What do you hope for?
This is one of those BIG, deep questions that we often don’t give a lot of mental airtime to answering.
When we’re feeling low or discouraged, it’s easier to focus on what’s not working and play the blame-shame game, instead of turning to hope and looking ahead.
Especially during seasons of uncertainty, we have the opportunity to refocus on the things that matters most to us – our priorities, relationships, goals, and desires (and if you’re struggling with focus, start here!)
This month join us as we discover what fuels our hope and how to become more hopeful in our lives now.
When you think of what hope means, what comes to mind?
Maybe it’s something that’s motivating you to keep going or a big accomplishment you’ve been working toward.
Hope often lies in something that is yet to be seen or known – a better job, life partner, new child, or academic program you’ve been wanting to begin.
Psychologists have defined hope as “the perceived ability to walk certain paths leading to a desired destination.” This visual paints hopes both as directional and purposeful.
Hope is the invisible fuel that helps you stay motivated when walking down these paths, especially when you may not know exactly where they will lead. It involved both the cognitive process of acknowledging our thoughts as well as the affective elements of validating our feelings.
The late Positive Psychologist, Rick Snyder, developed a straightforward theory around what makes people more or less hopeful.
According to Snyder, there are three basic components that relate to hope, including the need to have:
- Focused thoughts
- Develop your strategies in advance in order to achieve these goals
- Motivation make the effort required to actually reach these goals
The more you believe in your own unique abilities to achieve these three components, the greater likelihood you will feel hopeful about your life and circumstances.
Snyder also distinguished between two factors that influence how we move toward accomplishing our goals: Pathways Thinking and Agency Thinking.
Pathways Thinking: There are many moments where we feel stuck and are less-than-hopeful about how to move forward. Now imagine that instead of being stuck, you are simply at a crossroads that has many possible pathways, representing perceived opportunities for moving forward and trying out possible solutions. Most people choose to stay stuck because they see no way forward. By trying at least one pathway, you challenge this stuckness when you activate the hope that your circumstances can change for the better. There is no guarantee where this pathway will lead, except that you aren’t standing still in your stuckness.
Agency Thinking: When you’re standing at this crossroads, how confident do you feel as you choose to forge ahead? Agency thinking refers to the level of intention and determination you have as you choose to move forward, believing that things can (and will) get better. The more personal agency you have, the more you trust and rely on yourself instead of playing victim to your external circumstances.
Now consider an area of your life that could use a booster shot of hope. Take a moment to visualize what your life will look and feel like in six months if you accomplish this or make progress in this area. What will be different? How will your life shift?
Coming back to the present, let’s try on Snyder’s Hope Theory to see what your first steps forward can be. Consider the questions below as you apply both Agency and Pathways Thinking to this area of your life now.
- What is one possible way forward that you haven’t tried yet? Get creative here or talk with a friend who is familiar with your situation to see what ideas you mutually can brainstorm.
- What or who has been holding you back? Consider how you may have given your power away to circumstances or relationships and what you need to reclaim now.
- Who is your biggest champion in taking your first step? Invite them to walk along with you on this pathway forward.
- How will you know when you’ve been successful? Take time to set tangible, specific benchmarks along this new pathway as you go after this goal!
- How confident are you feeling now? If your confidence is low, take a moment to reconnect with your biggest strengths and what you are amazing at!
- What are you capable of as you go after this goal? Make a list of what is within your control and what you already know you can do.
- What will help you stay self-motivated as you move forward? Write these things down and post them in a place you will see frequently to remind yourself of what you’re working toward accomplishing.
Hope is within reach and starts with the decision to stop choosing stuckness. Pick a pathway, strengthen your inner agency, and take the first step forward, filled with a renewed purpose fueled by hope.
Be the Revolution,