2021 Theme

I’ve had a theme for the year for a while. It’s something that I chose to focus on throughout the year, usually encompassed in one word.

This year my theme is Hope.

It may not seem like a strong word, but hope is the fuel for a courageous life.

If you have ever been in a position where you are without, or have lost, hope, you will know just how vital it is. I have had some days like that, and it’s frightening – to look ahead and feel as if things will never improve. I have learned through experience though, when I am having one of those days, that tomorrow will always be better, and it gives me the courage to take the next step.

That is the power of hope. It provides a way forward, out of despair because of what it represents. We have hope in something, from something and for something.

We hope in something, which is faith. We have faith in a god, or humanity, or our family or ourselves – something that we believe is good and can create meaning and purpose. Out of that faith comes hope.

We hope from something. The reason we hope is because we are not content with our current situation. We are looking for something more, something better or a sense of purpose or understanding. When stuck in a place where we don’t want to be, we hope because we don’t want to stay there.

We hope for something. You only hope for something when you don’t have it yet. It is innately optimistic because, even though it comes from a place of not being content with the current situation, it acknowledges that there are better things to come. Whether it is to change where we are or become a better version of ourselves in a challenging place, hope assures us that better is possible.

There is biblical wisdom that urges people to be ‘joyful in hope’.

Being joyful in hope sounds counterintuitive because hope is only necessary when there doesn’t appear to be any joy. Joy only comes because of hope. Hope first, and then you will find joy.

Make 2020 Great Again

Sure, you may have had some challenges this year. It may have been one of the most difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t finish it in a way that makes it still one of the best.

It’s all about stress.

We have a negative relationship with stress but stress is neither good nor bad, it is what we do with it that gives it meaning. We can either experience it as distress or eustress.

Stress that creates distress, manifests in extreme anxiety, sorrow or pain – this is the stress that we try to avoid because it is uncomfortable. Examples of things that people often refer to as distress are things like a failing grade, or a family illness or a global pandemic.  

On the other hand, stress that creates eustress comes from seeing situations or experiences as a challenge to be met and an opportunity to grow. It is a positive response to the stressor. Often people give examples of this happening through travelling somewhere new, significant life changes like getting married or moving house, or learning something new like a language or an instrument.

The remarkable thing is that it is not the event that dictates whether we experience it as distress or eustress, but it is how the event is perceived. If an experience is seen as a threat, this it will create distress, if it is seen as a challenge then it will create eustress.

The key to making something eustressful, is finding a way to create meaning, hope and energy out of the challenge.

If you have had too many distressful experiences in 2020, let me help you create a eustressful one, through finding meaning, hope and energy through a generous act. This is one of the simplest and most effective way to create that positive experience that 2020 needs.

Make a donation to Opportunity International Australia, and help end poverty one family and one community at a time,

…or some other organisation that you like. It will make your 2020 great again.

Bad and Better

There is no doubt that if you look around at the world today it can make you very sad. Death, destruction, poverty, hatred and ignorance.

Sure things are bad but they are not as bad as we think. Not even close. In fact the entire world appears to be ignorant of just how great things are in comparison to how they were.

I have written about some of this before, highlighting child mortality has dropped by 70% since 1970, even though the global population has grown by 30% in that time. 2 billion more people, 16 million less deaths of children under the age of 5. Phenomenal.

But that just scratches the surface. Over the last 100 years global incomes per person have sky rocketed and the average life span across the world has improved over the last 50 years. The average lifespan globally today is 70. Almost everything is better including the amount of people who own guitars and this is what I wanted to focus on.

There are a number of different ways to measure improvement, through income levels, life expectancy, population growth, babies born per women and culture. The last one is a little complex to measure, but music is a good place to start.

Hans Rosling (my new hero) has data on playable guitars per capita (who thinks of these things?), and back in 1962 there was 200 playable guitars for every 1 million people, in 2014 that had grown to 11,000 playable guitars for every 1 million people. The increase in income globally has allowed more people to engage in cultural activities like music, being a sign that things are improving.

Things are bad in our world, but they are a heck of a lot better than they used to be, they continue to get better, and we are not finished yet.

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