The moment I most liked in all of the filmed Lord of the Rings trilogy was when Legolas had despaired. He was ready to give up, and Aragorn counseled him to hold -- to do the best they could as long as they could.
So they fought. And they held out long enough for help to arrive and rescue them.
And I realized why despair is a sin.
We usually think of hope as the opposite of despair. However, faith can serve as a stronger cure for despair than hope. Faith -- faith that the universe will reach out and bridge the gap between what we can do and what we need -- lets us go on when we can't see how we can prevail.
Suppose that neither despair nor faith is provable. That is, suppose we cannot know whether we will receive help when we reach the end of our abilities. What happens when we despair? We stop acting. What happens when we hold on to faith? We continue to act, as long as we can. Which of these behaviors is more likely to succeed? The one that proceeds from faith.
So we find that faith is functional, and pragmatic, when we cannot know if help is on its way. In effect, we are more likely to find the universe benevolent if we believe it to be so. Because our actions will give more chance for the universe to bring us help when we believe it will do so.
This is why one of my chief functions as a life coach is to help my clients have faith. With faith in themselves and in the universe, acting becomes easier and more effective. I also help them select the best actions to take, in the best order. And I'm there, as a safety net of ongoing support, to ward off despair when the inevitable challenges come along.
Now, I also believe in science. There are times when we can know that a path we are on will never lead to where we want to go, or will cost more than it will be worth. At those times, it does pay to accept the feedback of the universe and try a different path.
So both accepting the reality of the situation and having faith are useful strategies. It's our responsibility to learn what we can and have the faith we can, and the universe takes care of the rest.
Seth Godin has a cool book on one way to decide whether to continue when the going gets hard. It's called The Dip, and I recommend it.
Meanwhile, I find I'm more in need of faith than course correction just now. My best study of what I need to build my business suggests more effort in the same direction. There are signs what I'm doing is working, and needs refinement and more time. So on I go.
May you have the faith to continue where you need to, the insight to see where to change paths, and the wisdom to know the difference.
All the best to you,