I have a confession. I really, really fucking love Tony Robbins. Dude is a master modern motivational orator, and I dig his empathetic, vulnerable power vibe pretty hard. At SXSW in 2016, I went to see his documentary film I Am Not Your Guru on the advice of a friend who said it was the best thing she had seen at the festival. The film covers Tony’s annual Date With Destiny event in Boca Raton, Florida, a 6-day retreat that promises people all kinds of life changing magic, but essentially what he’s selling is hope. I came out of this film not having any idea about the real man behind the icon, because it very much presents him as an all-knowing, all-healing guru to the maximum power. Tony Robbins, the public figure, the self-help god of public speaking and riling people up in their own self interest, has a magical, infectious charisma that is enchanting to watch in action. The way people respond to his magnetism and emotional outpouring is astounding.
By the end of the film, I was totally glamoured. I’m definitely the target market for things like this, a person who has a deep and constant drive toward self exploration, personal growth, and emotional expansion by whatever means necessary. I am deeply motivated by hope in my own life, because I know what it feels like to feel totally hopeless. I don’t know that he has everything definitively figured out, but he’s on to something. In my book, people like this who use their powers for helping others to discover something inside themselves that needs a light shone on it, regardless of whatever jazz hands shit they have to do behind the scenes to make it happen, I’m all for it. The people who were in the audience seemed genuinely moved to take personal action, perhaps recognizing something in themselves that needed healing, and came away with a set of tools and an action plan to create hope in their own lives.
So much of our culture is based on sowing the seeds of hopelessness. We are shot down, rejected, forgotten, disappointed, let down, abused, ignored, left out, disgusted, and horrified on a daily basis. We do not live in hopeful times. In fact, it takes a rather heroic level of plausible deniability as a human to make it through a single day in 2017. I’m sort of amazed we are all walking around holding it all together. And yet here we are. Making the best of things. Choosing hope over despair, just by getting out of bed every day, trying to be nice to ourselves, doing good work, living in a way that brings people closer to us who make us feel more awesome about ourselves. Hope is an action. A very deliberate choice we have to make over and over again for it to start showing up as the default.
So how did we become people who are able to choose hope over defeat and desolation? How do we manifest a life full of optimism and hope and abundance for ourselves?
Here are the things that have worked for me:
- Own your shit. Don’t blame others. As Tony Robbins so eloquently says, “If you’re gonna blame people for all the shit, you better blame them for all the good things too. If you’re going to give them credit for everything that’s fucked up, then you have to give them credit for all that’s great. Because life is not so black and white.” I used to blame so many of my problems on my father, on not having him around when I needed him or wanted him. I blamed circumstances and bad relationships and poor choices I made to protect myself at the time and bad luck and life in general just being hard. It wasn’t until I realized I was fully in control of myself and my feelings and choices, that life wasn’t just something that was happening to me, but that I was an active participant, that things started to change for me. I am the author of my story and I get to choose how it goes. Letting that storyline die and replacing it with one of becoming who I am because of the hard things I endured, that serves me so much better than playing the victim. I am anything but a victim. I am responsible for my behavior, actions, and feelings. No one else. Take responsibility for yourself. Know that sometimes your best is going to be better than other times, and that every action you take and every hard thing you endure builds your character. That is empowering.
- Gratitude. This one can be hard when you feel stuck in a hole you can’t find your way out of. Especially long, seemingly endless periods where real work and growth is happening. It is really uncomfortable to be still and do the work on yourself that you have to do. Many of us never get there. But if you can look around your life, even when it feels very difficult, slow, or painful, and find things to be grateful for, your hope level will start to rise. Today I am grateful for every hard thing that led me to coming back to my hometown, because here is where I started to rise.
- Let go of everything that does not serve you. Put your time, money, energy, and love into what does. This year has been full of me and the people I love doing bold, amazing things in pursuit of their dreams. Sometimes this means taking huge steps to make big life, relationships, or career changes. People are moving across the country, starting new jobs, getting married, having all the babies (y’all had a fuckload of babies this year, seriously!) or, like me, tearing things down to the most basic level, slowing down, and just being. Just letting everything process and flow through me, waiting and making small, steady progress toward being ready for the next thing that comes along. That work is not exciting or glamorous or fun, but if you do it, you will be weightless and open for the next part of your journey.
- Be yourself. That is your only job. – Humans are born with an innate intuition. While we are certainly shaped by our upbringing, experiences, and external factors, the natural curiosity and consciousness of humans has evolved to question its own nature. Science, philosophy, religion, and now technology throughout human history have attempted to understand this with greater depth and clarity, but most of us know we have an internal north star. It takes practice to listen to what’s inside, and to discern that from the self, and to steer yourself in the direction of what feels authentic to you. You know what is right for you. When you go against that, it doesn’t feel good. Let that be your guide.
- Fail fearlessly. – So much of my work is about resilience and perseverance. For years, I have talked about failing, over and over and over again. I failed at countless relationships, I failed at breaking up with alcohol and then getting back together with alcohol and then realizing for the millionth time, oh right, you’re a massive asshole, booze. I failed at burning my life down in a controlled manner and instead started a raging wildfire that took a year to burn out. I fail every day, multiple times I am the Fail Queen. I will show you exactly how to do things in the most tedious and difficult ways possible, and often repeat the same dumb fails multiple times because I wasn’t paying close enough attention the first time. But here’s the thing about failing: Failing hard, fast, loudly, publicly, repeatedly, over and over again – this is how you learn. This is how you win. This is how you turn loss and pain into hope. You don’t give up. Fail again. Fail harder. Fail with everything you have. I’m a badass at winning now because I know how to lose and learn from it. Failure is power.
- Believe in your own worth. This should probably be #1, because this alone can put you into a place of hopefulness, just this one thing. I have had days this year where all I had in the world was my own stubborn refusal to accept that I was defeated in any way, despite insurmountable evidence to the contrary. I would look around at the ashes of my life and not see an empty, barren lot, but that I had cleared a huge tract of land so I could grow something new. I refused to accept that I was beaten. Because there’s just no way someone as awesome and powerfully energetic, curious, excited, vulnerable, and creative is just going to lay down and give up on myself. I created hope from darkness. Because I am a powerful motherfucking witch, and I know that it is possible to manifest what you want in life.
Everything you thought you wanted may turn out not to be your authentic dream in reality. Your life may not look like what you expected, it may not be the journey you envisioned, and it may not deliver your ideals to you on a silver platter. It won’t. It will be a slog through a jungle, reaching the top of a mountain to realize you have an entire range left to trek through. It will be failing and falling and fucking up over and over. But when you demand full acknowledgement of your own worth from yourself and from others, when you start to stand firmly in your boundaries, and make yourself your first priority, and when you do the work of listening to your own intuitive voice, of only accepting what you need and want, the doors will start flying open and life will meet you with abundance. You can manifest this reality for yourself, you just have to decide you want it.
I have 100 days sober from alcohol today. 🙂