How to Light a Candle of Hope in your Darkest Hour

by Vishnu on November 18, 2013

A flicker of hope

A flicker of hope

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu

When I was going through a breakup and divorce, my life was filled with darkness. The end of an eight year marriage, the pressures by our families to stay together and the pending divorce proceedings were overwhelming and soul-crushing.

A blogging friend of mine had been unemployed for a little more than a year. When she left her last job, she didn’t realize that the tanking economy would take her through a roller coaster period of unemployment. The mental and emotional pressures continued to build up month after month.

Another friend from college was diagnosed with breast cancer when she had just turned 34 years of age. With her father’s recent passing and her diagnosis, making it through each day was a struggle.

How do you persevere when your future looks bleak? How do you move forward when you feel like you can’t?

How do you cultivate hope at your life’s absolute lowest points?

When the path seems uncertain and the future dark, cultivate these ten states of mind and beliefs to persist in the darkness:

1. A belief in a better tomorrow. A conviction that what’s happening doesn’t have to always endure. Another day can bring new circumstances, new opportunities and new solutions to improve the situation you find yourself in.

You can’t fall back much farther when you’ve hit the depths of despair.

It can and it usually always does get better.

2. Keep going even when you’re uncertain about the future. One of the scariest feelings you confront is having an indeterminate sense about your future.

How do you ride your bike along an unknown path? How do you forge ahead when you can’t see where you’re going?

Even when you’re uncertain of the path and can’t see in the dark, keep moving forward knowing that you will have more clarity with each step.

You don’t have to know exactly what the future brings, but know that you have more control in what can happen than what occurred in the past.

Trust your intuition and double down on hope knowing that you’ll see glimmers of light and direction soon.

3. Don’t allow roadblocks to halt your journey. As you move forward, you will stumble upon more bumps in the road: obstacles, setbacks and delays.

You can allow these roadblocks to get in the way or you can be determined to move past them and accelerate.

Think of roadblocks as pebbles in your path that can be cleared instead of unmovable boulders that paralyze you.

There is a solution to every obstacle you face. Often, it just takes creativity and persistence to prevail.

4.Life lessons are teachers. Being hopeful means using the problems and challenges which confront you in a positive way.

Each difficulty and obstruction can reveal something to help improve your life.

What is the wisdom that’s contained in the obstacle confronting you?

There is always a lesson there. Your job is to simply find it.

Don’t ask, “why me” or “why did this happen”. Instead, ask: what can I learn from this today?

5.Pain transforms. If you’re going through a throbbing life event that is tearing at your heart and soul, be aware of the tenderness and hurt.

Once again, there are many lessons and insights your life’s most painful events can teach you.

Once you can acknowledge the pain, allow hope to alter the pain into a gift that can be used for the next steps in your life.

If you can view your pain as a gift of steadfastness and strength, you’ll be better prepared for all the current and future hitches you’ll confront in your life.

6.Keep hope thriving. It’s easy to want to give up or throw your hands in desperation. Especially when your pain is protracted or the difficulty is too excruciating to handle.

Even in the darkest of hours, allow hope to lead. Progress ahead. Know that persistence will have its reward. Be open to the idea that circumstances will improve.

Your day will come if you can make it through the unknown and demanding stretches. Those who persist, usually prevail.

Focus on all the positive possibilities.

Just because the current situation worsened doesn’t mean you have no control over the final outcome. Know that you can take action to change the outcome.

Hope demands that you surge onward and keep believing in a better tomorrow even in the most agonizing circumstances.

7. Keep taking small steps forward. Having hope doesn’t mean you simply sit back with an intention of a better tomorrow.

Hope is cultivated through action.

To improve your tomorrow, you must take small steps toward improving the situation today.

Brainstorm ideas with friends and families. Explore options. Seek help and advice. Set the problem aside for some time and come back to it later. Seek inspiration from mentors.

8. Allow for inner growth and development. You may not be able to control what’s happening outside of you, but trying circumstances will help strengthen your inner resolve.

