Early in this new year, I’ve been thinking (and feeling) a lot about hope. How about you? Feeling hopeful? Hopeless? Something in between?
You might say it varies and fluctuates depending on what’s going on — in your world, and in the bigger context of the world at large too. Me too, but not always.
The more I reflect on my experience, and the more I talk to people in my work, I’m reminded how crucial hope really is for our wellbeing, resilience — and even for our propensity to reach out in pursuit of our goals.
(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Career changers might feel a spark of hope when a new opportunity shows up or they get a call for an interview. Perhaps you’ve been working hard (who isn’t eh?!) and you see a light at the end of the tunnel for a little reprieve. You are a parent and hoping your kid gets into college program they really want – and at least once acceptance has arrived.
And then there’s all the tough stuff happening in the world (pandemics, economic woes, cost of living, wars, fires, and oh my….need I go on!?) — we are all hoping (and looking for signs) that that things will get better.
It’s such a good feeling when something shows up that offers hope.
Story at a Glance: “My Hope Index”
Many (many!) years ago, when I decided to hang up my own shingle and go solo in my work (it was PR Communications back then, prior to my coaching business), I had a friend (Tina) who did the same for her research business. We were the first wave of people to go solo. It was exciting – but also scary and hard. We worried, what if no one hires us! Or when we did have projects, what if there are no more! Typical fears of anyone going the self employed route, and maybe even more so back then because it was a new phenomenon.
We’d often meet to support one another and share updates about our wins and “hopeful” moments when new business possibilities arose. We’d delight together and laugh as we named these moments our “Hope Index”.
Celebrating hope together amplified the positive feelings hope can generate. Twenty-something years later we still check in on our respective hope index ratings.
We learned to generate more hope and boost that index.
Intuitively (and over time), we saw how we generated more hope when we were leaning in and taking purposeful action on our businesses. So even when we did not have a new biz prospect in queue, the act of doing something purposeful ignited a little burst of hope. Then of course, we had to keep doing this:). Along the way, I learned even more strategies (coming up in a bit). And I learned that….
Hope is Both a Feeling AND a Strength! Fast forward, many years later I became a certified coach in 2003. In addition to rigorous coach training programs, my studies also heavily embraced the science of wellbeing and notably, positivity. I had a chance to take extensive courses from the masters (really, the true pioneers in the positive psychology movement) including: Barbara Fredrickson (known as the expert in positive emotion); as well as the late Christopher Peterson who was at the forefront of the positive psychology movement — and the creation of the VIA Character Strengths model.
I learned that hope is both a positive emotion AND a strength that we can cultivate and call upon to amplify our ‘hope index.’
Accordingly, hope as defined by The VIA Institute on Character is reflected as: Optimism, positive future-mindedness, expecting the best and working to achieve it.
Two orders of that please! So it is NOT just about wishful thinking. You can (and likely should!) lean in to generate more meaningful hope. Of course, the universe may also bring you gifts even when you didn’t do anything explicitly (just accept those too; never turn away a good gift! )
How do you cultivate more hope when things feel tough (maybe even hopeless)?
Ahh, let me count thy ways. There are a great many ways to do this for yourself and for others (hey leaders, pay attention here! To be a better leader, cultivating hope in yourself and for others is an important skill!)
Quick Hits – Just a Few of the Many Paths to Hopefulness:
- Purposeful Action: As I share with my clients, ‘you gotta kick up some dust’ and do something purposeful. If navigating a desired career change, then there’s loads of stuff to do (update your resume; level up on networking; engage in Linkedin; research; maybe get a coach! And more). Of course this is not only for career navigation, the principle of applying ‘purposeful action’ works for any context or goal.
- Set Some Meaningful Goals: Goals (even tiny ones) can be very energizing and generate hope if you set some good ones. And as important, the pursuit of the goal (the journey) is laden with hope-generating opportunities. I wrote a post about it and I also do workshops. Get in touch if you want to hear more for your team on that later part.
- Reconnect with Your Strengths and The Best Parts of You: Most of us just go about ‘doing’ in our lives. It is so busy, that’s often the default. But along the way, we often forget who we are – the best parts of ourselves, like our strengths, talents, virtues. When we reconnect to our strengths we can tap into that well of hope because living/working from our strengths is more energizing; it brings more confidence; and amplifies that sense of possibility. More is possible when you see yourself from the lens of strengths. AND as it happens, one of the VIA Character strengths is hope!
(Read about this in my blog: Why the Lizard Wouldn’t Eat)
- Reflect! Watch your mindset. It often defaults to the negative. Don’t blame yourself. It is simply how the brain works. But you can redirect your attention in an authentic way. Ask yourself reflective questions such as: What is good (even in the not-so-good)? What am I looking forward to? What can I do? And more!
- Trust! Even if you are doing all that you can proactively, things can sometimes take time. Trust is a biggie. Practise a little trust — in yourself, in the universe, and reflect on the possibility that no matter what, all will be okay!
In addition to the mountains of science behind all this, I’ve seen this in my own ‘kitchen’ (aka coaching practice). Clients often tell me at the end of a session or an engagement, that one of the main outcomes for them was a sense of renewed hope about their future. Whether they engaged me to support them to be a better leader; or to navigate career growth or change; or something else, the journey usually has them practising new habits and behaviours (like the ones above) and this generates more hope.
Hope generates more hope. It also spurs more positive action. It is a positive virtuous circle!
So how about you? How is your hope index? Where might you lean in with more hope-generating thoughts, habits, and activities?
Need a partner to support you? If so, get in touch and let’s see if we are a fit.
For now, wishing you a hopeful day, week, year! And if you are reading this in January, then wishing you a “Hope-y New Year?”).
One last thing, here’s a fabulous talk by the great Tara Brach on how “Hope Can Heal” — no one says better than her. Have a listen!
I’ll be back with more!
Eileen Chadnick, PCC, of Big Cheese Coaching, is an ICF credentialed coach, a two-time ICF (International Coaching Federation) Prism award winner, who works with leaders (emerging to experienced), and organizations, on navigating, leading and flourishing in times of flux, opportunity and challenge. She is the author of Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy.