Before there is change, there is hope
for change. Hope taps into
yearnings to alter our lives, to realize our dreams, end our despair, assure our
luck, achieve our desires, validate our ambitions, or confirm our trust. The
meaning of hope can, for some, also be stretched to include wishful thinking,
greedy obsessions, lust, gullibility, blind faith, false promises, or ignorance
of unwanted consequences. Hope, when expressed in these extremes, can hurt
others when it disregards realities, overlooks pain and sacrifice, or blocks
flexibility. The importance of hope in our lives is that it is one key to
personal change. We rarely seek change without some expectation of a positive
More About Hope
- Hope is a positive forecast, an opening to the future. Hope is the
oil that greases the skids of change by posing the possibility that we can
improve on our lives. Hope is an attitude, belief, mood, or strategy in
which we overestimate the future, affecting our judgments about
uncertain situations so that we anticipate movement in a positive
- Hope offers a prophesy of success. Positive overestimates are often
self-fulfilling because hope tends to produce action in the direction of
realizing the forecast. Hope stimulates us to bring energy and commitment to
situations that, in turn, tend to tip the scales in the direction we want
them to go. It may even offer us a head start by suggesting concrete
pathways and options for change.
- Hope springs internal. While our personal needs, values, and
beliefs engender hope, hope gains form and direction through our
relationships and life circumstances. We base the likelihood of realizing
hope on information we gather to make informed decisions.
What Fosters Hope?
Action is the handmaiden of hope. Just as hope can lead to action, action can
lead to hope. Realizing hope requires that we move from thinking and observing
to acting. Nurturing hope is a way of reducing the risks involved, so that
anxiety does not inhibit action.
Though becoming more hopeful is easier said than done, people have been able
to raise dim hopes in the following ways:
A goal is a purpose, motive, or reason for
the use of time or for the justification of an activity. The simplest way
to foster hope is to examine the goals that emerge from our desires and
ambitions. The more these goals are:
- concrete (rather than vague),
- achievable (rather than lofty),
- challenging (rather than easy), and
- appealing (rather than dreary),
the more we are likely to believe that acting on them will make a
difference in our lives. Developing goals begins with asking, "What
do I want?" Goals may also emerge from values clarification exercises
(for example, writing your own epitaph), imagining our "possible
selves," considering our self-care needs, or identifying the tasks
that emerge from our attempts to meet these needs. The test of a useful
goal is its ability to motivate constructive action.
Accept losses and limits: Action to change something in our lives
inevitably means there will be a loss of something we value. This could
include the loss of an important relationship, a skill, an opportunity, a
future, or a dream. Loss often leads to sadness and anger. Our willingness
to talk honestly about the loss and to own these feelings represents the
initial steps in mourning the loss. by grieving, we acknowledge the loss as
something "that simply happened," open ourselves to learning
something from the experience and how to get on with our lives, turning our
despair into new goals congruent with a new reality.
Examine resources: Knowledge of the skills and strengths we bring to
our endeavors generates hope. Reaching out to others to gain their insight,
perspective, experience, advice, and support is an important way of
extending the resources available to us.
Think "Can Do": The "little engine that could"
epitomizes how we can generate hope -- by believing in our ability to act.
The following techniques help us to see ourselves as actors and can kindle
– According to an old Chinese
saying, "the longest journey begins with a single step."
Consider a single step in the direction you seek. If the step is the
right one, you will progress. If not, you have learned something and you
can try another approach.
Prioritize steps – Review possible steps and choose
those that fit your best guess about what will promote progress or
convey information about appropriate tactics.
Rehearse action – Practice action beforehand to clarify and
firm up your approach. Role playing or practicing before a mirror or
with a tape recorder can offer feedback before you have to commit
yourself to a particular course.
Tolerate errors – For many, the hardest lesson of all is to
learn that we progress when we take action, regardless of whether
we succeed or fail. As is often said, "the worst thing that can
happen is that I might learn something."
Normalize barriers – Achieving one’s goals is often
difficult, especially when these goals are challenging and meaningful.
Normalizing barriers to achievement means accepting barriers as part of
the process and even planning for them.
Act "as if" – When unsure about a goal, pretend a
commitment to it and give yourself an "out" before you begin.
by acting with this "out" in mind, you gain information
without obligating yourself to staying with the process. This way, you
can always say, "I changed my mind."
Reduce risks – Anticipating hazards and needed resources
can reduce the risks of taking action. Becoming clear about the risks
involved, the potential losses, who can help, what can go wrong and how
you will know – these are all helpful in deciding whether the risk is
worthwhile. Taking the time to pursue your goals in the way you desire
promotes a sense of ownership over the effort. Allowing for shifts in
goals and strategies, a fail-safe point and a back-up position, and
tolerating failure as a learning experience are all attitudes that allow
us to tolerate risk. Ironically, acknowledging the anxiety that so often
attends risk helps to calm us.
- Concentrate on small steps
--This article was adapted from Growing Ourselves Up: A Guide to Recovery
and Self-Esteem, with permission of the author, Stanley J. Gross, Ed.D.
Date published: 3/22/00 5:09:24 PM
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on
30 Apr 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.