For nearly ten years, Judge Glenda Hatchett has delighted TV audiences with a brand of justice that turns the everyday into something eminently watchable.
Her message can be distilled into the following two words: Dare Yourself. Whatever obstacles or fears one faces, Judge Hatchett's prescription implores readers to write their own story in this life. With care and conviction, Judge Hatchett uses real life stories from the courtroom and her personal life to counsel readers. She shows them how to find their true purpose and discover their gifts, to be real about their reality and its potential outside of challenging circumstances, and to always be true to themselves.
Interactive as well as inspirational, DARE TO TAKE CHARGE challenges the reader to ask self-reflective questions that lead to moments of self-discovery and a defined pathway to healing. Daring her audience to study the positive with the same interest and intensity that they study the negative, Judge Hatchett uncovers the potential for grace and success in lives that are now punctuated with despair and unfaithfulness.
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Dare to Take ChargeHow to Live Your Life on Purpose
By Hatchett, Glenda
Center StreetCopyright © 2010 Hatchett, Glenda
All right reserved.
How Dare You Not?
We all have our touchstones—mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, teachers, mentors, friends—who have pierced through a fog we were in at one time or another and set us back on our path. We all have people we can quote: “My mother used to say,” “My father told me,” “My teacher always said.” I happen to have many supporters, teachers, advisers, and friends—you will meet some of them in the pages that follow. I’d like to start by introducing you to my kind and wise Aunt Frances.
My Aunt Frances was a pillar in our family. She was my grandmother’s sister, and so all the time I knew her she was an older woman, a wise elder. She had lived her life with dignity and finished her professional life with pride. She was someone who had thrived in life, and who continued to live as an example in her old age. Aunt Frances was also a devout Christian—very strict, but loving and warm. She had seen the worst days of the segregated South. Before she retired, she lovingly labored for more than forty years as a schoolteacher—making half the salary of her white counterparts. I never heard her complain about that gross injustice. She had lived through enormous challenges, and she spoke eloquently through her words and deeds.
At a time in my life when I felt particularly discouraged, I went to see my Aunt Frances, and her advice so changed me that the moment is emblazoned on my consciousness, and my meeting with her remains a significant moment in my life story. In fact, Aunt Frances’s response to me and advice to me was so bold and so perceptive that she offered me something that I have continued to use. I share Aunt Frances’s advice as I advise others and as I make my way through the high and low points of my life.
When I began my professional life, I chose to go to law school. Like many others, I expected that the law would help me to achieve and contribute to bettering my life, my community, my culture, and my country. I started law school with eager anticipation and very high hopes.
My great expectations were short-lived. I soon faced challenges I had not expected. During my first year in law school, I became overwhelmed. I felt like I had far too much on my plate. I worked full-time as the assistant to the dean for women to pay my tuition, and was also the director of the women’s residential complex. Both of these were positions for which I had to be alert and responsible for the welfare of others. I found myself sleep-deprived, overworked, and stressed out. The pressure of my studies and the tremendous responsibility of working my way through school caused me to wonder what I had been thinking. I started to wonder about the choice I had made.
In spite of my intentions, I hated law school. I had only just started, but I was really questioning why I went in the first place. I needed advice, I needed sympathy, I needed affection. I knew where to go. So on a cool fall day in Atlanta, I shut my books and drove to see my Aunt Frances at her house on Bon Air.
We Are All Uniquely Situated
On the drive, I had time to consider my situation. Although I’d never been a quitter, I was seriously thinking about quitting. I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d say to Aunt Frances about all this, but I was confident that seeing her, and removing myself from the source of my stress, would help me clear my head.
Everything in Aunt Frances’s house was meticulously neat and traditional. She greeted me as she always did, with the warm, loving hug I was craving. Aunt Frances was generous with her life and her affection. She told me I needed “meat on my bones,” and invited me into her kitchen to eat. Looking deeply into my eyes, she could tell right away I was troubled.
