Message of Hope (Video and Transcript)
This year I was honored to have been asked to record a Message of Hope for a group of women physicians. My initial thought was, crikey (or something similar). A Message of Hope. For Doctors. In 2020. But the more I thought about it, the more I found I wanted to say. I thought I'd share it here in case it inspires any other amazing women this holiday season.
You can watch the video or read the transcript. Enjoy.
And happy holidays to all of you. However you celebrate this year, it will doubtless be different from previous years.
My name is Sarah Steele and I am honored to have been asked to deliver this Message of Hope to all of you.
Tradition dictates that as the year draws to a close, we look back and reflect on what we are thankful for over the last 12 months. Well, 2020 may prove more challenging than most in that regard.
I looked up the definition of Hope in the dictionary and it said:
‘A desire for a certain thing to happen’.
Hope is future focused towards what is possible. What we dare dream of.
I think this is the perfect year to start a new tradition. Rather than reflect, I propose we pro-ject.
What do you want to be thankful for as the New Year gives us all that metaphorical clean slate?
What do you want to be Hopeful for? What do you want to look back on this time next year?
What are you excited about happening over the next year?
There are obviously the ‘big’ things like a vaccine for sure. But what about on a level closer to home? What would you like to be hopeful for, for yourself?
More sleep? More balance? The next step in your career? That you can get back in the gym? Strolling aimlessly around the mall without a mask? A huge family gathering? Whatever it is, start imagining. Because if we only focus on the things we feel helpless about, we can quickly become hopeless and feel powerless.
Rebecca Solnit wrote that hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away, even in the face of the fiercest opposition.
This year especially, we all need to find hope. We need hope. Our families need hope. Our colleagues need hope. Our patients need hope.
In case we had forgotten, this year has reminded us that the world is not spinning around our goals, our hopes and our dreams. We will be thrown curveballs. We will be forced to face the unexpected. We have faced struggles we couldn’t even imagine this time last year. And we will do so again. For that is the way of life.
And yet, we have, and we will, endure. We will get back up. We will brush ourselves down. We will start again. We learn more from the adversity than when everything goes according to plan.
Hope isn’t about the successes. It’s about the audacity of getting back up in the face of the unimaginable.
In tough times we can all find ourselves leaning on others for inspiration and hope. And if we are to lean on one another for support and allyship, we need to not only be inspired by others, but we need to be inspired within ourselves. If we are going to inspire hope, we need to be hopeful.
Snyder;s Theory of Hope, based on hundreds of interviews with those who describe themselves as hopeful, sets out 3 elements that need to be present for hope to exist: First, We need to have goals, something to aim for. Second, we need to be able to find a pathway to achieve those goals and we need agency – a sense of belief in ourselves, that we can reach our goals – if we follow the pathway – even if it’s really hard work.
He says that hope isn’t an emotion, rather it’s a cognitive thinking process. Although emotions play a background role, it’s more about how we choose to see situations. It’s where we choose to put our attention, it’s whether we choose to believe in ourselves.
And if it’s about a thinking process, that means that having hope is learnable. It means that out of our most challenging of times we can learn to consciously and intentionally find hope.
And it doesn’t stop with us. Snyder also suggests that we learn hopeful, goal-directed thinking from others. And that means we can influence those around us to be hopeful.
If we are learning from others, are you surrounded by relationships that nourish your soul? Do you have people around you that are full of hope themselves – for it is surely easier to shine the light onto the path forward when you are joined by others who illuminate the Highway of Hope with you.
Hope isn’t about ignoring challenges or pretending that everything is OK, when really it isn’t. But it is about knowing that things will get better and that we are in control, if nothing else, of the mindset we choose to carry around with us.
But hope is a special kind of mindset: It’s a perceiving of something that does not yet exist. It’s an imagining of what is possible. Research back up that when people have hope, their goals are more likely to be reached. This isn’t because hope has mystical powers or is sprinkled in fairy dust, it’s because when people have a clear belief about what is possible, they’re more likely to take steps towards it.
And yet, so soften we cannot reach for hope without the shadow of struggle, we cannot know the light. Brene Brown says hope is a function of struggle. I agree. And I believe life is a constant search for balance. When life feels heavy, and the struggles appear endless, we need to even the scales with and equal amount of hope to find that balance.
