager doesn’t see any potential in her. Even with her exemplary work, she is passed over for promotions and only receives poor salary reviews which color her opportunity for other positions. She previously enjoyed her job, but now she dreads going to work each day.
Joe has a mediocre job, but he is hanging in there looking forward to retirement. When he first met Juanita, they seemed to have a great time together with plenty in common. Yet, after 20 years of being together, they seemed to fight more than talk. If he isn’t in an argument with her, they basically just keep to themselves. In fact, it seems they spend more time at work or avoiding each other than trying to communicate. Joe and Juanita wonder if there isn’t something better.
I was working on my cabin the other day, something I do a lot because we are trying to finish the interior. Almost every time I begin what seems like a simple task, it turns out to be very difficult as problem after problem occurs. I was installing some concrete board on an interior wall by our woodstove. Turns out the 2x4’s I was attaching to were warped and twisted so I had to take the concrete sheet off and fix the 2x4’s. When I started, I thought this was maybe a one-hour job. It took about 5 hours over 2 days. I was frustrated and it was not enjoyable.
The Bottom Line
Life can be difficult, and people live hard. I have not mentioned the people living with debilitating illness and pain, those who have lost loved ones and mourn, our homeless, our abandoned, the hungry, the thirsty. It doesn’t matter who you are. There are times in life when the burden of living can become too much, overwhelming, and depression suffocates. We become hopeless and accept being helpless.
The Other Side
I don’t want to minimize truly hopeless situations because there are some. Not many, but some exist. I train dogs, specifically German Shepherds, and sooner or later a dog is going to bite you. Most of the time it is accidental but there are some dogs who have a mood about them. A few years ago, I found myself in the hospital with a particularly bad bite on my hand. When you end up in the hospital, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the staff. It can be a very humbling experience to see other people much worse off. Folks who won’t be leaving in the same way they arrived.
From my hospital room, I could hear a person in the adjacent room and she would moan and scream for someone to help her. Every so often she would get some medication which would put her out, I guess. But otherwise, there was nothing and no one who could help her. In her elder years, my mom had a cardiac event. By the time we got to the hospital she was unconscious and passed away a few hours later. My dad ended up in the hospital after a fall and he died there a day or so later. I remember being there with him and looking into his eyes. He couldn’t or wouldn’t speak and he eventually slipped away. I always wonder what was going on in his mind.
These are situations that are beyond our control. Trying to be hopeful or taking steps to alter the situation or our attitude is not effective or appropriate. There are times when we truly are helpless and with no hope. However, we never give up. As long as there is a breath in our body, we cry out for strength to take one more step, one more breath, and maybe look for the impossible hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. It’s a lot easier to say this when you are not going through it.
Ways to Cope and Succeed
Let’s talk about those other situations where most of our suffering is a result of our own doing. I must give a disclaimer here because I know people are going to say, “But my situation IS truly hopeless, and I AM helpless.” I completely understand the feeling, I truly do, because I struggle with it too. But honestly, most of the time we may feel helpless, but in reality, we are not.
There are three steps you can take to help restore hope.
- Talk to a friend and find accountability. We all have blind spots which keep us in ruts.
- Take time t help others and focus outward, not inward. This can do wonders to help alleviate feeling helpless, hopeless, and depressed.
- Work with a medical professional and/or counselor.
Take Intentional Action
- Plan. What is your objective and how does it fit with your purpose in life?
- Realize what is realistic.
- Create action goals and daily action steps to achieve those goals. Determine 3 things you can do every week to move in the direction of your goal.
- Find people who believe in you and allow them to hold you accountable for your actions.
- Accountability can be very powerful to help you achieve your hopes and dreams even faster than you 'dreamed’ it possible.
- Find a well-trained professional coach, this can accelerate your success.
Keep in mind our feelings are simply feelings and are not always a reflection of reality. Reaching out to other people who have empathy and can listen is a key factor. Many time, our feelings and attitude are within our ability to change.
Circumstances are sometimes beyond our control. Some people struggle with clinical depression and others with mental issues. Medical intervention may be required. When circumstances affect our well-being and ability to think rationally, there are no steps or advice that will suddenly launch us into feeling better. Additionally, we know that difficult circumstances often help us gain maturity and build character in ways that the easy life does not.
The Rest of the Story
Doris was struggling with her work life. Changing her manager’s attitude was out of her control but moving to a different employer was not. She was able to work with a coach to determine a path of success which put her in a position she enjoyed.
Joe and Juanita valued their relationship enough to seek counseling and both had a desire to make things better by changing their own self-behavior. It was very difficult and did not happen immediately, but the good days began to outnumber the bad.
I am blessed to have a very good friend who helps me see life from a different perspective. When life becomes difficult and overwhelming, she takes time to listen to me and offer the positive side of life. I also work with a coach and have other good accountability from people who are not shy to comment about both the good and the bad.
Our attitude often determines our outcome. If you are struggling with feeling hopeless, helpless, or depressed, and you can’t shake free, seek professional help before making critical decisions that may affect your and other lives.
John Maxwell's book on The 15 Laws of Growth is an excellent resource.
H Mark Taylor enjoys living on a farm with his life-long friend and partner, romping around with their German Shepherd companions, and practices enjoying life with mindfulness. He is a leadership & life coach with more than 20 years of experience and training, earned his Masters in Information Management from Washington University - St. Louis, and has multiple certifications in Leadership, Project Management, and Cyber Security. H Mark gives all credit to his wife, Young, and to God.
© copyright 2022 H Mark Taylor