Challenges will help you rely on your ability to persist and develop characteristics in yourself you never know you had.

External circumstances help chip away at the rougher edges of your personality and help you connect with your true self.

When life shakes you up, allow for your truth to be heard, your inner core to be strengthened and for character building.

There is no better time to acknowledge the skeletons in the closet and come to terms with them.

Allow adversity to strength you.

9. Hope is letting go. You can’t control every situation and circumstance.

Hope also means you have to let go and allow circumstances to work out on their own, after you’ve done your part.

It’s releasing expectations of a specific result or demand.

The serenity prayer reminds us that wisdom is knowing the difference between accepting the things that we cannot change and the courage to change the things we can.

Hope is anticipating the best when you have no control over what transpires next.

10.Hope wins. Hope is realizing that many have prevailed with hope.

Hope taught me that with each passing day, my life can transform from sorrow to joy, from pain to wisdom and from loss to clarity.

I could wake up again and see a brighter day – divorce was certainly not the end of the world.

My blogger buddy found work in a more desirable city, closer to her family and with more pay.

My friend from college became cancer-free, changed her perspective on life and is now filled with gratitude for all the small things life has to offer.

Even when circumstances don’t unfold in your favor, the lessons you’ll learn and your inner resolve will create a stronger and more fearless you.

Even when trying circumstances persist and challenge you, rely on hope to make it through the rough days.

Let hope be the lantern you carry to shine the light on the path to a better tomorrow.

* Photo credit @killerturnip

Has hope gotten you through some rough patches in your life? When do you cling onto hope and when do you throw in the towel? Anything I missed on living a life filled with hope? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

{ 51 comments }

Razwana November 18, 2013 at 1:42 am

V – I read your post today and agree with all of it. This is exactly what to do when going through a crisis.

If you’d told me this whilst I was watching my dad die, I would’ve wrung your neck out for being so patronising.

But if you’d told me this whilst I was going through my divorce (which happened after I lost my dad), I would’ve thanked you for reminding me of this wisdom.

Each experience teaches us to have hope. If I’ve moved on from the first, I’ll move on from the next. Resistance increases. And in my case, you become somewhat hardened to a certain type of pain.
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Vishnu November 19, 2013 at 8:42 am

Appreciate the comment Razwana and the growth that you’ve been having and for sharing the the lessons of hope you have in your life.

Do you think you’ve become hardened to the pain or allowed the hardened pain to dissolve into hope?

Razwana November 20, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Definitely the former. To the point where I don’t feel the sympathy I used to feel when someone is going through the same thing as I did. Because I know over time things always improve.
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Vishnu November 21, 2013 at 12:05 am

I think you’re saying you’ve become used to the pain and have learned to deal with it. Each time you face it then, you have an increased resistance to it. And you’re finding hope from having survived each experience? I hope I got that right. And if that’s the case, then you’re finding that time helps wounds too which is another tip – have patience and allow time to heal.

Thanks, Razwana.

richmiraclefiles November 18, 2013 at 2:16 am

Hi Vishnu,
Your post is a wake up call for many of us who need to examine our responses to life.
When faced with problems mostly everyone copes “By Hit And Trial”
By and large everybody is left to his own mechanisms to deal,to cope and come up with plausible solutions.It’s hit and trial for many,and it’s a stagnant ,template of a response for many others.It is every body for himself.
Primarily there is no method in the “madness” of responding to life.But it need not be so desperate,and so helpless a situation.Life can be met with calmly, composedly ,and more effectively.
Well i’d like to add something here,to add value to our encounters with challenges in life:-
1.Be sure about your worth.You are as worthy as any one else to receive the best in life;whether it is respect,liking,your own self confidence,and feel good factor,or any thing else that pleases you.

2.Keep an effectiveness journal.This is a particularly efficient method of tracking your errors.Only record those particular incidents which cause you discomfort repeatedly.Make one column for the incident,one for the date and one column for the best solution that you will apply to handle the same situation next time around.

