Gus—husband, father, employee for a non-profit—hates his life. Nothing seems to go right for him. His clients are obnoxious, his wife is distant, his kids don’t seem to understand him. Sometimes when driving home, he thinks about giving the steering wheel a quick jerk that will put him in the path of a semi-truck so he can end it all. We’ve all been there, and author Jeff Caliguire understands that. And he also understands that “Every once in a while, we sense there’s a voice calling us out of the valley and into the mountains.” That’s why, in his new book The Habits of Hope, Caliguire lets Gus hear that voice.
For some of us, that voice tells us we have a bigger purpose; it might be the voice of God, it might be the voice of someone who believes in us; it might be our own self-confidence coming to the surface. For Gus, it’s the voice of an old mentor from his childhood who teaches him not only about hope but how to practice it through daily habits.
Gus first reconnects with his mentor when he receives a letter from him. Of course, Gus’ story is a parable, so the letter might well be directed toward all of us readers. Gus’ mentor calls him a seeker, adding:
You refuse to settle for life at face value…. You can’t put life in a box of success defined by someone else. You’re the one who pushes the envelope of what’s accepted and acceptable. You see the world as impressive and incredible but also disappointing and dismal. You see hypocrites and get bugged. You see the rich and famous and ask, “Why are they so messed up?” 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 goes on to remind us that there is a better way and that all who wander are not lost. We’re just searching—searching for hope.
I won’t give away the storyline to the rest of the book, but I will say that Gus has some surprises in store for him as he reconnects with his mentor and learns the Habits of Hope. I also found many helpful points in this book that I’m not likely to forget soon, so I will talk a little about those.
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 to smell the roses, like I am ruled by the clock—which is referred to in the book as “chronos…the sequence of moments.” But Caliguire introduces us to another kind of time — “kairos,” Greek for “opportune moment.” In other words, the right time. Kairos is the time when we are to be fully present and in 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, fully present.” The story goes on to explain that sometimes we are to spend our time doing certain things we might not have expected or planned, but regardless, it is the kairos time for doing them. Such moments might be spending time with a friend or taking a side trip we didn’t plan on that leads to new revelations for us. Ever since I read this definition, I’ve been trying to focus more on the present moment and enjoy it rather than worrying about all the things still on my to do list because I now better realize that everything happens in its appropriate time.
Another aspect of the book I liked was the discussion about vision. Caliguire quotes Psalm 20:4, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” He tells us that God loves our plans, adding, “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 then God wants our plans to succeed, not lay in some drawer or in a pile.” Not having plans or a vision is equivalent to not having hope. We need to invest in our futures by planning, by believing that what we wish to achieve is possible, and by preparing for it. As Caliguire succinctly puts it, “Those who invest become the best!”
In all, there are twelve HABITS OF HOPE, which form the title acronym. Just to name a few of them, there is HEARING: Hearing You Are Blessed, INVESTING: Investing in Yourself and Your Dreams, FUELING: Fueling Your Brain, OVERCOMING: Overcoming Setbacks Constantly, PROGRESSING: Progressing Toward Your Vision Daily, and EMPOWERING: Empowering Others to Hope.
So how does it turn out for Gus? I imagine it’s no surprise that he gains back his hope and his life improves. That’s the whole purpose of the book, and saying so doesn’t really give anything away. But what’s important to remember is that Gus’ story is a parable — a fiction that Caliguire hopes will become reality for his readers. Gus’ story won’t really be a success unless readers take the Habits of Hope to heart and apply them to their lives.
We can all use an extra dose of hope, and we can all improve our lives. If you feel like you’re seeking more meaning for your existence, maybe grasping for a lifeline, take a chance on The Habits of Hope. It’s like a friendly hand that reaches out to save you from drowning. I suspect that by the time you finish reading it, you’ll have created a new vision for your life, one you can work toward achieving with a little extra hope.
For more information about Jeff Caliguire and The Habits of Hope, visit the author’s website.