As a motivational speaker, I encourage people to dream big and persist, no matter what. So what happens when the odds are against me?
Raise your hand if you think this COVID-19 pandemic has gone on for longer than you thought it would?
Keep your hand up if at any time during this crisis you’ve felt a little overwhelmed and at times hopeless?
My name is Glen Gerreyn. I am a motivational speaker and pride myself on being a Hope Trafficker. But the last few weeks have been incredibly difficult, even for someone who is well versed in the art of delivering hope.
I have at various times during this crisis really started to struggle mentally as I come to grips with the impact this pandemic is having on my work and family.
At the start of this crisis, for 10 weeks every one of my bookings to speak at schools or events and share my message of hope were cancelled or postponed. Then, just as things were turning around, they collapsed in a heap all over again.
For the last 8 weeks I have visited on average one school a week which I am so very grateful for but that is an 80% decline in my usual work load.
We all know the key to happiness is to be able to do what you do best and for me that was giving hope to others. But what do you do when you find yourself depleted of the one thing you had in abundance?
The ‘crisis’ description surrounding COVID really hit close to home when I saw the despair in my own children. We had planned a trip to QLD to see my parents, who we have not seen since the pandemic began. But because of the recent surges, we had to cancel 18 hours before we were scheduled to fly. When I saw the tears well up in my children’s eyes and their disappointment, it broke me.
For so many others, this pandemic has led to the death of family members, a loss of employment, mandatory quarantine, social isolation, disruption to school, sporting and cultural activities and social gatherings etc, etc. Far too many people are living in a heightened state of uncertainty, stress and anxiety.
And even my ‘hope tank’ has found itself emptying out.
So what do I do?
I go back to practising what I preach.
Here are seven non-negotiables I instinctively return to when hope is lost. Because if there is one-thing I am certain of it is this:
Even though somewhere, somehow, we lose our way to hope, hope never loses its way back to us.
Here’s what I have been reminding myself at this time when things feel hopeless.
1. It doesn’t matter what you believe. What matters is how you act.
We cannot fall into the trap of believing in everything we feel.
Feelings are not facts. You might feel hopeless, useless or worthless, but that does not mean you are. Just because you feel bad doesn’t mean things are bad. You have thoughts but you are not your thoughts.
Susan David in her book Emotional Agility said, “Emotions are data, not directions”. Our emotions give us information, but we should not allow them to direct our lives. Our feelings are unreliable in matters of future orientation. What matters is not what you believe but how you act.
There is a difference between what you believe and how you believe. You can say you believe love is the most powerful force on the planet but if you do not engage with people in a loving way it means nothing.
What matters is how you interact with the world, not what you believe. Act with hope, act with love and act with meaning and in doing so you will change the way you feel. We can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting.
2. Be careful what you say
The words we use each day are incredibly powerful. They set our expectations, send messages to our brains and affect our biology. We talk to ourselves every day, and all that self-talk creates an abundance of data which constructs either boundaries or openings in our mind.
Higher quality discourse can generate higher quality reality. All of us can use better language to instruct and author new worlds. Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Words create worlds”.
Language shapes our frame of reference. Therefore, we can orientate the trajectory of our life by choosing our words more carefully.
When used negatively, words can maim the soul and damage the mind. Words affect the way we think, feel and act. Words can enlighten our minds or darken our hearts. Therefore, we should use the words we speak with care and purpose.
Words are our means of communicating our thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. We should treasure them and treat them as if they were precious cargo, consigned to a favourable destination.
3. Find a way to laugh
It is scientifically proven that laughter is good medicine. It relieves tension and boosts your immune system. Whether it is listening to your favourite comedian, sharing a joke with a family member or friendly banter with your friend, or reading a funny book, find a way to laugh. Deepak Chopra said “the healthiest response to life is laughter”.
Laughter makes the stress and pain of life more bearable and strengthens us with resolve to make the future better. It is a declaration of joy that wells up from the deepest recesses of our soul and cleanses us of the day’s worries.
4. What are you letting in your boat?
There will always be people who are more talented, smarter and richer than you. But if you want to be unique and stand out from the crowd, aim to rise above circumstances. You do that by fostering hope.
When I am hopeful, I am at my best. I am more creative, resilient and empowered.