Aunt Frances kept the same old sofa for my entire life. I curled up on that sofa, and since Aunt Frances could see that my heart was heavy, she asked me what was wrong. I was so stressed, I didn’t need much prompting. I went on and on about how absolutely miserable I was in law school. Aunt Frances sat and listened. I moaned and whined about how terrible law school was, until Aunt Frances finally stopped me and asked just one question.
“Do you want to be a lawyer?”
I nodded, not even speaking aloud.
Then Aunt Frances said words that changed my life forever.
“Baby, if it were easy, everybody and their mama would be able do what you’re trying to do,” she said. “But it isn’t easy, and you’ve been uniquely situated and blessed with the gifts to be able to do what you set out to do.”
My Aunt Frances held my gaze as tears rolled down my face. I thought, Aunt Frances has seen the worst of times. She has been a survivor and has been victorious with a mere fraction of my opportunities. Here I am, in law school. I didn’t have to fight or march or file suit to get in. I am in law school, which is where I said I wanted to be. Aunt Frances has struggled more than I have ever had to, more than I could ever imagine. How dare I complain?
Before me sat one of my sheroes, concerned about me. My Aunt Frances had done more with less. Her years of unwavering dedication, and her now unwavering gaze, caused me to look at the “me she must see.” I became very uncomfortable with myself, and particularly with my whining. How dare I moan and groan about opportunities Aunt Frances could never have dreamed of? Aunt Frances expects me to see grace in my life, that I am able to attend law school at all.
Aunt Frances was very patient with me, and I imagine she could see my thoughts shifting.
How dare I not claim my dream and my destiny? How dare I falter? How dare I not march forward with all the purpose and passion I can muster? How dare I not stand up, restore my faith, and go on ahead? Who ever told me that this road would be easy?
I got up off Aunt Frances’s sofa standing taller. She taught me as much with her generous listening, her plain questioning, and her patient waiting as she did with the statement she made. Of course, I had always made choices that not everybody was making. All my life, I’ve chosen to do things that aren’t necessarily easy. The roads I traveled have been easier, certainly, than the work that my parents and their parents and the heroes—and sheroes—of my Aunt Frances’s generation had to do. But the thought that I should expect anything but hard work was absurd. The idea that I should moan and groan, whine and complain—how dare I? I don’t know what I was thinking. But sitting with my Aunt Frances that afternoon reminded me of the stock I had come from. Her very presence caused me to remember to stand up and get strong.
I made up my mind, from that day forward, that as I approached the important things in my life, I would keep my nerve and face my challenges. Strength, consistency, determination, integrity, purpose—these are all the values Aunt Frances and my grandparents and my parents lived by. These are the principles that helped keep them on the high road.
I had opportunities to live out my passion and my choices. I needed to do all I could to match my actions to my intentions, and no less. I needed to persist until I created the outcomes I was looking for. I needed to remain open to the possibilities that came along with the goals I set, and the dreams I reached for. I needed to refuse to be derailed by the pitfalls.
That important talk with Aunt Frances, at the very beginning of my career as a law student, helped me understand what to do, in every instance, when I found myself knocked down. It’s as simple as this:
Dare to get up.
I have to thank Aunt Frances for being so direct and so expectant—both with her question and with her gaze—to help me shake myself out of my state of self-pity. I had decided that I was going to have a pity party, and I had begun, with myself as the only guest. I don’t think I ever expected Aunt Frances to join me. Our parents and our foreparents tended not to pity themselves. But Aunt Frances was remarkably plain and expectant. Her response to me was daring and insistent, in as quiet a tone as possible.
Sitting before her suggested much more than words needed to express. No one was going to finish law school for me. Fewer doors were going to open to me if I failed to finish law school. And then would I whine about what I couldn’t do, if I had chosen to become a law school dropout?
The answer to this question does not matter. I decided that I had to persist. I had to ask myself, a thousand times if necessary: How can I not take the best advantage of the opportunity before me? How can I not recognize that my dreams are my soul’s gift to my life?
I did not leave Aunt Frances, go back to law school, and find that all my problems were magically solved. Finishing law school did not get easier. But my determination swallowed up my uncertainty. I faced the same daily struggle and I leaned into the same alienating experience that had driven me to Aunt Frances in the first place.