3.Forgive yourself.Don’t be harsh on yourself .After every new and trying situation you don’t necessarily have to repeat the same old self deprecating thoughts to yourself.
Thanks
Mona
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Vishnu November 19, 2013 at 8:48 am

Mona, love your additional tips for self-belief and in return, increasing more hope in our lives. Self-belief, a journal and forgiveness allows us to keep going when facing challenges. Instead of being run over by life, we can learn the lessons, grow as a person and not repeat the mistake again the future. That sounds like a great recipe to be hopeful again in life. Thank you for adding these 3 points.

Elle November 18, 2013 at 5:56 am

Great advice Vishnu, hope is nourishment for the soul and heart that’s been battered and bruised. I learned from personal experiences not to ask ‘why me’ but to ask ‘what’s next’. It was a much more hopeful place to dwell in and has got me through some heart wrenching experiences.

I would add, assume something wonderful is happening, even when it appears that life is less than wonderful. Just the expectation of wonder supports our spirit to vibrate with the energy of possibility and that is a much better feeling place to live in.
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Vishnu November 19, 2013 at 8:53 am

Hi Elle – love this tip! Yes!! What is the absolute positive thing that is happening in the situation. Every negative situation in life for me personally has had profound positive effects and has worked out for the best. An expectation of wonder can indeed provide an uplifting and hopeful feeling.

Amita Patel November 18, 2013 at 6:27 am

Hi Vishnu,
This is a powerful post! What’s helped me the most is shifting my attention. I try to focus 80% of my time and energy on what’s working and only 20 on what’s not. This ratio has been helpful because it’s enough that I’m not ignoring the problem, but it’s small enough that I’m not giving myself into it. Wen we focus on what is working, not only are we happier and have more energy, but we bring more positivity and hope into our lives.
Thank so much for sharing this, it’s a good reminder :)
xo,
Amita

Vishnu November 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

Wow, getting so many good tips in the comments here, including this one Amita. I feel like expanding the post and adding 10 more tips with everyone’s comments. Focusing on not only what’s working but on the positive side of every situation – sort of like a gratitude practice.

Shifting our focus can help keep our spirits up. Instead of focusing on the frustration (20%) we can focus on remaining in a state of inspiration. Thanks for adding this tip.

Martha Orlando November 18, 2013 at 7:09 am

I have been contemplating what word I would like to choose for the new year as my “mantra.” This year is the year of “love.” Coincidentally enough, the word “hope” has come to mind more than once during this thought process. Now that I’ve read your post here, Vishnu, I’m seriously considering choosing “hope” as my word to 2014.
Wonderful, uplifting, and inspiring post, my friend!
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Vishnu November 19, 2013 at 8:58 am

Wonderful, Martha. Even if hope doesn’t make the one word of the year, you don’t have to worry. I get the feeling you live every moment with hope in your life:) and are regularly spreading the message of hope you in your writing, blogging and interaction with all!

Thanks for the feedback and comment.

Jeffrey Willius November 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Hi Vishnu — When I was growing up, I was frequently annoyed with my mother for what I saw as indifference or inaction. I’ve gradually learned that my annoyance was misplaced. She was merely living her faith — faith that even the worst of problems often simply fix themselves if we resist our obsession with “fixing” things and just let time and beauty and kindness have some air.
As you say so well, hope and faith are inseparable.

Vishnu November 19, 2013 at 9:08 am

Hmmm…profound. Indifference or inaction in one light can be the ultimate belief, faith and hope. She was a wise person who knew when to let go of the obsession to fix things and sometimes, let things work out on their own.

I have tended to try to fix things more often than simply surrendering. Thank you for adding this comment, Jeff.

Balroop Singh November 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Hi Vishnu, You are so right! Hope always wins but first of all we have to nurture hope, we have to keep it alive all the time…here is my take on HOPE:

Hope is the moonlight filtering through the trees,
Hope is the silent prayer that we make in distress,
Hope is the promise that we make to ourselves,
Hope is the happiness that we visualize,
Hope is the horizon that we reach, if we try!

