Do you think that your future will be better than it is today? And that you can make it so despite any roadblocks you see in the way?

People who are high in hope don’t just think that their future will be better, they take steps to make their dreams a reality. Hope is all about action and can be what pushes us to achieve our goals.

Intuitively we know how important hope is for survival and the slump we can fall into without it. Hope plays a critical role in our wellbeing as it equips us to handle adversity, lifts our energy and can give us the drive to start a new day or task even during difficult times.

As we face this pandemic, we need to harness hope, so we not only survive but also move forward, take advantage of opportunities, and create a ‘new normal’ that is better for ourselves.

Hope is easy for the foolish, but hard for the wise. Everybody can lose himself into foolish hope, but genuine hope is something rare and great

Paul Tillich

What is hope?

One of the most well-known researchers in this space, Rick Snyder (1995), defines hope as the process of thinking about your goals, working out ways to get there (pathways) and having the means and motivation to keep moving towards your goals (agency).

Hope is closely linked to optimism (which I wrote about recently) as they are both about having a positive future outlook. Yet hope is seen as the precursor to optimism as it focuses on how we will reach our aspirations.

Being hopeful is not foolish as some believe. People who have high hope tend to be realistic, they know that roadblocks are a part of life and have worked out how they will get around them before they have even been seen.

Why do we want it?

Being hopeful comes with a range of positive benefits. High hopers don’t tend to procrastinate, they are persistent in the face of challenges, can withstand discomfort and pain more, experience less anxiety and have fewer depressive symptoms than those that are less hopeful. Studies have found that people, who are high in hope:

  • perform better at work (Peterson & Byron, 2008)
  • have higher levels of psychological wellbeing and positive emotions (Gallagher & Lopez, 2009)
  • enjoy better levels of physical health (Snyder et al., 2000)
  • develop stronger relationships (Snyder, 1994)
  • live longer (Stern, Dhanda, & Hazuda, 2001).

Hope can be essential for some professional roles, and can be a predictor of success in business, academics, and politics. In fact, the key feature of some of history’s greatest leaders has been their ability to instil hope, particularly when people are struggling… 

We know that campaign speeches that focus on hope are more likely to win elections. Yet we have also seen this approach backfire recently, when Donald Trump gave Americans a false sense of hope about possible cures for the coronavirus.   

People also love being around those who are high in hope, as they are often more energetic and positive. What’s more, hope is considered contagious so the more you surround yourself with hopeful people, the more inspired you’ll be to achieve your own goals.

Hope is not a spectator sport

Rick Snyder

How to build hope

Researchers have advised that hope isn’t related to your IQ but rather it comes down to your enthusiasm and energy about what’s to come (Snyder, 2000).

In his studies, Snyder recognised that high-hope individuals tended to have three things that made their journeys (the analogy he used) more successful than the those who were lower in hope – a destination (goal), a route (pathway) and a means of transport (agency) to get there.

So as you start to move towards your ‘new normal’, consider the following:

  1. Goals – what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
  2. Pathway – what is the most plausible route to get you there? What are the alternate routes in case of obstacles?
  3. Agency – what sources of motivation or resources will you draw upon to persevere until you meet your goal?

Conceptualising your hopes and writing them down by covering off each of the above will motivate you to take action.

And having the belief that you can achieve what you set out, will also ignite enough hope within to move you from where you are now to where you want to be in your ‘new normal’.