“For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
- Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor Frankl said it well; our world’s present state leaves many wondering about hope and what the new year will bring, especially when we consider the addictive habits many have relied on to cope. Some may feel hope is distant and unattainable, especially after the year we’ve had. However, despite the state of our world, we have the choice to stay optimistic.
Interestingly enough, despite his difficulties, Viktor Frankl did not leave hope to chance or circumstance. Instead, he believes that hope is rooted in each of us choosing to do our best, starting with ourselves. How can we each do the same, do our best with what we’ve been given? Meaning that, despite the addictive habits that threaten to pull us downward, we must choose to hold on to hope and the promise that the new year brings.
A Lesson in Hope
Viktor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” was also a Holocaust survivor and imprisoned in concentration camps in World War II. Throughout his experiences, he sought understanding and found deliverance by holding on to his sense of meaning and purpose for otherwise indescribable circumstances. He wrote,
“Everything can be taken from a man 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.”
If Frankl could find purpose in his menial existence, in the disparity of what he faced, then surely we too can follow his example and make the best of the situation we have find ourselves in, addictive habits and all. We, too, can invest in the hope that transcends our circumstances.
Hope Is A Choice
Hope for this new year can be found in the meaning we create in our lives and the purpose we decide to pursue, whether becoming a better person or finding healthier ways to cope rather than falling back on old addictive habits.
Take hope in what you have control over, in the freedom of choice offered to you. You have the opportunity to choose your attitude in “any given set of circumstances.” By choosing to reflect on and understand what you have learned this year, you choose a mentality of growth.
This mindset relies on a determination to take what works into this new year and a resolve to change what didn’t. This year, hold on to the promise of what comes next by understanding what you learned this year, keeping what works, and seeking new solutions for what didn’t.
Understanding What We Learned in 2020
The best way to cultivate hope for the new year is to understand and make meaning from what you have learned in this one. The concept of hope does not have to be elusive. Hope can be found by paying attention to what you’ve learned through the challenges you face as an individual and as a citizen of this nation. It’s important to notice how you’ve grown and to use it as information to grow in your future.
This year as a country, we’ve faced many challenges: economic unrest, significant changes to our educational system, higher education and the employment sector that transitioned online, and a nationwide election that reminded us just how different we might think from our neighbor. As an individual, this year may have brought challenges of isolation, loneliness, unemployment, relationship strain, identity challenges, lost milestones and a question about how you will adapt to the new world.
2020 tested our coping skills, our community and systems of support required adjustment, and many of us were tempted to find relief through actions that did not ultimately serve us, like drinking or getting high. Did addictive habits, behaviors, or substances become your escape? If so, you’re not alone. In August, the CDC released a study that reported that 40% of Americans were dealing with anxiety and depression symptoms and had increased their intake of substances.
Consider what you have learned about yourself, what has worked for you this year, and what has not. Then allow that understanding to influence your motivation to pursue something different in the year to come. If you recognize that your relationship with alcohol and other drugs has become a problem this year, more than hope in the new year, there is help. Promises Behavioral Health is a community of treatment providers across Tennessee, Texas, Massachusetts and Florida to meet your mental health or addiction needs.
Sticking with What Works in the New Year
Undoubtedly you have learned and are learning much about yourself, your supports, your community, your nation and your world. It may be overwhelming to sort through the lessons thrust upon you in this trying year. Give yourself grace in the process of understanding by starting with what works.
What are the traditions, changes, routines, behaviors and the like that have benefited you this year? Focus on the decisions you have made in your daily and weekly life that work to maintain balance and forward momentum in your life. Perhaps you changed or kept your morning routine or found a different way to connect with your friend, care for your body or reach out to family members. These decisions are the start of a mindset of hope and forward motion. Dwell on the areas of life that changed or stayed the same that leave you saying, “You know what? This works.” And if it works, stick with it. Allow “what works” to keep working in your favor.
After reflecting on the daily and weekly decisions that have worked, consider the overarching decisions or parts of your mindset that work to keep you motivated.
What are the ways you decided to look at life differently this year that have brought more peace?
What are the major decisions you made that left you less burdened and more in control?
These are the decisions and ways of thinking that will foster hope this new year; this is how you, like Victor Frankl, can choose your “own way.” As you continue to do what works, you will have more energy to tackle what didn’t.
Resolving to Change What Didn’t Work in the New Year
Every coin has two sides. Your decisions and mindset this year are no different. While you learn what works, you likely found things that did not. These are the areas to dedicate energy and planning to this year.
However, before diving into the new year’s to-do list, start with an attitude of grace and understanding. You made choices for a reason or adopted a specific mindset for a purpose (usually self-protection). It’s helpful to approach these areas for growth with the right mindset and remember that you are on a journey that will have its ups and downs.
Acknowledge your past choices and determine to change them for the better and the betterment of those around you. When you resolve to change aspects of your life for the better you also choose your “own way.” There is hope that circumstances do not have the power to control your way of living through them. You choose your mindset, and you have the power to learn from what did not work.
In reflection, ask yourself, “What did I change about my daily and weekly life that is or is not benefiting me and those around me?” For example, I was able to work from home, so I didn’t change out of pajamas as often. (No, this is not an excuse to feel guilty.)
The question to ask is, did this decision to stay in pajamas benefit my overall well-being? One may say, “Heck, yes! It saved time and laundry.” Another may say, “I found myself loathing work because I felt comfy and wanted to stay that way.” The choice worked for one person and did not work for another.
Reflect on what did not work for you. Did the decision serve to benefit you and others around you? If the answer is no, let it be an area you resolve to change. As the “did not work” list grows, narrow it down to your top priorities for growth. This practice will help you keep a hopeful, motivated mindset about bringing resolution this new year.
Viktor Frankl summarizes resolution well in saying,
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
You may not be able to change the national and global circumstances in 2020 or even 2021, but you most certainly have the power to make a change within. Resolve to change the things that did not work last year. Give yourself the gift of hoping for the change you decide to be.
Again, having hope for your life’s direction does not depend on what anyone says or does. It’s built not on what circumstances bring or take from our lives but on what we decide to do with it. There is hope in how you choose to live out this year.
Although it may seem far off, the promise of tomorrow is within your reach. If you’re having a hard time holding on to hope, Promises Behavioral Health is here to help provide a path for your future towards sobriety, health and greater connection with others. Get in touch with us today by calling us at 844 875 5609