It is not the size of the mountain that obstructs your way. It is the pebble in your shoe.

Chinese proverb

Hope is not about the achievement of goals, but an openness to all that is possible in their pursuit. This orientation of the heart is where our meaning is discovered and our fears are kept in check by humility and trust. Br. David Steindl-Rast says, while quoting Soren Kirkegaard, “Life itself will purify our hope step by step if we live with a ‘passion for the possible.’” 

What is purification? It is defined as the removal of impurities or contaminants. Fear is a contaminant to hope, which can lead to despair. Sorting through the layers of your fears — including those instilled in you and those you generate — by acknowledging their origin and whether or not they possess any truth, is a task that requires daily practice. 

Placing your attention on your fears is a purification that arouses in you an awareness of the beliefs you have created about yourself, others, and the world. This purification invites you to see your fear and to ask whether it is real, yours or someone else’s, and to evaluate the limitations of this fear. Fear, as the proverb goes, is the pebble on your road to hope.

Before you can explore and further cultivate a hopeful heart, you will take inventory. This is a grounding practice to recognize the “pebble in your shoe” that is preventing you from what is possible. 

Hope has the power to transform even the past by discovering in it new meaning.

Br. David Steindl-Rast

The Practice

Your intention for today is to raise awareness to every fearful thought that crosses your mind. When you recognize a fearful thought, pause and name it. 

  • You may absorb fear from the media and news, your reaction to someone else, an emotion that is a manifestation of fear, or limitations you put on yourself. 
  • You do not need to do anything or ask anything of the fear when you encounter it. Simply heighten your awareness of its presence. 
  • If you can, jot down your encounters with fear as you recognize them or, at the end of the day, write down an inventory of when you experienced a fearful thought that limited your perspective. 

Your acknowledgment of fear in your day will be a reference point for future practices and the cultivation of grateful hope, which will be shared in our upcoming course, Grateful Hope.

May you arrive today to what is in front of you and see it for what it is…


  1. When you paused to acknowledge fearful thoughts and reactions, did you recognize them as a familiar or rare presence in your life?  
  2. Did any themes emerge? Did you notice a source of origin, e.g. the news?

This practice is part of a daily practice series on cultivating hope. Aspects of this series are based on the work of peacebuilding scholar John Paul Lederach. The full series will be available in our upcoming 6-week course, Grateful Hope: Passion for the Possible.

Photo by Pan Xiaozhen

Joe Primo, Grateful Living

Joe Primo, Grateful Living

About the author

Joe Primo is the Chief Executive Officer of Grateful Living. He is a passionate trainer, community-builder, and program developer whose accomplishments in the field of grief made him a leading voice on resilience and adversity. Grateful living became a pillar to his work since his first introduction to Br. David Steindl-Rast in 2005. An entrepreneurial leader, Primo designed, built, expanded, and led Good Grief, Inc., the largest children and family bereavement organization in the Northeast, from 2007-2022. His TED talk, “Grief is Good,” reframed the grief paradigm as a responsive resource. He is the author of “What Do We Tell the Children? Talking to Kids About Death and Dying” and numerous articles.