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Michigan Medicine

A Minute with Marschall

The Power of Hope

October 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.

  1. Focus on a concern or area of improvement which is most meaningful to you.
  2. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals.
  3. Set goals that build on each other.
  4. Set goals related to things you can control.
  5. Motivate yourself by actively and regularly visualizing or thinking about your desired result.
  6. 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. 


  • Cindy Wilmshurst

    I love this poem on Hope by Emily Dickinson:

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers –
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all –

    And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
    And sore must be the storm –
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm –

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
    And on the strangest Sea –
    Yet – never in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb – of me.

    • Cindy, thank you for sharing this poem of hope. It gives us yet another way to consider how powerful hope can be. I appreciate you reading, and commenting on my blog.

  • Thank you. What a gift to read today’s message – The Power of Hope. I have renewed strength in hope and love the quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Enjoy the day.

    • Marisa, I’m glad you had an opportunity to pause and reflect on this positive quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe, as well as the useful information about how we can empower ourselves to become more hopeful. Thank you for your kind thoughts. I hope you enjoy your day too.

  • Hope is so very key indeed, as is your strong, caring, thoughtful, insightful and resourceful leadership. Thank you so very much for all you do for our Michigan Medicine/Michigan Health family and our local and global communities.

    I remain immensely proud to be a part of our organization and the impressive and challenging work we do every day. I also have great hope and confidence that we will remain strong and focused ultimately rising up to become even stronger individually and as a collective whole. We can and will do this! Go Blue!

    With Deepest Respect & Appreciation

    • Dianne, I appreciate your kind words. I, too, am extremely proud of this organization, its people and the hard work we do every day to advance health for Michigan and the world. Hope, and exhibiting a positive outlook – as you do -is a big part of what makes us so successful. Together we can accomplish so much. Go Blue!

  • This is a great message – to focus on hope. It also reminded me of a recent session I attended on the chatter in our heads – where we can get stuck in a negative mindset, but we also have the power to change our thinking… I found an earlier seminar posted on youtube:

    • Thank you Summer for sharing this lecture with us. I believe this author suggests that the chatter in our head is not always so bad, as long as we avoid the negative and concentrate on how we can work together on positive solutions. This is what I think we do so well here at Michigan Medicine.

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