But here I am today, many years and many doorways after almost quitting law school. I daresay, as a judge, that the law has been essential to my success. Truthfully, my success in life would depend on my accepting this: I could not abandon my goals. I could not discount my dreams. I could not sell my hopes short. I could not and would not fail.
You Too Have to Dare
And so this is what I say to you. You too have to dare. Daring is an underrated character trait. In order to achieve almost anything of importance, we have to find the nerve, the audacity; we have to be daring.
To dare is a verb that has two meanings. When we do something unusual, significant, or in some way remarkable, we dare, and are generally commended. We have the hope to dream, we have the courage to try, we insist on being persistent, we have the will to become all that we are able.
The second meaning relates mostly to a spirit of questioning. How dare you? How dare I? How dare I not do what I know I need to do? How dare you not do all that you are able? Rather than standing up to the doubts of the world, sometimes we need to stand up to ourselves, to our own doubts, reluctance, or excuses. Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves.
Once I realized how much I had learned about life—through my own experiences, and through my work with the many troubled and triumphant people and families who came through my courtrooms—my knowledge begged the question: How dare I not make an effort to share these stories? How dare I not see the importance of the understanding I have gained from having experience with family after family, crisis after crisis, victory after effort, triumph after intervention?
I dare you to invoke your God-given spirit. I dare you to tell yourself the truth. I dare you to recapture dreams you may have let go, and I dare you to help your children get closer to their dreams—now. I dare you to learn from the mistakes of others. I dare you to examine your heart.
I want you to realize that living out your full potential is not just possible, not just in your best interest, but also is what your family and your community and your spirit need from you. I want to help you reach your full potential because without working toward living the best life we can, we are not honoring our gifts or our time on this earth.
Any one of us can choose not to do our very best. But that’s when I ask the question: How dare you not?
Dare to support your own goals, to invest in yourself, to protect your relationships, to let go of the tendency to pity yourself in times of struggle. You have to face what you lack, and you have to figure out how to answer that lack with focus and directed energy. You have to stop struggling and start succeeding; you have to find out how others have succeeded at what you want to do. You have to learn from their models of success. You have to plow through the doldrums, and plow through your fears.
Just as Aunt Frances advised me, you too have to claim and embrace the wonderful blessings in your life. You have to persist, try again, try another way. You have to knock harder on the door, if that’s what it takes to be heard. You have to stand up and go forward. You have to bring your dreams into focus.
No one knows your intentions like you do. No one feels the fire of your desires like you do. No one can or will accomplish what you want to achieve—except you.
We all could use more daring in our lives. We could stretch ourselves and find out how to start that business, how to get into that training program, how to get through law school, how to become an architect. We can do the work to teach our children about money, about faith, about self-respect and positive choices. We can step out of our comfort zone and do what we dream of, and make new priorities based on what we’ve been too afraid or too worried to tackle up to now.
Daring is the secret.
I invite you to move yourself boldly forward on the road you are traveling in this life. Go forward, with me, from my Aunt Frances’s patient gaze. Know that you can get past difficult times, and that when you achieve your dream, you will look back and realize it was worth the struggle.
What is the one thing that you have always wanted to do in your life and have not yet done? Take time now to write down what you haven’t done, and then write down why you haven’t done it. What’s holding you back? How dare you not follow through on your honest ambitions? Do you dare not try?
Work toward the grace of fulfillment.
Be clear with yourself about what your life requires or demands of you.
Do what you dream of doing.
Depend on, and act on, the grace of God within you.
Increase the amount of time you spend doing what you’re good at.
Live out your gifts.
Take the high road.
Expect more of yourself.
Bridging the Dream Gap
When was the last time you checked in with your dreams? What is it that you want more than anything? What do you want to achieve in your lifetime? When you imagine yourself as successful, accomplished, joyful—what does that look like? To view your dreams is important: the dreams we actually see are the goals we can attain. Imagine a different future. Ask yourself, really, what is your dream for your life? The sky is the limit. What would you do, if you dared, that you have not yet done? Are you able to articulate your dream without struggling? Is your dream top of mind?
