The Power of Hope

hope resilience Jan 01, 2022

 

Hope inspires, empowers, and motivates. It breeds confidence and courage. It sees both pain and possibilities. It turns despair into dreams. It transforms desire into action. Hope is the human rocket fuel powering our journey to resilience, well-being, and flourishing.

We enjoy the emotional lift of hope when we can envision solutions to our most pressing problems and have confidence in our ability to set goals and create a successful path to achieve them (Snyder, 2000). Hope is a powerful resource for the personal transformation that builds resilience because hope motivates us to change. 

 

Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.

-Helen Keller

 

Although often lumped together with wishful thinking, hope is different. Hope is centered in the reality of the challenge we face and the actions we plan to take. Wishing on the other hand can be a form of escape from our problems because it focuses our attention on external forces. Thinking about and putting energy into things outside of our control is self-defeating. It limits our ability to create the life we envision for ourselves. It distracts us from taking action. It can even increase our sense of hopelessness, because we feel despair when external forces appear bigger than our power to create the change we want.

Hope is grounded in facing our hardships head on and taking action to create solutions to overcome our struggles. It is a three-part process. The first step is to envision the outcome we desire and to set goals to achieve it. The second is creating a plan or path to achieving our goal. This involves understading how we will travel from our current state to the desired condition. And the third is being motivated to work our plan to achieve our goals (Snyder, 2002).  We often think of hope and optimism together. They are traveling companions, but distinct from one another. Optimism is a general feeling or belief that good things can and will happen. Hope is more specific and tied to reaching defined goals to create a desired outcome.

 

Hope has a cost. Hope is not comfortable or easy. Hope requires personal risk. It is not about the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is action. Hope is doing something.

-Chris Hedges

 

There are many benefits to being hopeful. Numerous studies link hope to well-being and our ability to adjust and persevere through difficulty (Ong, et al., 2006). Hope is associated with positive emotion, a better sense of life’s meaning, academic achievement, productivity at work, life satisfaction, and better health and longevity. Hope also guards against depression and anxiety (Arnau, et al., 2007; Ciarroch, et al., 2007; Wilks and Spivey, 2010). Studies examining hope in individuals who have endured trauma such as domestic violence or homelessness found it to be linked to empowerment, self-control, grit, curiosity and even a greater sense of physical well-being. All indicators are that a hopeful mindset predicts flourishing. In other words, being hopeful helps us function at our absolute best and enhances our life satisfaction. Hope leaves us feeling optimistic and positive about ourselves, our purpose in life, and our relationships (Munoz, et al., 2019).

It is also interesting that hope is not dependent on socioeconomic status or access to external resources such as a higher education. Hope and its many benefits are free and accessible to everyone. Hope’s accessibility is another reason it is such a powerful resource. It can be created within each and everyone of us, without limitation.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.

-Emily Dickinson

 

Building our hopefulness happens in multiple ways. Identity is critical because how we see ourselves influences the confidence we have in our abilities and the level of motivation we have to pursue our desires. To become more hopeful, we can reinforce our beliefs in our abilities to achieve our goals. We can make it a habit to take stock in our successes. We can also ensure that our self-talk is positive and recognizes our accomplishments as well as our talents and innate strengths.

We can take time to develop our sense of self and to visualize the life we want and are working hard to create. We can reflect on our values and the clear connection between our goals and who we are. Making a routine of spending time to develop and continually clarifying our life’s vision is a worthwhile investment. It keeps us motivated and enhances our success. Envisioning and working towards our true self and best life requires ongoing revisions and iterations. We are constantly challenged with unanticipated obstacles and even extreme hardships. Regular check-ins with our vision, goals, and strategies keeps us agile. It brings to mind new possibilities and more coping strategies. 

Humor and supportive relationships are also helpful in staying hopeful. A deep, belly laugh releases positive emotions and happy hormones. It lightens our spirits and helps us see what is possible. Being able to share our desires with others is supportive and motivating. Trusting relationships create a safe and encouraging space for assessing our setbacks and regrouping so that we can carry on to overcome life’s challenges (Arnau et al., 2007; Weir, 2013; Vilaythong, et al., 2003). Consider how you can connect with others and share a laugh or funny story to build both your hope and theirs. Look for opportunities to develop relationships in which you can share your dreams and also support others’ visions for success.

 

Simple Ways to Boost Hope

  • Foster a sense of humor. Treat yourself to a few “lite moments” daily by watching something silly during a break from responsibilities. Have at least one good belly laugh a day.
  • Consider evening conversation with family to include the simple question “What is the funniest thing that happened today?” This promotes relationships and a healthy laugh.
  • If nobody has a good story, get creative and use the improv technique “yes and…” Have someone start a story with something that did actually happen that day and then toss the story to someone else who will build on it with “yes… and…” The addition should begin to create a silly story. This person will toss the story on to someone else and the “yes… and…” can continue until everyone has gotten a good laugh. Multiple turns are allowed in this funny collaboration. This practice offers both humor and connection.
  • Dedicate time on a regular basis to envision your future, set goals, and plan how you will achieve them. A vision board is a wonderful way to keep your dreams in the forefront and stay motivated. Journaling offers a way to check in and monitor your progress. If you hit a road block, journaling can help you make sense of your emotions, the situation, and your plans going forward.
  • Foster supportive relationships in which you can share your aspirations and goals as well as listen to others’ dreams. Be intention in asking about others’ goals and how you might be able to support them.
  • Acknowledge your successes and proactively gather motivation for a dreary day. Consider a reflection jar in which you routinely put little notes about things you did well, learned, or accomplished. On days when you are feeling less hopeful or just need a little motivation, draw from your reflection jar to remember specific actions you took to succeed, key learnings, and past victories.

Hope is one of the many personal resources we can develop to enhance our well-being and resilience. It is fuel for happiness, joy, and satisfaction. To access more information and resources, visit ResiliencyWell.com 

 

About the Author

Beth Guyton is an executive coach and mindfulness facilitator with a Masters in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She is passionate about creating positive work environments and helping others become their absolute best selves. Beth is a New Orleans native and well-rooted Dallas transplant who draws on her creative spirit to paint, journal, and make mindfulness simple, easy, and accessible through her work at www.ResiliencyWell.com

 

References

Arnau, R. C., Rosen, D. H., Finch, J. F., Rhudy, J. L., & Fortunato, V. J. (2007). Longitudinal effects of hope on depression and anxiety: A latent variable analysis. Journal of personality, 75(1), 43-64.

Ciarrochi, J., Heaven, P. C., & Davies, F. (2007). The impact of hope, self-esteem, and attributional style on adolescents’ school grades and emotional well-being: A longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality41(6), 1161-1178.

Ong, A. D., Edwards, L. M., & Bergeman, C. S. (2006). Hope as a source of resilience in later adulthood. Personality and individual differences41(7), 1263-1273.

Munoz, R. T., Hanks, H., & Hellman, C. M. (2020). Hope and resilience as distinct contributors to psychological flourishing among childhood trauma survivors. Traumatology26(2), 177.

Snyder, C. R. (Ed.). (2000). Handbook of hope: Theory, measures, and applications. Academic press.

Weir, K. (2013, October). Mission Impossible. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/10/mission-impossible

Wilks, S. E., & Spivey, C. A. (2010). Resilience in undergraduate social work students: Social support and adjustment to academic stress. Social work education, 29(3), 276-288.

Vilaythong, A. P., Arnau, R. C., Rosen, D. H., & Mascaro, N. (2003). Humor and hope: Can humor increase hope?.

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