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Finding the Light In Darkness: Embracing Hope When Optimism Feels Out of Reach.

First and foremost, Happy New Year to each of you. I hope that 2024 has welcomed you with a beautiful start. It is tough to believe that we're already one month into 2024! Amidst the excitement as we watch the clock counting down with hopeful anticipation and wishes for a Happy New Year, it is common to simultaneously feel the weight of expectations and the pressure to embrace a fresh start. It's that time of year when everywhere you turn, the suggestion is to start new, set new goals, achieve new heights, change for the better, manifest your destiny, and so on and so forth. Don't get me wrong, I love that energy. It's the right type of peer pressure, in my opinion. However, it is pressure. And while I am all in for growth and fresh starts, what I am hearing from a lot of people right now and honestly personally experiencing myself is:


What do you do when the optimism that usually accompanies the new year feels out of reach?


I think it's a fundamental question cause, let's be honest, when the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins, we don't usually get to leave all the stuff we didn't like about the previous year behind. As we journey forward into the new year, we are usually carrying some of the baggage of the last year, and maybe even the year before that, and the year before that, and if we are honest, some of us are carrying a whole lot of extra baggage that we don't want. This heavy, hard-to-carry and incredibly inconvenient baggage impedes our ability to feel the hope of a fresh start. So yeah, if I can't just simply throw it away if I must sort it out, deal with it, and carry it with me for the foreseeable future, how then do I find hope and optimism with all this crap impeding my view?


 Quite frankly, I am finding myself in a similar place as I write this post. And while I can't claim to be an expert at any of this, I will share the perspective that has been my guiding light in this current moment.



That is this --when the road ahead seems unclear and daunting, it's essential to remember progress is not always about monumental leaps but often about the small steps we take each day. 


So then, if the small steps in each day help us return to optimism and deal with whatever life is currently throwing into our path, how do we stay focused on the small steps in each day & not be consumed by life's problems? I would love to offer you a few tools that have certainly helped me and are proven to help us find a win one day at a time.





5 helpful tools to stay focused on the small steps in the day


1. Embrace Small Victories

In our quest for progress, celebrating small victories is crucial. By acknowledging achievable tasks and celebrating their completion, we lay the foundation for more success. Whether it's finishing a book, learning a new recipe, or simply making your bed every morning, these moments are stepping stones toward our goals. 


2. Practice Gratitude

Amidst the chaos, practicing gratitude can be a guiding light. Taking a moment each day to appreciate the good things in our lives can shift our focus from what's overwhelming to what's uplifting. I am still going strong with my daily joy journal; there are days I miss writing it down; however, even on those days, I still am in the practice of asking myself what is bringing me joy today or what am I grateful for today?


It's less about writing it down (however, I encourage you to do that because a joy journal is a beautiful place to go back to and reflect as well as ignite joy when it feels the flame may be diminishing) and more about taking a moment to acknowledge the beauty in each day even if it's just the warm cup of coffee in the morning, the support of a friend, or the beauty of a sunset. These simple acts of appreciation can indeed reframe our day.



3. Self-Care

Investing in ourselves is not a luxury; it's a necessity. Whether through exercise, hobbies, or simply relaxing, self-care is essential for maintaining a positive mindset and a healthy lifestyle. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. By tending to our well-being, we become better equipped to handle the challenges that come our way. I will admit that self-care becomes harder to prioritize as life is more challenging because it can be easy to fill the day with "more important things," or in my case, I get into a bad habit of putting myself last on the list of priorities. So, to avoid this, the key is to plan. Like right now, stop reading and take a peek at your calendar. What do you have planned in the next month that is just for you? What do you have planned that will pour into your cup? Don't wait for the opportunity to come to you. Create your opportunity.


In our darkest moments, self-care is often the first thing we neglect, questioning its relevance. But let me remind you today: you are the most important person in this equation. Those monumental hurdles don't get any easier for you to climb, unless you prioritize your well-being.


4. Seek Support

Now, this part is truly the key. If you take nothing else from this entire post, please do not miss this--- we are meant to do life together. We are absolutely meant to have community & support around us, always. 