I am in a different time zone these days[ visiting Delhi, my home] Thanks for another inspiring post, interspersed with personal touches. I enjoyed reading it. Have a nice day.
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Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Glad you liked it and thanks for your visit, Balroop. I enjoyed this poetic comment – including the silent prayer and promise.

Hope you’re having a good trip and thanks again for adding to the conversation.

Vidya Sury November 18, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hope always wins. There’s morning after night. And in the morning, after a good night’s sleep (or even tossing and turning), there’s coffee. Em, I mean, there’s sunshine. Excellent tips. It is feeling grateful when we go through tough times that really counts.

Still laughing at your cute email about the subscription, Vishnu!
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Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm

haha yes, coffee (or tea) and sunshine in the morning (or sunshine eventually even on a cloudy day:) Feeling grateful is definitely a part of being hopeful.
Thanks for visiting Vidya and glad you liked the email. I never really know if people are getting any emails I send haha but looks like one made it into your inbox :) Success!

Bharti November 18, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Very nice post Vishnu. I completely agree with you that one thing that keeps a person going is hope and positive outlook.

I am glad that you are a ‘happier you’ now, that your friend found a job, and other friend overcame deadly cancer. These all situations are very good indicators of hope and how one can benefit if one has hope.

Again very good article. Keep up the good work!

Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Glad you liked the article, Bharti, and yes, hope continues to prevail in our lives and change situations for the better. Thanks for commenting and looking forward to your next posts.

Rob Leonardo November 19, 2013 at 12:27 am

Reading through the first lines is quite scary with those sad moments of people’s lives. But my take on this is ‘faith’. It is not about religion but about complete trust and confidence in life, in someone or something. I’ve gone through a lot of personal challenges but my inner mantra told me to ‘hold on’. And I guess it helps to have a certain form of belief towards an almighty power helping through or someone you love who keeps you going on in spite of the difficulties. As the saying goes- there’s light in the end of the tunnel ;)
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Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Hi, Rob – I really appreciate this comment of ‘holding on’ in faith. I too have taken this leap of faith in cultivating hope in my own life. There is light at the of the tunnel – we just have to hold on tight and keep going til we see that light. Having the almighty for guidance is also helpful during dark times.

Thank you for sharing your circumstances and perspective.

Varonica November 19, 2013 at 5:51 am

Vishnu, what a great post! I’ve used many of the tips you listed above especially asking myself what I can learn from the situation. It’s amazing how just changing your perspective to that of a student of life can help make difficult experiences have value.

I would also add a couple of things that I’ve tried with success.

1. Look for the bright spots because they’re there. When we’re having a tough time it’s easy to focus on all the other negative stuff in life, but there is always something to enjoy. Even something as simple as watching the beauty of a sunset. Gratitude lists can also help identify the bright spots in your life.

2. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling without judgment. One thing I found that I was doing, especially when I had some scary health issues was getting really angry and trying to fight the fact that I felt afraid and disappointed. It wasn’t until I read somewhere that it’s best to just allow your feelings to flow through you instead of trying to run from them that I actually found some relief. Fighting your feelings just makes things worse.

Thanks again for the great reminders.

Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm

LOVE these additional tips, Varonica!! to remain hopeful. In a nutshell, have a positive perspective by noting all the positive things in life and acceptance. Accepting where we are in life and how we are feeling does give relief. From there, we can move forward instead of fighting and resisting where we are in life.

Thank you for your insight and wisdom here.

Dale November 19, 2013 at 8:18 am

Absolutely! I choose to see each of life’s challenges/eases as possibilities of learning and growing. Great post!
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Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Viewing life as opportunities for learning and growth is a very hopeful way to view life. Thanks for your visit and comment, Dale!

Cathy Taughinbaugh November 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

Love this line, Vishnu – “Hope also means you have to let go and allow circumstances to work out on their own, after you’ve done your part.” When substance abuse entered my family, I needed to know that there was always hope. When we are in our darkest hour, that can be the shining light that helps us carry on.