In the middle of winter, hope is about knowing that Spring is around the corner. And it surely is.
All over the world people are waking up to the reality of what really matters – to love, to family, to health.
We are told to never make a permanent decision in a temporary problem. And as much as our fear and exhaustion may feel permanent, know that it truly is only temporary. Spring is on the way.
Admiral Willian McRaven
Admiral William McRaven, a retired Navy SEAL said in his commencement speech at the Univ. Texas “At that darkest moment of the mission is the time you need to be calm, when you must be calm, when you must be composed, when all your tactical skills, yur physical power and your inner strength must be bought to bear. If you want to change the world you must be your very best in the darkest moment. “ He goes on to say that it only takes one person to give hope, even in the darkest hour. A Lincoln, a Mandela, a Dr King, a young girl from Pakistan, Malala.
I put to you that you can be that beacon of hope for your patients and their families, for your colleagues, and for your family. You can assure them that Spring is on the way.
But before you can do that, you must light that torch for yourself. You must find your own light in the darkness. For it is there.
You must tap into that inner strength you didn’t realize you had. For it is there. You must KNOW that Spring is, indeed, on its way. For it is. That much, we know for sure.
You must find the inner strength to not only fight the battles that you face, but to also find the strength to ask for help. It is there waiting for you ask.
As physicians you see patients dig-in and overcome extreme challenges and remain full of hope for a brighter tomorrow. And they do not do it alone. They do it with help from their friends and family, from support groups and networks. And from you, their physician.
There are days you will feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and you will want to give up. Know that you are not alone.
Your colleagues, your family, your community, your support groups. They are all there. And they all want to help. You just have to ask. As physicians, and especially women physicians, we know this is often a struggle. You are truly, not so good at taking your own medicine. But we owe it to those around us to put ourselves at the center of our own existence.
You tell families of patients to make sure they look after themselves so they can, in turn, look after their sick loved ones. And yet, how many of us neglect ourselves? How many of us put everyone else in the family, and even friends, ahead of ourselves.
You must be prepared to inconvenience your family and friends in order to keep yourself strong. Yes, to even sometimes be selfish.
Find the courage to say no. Not now. Now is for me. Now is for me to refill my soul with hope. For only by doing that can I offer hope to others.
It’s not about listening to your brain and following the logical steps. You are physicians, this I know you can do. Our brain is there to keep us safe – to survive..
Our soul is there to lift us up and soar – to thrive.
What is your soul hungry for?
What do you need to do for you?
It isn’t only about going to the gym, although it may also be. It isn’t only about eating more healthily, although it may also be. It isn’t only about attending a community event that lifts your spirit, although it may also be.
Perhaps it’s about dancing around your house as if nobody is watching to the soundtrack of your youth.
Sometimes, especially in the most challenging of times, it’s about doing none of the above. Sometimes it’s about doing absolutely nothing. It’s about sitting and listening to the bird song. It’s about watching the sunrise birth a new day, or catching the sun setting over the horizon as we pass the hope of light to others.
It’s about giving yourself permission to lift your spirit and renourish your soul. However that looks to you.
Out of this pandemic have come some amazing stories of hope and love and resiliency.
Operas being sung from balconies during lockdown. Complete strangers offering to help the elderly and sick. In the UK, every Thursday evening, the country would come together at 8pm on their doorsteps and clap, bang saucepans and give thanks for the health care workers. Out of loneliness have come new found friendships. Out of exhaustion has come a new found level of grit we didn’t know we had.
Out of fear has come bravery. Out of confusion has come clarity.
If you think you are not making a difference, know for sure that you are. As sure as we know spring, is indeed, on the way.
Dr Bryant Adibe, a VP at Rush University Hospital in Chicago, reminds us that even though in the face of extreme adversity, it is much easier to be fueled by fear, anger and doubt, now more than ever, we need to show Grace to one another through kindness, patience, and compassion.
I agree with Dr Adibe, and I’ll take it one step further. The first person we need to offer Grace, Kindness, Patience and Compassion to is ourselves. Even if it means saying no. Not now. Maybe in the spring. For spring is definitely on the way.
However you celebrate, have a wonderfully simple holiday.