Have you ever used the word hope to describe something you want? “I hope to be a successful attorney.” “I hope to start my own Chiropractic Practice.” “I hope to start a business and be my own boss.” “I hope to be the top salesperson this year.” “I hope to ______ someday.” Be honest, haven’t you used the word at some point?
Hope is a common word that most people would probably describe as a soft, vague, or passive word. The Old English hopa means “confidence in the future.” It can also mean “to wish for” or “desire.”
The VIA Character Strength Survey includes “Hope” as one of the twenty-four character strengths. It defines “Hope” this way:
“You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.”
In 2008, the Gallup Corporation conducted the Gallup World Poll. The poll was conducted with a representative sample of people from 142 countries. From that poll, Gallup determined that 89% of the people expected their life, in five years, to be as good, or better, than their current life.
Certainly a very optimistic view of the future, yet only 50% of the people felt they could actually make that better life happen. It would seem that 39% of the people are only wishing for a better life and 50% of the people are actually hoping and working for a better life?
The difference is believing you can control the future and working to make it a reality; hoping vs. wishing for a better future.
In his book Making Hope Happen, Shane Lopez, PH.D., Gallup Senior Scientist, says this about Hope:
“Hope is created moment by moment through our deliberate choices. It happens when we use out thoughts and feelings to temper our aversion to loss and actively pursue what is possible. When we choose hope, we define what matters to us most.”
Lopez goes on to say that hopeful people have core beliefs that set them apart from others.
The future will be better than the present – The Gallup World Poll supports this belief. The vast majority of people have an optimistic bias toward the future.
I have the power to make it so – As the VIA definition states, we believe that our actions can impact the future. We take responsibility through our actions to change our current situation and work toward the future we want.
There are many paths to my goals – Because we are taking responsibility for our future, our excitement opens us to multiple pathways for reaching our goals. If one path closes we pursue another one.
None of the pathways will be free of obstacles – Hopeful people are resourceful. Obstacles can be deal breakers for many, but hopeful people anticipate difficulties and setbacks and are ready to solve the problem and find a way forward.
Lopez says that while it’s helpful to know what the core beliefs are, it’s more important to know how they work together. He suggests that there are three components to what he defines as “The Hope Cycle.”
Consider a circle or continuous feedback loop containing the following:
Goals: Not just any goals, but the goals that are most important to you. Your “want to” goals are the goals you keep coming back to, excite you, and give you the clearest vision of the future you want.
Agency: Lopez says “Agency is shorthand for our perceived ability to shape our lives day to day.” As agents of our lives we have the ability to make things happen and we take responsibility for the forward progress that we hope for. We anticipate the obstacles and find ways to sustain momentum. As agents we get better and better at motivating ourselves, being persistent, and celebrating the small victories along the way.
Pathways: We are always looking for new pathways and the right approach to reach our goal. If one pathway isn’t working we always have another plan. We monitor progress regularly to determine the next best step.
Each element of “The Hope Cycle” interacts closely with the others to generate momentum toward your desired future. Together, when they are strong, they trigger an active response to the future. A weak link diminishes the power of the cycle and the momentum, until that link is strengthened.
The ability to hope for a better future and take an active path toward that future is in all of us. For some, active hope comes easy and propels you forward. The VIA Institute says that all twenty-four character strengths are important and they reside in all of us. If active hope doesn’t come naturally for you, the good news is, it can be developed.
Your relationship with the future can have a powerful impact on the way you live in the present.