How Hope Moves Us Forward 180 x 600

The dark days that followed the Boston Marathon bombing last April were notable for the hope they seemed to steal from residents and visitors alike. A marathon, by its very nature, is a hopeful event, and the tragedy that took place that day seemed to drain the City of its spirit, much as 9-11 had done in New York in 2001.

The Baseball World Series between the Boston Red Sox, the now World Champions, and the St. Louis Cardinals was a clear and powerful antidote to the hopelessness that engulfed Boston just a few months before.  What made the Series more powerful is that the Sox went from last to first place in one year.  What role did hope play in their success and what can we learn from it?

What is Hope?

According to the late Rick Snyder, former Professor of psychology at the University of Kansas and author of the book The Psychology of Hope – You Can Get There From Here, hope results from three primary factors.

  1. Goal setting – the ability to set concrete, measurable goals.
  2. Willpower – The energy and determination to pursue those goals.
  3. “Waypower” – The ability to envision the specific steps needed to achieve your goal, as well as alternate paths should one approach not result in the desired outcome.

Hope, by the way, is not the same thing as optimism. Although optimism can help motivate us initially if it is not grounded in the reality of a specific goal and plan, it is likely to lead to disappointment.

How to harness hope

Try these ideas to help you harness hope to move forward.

To increase willpower:

  1. Ask “why not” – Try to imagine some goals that seem out of reach and ask “why not?” According to Snyder, this exercise can be freeing when contemplating new goals.
  2. Get crazy – Begin by saying “There’s no way I could….” Write down goals that are unimaginable to you. You’ll probably laugh at your outrageous ideas, a great way to boost your hopefulness.
  3. Focus on the present – Think about what you are learning and enjoying while working toward your goal.  This will help you notice the progress you are making.

To increase Waypower:

You can have clear and measurable goals and still feel stuck. Here are some suggestions for getting unstuck.

  1. Create stepping stone goals – Identify short-term steps that will help you reach your ultimate goal. For job seekers these steps might include, identifying your accomplishments and strengths, creating a resume, or setting up informational interviews to get information or advice.
  2. Create an alternate roadmap – The initial path toward a goal may need to be modified. Envisioning an alternate path will help you work around roadblocks.
  3. Create a mental dress rehearsal – Imagine each step in your sub-goals as specifically as possible. What will you do and say? If your goal is to ask for a promotion, imagine yourself setting up an appointment with your boss, making small talk at the beginning of the meeting, telling her how much you enjoy working for the company and about your contributions over the last year.  Imagine that your boss is smiling and then, you asking for the promotion.

Like the Red Sox, if you set a goal and win one game at a time, expecting some setbacks along the way, you are likely to reach the world series of your own choosing.