Carried on the Wings of Hope

Deep within you are powers lying dormant that would astonish you; powers beyond anything you have dreamed of possessing.  These forces are capable of revolutionizing your life if you discover how to tap into them.  Hope is one of the keys to harnessing these inner powers. 

         Deep within you are powers lying dormant that would astonish you; powers beyond anything you have dreamed of possessing.  These forces are capable of revolutionizing your life if you discover how to tap into them.  Hope is one of the keys to harnessing these inner powers. 

          A simple and highly reproducible scientific experiment done many years ago dramatically highlights the power of hope.  If you place a healthy mouse in a bucket of water it will be able to swim continuously for about 30 minutes before it falters from exhaustion and drowns.  However, if you rescue the mouse just as it gives up and slips under the surface, and then repeat this cruel experiment again the next day or the next month, that same mouse will now swim for hours, bolstered by hope of another rescue before it drowns.  In every aspect of your life it is better to hope than to despair.  Doubt, fear and despair will drag you down and make you feel old and tired; but hope, confidence and faith will keep you young and strong. 

         My favorite medical school graduation gift was a worn black leather bag, about the size of an average purse, that once belonged to my great grandfather Dr. Henry O’Keefe — a pioneer physician practicing on the North Dakota prairie over 100 years ago.  When he traveled by horse to make a house call he carried only this small black bag filled with largely ineffective potions.  What he carried with him that was more important than the contents of the black bag was a promise of hope.  Back then ‘bedside manner’ was perhaps the most important measure of a physician because his or her ability to instill a sense of hope and optimism accounted for most of their healing powers.  Keep in mind that people in that day had more confidence in their physician’s healing abilities than most of our patients have in doctors today, despite our vast array of highly effective medications, surgeries and devices. 

         A fascinating study by Dr. Maruta in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2002 showed that optimism translates into better health.  This trial classified people as optimists (23 percent), pessimists (17 percent), or somewhere in between (60 percent) on the basis of a personality inventory taken as young adults in the 1960s.  They found that the optimists had a 50 percent lower risk of an early death compared to the pessimists during the subsequent 30 years.  Indeed, optimism and hope are powerful healers.  

         I have learned to never underestimate a person’s ability to change their life for the better.  Three centuries ago Goethe said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” 

         When I first saw Sarah as a patient, she was near death in the ICU after delivering her first child.  Her blood pressure was 70/50, she was on a ventilator, unconscious, and her echocardiogram showed her heart to be severely weakened, with an ejection fraction of 10 percent.  She stabilized over the next 48 hours, and a few days later when I went in to check on her, she was sitting up in bed holding her newborn baby.  Sarah looked up and said, “We have to make my heart strong again because she needs me.  No one could ever love this baby like I do.”  Over the next few months, Sarah’s recovery was amazing.  By the time her baby celebrated her first birthday, Sarah was back to normal.  Her echo now showed a normal heart with an ejection fraction of 55 percent.  Certainly, the medications were instrumental in her recovery, but her strong will to survive and her hope to see her little Gabrielle grow up almost certainly helped her heart grow strong again.

         Of all the forces that can empower you to change your world, hope may be the most the important. Hope can give you a sense of control and can motivate you to do what needs to be done.  I can tell you how to cure high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression without medications.  I see patients every day that manage to overcome the powerful nicotine addiction of tobacco by simply deciding to take control of their lives.  And you probably already know what you need to do to lose that extra weight, and regain your fitness.  But these cures require commitment and perseverance on your part.  In order to stick with the plan you will need optimism and faith in yourself. 

        Many life-changing endeavors are the result of a self-fulfilling prophesy; the changes won’t begin until you decide in your heart that you can do it.  Believe without a doubt that it can happen, and it will.  The moment you start looking within for solutions to your problems is the moment you will begin to be successful.  Hope can inspire you with the confidence necessary to make these changes, but hope dies unless you nurture it.    

        Cherish your hopes; hold tightly to your dreams.  March bravely to the drumbeat that only you can hear.  Goals are accomplished one step at a time by moving steadfastly onward and upward and by never looking back.  Never let the odds prevent you from doing what you know in your heart you need to do.  And don’t be discouraged by the fact that it may take some time to achieve your goal.  The time will pass regardless; you may as well be working toward a brighter tomorrow in the meanwhile. 

         The price for a cynical and pessimistic attitude is having to live in a hostile world filled with doubt and worry.  I have noticed that when I try to see the best in people, and trust that the world is unfolding as it should be, life seems to be easier and happier. Your outlook on life is not a trait that is genetically predetermined or immutable.  A more hopeful, trusting and optimistic attitude is something you can choose for yourself.  You can change your mind and change your life.  So here’s to a wonderful world, and may you always raise a glass that is half-full rather than half-empty.

         The great 19th century author Victor Hugo wrote, “Sleep in peaceFeature Articles, God is awake.” 

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