Dr. Peter Singleton
Growing up, I had a play big brother. He was not actually related to me, but I admired and cherished him as a “big brother.” He grew into an amazing man, and although he passed on a few years ago, he still inspires me as a phenomenal human being—a gifted doctor, humanitarian, and man of the world.
Pete spoke more than a dozen different languages and dialects. When I spoke in tribute to him, I was able to recount such wonderful stories, but the one that really rang out from my heart was about his being my role model, a part of my village, a great achiever within my reach.
For as long as I can remember, whenever anyone asked Pete what he wanted to be when he grew up, without hesitation he boldly responded—a doctor. His parents believed he would become a doctor. My parents would introduce Pete as “the future doctor.” Dad called him Dr. Singleton long before he finished medical school. We all believed that being a doctor was Pete’s future.
He did become a doctor, and what a doctor he became! Before he retired from the military, he provided medical care throughout the world. When his life ended so prematurely, he was serving with distinction on the faculty of Stanford University’s medical school. Peter Singleton’s dream became his reality, and the world was better because he claimed his dream.
Can you find the Peter Singleton in you? If you were going to be single-minded about achieving one goal in your life, what would that goal be? In order to claim it, you have to first name it.
Do you dream of going back to school now—maybe you are in your fifties, and your children are all grown? Have you always dreamed of getting your degree in art history? Did you want to be a college professor? Do you dream of living debt-free? Perhaps you dream of owning and restoring a vintage car, or learning to play golf, or retiring before you are sixty? Do you dream of quitting the job that you hate and starting your own business? Perhaps you’d like to create a business that your children and grandchildren will own? Do you dream of learning to speak Spanish fluently, or perhaps you dream of being a vice president in your company? Do you want to travel around the world, or do you dream of being elected to the United States Congress? Do you dream of being happily married? Perhaps you dream of being an award-winning novelist or winning an Oscar as an actor? Do you dream of saving enough money to buy a home? Do you dream of being independently wealthy? Do you dream of living a life free of your addiction? Whichever dream you define, make that dream your number one goal.
Dreams give us incentive and keep us excited about life. Dreams help us to live life on purpose. This is important to remember at all stages of our lives. Just as Pete’s parents supported his dream to be a doctor, you should encourage the children in your life to dream bold dreams. Click on the Dreams Campaign tab at ParentpowerNow.com.
Stop right here, right now, and write down what you dream of accomplishing for yourself. Be bold and intentional. Be daring. You have all the choices in the world. Do not go any further until you have recorded at least one dream you have. If you need to stop and think, then by all means, stop and think. But do yourself a great favor, give yourself a great gift and identify a dream. Identify a dream that if it came true, you’d feel happy, and blissful, and blessed. Stop. Think. Write.
This is what I dream of when there are no limits.
When you have stated your dream and written it clearly, please sign your name on the signature line.
Let knowing that you have a dream begin to move you to think about how to attain it. Think about your notation often, and ask yourself, Am I currently on the path toward attaining my dream? Am I in pursuit of my dream, right now?
Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we can stop dreaming. Dreams are our divine hookup. Dreams are our road map, showing us the way to our future. If we will do ourselves the favor of taking the journey, making the trip, we can call our dreams our destination. Our dreams are our specific view of our own future.
Dreams Are Realities Every Day
Are your fantasies recent? Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to accomplish, a person you’ve imagined being since you were a child, an idea you’ve put to the side as “real life” got in the way. Have you retired your dreams to the back of your mind and left them there? Are your dreams collecting dust? Are your dreams patiently (or impatiently) waiting for your attention?
Langston Hughes famously wrote this question in “Dream Deferred,” a poem. It is perhaps one of his most famous poems, which has been used widely and provocatively to explain or examine the very human condition of letting our dreams take a backseat to the demands of our lives.
In it Hughes lists the possibilities for what we face when we do not attend to our dreams. While his descriptions seem poetic, none of them are appealing, as he suggests an unattended dream might shrivel up like a raisin or fester like an unattended sore. Even when he uses a positive description, comparing a dream to a “syrupy sweet,” the option has a negative, over-sugared quality. Hughes’s diverse description in this brief poem suggests many consequences. He concludes that when we ignore our dreams, when we defer them, when we put them off or push them to the side, they can be a heavy load—a burden. They might even explode.
