The Power of HopeOctober 18th, 2021
I think you will all agree with me when I say, ‘We’ve been through a lot together.’ And it seems just when we think things will ease up and we can enjoy a hint of normalcy with in-person activities for tested or vaccinated people, much uncertainty remains due to the emergence of variants (Delta and others), concerns about vaccine durability and many other related questions.
Knowing that, most likely, we must endure another season of the pandemic is disheartening. But there is a future and we must rely on hope as we look forward. As some of you know, I have often found comfort in the words of thoughtful leaders and scholars. I could quote many, but today, I’ll quote Harriet Beecher Stowe, a noted author and abolitionist from the 1800s who wrote about hope and resilience.
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
Some may think relying on hope is naïve, but not if you think beyond its definition and consider its potential to change your outlook and your course of action. The dictionary defines it as: “to want something to happen or be true.”
Psychologists and researchers who study hope will argue that it is much more than that. They believe that hope is not just wishful thinking or passively trusting that things will get better. Instead, they believe hope can be a catalyst for positive outcomes.
The psychologist Charles R. Snyder, author of the Hope Theory, defined hope as a psychological attribute which can be nurtured and even developed with practice and training. Research studies indicate that hope predicts improved well-being and happiness and reduced psychological distress. In studies of cancer patients, for example, hope predicts better well-being in patients at different stages, not only those with a positive prognosis.
In our field, serving on the front lines and in support roles, it might be hard to believe hope could have an impact on the amount of burnout and stress we are feeling, let alone the idea that it can help us attain our goals. It is true for the many we care for, and their families.
So how can we cultivate a more constructive hopefulness? Snyder connected the feelings of hope to three things:
- Having goals that you feel invested in, and passionate about.
- Believing you have the ability to achieve your goals and overcome the obstacles that lie ahead.
- Finding multiple potential pathways to achieve your goals and actively committing to move forward in their pursuit (knowing you might need to be flexible to adjust as needed).
In other words, when we set and accomplish goals, it can lead to feelings of hopefulness, and this can decrease burnout.
Here are some tips for making these goals achievable.
- Focus on a concern or area of improvement which is most meaningful to you.
- Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals.
- Set goals that build on each other.
- Set goals related to things you can control.
- Motivate yourself by actively and regularly visualizing or thinking about your desired result.
- Be flexible and plan for roadblocks.
We know difficulties and obstacles are ahead of us. But, we have survived the past 18 months and I believe that a more hopeful mindset, fortressed with the creative, flexible, and resilient attributes I have already witnessed from all of you, can sustain us through the hard times.
For all of us, however, words may not suffice, so let me remind you that when you find yourself losing hope at work, we have wellness resources for you. And if you need help in developing goals, consider reviewing how to develop SMART goals or attend an upcoming workshop. I also find if I am struggling with a decision, I lean on our Mission, Vision and Values.
Can you think of a time when hope got you through a difficult time? Do you have tips for how to remain hopeful? Share them with us in the discussion box below.