HOPE & COMMITMENT
Last Friday, Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away.
How are you feeling about that news?
Happy? (Ok, probably not my audience – but some people ARE pleased at what they believe her death means for the Supreme Court.)
Notice how different all those thoughts are. And how intense they are for many of us.
That is why this is the perfect opportunity to use the coaching model I teach in the Clutch to understand what is creating the emotions we are having around this news, and whether or not we want to keep creating them.
The basic premise of the coaching model is that our THOUGHTS create how we feel, what we do, and what we create in our lives.
What happens around us – our circumstances – are neutral until we have a thought about them.
The circumstance in this situation is that a person named Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.
That’s neutral. It happened in the world, and it requires a human brain to give it meaning.
We know this because we can see how people are interpreting her death in different ways, and feeling wildly different things about it as a result.
People who haven’t heard of RBG are thinking “I don’t know her” and feeling neutral.
People who don’t like her jurisprudence are thinking “Yay, now we get another seat on the Supreme Court!” and feeling excited.
People who loved RBG and believed she was one of the people protecting their rights are thinking things like “I can’t believe she’s dead” (and feeling despondent), “What a loss” (and feeling sad), “Now we are fucked” (and feeling despair), “Without her on the court they are going to overturn Roe v. Wade” (and feeling terrified), “We’re going to lose our rights” (and feeling panicked), “She should’ve resigned earlier, she fucked this up for us” (and feeling angry).
I’m not saying any of these are my thoughts or the right thoughts. Just a sample of the spread.
Notice your own thoughts about RBG’s death, and notice the feelings they create for you.
This awareness is the first level of coaching.
The next level, if you choose it, is to use this awareness to become intentional about what you WANT to be thinking.
You may WANT to be feeling sad about her passing.
If you admire RBG and appreciate what she did for the world, if you find her inspiring, the sadness you experience is clean pain. It’s grief, it’s natural, it happens when someone we love dies whether we know them or not.
But the fear, the anger, the despondency – that’s what we want to look at more closely and think about.
Because these emotions aren’t always serving us. They aren’t always helpful or useful to us. And because they are created by our thoughts, we can shift them by shifting the way we are thinking about her death.
I asked friends and clients how they were feeling after RBG died, and the most common word I heard was “hopeless.”
They were making the change in circumstance – that RBG was alive, and then she died – determine whether or not they felt hopeful or hopeless.
But hope is not created by external circumstances.
Hope happens inside of us.
It is cultivated by our thoughts in response to a world that doesn’t follow our manual for what the world should look like.
If the world were exactly as you preferred, you wouldn’t need hope, would you?
Think of hope like courage. People think courage means feeling no fear – but the opposite is true. If you don’t feel any fear, then you don’t NEED courage. You don’t need courage to go to the kitchen and get coffee – unless there’s a bear in there. Bravery and courage REQUIRE the presence of fear.
Hope is the same – it only exists in the context of the world not being the way we want it to be.
You only need hope in a world that needs repair.
So if you want to feel hopeful, you have to see hope as an ACTIVE PRACTICE and commit to thoughts that help create feelings of hopefulness for you.
In my experience, though, believing you need to feel hopeful all the time is actually not very useful.
Feeling hopeful can take a lot of energy to cultivate and maintain, and it can be fickle when we “need” it most.
Depending on hope to propel us through life is a bit like depending on feeling motivated in order to go after our goals.
It feels nice when it’s there, but it makes other very human negative emotions – like worry, doubt, fear, frustration – a “problem.” It takes a lot of work to maintain it consistently, and when we don’t maintain it perfectly? We think something has gone wrong and we give up.
That’s why I recommend focusing on COMMITMENT instead.
That’s what the “discipline of hope” (a phrase coined by Mariam Kaba, a prison abolitionist) is really about: committing to taking hopeful action.
Committing to BEING hopeful even when I don’t FEEL hopeful.
In that sense, hope isn’t a feeling. It’s an action.
I commit to taking action in order to create what I want to create in this world.
That’s true for my personal life, my business, in politics, in my family, in the world.
If I want to take back the Senate, I commit to working on that every day whether I feel hopeful that I’ll be successful or not.
If I want to find a partner, I commit to continuing to swipe and go on dates and update my profiles every day whether I feel hopeful about finding a partner in that moment or not.
If I want to build a six or seven-figure coaching business, I commit to following the work I laid out for today or this week or this month whether I feel hopeful in that moment or not.
Hope is nice.
Commitment will change your life.
Hope feels good when it happens to arrive.
Commitment will change the world.
Do you think RBG felt hopeful every day of her life?
Or do you think she COMMITTED to creating change, however she felt on any given day?
In the wake of RBG’s death, people have been sharing a variation on the Jewish saying “may her memory be for a blessing,” that goes “may her memory be for a revolution.”
I want to amend that to “may her memory be a COMMITMENT.”
Whatever you think about her, RBG was committed to her work, to her idea of justice. She didn’t call out sick on the days that hope failed to arrive. I’m going to bet she was committed to BEING hopeful even when she didn’t feel it.
So may her memory be for a blessing, and may it be for COMMITMENT to the revolution.
Because hope doesn’t create a revolution. Commitment does.
What will you commit to today?