Taking charge of your life means that you will realize and honor the important role big goals play in keeping you alive and vibrant. That dreams we don’t attend to have the potential to weigh us down, or to explode within us, is a testament to how important they are. Dreams course through us like blood through our systems. Dreams contribute to life the same way that hours contribute to making seasons. Even if you are just dragging your dreams behind you, I guarantee you that you are still holding on to some little hope for realizing what you’ve always wanted to be or do. And there’s something else that’s true: even if you don’t achieve your dream, if you are intentional, you will either accomplish much of what you intend to or you will discover a passion in yourself for some new interest you find on the way. I challenge you to put your dreams in their rightful place in your life: front and center.
Get in touch with your dreams again. Check in with dreams you haven’t seen, spoken of, or acted on lately. Remind yourself of what you’re actually doing: remind yourself that every day, you rise up and you go forward and do what you plan to do. You may not do all of what you plan to do, and you may not plan to do what you dream. But every day you live, you rise from slumber and you take step after step, and those steps are actions you decide to take. Congratulate yourself for living your life with energy and intention. I certainly congratulate you. Now I want to encourage you to start moving your actions closer to the actions that your dreams would have you take.
Do your daily efforts bear some relationship to your dreams? Are you applying your time and energy to move yourself toward what you, in your heart, really want to be doing? When you arrange your actions and your life so that you are moving in the direction of your dreams, you will experience joy. Are you experiencing joy in your life? Joy in life is your birthright. Every human being is able to make choices about what they will do, where they will go, what activities they will turn their attention to. Are you exercising your choices fully? Are you making choices that relate to your dreams?
Maybe you are among the many who have deferred your dreams. Maybe your dreams are sleeping. It’s time for a new day. Are you ready to make a change? Are you ready to experience the joy of matching how you spend your days with how you dream your dreams?
Write five actions, however small, that you could take in the next five days to move you toward your stated dream. Take five actions. And then name five more. Take those five actions, and then name five more. Keep taking action: small actions are fine. Eventually you will take bigger, broader action, because you will be both motivated and pleased by what you have accomplished with the small actions you’ve taken.
Surely you have heard others refer to a dream or a goal having no meaning without a schedule; all goals need to have time allocated to address them or there is a great risk that these goals will not be accomplished. Similarly, realizing a dream requires that we take action toward achieving it in our everyday lives. And this is why I say: Dreams are realities every day.
If you work toward your dreams in addition to what you do every day, then you will be constantly inching closer to achieving them. You greatly reduce the risk of being loaded down with dusty dreams, of being burdened by the constant worry over what you haven’t done. If you are always doing something toward achieving your goals, then you move your dream from a wish to a reality. The big picture will come ever closer to you.
You know by now that the theme of this book is daring. To take charge of your life, you have to dare to be in charge. You have to dare to take action. You have to dare to respond to the whispers of your soul and the stirrings of your heart. The idea that dreams are realities every day relates explicitly to the dare principle.
Attend to your dreams as you DARE to take charge. Your dreams will lead you to the life you are destined to have. Your dreams are seeds that come straight from your spirit. Your job in this life is to nurture your dreams and to help them grow. If you help your dreams grow, your dreams will help you go—go forward, go happily, go with hope, go with intention, go with consciousness, go with God.
Reaching for our dreams can take great effort. The effort required to achieve what we dream of is exactly why so many people quit working toward their dreams. Yes, achieving them takes diligence, persistence, and insistence. But all of life requires work. No matter what we choose to do in life, we have to work to stay alive. Why not work toward your heart’s desires? Why not seek joy?
When we stop dreaming, we stop thinking about the future. When we stop thinking about the future, we stop living our lives to the fullest.
Our dreams define the direction we should go in. By making the effort to name our dreams, and by working to realize them, we take the practical step of laying claim to our tomorrows.
