Did you hear about the ant that moved the rubber tree plant? He did it because he had high hopes.
The song High Hopes, sung by Frank Sinatra, was one of my childhood favourites.
Just as the ant did the seemingly impossible, so can we when we operate with a mind full of hope.
More than just a feel-good emotion, psychologists agree that hope is a dynamic, cognitive motivational system.
Hope has been credited with helping to control emotions, boost the immune system and improve general health, reduce stress and improve relationships. It can even help with divergent thinking.
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Unlike optimism and positive thinking, hope is a motivator.
Optimism is a general expectation that things will be alright, without regard for our own personal control over the outcome. It’s a wonderful state of mind to aim for.
Hope does more, giving us the motivation as well as pathways and strategies necessary to achieve that outcome.
THE HOPE THEORY
The Hope Theory was developed in 1991 by phycologist Charles R. Snyder. The theory states that hope consists of agency and pathways. That is, a person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved and a set of different strategies to do just that. In other words, hope gives us the motivation to make positive choices and take positive action to reach our goals.
It makes sense after all. Why work hard for something when you don’t believe you’ll ever reach your goal? When you feel hopeless. However, when you have hope, you can ‘see’ the positive results of your hard work and this vision helps you to focus your energy in that direction.
Snyder and his colleagues came up with The Hope Scale, a way of measuring hope, both as an individual’s trait and as a state of being during specific periods of time. This led to research from many others showing that hope can be credited with better university scores, better results for divergent thinking, and better outcomes for athletes. Another study found that people are 14 per cent more productive if they’re hopeful.
Part of hope’s power is the different pathways it offers. When things don’t go as planned, the hopeful person will look at different avenues to try and reach their goals, instead of giving up on them.
The belief in a positive future reduces the impact of disappointment and therefore reduces stress and its associated ailments.
Even when having to give up on a specific hope (an unhealthy relationship, for instance), a hopeful person will find a new hope to engage their attention.
HOW TO BECOME FULL OF HOPE
It’s important to note that hoping is not the same as wishing. A wish is a positive desire you think about. A hope is more concrete and requires you to work.
Regardless of a person’s situation in life, it is possible to experience hope. However, hopeful people are often pragmatic and more likely to take action to cope in adversity, according to Gallup senior scientist Shane J. Lopez, author of the book “Making Hope Happen”.
Here are some tips to help you become full of hope:
- Spend a lot of time around hopeful people – it tends to be contagious.
- Pay attention to your thoughts. If you are having pessimistic feelings, try to think in opposites and imagine the optimistic version of your thoughts. Treat this as a game.
- Practice gratitude. When you appreciate the good little things around you, it’s easier to imagine and believe in more good things.
- Create a mind map full of hope.
MAKE A MIND MAP FULL OF HOPE INSTRUCTIONS
- Make a list of the various aspects of your life – health, family, job, finances and so on. Give yourself a rating (say, from 1 – 10) for each aspect. Choose the two with the lowest ratings as your hope goals. Experts agree it is often easier to break down your goals and focus on a few at a time.
- Once you have narrowed down your goals, think of what you need to do in order to achieve them. Perhaps you need to take a course for a business goal, or practise meditation to reduce stress. Have several ideas ready. Make a list of them.
- Now, consider hurdles (roadblocks) that could hinder your process. Hopeful people are realistic enough to know there will be obstacles along the way and preparing for them is a good way to keep hope alive.
- Next, think of ways to get around those roadblocks. Write these down.
- Harnessing hope is not just about how to reach your goals. It’s also the ability to visualize life when you have reached them. Make a list of what life will look like when you reach your goals.
- Now that you have your lists ready, it’s time to make your map full of hope. It’s great if you can use a large piece of paper, with plenty of room to get creative. However, an A4 sized sheet will work.
- Place your start at the bottom of the left-hand side of your page. List your goal and a deadline, if possible.
- Draw roads leading from that and name them according to affirmative actions you can take to reach your goals. Have your roads merge into a highway about halfway up your page.
- Add your roadblocks to the streets and the roads leading off them that are named after your solutions.
- Once all the roads have merged into a major highway towards your goal, have a space where you can check in to see how you are travelling. Be sure to leave space to congratulate yourself for your triumphs.
- Above the check-in space have a small road that leads to your ultimate goal.
- From this, create more roads, each named after a benefit you will experience when you have reached your goal.
This exercise ticks so many boxes. From the point of view of promoting hope, you have given yourself a clear picture of what like looks like when your goal is accomplished. Being able to visualise this makes it more of a reality and something you can truly believe in.
Having clear pathways towards your goal gives you action steps and the roadblocks and solutions give you power. You may come across a roadblock once you start your journey that you didn’t originally think of. That’s fine. You’ve already skirted around several possible issues, so you know you’re equipped to find a solution.
Taking the time out to see how you are travelling and celebrating your successes also helps to keep you hopeful.
In the example below, I used weight loss as a goal. It is an issue with so many people. However, your map full of hope can be about any goal you want to achieve. Even if it’s just to become more hopeful.
You will note the road gets very narrow and trickier to navigate near a roadblock, but you can squeeze through. Or, you can use the detour which represents your solution.
In the example, I used the spaces of ‘land’ between the roads to write affirmations to help stay optimistic.
If you enjoy this kind of creative play, you may also like How to Draw the Line to Happiness.
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.