When life is hard, it's so easy for us to shrink inside ourselves, run, hide, and isolate. It's ok if you need to do that for a time, but what I can tell you is if you stay in your head too long, it is the fuel that negativity thrives on. 


When optimism feels out of reach, seeking support is a powerful step toward regaining hope. 


Seeking support has been truly transformative for me. It's so easy to become consumed by our circumstances, convincing ourselves that we shouldn't burden others with our challenges. In doing so, we inadvertently isolate ourselves, making an already challenging situation even harder. However, when we open up and embrace vulnerability, we allow others to offer insights we might not see ourselves. By sharing their experiences, they provide a broader perspective, reminding us of what truly matters. Their words are a powerful reminder of our worth and strength, even when it feels like we're falling behind. In those moments, they hold up the scoreboard of life, revealing that we are indeed winners unequivocally. 


I've been engrossed in reading over the past few months, and one book that truly captivated me was Neale Donald Walsch's "When Everything Changes, Change Everything." This book is a must-add to your reading list this year, as change is inevitable for all of us. The book introduces fresh perspectives on change, focusing on nine transformative shifts in our approach. The first change emphasizes the decision not to "go it alone." Walsch highlights how, during tough times, we tend to conceal our emotions and isolate ourselves when, in reality, our loved ones want to support us. He states, "We hide our emotions, and sometimes our very selves, from others when facing difficulties and problems. The irony of this is that these are precisely the times when those who love us want to be there for us. Wouldn't you want to be there for someone you love who is hurting? Of course, you would. It is, in fact, your first impulse. What we have to do is trust that it is the same with others. People want to help us. They do not feel "burdened" by doing so. Quite the opposite. They feel uplifted." (Excerpt From When Everything Changes, Change Everything, Neale Donald Walsch)


Trusting that others genuinely want to help us can uplift both parties.


Whether it's reaching out to a friend, a family member, or a mental health professional, discussing our feelings with someone else can provide a new perspective and offer much-needed support. I am going to invite you to reach out to someone this week and share with them how you've been navigating the first month of the new year, how changes are currently impacting you, and how you are feeling overall. It doesn't matter who you connect with, connect with someone, and I can guarantee you'll feel better. 


5. Focus on the Present

Focusing on the present is easier said than done, but I believe in the power of concentrating on the present moment rather than fixating on the future. I had a friend ask the other day what you are most looking forward to in 2024, and for the first time, I didn't have an answer. I felt immediate guilt, shame, and was overwhelmed; how could I not have an answer? I am a person who is always looking into the future with anticipation, hopeful for things to come. But it was evident at this moment that too much thought about the future produced anxiety because when so much change surrounded me, the only thing I could focus on was the present moment. I had to realize this was ok; I could release the shame and guilt of not having done my vision board and goal list for the year because what I am focused on is being where my feet are, and that is precisely what I need to be focused on at this moment. And I believe that is truly a part of the lesson that life is trying to teach us in these difficult moments, how do we embrace the "now". That said, I am focused on engaging in activities that bring joy, whether hanging with my kids, reading a book, going for a walk, or practicing a hobby. Living in the present, I cultivate a more positive mindset and remind myself of my resilience and strength.


As we navigate this new year, we must remember that progress is not always linear. We are often told the quickest distance between where we are and where we want to be is a straight line, but life doesn't always present a straight line. Sometimes, the journey we are called to walk has sharp turns, winds, is mountainous, or requires us to trudge through a whole lot of mud. Therefore, it's essential we acknowledge where we are in the journey, and if we are in one of those moments where we are required to stand still, move slowly, or hit a few roundabouts, we must trust that we are where we need to be. Focusing on the present gives us the ability to build our optimism slowly. By embracing small victories, seeking support, engaging in self-care, and focusing on the present, we pave the way for a renewed sense of hope. 


Matthew 6:34 (NIV) says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." This verse encourages us to focus on the present and not be consumed by worries about the future, emphasizing the importance of taking life one day at a time. 


No matter how small, each step forward propels us toward a brighter tomorrow. 


Here's to a year filled with growth, positivity, and resilience. Cheers to embracing the journey, one step at a time.




Soulfully,


Vanessa

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