A Dream with Your Name on It
There is a dream with your name on it. You know, clearly, what that dream is. Nobody can see what we dream of better than we can. No one else can claim our dreams, either. Your dreams are your destiny, if you are willing to reach for them. We put our handprint on the future by pursuing our dreams.
None of us should be satisfied unless we are shaping our lives to move us toward our dreams. I could argue pretty safely, I think, that if we are not shaping our lives so that we are moving toward our dreams, we probably are dissatisfied. We might even be generally sad.
Look at the clock or your watch—what time is it? What time are you reading this? Is it 11:59 a.m. or p.m.? Is it 5:15 in the morning? Is it 7:30 in the evening, or 10:00 at night? Whatever time of day or night, it is right now; you are on the precipice of your future. Your future is not owned by your past. Your future is owned by your energy and your choices.
Every one of us realizes, and needs to remember, that our lives are, in some measure, ours to shape. One of our biggest decisions is whether we plan to stay stuck in the past or whether we will choose an alternative future. All too often, people lock themselves in vicious, repetitive cycles. You are only destined to repeat patterns that you choose to repeat. Breaking patterns is hard work, but life is hard work. You can break the patterns that rob you of your dreams and that rob you of your joy.
Do something, today, to help bring your dream into the reality of your life. By taking action that leads you toward your dream, you will do yourself an enormous service. You will begin to break the pattern that keeps you from dreaming, that keeps you from behaving as if your dreams are within your reach.
Your dreams, with your effort, can become your reality.
The most important question is, what are you doing today to move closer to those dreams? For example, if you dream of living debt-free, then you have to resolve today to live on a budget, cut up all your credit cards except the one that you use only for emergencies, and systematically work your way out of debt. What can you do starting today? This is the key question.
Start now. Do something, however small, every day. Dreams are realities every day. Remember, this means that if you move actions related to your dreams into your daily reality, you are buying yourself engagement, satisfaction, a direction in life. By pursuing your dreams, step by step, you are daring to take charge of your life.
At the beginning of the chapter, I asked you to write down a dream. This one dream is a starting point. But I want you to take even more time. Think about other dreams you’ve had in your life, as you go through the next twelve or twenty-four hours. Find some quiet time. Make a list of the dreams you think of, or that you’ve had in the past. Remember. Brainstorm. You’re now on the path toward taking charge of your life. All the dreams you have help to shape what you will do. What dreams will you pursue?
Answer this question: What is the boldest dream you dare to dream for your life? Write it down in clear terms and post it where you can see it every day.
Start every day with a clear idea of what you can do, this day, to work toward a dream that you value.
Expect every day to be a day in which you move closer to your dream.
Be willing to experience the joy and satisfaction that come from involving your motivations and your personality in the actions you take on a daily basis.
Bring your dreams into your daily reality.
Realize and remember that if you don’t make a priority of your dreams, then you are not making a priority of yourself.
Understand that no one is going to pursue your dreams for you.
Know that there are dreams with your name on them: your dreams await you.
Keep your dreams a high priority.
Be aware that your dreams point the way to your future.
Do the work that is required to live the life you dream of.
Make yourself the person of your dreams.
Hope and Joy
Some people are born, it seems, knowing the formula that permits them to wake up each morning certain that the new day will dawn better and brighter than the last. Others struggle to get the right balance of hope and high expectation in their lives—adding or subtracting strategies, techniques, new efforts. Living hopefully and optimistically is a goal of almost every person, whether they are successful or still trying to be successful. We all have to test which actions or strategies will work to help us achieve our goals.
Life without optimism can turn from dream to nightmare, and can make us wonder whether what we are experiencing is all there is to life. Is this what I’m living for? Is this all there is? Trust in the future and trust in the spiritual goodness of others is also important to have. The ability to know joy, to create joy, and to recreate joy are essential skills to having a good life. We all need energy enough to try and try again. I live my days with the strong opinion that hope and optimism are basic necessities for a life well lived. Without the optimistic belief that the best days are yet to come, I think it’s hard to keep going, to keep strategizing, and to overcome setbacks. Without being able to observe our joys, we simply cannot achieve the goals we set. Goals are, by definition, conceived in joy. Failures are obstacles that can teach us, but if we stare at our failures too long, they block us from joy, which in turn blocks us from success.
