What does it mean to have hope? For some, it means faith in a higher power. For most, I think, having hope as to some outcome is passive, as in delivering me... In Buddhism, one is encouraged to live without hope, as hope deals with the future, not the present moment. Again this is passive. But to live beyond hope, one must be active to not sink into despair.

In the US military, I learned the phrase "proper preparation prevents piss poor performance." This was referred to as the 6Ps. In the British army, they added planning for the 7th p. I prefer the 6Ps as the preparation is crucial and good performance can exist without planning as in intuitive and quick decisions. And preparation can improve both of those.

One Must Prepare To Avoid Despair

Each of us has above-average ability in something. And some have substantial natural abilities. Yet natural abilities alone do not generally bring superior performance. Take the Olympic gold medal winners. Not only do they have superior natural ability or talent, but they have trained, trained, and trained some more.

But most of all, what they have is the focus. Some may call in "to be in the zone" or "in the flow," or they focus on the task at hand. What all these have in common is tuning out distractions.

We don't have to be an Olympic athlete to use these methods. The techniques are the same whether it be your performance in school, at work, at home, or as a hobby. While practice may help make perfect, it is the reflection and focus that allows us to progress.

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Living Without Distraction

Many take great pride in multitasking, juggling balls in the air, or doing two things at once. Yet what they have done is created a mental traffic jam. The mind only can focus on one thing at a time. What appears to be multitasking is nothing more than switching back and forth.

What happens is that we learn less, forget more often, and miss important parts. As we attempt to do multiple things simultaneously, each thing becomes a distraction in rotation, and we lose focus.

To Live Without Hope or Despair

So what is the answer to the question, "Can we or should we live without hope?" ... Well... Nope! But what we don't want to do is live by hope alone or with despair.

How many times have you heard someone say? "I can't do anything about it, so I will not worry about it." Well, you can do something about everything, either directly or indirectly. No man is without recourse... only the lack of will. If only we will focus.

That said, it is common for some groups in society to blame the individual for their problems simply. They claim it is people's shortcomings alone that are to blame. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I once saw a video of a crowd in Disneyland in the 50s. It seemed odd until I realized no overweight people were in the video. Today, Americans are slightly taller but weigh an average of a whopping 25 pounds more.

So has the average American become a weak-willed gluttonous mess since 1960?.... or is something else at play?  It certainly hasn't been for lack of fad diets and the massive profit centers they have spawned.

Living A Life of Focus

In the 70s, hypoglycemia was a rather pop disease and was touted as why so many felt ill at ease. The medical establishment poo-pooed the idea. After studying the symptoms, I felt some were familiar, so I was tested. I was diagnosed with clinical hypoglycemia, which at the time was defined as a blood sugar level below 40mg/dl. Today 70mg/dl can cause symptoms, according to the American Diabetes Association.

This potential "I am not feeling quite a right epidemic " was caused by excess ingestion of sugars and processed carbohydrates. But in reality, what occurred was an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and its related physical and mental weaknesses. Just look around..... Obesity is out of control. We have just gone through a pandemic of Covid-19, and the findings show that overweight people are much more susceptible to the worst outcomes of this viral disease, including death.

Many proponents have said of healthy diets that one should shop in the outer areas of the supermarket because that is where the fresh, natural foods are located, and to stay away from the inner rows as that is typically where the processed and the junk food is located.

The food industry has gone beyond creating processed foods in the sixties to making ultra-processed foods with just the right amount of salt, sugar, and fat to make their "food" offerings as addictive as possible. And to aid in selling their junk, they have appealed to every human weakness with vast amounts of intrusive advertising.

This is not the only example, of course. We see the same behavior in cigarette addiction, alcoholism, drug addiction, gun violence, and living beyond one's economic means. They market. We buy. We suffer. They profit. If you think about it, I am sure you can devise your list of self-defeating behaviors others encourage for profit.

To have some control of our life, we must focus rather than dance to the tune of those that would deceive and distract us for their benefit.

Living Beyond Personal Responsibility

Much more is needed than to live our lives with only our responsibilities. Most of us will fail if asked to stand alone against the forces that tempt, confuse, and target us. We must band together to defeat those that would profit from our failures. Ultimately, we are.....our brother's keeper.

All of us are distracted at times, and some more than others. But are we entirely to blame? Is it our shortcomings or something else? We live in the golden age of distraction, and great fortunes are being built on their ability to distract you.

So maybe it is not your fault entirely.

I have a book recommendation for you.

Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention--and How to Think Deeply Again

0593138511by Johann Hari

Johann knew something was wrong, but what? He tried different self-help solutions and nothing seemed to help. So he set out around the world interviewing experts in their fields. And thus the gift of his book: Stolen Focus.

We all think we are driving our own bus and some maybe more than others. But rest assured, no one but he who lives a hermit's life in the back bush of the Amazon is free from their focus being stolen. And to make matters worse we are personally blamed for the results of their intentional act.

At InnerSelf we are dedicated to presenting information to our readers for their personal growth and living in harmony. I myself have read many self-help and personal growth books. This book by Johann Hari may be the most important self-help book I have ever read. If you miss it, you may spend a lifetime catching up. - Robert Jennings

Order the book by clicking here.