When Wanting to Make a Change, Find Hope by Finding Exceptions

No parking sign

A truism you’ll hear repeated in medicine, and other venues, is that the best predictor of future behavior is the past. This is a hopeful message if the choices people make have been empowering, but a dangerous belief if one is a prison guard, a truancy officer, a cardiac care nurse. Have your nose rubbed in a little too much “reality”, and it’s easy to forget that people can change.

Hope for change lies in the exceptions, the times and places where people — including self — act unexpectedly from a bigger and better paradigm. Notice the exceptions. If you’re inclined, keep a list of them. They will help your own hope in times when its flame barely flickers.

For my own part, I left medicine over eight years ago, but I still recall patients who nurtured my hope. There were many more, of course, but I’ll describe three:

  • The gentleman who smoked two packs a day for forty years, had lung damage and bypass surgeries, who simply quit smoking one day because he decided he’d had enough.    
  • The woman who left an abusive marriage.
  • The young lady who learned to read food labels in my office in one session, and who lost and kept off thirty pounds because of that half-hour.

This is a particularly strong lesson for me today because of an event taking place as I type. If past predicts future, a certain individual shouldn’t be travelling right now. They certainly couldn’t be going alone to a foreign country, to a conference that will challenge, confront and enlarge.  Yet somehow that person is winging their way to a destination thousands of miles away. 

She’s already won, yet she hasn’t arrived. Know what? I’ve won by getting to witness the break in pattern. I will take that energy and that example into my day now, so as I sit down to a task I’ve avoided for a few weeks, I’ll know that I too can act from a better place.

Notice the exceptions. Celebrate exceptions. Expect exceptions, especially of yourself and people who seem the least capable of acting differently.


If you like today’s post, you might do two things:

  1. Share an example of a time when you or someone else made a huge lifestyle change and stuck to it, whether it’s related to writing or not.
  2. Check out The Hope Lady Blog. Most everything I’ve learned about hope at a cognitive level comes from Wendy Edey the Hope Foundation of Alberta.


8 thoughts on “When Wanting to Make a Change, Find Hope by Finding Exceptions

  1. Thank you for the thoughts today, Jan. Our family has been on a life-changing journey over the past 10 months, and one thing I’ve learned is that change is absolutely possible. Once you’re ready to stop the insanity (doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results), change can happen. But until you decide it’s going to — or are forced to change — then the past WILL predict the future. Don’t want the future to be like the past? Then go for the change. It might be scary, and often it is, but you might also like what you find on the other side. And, yes, I do speak from experience. 🙂 A scary experience, but also worth it.

    1. sudinym, yes, change is often forced from a dark place, but as you say, so worth it. Glad you and yours are doing well!

      The interesting thing to me is that some people don’t have to feel an enormous amount of pain before they shift. I’ve seen profound change at times of relative peace, even done a few myself. Here’s hoping we all get more of the latter model.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. People may be surprised at a few things I’ve “overcome” or whatever . . .things I never talk about and may never talk about. But, I will say that doing what seems scary as hell and doing it anyway can open doors to the brightest of lights, the lifting of weights from the shoulders, clearing the way to do whatever it was we were ‘meant’ to do, or want to do, or need to do. Without Hope, there is can’t or won’t.

  3. Thanks for clarifying one of my old mantras – if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. It’s worked quite recently with one of my grand-children when she finally ‘got’ it. It’s hard for a twelve year old to voluntarily change behaviour but she’s doing it. And she is so happy and so proud of herself!! I think as well as Hope we need Faith. Knowing I had faith in her, gave her hope.
    Thanks to Kathryn for mentioning your blog in her Sunday Roast!

  4. Kat, how did I miss your comment? Sorry! And that’s such a valid point, too. When we surmount just one thing that seems scary/aweful/impossible, that memory can never be erased. It extends to other areas. Thanks for that.

    Pauline, has Kat been up to something concerning me? Honestly, she’s such a generous person.

    And how nice for your granddaughter to have you in her life. A lovely win for you both, because you were strong enough to believe despite evidence to the contrary. Thanks for your comment.

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