Gus-husband, father, employee of a non-profit – hate his life. Nothing seems to be going right for him. His clients are disgusting, his wife is distant, his children do not seem to understand him. Sometimes when he drives home, he thinks about giving the steering wheel a quick jolt that will put him in the path of a semi-truck so he can finish it all.
We’ve all been there, and author Jeff Caliguire understands that. And he also understands that “Occasionally we sense that there is a voice calling us out of the valley and into the mountains.” Therefore, in his new book The Habits of Hope, Caliguire lets Gus hear this voice. For some of us, this voice tells us that we have a greater purpose; it can be the voice of God, it can be the voice of someone who believes in us; it may be our own confidence coming to the surface. For Gus, it is the voice of an old mentor from his childhood that teaches him not only about hope but how he can practice it through daily habits.
Gus first connects with his mentor when he receives a letter from him. Of course, Gus’s story is a parable, so the letter may well be aimed at all of us readers. Gus’ mentor calls him a seeker and adds:
You refuse to settle for life at face value … You can’t put life in a box successfully defined by someone else. You are the one pushing the envelope on what is accepted and acceptable. You see the world as impressive and incredible, but also disappointing and bleak. You see the hypocrites and get bugged. You see the rich and famous and ask, “Why are they so messy?” You see the religious and ask, “Who wants to be like them?” You experience pain and loss in life and ask, “Is there a better way?”
The speaker reminds us that there is a better way and that everyone who walks is not lost. We are just looking for hope.
I won’t give the story back to the rest of the book, but I will say that Gus has some surprises in store for him when he reconnects with his mentor and teacher Habits of Hope. I also found many useful points in this book that I probably won’t forget soon, so I’ll talk about them a bit.
One of the biggest eye-opening topics in this book for me was about time. I constantly feel like I don’t have enough time, like I can’t always stop smelling the roses, just as I’m guided by the clock, which in the book is referred to as “the chronos … the sequence of moments.” But Caliguire introduces us for another kind of time – “kairos”, Greek for “an opportune moment.” In other words, the right time. Kairos is the time when we need to be fully present and the moment when something happens at the perfect time. Caliguire tells us that kairos is “the way God acts when it comes to time. Not rushed. Not too busy. Not overbooked. Instead of fully present.” The story goes on to explain that sometimes we spend our time doing certain things that we might not have expected or planned, but regardless, it is Cairo’s time to do them. Such moments can be spending time with a friend or taking a side trip we do not plan to lead to new revelations for us. Ever since reading this definition, I’ve been trying to focus more on the current moment and enjoy it rather than worrying about all the things that are still on my to do list, because I now realize that everything happens at the right time.
Another aspect of the book I liked was the discussion of vision. Caliguire quotes Psalm 20: 4, “May he grant you your heart’s desire and make all your plans succeed.” He tells us that God loves our plans and adds, “If more business leaders and government leaders would just get this! God is pro-vision and pro-plan! God wants us to dream big dreams and have a vision for progress. But so God wants our plans to succeed, not put in a drawer or in a pile. ”Not having plans or a vision equals not having hope. We need to invest in our future by planning, by believing that what we want to achieve is possible, and by preparing for it. As Caliguire succinctly puts it: “Those who invest will be the best!”
In total, there are twelve HABITS OF HOPE that form the title acronym. Just to name a few, there are CONSULTATIONS: Hear you are blessed, INVEST: Invest in yourself and your dreams, FUEL: Fuel your brain, CONFIDENCE: Overcoming setbacks constantly, PROGRESS: Progress towards your vision daily, and EMPOWERING: Empowering Others to Hope.
So how does that turn out for Gus? I imagine it is no surprise that he regains his hope and his life improves. That’s the whole purpose of the book, and to say it doesn’t really give anything away. But what is important to remember is that Gus’ story is a parable – a fiction that Caliguire hopes will become a reality for his readers. Gus’ story will not really be a success unless readers take the habits of hope to heart and apply them in their lives. We can all use an extra dose of hope, and we can all improve our lives. If you want to seek more meaning for your existence, maybe grab a lifeline, take a chance on The Habits of Hope. It’s like a friendly hand reaching out to save you from drowning. I suppose when you finish reading it, you have created a new vision for your life, one that you can work towards achieving with a little extra hope.