My work as a mentor and personal development trainer brings me into contact with people who have lost all hope: their script is so powerfully bleak that it would be easy to feel as though I am drowning, just by listening to them talk. But it is my job to throw them a lifeline, not to drown with them: if I can’t see beyond their hopelessness, then how can I expect them to? I tell the people I work with that they are absolutely brilliant at convincing themselves that life will never be anything but hellish, but that no matter how powerfully they project this I will never, ever believe them. This often makes people angry and afraid in the short term but sometimes by the time we say goodbye, together we have sketched a mental note which says ‘I can and I will’ and this is the beginning of a new chapter.
I consider it a privilege to hold on to hope for someone that isn’t ready to reach out and grab it yet, but to be truly effective in my work I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk: people know whether you are authentic. It leaks from your every pore. Part of what I do is simple salesmanship: I can’t sell the idea that life can be brilliant unless I am walking advert for the notion. If I am miserable, you won’t believe there is any point in reaching out for something different. I don’t give the impression that my life is perfect: I have subtle ways of letting people know that I have problems too, but that it is possible to accept this and still move forward, even if just inch by inch. Integral to this process is the ability to hold on to hope, no matter how bleak your circumstances feel. Our experiences shape our beliefs and our beliefs shape our experiences: it’s a subtle interplay between the two that creates our world. Many of the people I work with have had some awful things happen to them, and for this I have enormous compassion; however, I also believe it is possible to draw a line under the past and start with a blank slate, tomorrow. All that is required is hope, which is essentially the belief that things can be different than they are. A lot of what holds people back from making this leap of faith is fear: a negative script can also be comforting. It is what you know and feel comfortable with. To live in hope requires something more of you, opens possibilities: light, when you have been in the darkness for so long can hurt the eyes. But in light we can see where we are going, direct our steps and choose a path.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to do the work I do and I don’t believe it is any coincidence I was drawn to it. It has given me meaning and my desire to be good at it has meant that I have made changes to my own script, and begun to further evolve and grow as a person. Changes are afoot in my career, but I will never forget the people I have worked with over the past year: they have taught me so much. I hold the hope of progress still for every single one.