It’s often said if you’re determined enough, you can find ways to achieve whatever you want, even if it is difficult. But what if you’re losing your hope? How do scientifically you make hope work?
In plain-speak, hope is a desire for a thing to happen. It is an anticipation, an aspiration, an expectation.
It’s not wishful thinking. What makes it different is that within hope lies a core of belief – that belief is the essence of hope. Psychologists prove this to be true.
Why To Never Lose Hope
But, however much strong its core of belief, the outer shell of hope is fuzzy. On the outside, hope is made of uncertainty.
What we hope for may not eventually happen, and the joys that we pegged upon those hopes may possibly come to naught.
So, if hoping means we have to desire positively while embracing uncertainty, is it not a purposeless endeavor? Should we hope at all, if to hope is to risk losing it easily?
Dr Shane J Lopez, Senior Scientist, leading researcher on hopeful thinking, defines hope as,
The belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.
Using discoveries from the largest study of hopeful people ever conducted, Shane J. Lopez reveals in his book Making Hope Happen, that hope is not just an emotion but an essential life tool. You can measure your level of hope, and learn how to increase it.
Should we hope?
Yes, sure. Because if you know how to hope the right way according to scientific research, you may not have to feel risky about losing it.
The science says so. Research has found high-hope people have lower levels of depression and anxiety, and higher levels of happiness and well-being.
Not only that, people with better abilities to hope cope better in burns and spinal-cord injuries, severe arthritis, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and even cancer. They perform better in sports and academics.
As Zen master, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh said,
Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
How To Make Hope Work
Traditionally, throughout various cultures, we have been told since our childhood this cliché:
Where there is a will, there is a way.
This means if you’re determined enough, you can find ways to achieve what you want, even if it is difficult. Experiments by psychologists have taken this further and proved there is indeed a pound of truth in that aphorism.
In their 1991 paper, Snyder, Irving & Anderson defined hope as:
A positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful agency and pathways.
Dr Charles “Rick” Snyder , the late professor of psychology at University of Kansas, who dedicated his life to researching hope, laid out a model that requires three things to come together to create hopeful thinking:
To make hope work for you successfully, you’ve to know how to leverage each of these elements. Here’s how.
Goals or Aims: While we all know what goals mean, here are a few tips for setting them:
- You should be sure that your goal is something you want for yourself, not what others want of you.
- Your goals should be stretching you beyond your comfort zones.
- You must allocate time for working uninterrupted on each of your goals.
Pathways or Plans: Once goals are set, it’s time to recognize that there can be several ways to reach them. Then choose the best way for each.
You may break down a long “pathway” into small steps, and start working on the first step. And prepare yourself for the situations when you may run into blockades – that is, have a Plan B in your kitty.
Agency or Action: Agency is the capacity to make our choices and exercise our power in the world.
Agency is of two types – involuntary and intentional. It is the second type, the intentional or the goal-directed agency that is required here.
- We should be talking to ourselves in “can do” voices.
- We should be viewing problems as challenges.
- We should be reminding ourselves of our earlier successes when there are logjams.
- And, of course, we should enjoy the journey to our goals itself!
We must hope, especially in situations that seem insurmountable and dire.
Those of us who keep high hope, we set out on our journey with determination and grit, we view the obstacles on the road not as barriers, but as challenges, and we always have a Plan B.
[An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Happify Daily.]
Do you know there is a fascinating Greek myth behind hope?
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Author Bio: Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related topics.
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