So glad that you are moving in a more positive direction after your divorce. I’ve been there as well at one point in my life, and the best words of wisdom I heard was, “Every day gets a little better.”
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Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Thank you, Cathy for your kind words and understanding. And I’m feeling more hopeful from your experience and hearing that it does get better every day. I know now that it absolutely does :)

You not only overcame substance abuse in your family but have used that difficult situation to be the hope and light to others. You’re now carrying the light for those who might be struggling with addictions or have family members who are.

Thank you for your comment again.

Galen Pearl November 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I’m with Cathy in loving the connection between hope and letting go. Hope always wins when we let go of our requirement that things turn out a certain way, when we trust in the basic goodness of the universe, when we realize that we don’t know as much as we think we do about how things “should” be. Great post, and thanks for sharing your own story.
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Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Thank you Galen as always and for your added points for hope: trusting in the basic goodness of the universe and acceptance! You too are a torch of hope for all of us :)

Bhauvana November 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm

really needed this right now… has me in tears…i’m going through a difficult time in my life and just as I was about to break down, I saw this post on my twitter. God really plans the perfect timing. Thank you Vishnu, this post is so inspiring and i’m now going to try to be more grateful for what i have in my life, and allow myself to feel and heal myself.

Vishnu November 20, 2013 at 11:46 pm

I’m glad you’re here Bhauvana and I do hope you found it helpful.

Whatever it is, remember that it doesn’t last and always gets better. There are so many stories where we’ve overcome the worst spots in our lives as shared by some of the other comments above.

Sending you light and healing. And hope of course.

Sandra Pawula November 19, 2013 at 11:27 pm

This is beautiful, Vishnu! I especially like the idea of seeing roadblocks as pebbles. :) But, really each single point is expressed with such insight and kindness. This is a keeper for sure as we will all go through times of darkness. I had an entire decade of struggle! What a relief that outer circumstances finally shifted, but most important is the inner attitude of hope and faith.
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Vishnu November 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Thanks for your feedback Sandra. I have a feeling your decade of struggle has contributed to the wisdom and insights you share with us :) ? Looks like your inner attitude of hope and faith carried the day.

Swapna Raghu Sanand November 20, 2013 at 2:19 am

Beautiful and very moving post, Vishnu. Keep writing like this and bring hope to many who need it and grasp your words as a ray of light to move on from the past and to move ahead with hope.

To answer your questions, specifically:

Has hope gotten you through some rough patches in your life?

YES! On the few occasions when I wanted to give up, my Guru’s loving omnipresence reached out to me and lifted me from the darkest depths of despair. So the most important Truth is this: look to where you receive hope from – it can be a book that has the power to transform you or a person in your life, a belief that protects you or a Guru. JUST DON’T GIVE UP.

When do you cling onto hope and when do you throw in the towel?

When everything else fails and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, one clings to hope and battles the temptation to throw in the towel when one feels there is no meaningful purpose that drives you to stay alive anymore.

Anything I missed on living a life filled with hope?

Sometimes when you lose all hope and interest in life but you find yourself having the power to bring happiness to the life of those less fortunate, you may actually want to live after all.
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Vishnu November 24, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Thanks for sharing such a detailed response, Swapna.

I enjoyed reading your reflections in the comments: Find hope in your source of inspiration and hope, be it a spiritual teacher, scripture or philosophy.

Don’t give up no matter how dark it gets.

And if you lose all hope, serve others. No surer way to start seeing more hope in your life.

Each response from all of you helps make this post even stronger. Thank you.

Li-ling November 21, 2013 at 6:21 am

Vishnu! So many good points and so many great contributions.
For me, my journey forward has often been greatly assisted by the mental image of what I desire it to be. This has been supported greatly by the belief that the sun will always rise again (hope as you say) , and that when I stop to take a good look at my life, regardless of how low or down it seems, there are always a lot of things to be grateful for.
Thanks for the great pointers Vishnu.
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Vishnu November 24, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Thanks Li-ling – a visualization technique, a strong belief in things improving and a gratitude practice area all excellent ways to cultivate hope. Thanks for adding these tips.

