Written by: Erica Bowen, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
‘Hope’ is one of those words that people tend to overlook, and we also use it badly. Think about the number of times we say to ourselves and other people ‘Oh, I hope it works out for you’, and by that what we are really saying is ‘I wish for a better future for you,’ but we do not really see hope as an active state. We view it as a general state of being optimistic, but again, it does not usually imply action. I have had people comment that hope and faith are the same thing, for example – suggesting that both involve attributing the likelihood of success to some external force or influence.
However, the science of hope has completely recharacterized it as a state of action. It has shown time and time again that hope is the most powerful and empowering of what are known as ‘character strengths’ (personality traits and characteristics that are associated with optimal life outcomes, Park & Peterson, 2009). It is the one character strength that is consistently associated with all positive life outcomes, including educational attainment, wellbeing, relationship quality, athletic and health outcomes, coping, resilience, and success (Gwinn & Hellman, 2019). So how come?
Snyder’s Hope Theory (Snyder, 2002) proposed that hope is characterized as a cognitive state comprising three elements:
1. Goal-directed thinking: creating a hope goal - the belief that the future can be better than the past in a specific way (goal).
2. Pathways thinking: this means that you can identify more than one way of achieving a successful outcome.
3. Agency thinking: having the motivation to engage with the pathways to achieve the goal.
Therefore, someone who has high levels of hope can clearly articulate a goal and identify more than one feasible and realistic way of achieving it, and is motivated to do the work needed. Conversely, when we think about states of ‘hopelessness,’ it could be that the person has no clear goal; has a goal but cannot identify clear pathways to achieving it, or has a goal, can identify the pathway, but does not believe that they will succeed, or that there may not be a reward for success, and so is not motivated to work towards it.
How do we actively harness hope to increase success?
1. Identify a clear goal that is realistic and feasible*.
2. Identify all the ways it is possible to reach the goal.
3. Identify all potential factors that might impact on each goal pathway. These should include external (e.g., the influence of other people, technology etc.) and internal (e.g., personal beliefs about success, self-worth etc.) factors.
4. Plan how each potential roadblock will be dealt with if it arises.
5. Identify how you will reward yourself for success.
6. Get to action.
7. Monitor action and evaluate progress regularly (enlist an accountability buddy too).
8. Celebrate how you said you were going to when you achieve the goal.
*Whether you declare your goal to the rest of the world is up for debate. Some suggest this increases the likelihood of you achieving it. Other neuropsychological research suggests that if you proclaim the goal, your brain believes it has already been achieved and decreases motivation and the likelihood of action.
The beauty of hope is that if you engage in this process and reach your goals, it reinforces your hope and makes you more likely to be successful in the future too!
Erica Bowen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Erica is a registered forensic and coaching psychologist and internationally recognized expert in the prevention of family violence. Formerly a senior academic and Professor, Erica left academia in order to pursue her mission of bringing more hope into the world. She achieves this through working with social entrepreneurs in order to help them to maximize the success of their business without burning out. Her training and experience enable her to, where relevant, bring a unique understanding of the origins and impact of trauma on entrepreneurship, success, management and leadership into her coaching. She is also able to help clients process trauma through the use of Havening techniques if that is needed. Erica is the host of the Hope-Makers podcast which shines a light on stories of hope through interviews with inspiring people doing inspirational hope-making work.