Count It All Joy
When I was young, my grandmother used to quote Scripture and say, “Count it all joy.” As I grew up, this Bible verse (James 1:2) did not resonate all that well with me, because life does have its struggles and hurts. But the verse goes on to reference trials in life, and I’ve come to understand that the idea is that even in the pain of life there is joy to be found.
When I went through the acute experience of the pain of my father’s passing, my grandmother’s voice spoke to me. “Count it all joy” came to mind. Although I welcome the soothing and calming power of my grandmother’s wisdom whenever I hear her voice, my grief definitely worried and weakened my usual sense of optimism and strength. In reality, however, I did finally hear through the message.
My father, who was my great hero, had spent much of his life, and all of mine, loving, teaching, and caring for me as a devoted parent. He raised me, he protected me, and he gave me great courage. He also gave me tremendous understanding: of compassion, perseverance, patience, and understanding. To know my father had been a joy—a very long-term and inspiring presence of joy in my life. So, yes, although his passing brought forth a time of great heaviness in my heart, my heart also beats in part because of him. I knew love because of him. I had a great hero because of him. All of this is joy.
For some folks, hope and optimism are just not part of the way they learned to think, or choose to think. Hope is a choice, a very powerful choice. Hope can give us strength, and can change our expectations about how a situation will turn out. People who are both hopeful and faithful have the power to create joy in their lives. My experience of the power of hope and optimism keeps me encouraging others to live on the side of optimism.
When all is said and done, I am relentlessly hopeful as a person and as a professional. In order to do the sometimes distressing work I do, I have to be optimistic. I have to look at every situation and ask myself repeatedly and sincerely, How can I help? What is the potential for good here?
Good is the only foundation worth building on. Two wrongs don’t make a right, they just make more wrong. Being able to look at situations hopefully, to consider that there has to be something good I can raise up, is what enables me to reach ever higher. I can’t say I know when I learned this lesson, but I can say that I have taken the search for hope completely and totally to heart. I look for how I can be hopeful. And what a blessing that has been.
Let me be clear. It’s not that every day I live is better than the day before. But what inspires and centers me is my fundamental belief that the days to come will bring greater blessings and new successes. Expecting and working toward a better future is the basic definition of optimism.
I was genetically hard-wired to embrace the gospel of the best is yet to come. This comes from my parents, who saw plenty that might have convinced them otherwise, but they held tight to the ideal. They passed this spirit of optimism and expectation to my brothers and me. This spirit of hope has been critical to my survival and success. The spirit of hope is necessary to experience joy in any measure.
Optimism isn’t automatic, and holding on to hope can be challenging. I see other people who seem to be more able (than me) to paint their lives the color of hope using big, sweeping brushstrokes—no matter how rough the going.
The absence of hope can rob us of our joy. Hope is a protective feeling that inoculates the spirit and keeps despair from settling in and taking root. When we can remain hopeful, or when we’ve learned to reset ourselves and restore our feelings of optimism after setbacks, then we create openings in our lives for joy to enter and cheer us.
We tend to focus on what hurts us in our lives. We are all able to recount or revisit pain we’ve felt far longer and far more easily than we are able to recall our joys. This tendency—to overlook the good and focus on the bad—causes us to hang our heads and expect the worst. Philosophers and psychologists and successful men and women have argued for decades that what we expect, we get.
Some of you may know one of Henry Ford’s most famous quotations: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” Our interpretations of events, and our responses to them, become the ideas that define us and that either motivate or constrain us. In time, our ideas and our interpretations become our beliefs. If we focus on the negative, then we believe what we think. If we focus on the positive, then we believe what we think.
Failing to observe positive aspects in life causes us to see every half-full glass as half empty. Events or situations, however small, that we would otherwise celebrate are lost to us. We lose the potential of applauding ourselves. We turn into people who only see our trials and failures. We become people who “think we can’t.”
Excerpted from Dare to Take Charge by Hatchett, Glenda Copyright © 2010 by Hatchett, Glenda. Excerpted by permission.
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