Dave Arnold November 23, 2013 at 2:12 pm

This is a powerful post Vishnu! So many good principles – and that makes it so powerful is that it comes from you own life. Pain does transform & hope is always available. God bless you!
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Vishnu November 24, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Thank you Dave. Glad you enjoyed and appreciate your visit and comment.

Dan Black November 27, 2013 at 11:57 am

Having hope allows us to move through the different seasons of life (both the good and difficult times). Reading this post reminded me about the importance of taking care of our self’s. Getting enough sleep, eating right, working out, learning, and spending time with loved ones are all great ways to increase our hope and get us through those hard times. Great post my friend!

Vishnu December 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

hi Dan – thanks for visiting and adding your thoughts on hope. Loved ones do have the power of uplifting us and motivating us to keep going. As well as the other self-care tips you mentioned. Always glad to have your additions to the post.

David @ Red Letter Believers November 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm

I love that Pain Transforms. Too often we rush out of discomfort without realizing we are also leaving the place where we can most grow
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Vishnu December 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

hi David, welcome and glad you liked that thought. If pain is growth and the place hope is kindle most, we wouldn’t resist it so much so much in our lives.

Micah November 29, 2013 at 4:52 am

I loved point 5 in particular. It reminded of a quote I read once, from Marcel Proust.

“Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge, we make promises only; pain we obey.”

He was speaking about physical pain of course, but I think the point you make about the transformative power of other types of pain is so true. It can change us in ways nothing else would have the capacity to. Though I’d never go looking for it I can’t deny the things that’ve made me grow most in life, have been painful.
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Vishnu December 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Thanks Micah for sharing that quote and observation on pain in our lives. And yeah, you’re right! We don’t want it, resist it, fight against it but like you and David mentioned above, we grow the most from it.

Welcome to the blog!

Ludvig Sunström December 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Vishnu,
This part resonated with me the most.

“Hope is cultivated through action.”

When we do things and succeed it builds confidence and self-esteem for sure.

First time on your blog. I like your footer:
“Is Vishnu a Hindu God?”
Got me laughing! :)

Regards,
Ludvig

Vishnu December 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Ludvig!! Hindu God meet famous warrior. Lol Welcome!

Action does help inspire more hope through confidence, self-esteem (as you point out) and simply from small achievements.

Glad you’re here. Welcome and hope to keep the laughs going.

Steve December 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

There are so many good things to comment on, I don’t even know where to begin. Seriously, this is all great points – it makes me feel good and hopeful. Yeah, that was probably the point. But anyway, I do have a couple of things I’d like to add.

Trust your intuition. Yes, this is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years. I have to listen to myself and trust that what I’m doing is right. It’s surprising to how much more I can get out of life when I just listen to intuition to guide me. I’ve learned my gut is usually right.

I’ve also learned to stop being fearful of the future. It’s uncertain and that can be scary. But it can also be exciting. I’ve learned to like uncertainty. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Rather than it being a bad thing, I look to it as a good thing. I’d rather not know what’s going to happen. But then again, I have an optimistic view of the future. Someone going through bad times might not feel that way. Still, I know that if I’m going through some bad times, eventually I’ll get through them. There always seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. And once I get through everything, I’ll be wiser. Even bad experiences can have a positive effect.
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Alexandria December 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

Love this post! We have so much to learn from our struggles when we constructively move forward. Sometimes it’s difficult to move forward when we are overwhelmed with pain and fear; but if we replace that with strength and hope, life gets so much better!

Thanks Vishnu!
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Vishnu January 10, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Hey Alex – glad you enjoyed it. Life does get easier when we replace hope with fear and strength. And true learning does happen with overcoming our bigger struggles. So, the bigger the challenge, the more room for growth and learning. Thanks for your visit!

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