Don’t allow despair into your heart. Guard your heart against negative thoughts. To grow weeds in a garden all you have to do is nothing. Weeds (negative thoughts) grow automatically. But to plant a tree takes a decision. You have to decide to be positive.
All the water in all the oceans cannot sink a ship unless the water gets in. Don’t let the oceans of fear and doubt in, use it instead to stay afloat.
John Kabat-Zinn a mindfulness guru sagely said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Pay attention to your thoughts and use them to your advantage.
5. Go from what is wrong to what is strong
When I feel emotionally bankrupt, the one thing that always gets me out of the funk is to go from what is wrong to what is strong.
My single best ability is to communicate hope in a way that stirs energy and action. When we focus and use our strengths, our days become more meaningful. The outcome of this is the recognition our lives matter. That our lives are coherent and make sense.
Serena Williams said, “There’s one thing I’m really good at and that’s hitting the ball over a net, in a box. I’m excellent at that.” Tangible confidence emanates from going from what is wrong to what is strong.
Stay in your lane. Hope is the voice that reminds you that you can be stronger, brighter and more fierce than you realise.
6. Become filled with GRATITUDE
Our inclination towards a negative bias means we pay way too much attention to what’s not working and lean towards judgement, blame and criticism. We should instead reach for curiosity, generosity and compassion.
Here’s a story that explains this:
An entrepreneur was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal village with his family when he wandered down to the dock. He saw a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.
The entrepreneur was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the fisherman how long it took to catch them.
The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”
The entrepreneur then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?
The fisherman replied, “I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.”
The entrepreneur then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman replied, “I sleep in late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends: I have a full and busy life.”
The entrepreneur scoffed, “I have an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. If you spent more time fishing and caught more fish, and then spent the rest of the day selling those fish in the markets, with those proceeds you could buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats.
Then instead of selling your catch to the end customer you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product and processing, all the way through to distribution.”
Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the city where you would run your growing enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But how long will this all take?”
To which the entrepreneur replied, “20-30 years.”
“But what then?” asked the fisherman.
The entrepreneur laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company’s stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”
“Millions? Then what?” replied the fisherman.
To which the entrepreneur replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village like this, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends.”
Be thankful for where you are and what you have.
“Enough is a feast” says the old Buddhist Proverb.
7. Focus on service
Whenever I feel moments of hopelessness, it usually stems from excessive retrospection. There are times when it is necessary to contemplate the past. But dwelling for too long on those things which cannot be changed leads to misery. Navel gazing is myopic and self-defeating.
When I switch my focus to how I can be of service to others, the whole world opens up. I might not be able to reach people with my message of hope by sharing it in person on stage, but I can write articles, get online, or call people and deliver hope through a myriad of ways.
Serving those in your sphere of influence makes the world a better place. The ripple effect of your act of service has the potential to reach countless lives. Research has shown serving others makes you happier and healthier so keep reaching out to others and watch as your wellbeing thrives.
During this time, we need more empathy and emotional connection.
I want to make you a promise.
I am not going to get the chance to be with you like I ought to. Sadly, this year I can’t be in your classroom delivering hope.
But I am going to be on the internet, and on the move. I am going to show up without being invited (not at state borders though!).
I teach a message of resilience and hope and I don’t plan on stopping. I tell people to dream big, create huge goals for themselves and to always get back up when life knocks them down. It is something I have had to remind myself but I couldn’t stand behind my message if I don’t follow it myself!
So I am going to give you a fix of positivity, whether you like it or not. Because right now, what the world needs is a kick up the butt and a big bear hug.
If you haven’t been told this in a while. Let me just say, I am proud of you.
If the only thing you did today was get out of bed, I am proud of you.
If you smiled at a stranger and gave someone else hope, I am proud of you.
If you went out and trained, despite no foreseeable competition in sight I am proud of you.
If you are in Year 12 and all you did today was breathe, I am proud of you.
Don’t forget that you’re not the only one facing challenges. Even inspirational speakers take a hit from time to time. I hope that by sharing my COVID story, I have reminded you that everyone is affected and is being forced to adapt and change. But there is always potential for something new and exciting.
I am here for you and you can reach out to me anytime. We are going to get through this together. Stay strong! Love you heaps!
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