Hope – The thing that keeps us going during our most testing times


Alan White

In my last piece I spoke about the importance of an attitude of gratitude to maintain positive mental well-being. Continuing on this theme this week I would like to talk a little about the ideas of hope and optimism and how developing these traits in both ourselves and in our young people.

Something I have noticed working with young people in recent years, is that there seems to be an increased insulation from setback and failure. Young people are sheltered from experiencing failure by the adults in their lives. Paradoxically, it is by being allowed to try things for ourselves and sometimes experiencing failure, and being encouraged to try again, that can build up positive mental resilience and the traits of hope and optimism.

If we are never allowed to both experience failure and bounce back from a setback we will never learn the importance of persistence. Developing our sense of self-worth by learning we are far more capable than we believe, by learning from experiences where things didn’t necessarily go our way.

Setbacks are a part of life and by being over protected when we are young, despite it being with the best of intentions, can have a negative impact on our mental well-being. Now I’m not suggesting that young people don’t need to be cared for and supported at all times. What I am saying is that they are allowed to do certain things for themselves while we support and encourage them. For me the following old Cherokee story perfectly illustrates the importance of developing an attitude of hope and optimism.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all”

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed “.

By learning from a young age how to feed the wolf of hope we are equipping our young people not only how to cope with the inevitable setbacks that will happen during their lives, we are also teaching them that they have the capacity within themselves to work through setbacks and even flourish during these difficult times.

If we want our young people to become self-confident and autonomous adults equipped with the tools they need to achieve the goals they want in life, we need , from a young age, to encourage and allow them to overcome setbacks with our support, rather than either sheltering them from failure or “fixing” every challenge or issue that comes their way for them.

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