2020 has NOT been a hopeful year.
And yet, there are three wonderful reasons why we can be hopeful.
1. Hope is not a delusion
Hope is NOT the same as wishful thinking.
It’s not even the same as the glass-half-full/glass-half empty analogy.
Hope is something we can chose to apply even when the glass is only a third full…or completely empty.
You see...real hope is NOT about living in a fantasy world; it’s about living in the real one. Real hope does not deny suffering and pain; it recognizes them.
In Dr. David B. Feldman’s book, Supersurvivors, he and his co-author profiled 17 survivors of horrible traumas and tragedies who went on to do things that made the world a better place.
For instance, when James Cameron, the only survivor of a 1930 lynch mob, established the first NAACP chapter in Anderson, Indiana, he wasn’t under any illusion that the world was a wonderful place.
Quite the opposite; his hope was fueled by a belief that, despite the staggering resistance he knew he would face, his faith and hard work could help build a better life for Black Americans. As he wrote in his autobiography, A Time of Terror, “With faith and prayer over my lips forever, I was determined to keep my hands on the throttle and my eyes upon the rails.”
2. Everything man has accomplished began with a hope.
At its very heart, hope can create reality.
To understand how, notice how every manmade device around you was made before you saw it. For instance, as I look around my office, I see my computer…my guitar…and a picture of Mary.
All of these began with the hope in someone’s mind.
The beginning seeds of a computer began centuries ago when Wilheim Schickard and Johannes Kepler hoped there was a faster and better way to do calculations.
The first guitars began centuries ago when someone hoped to create something that would play beautiful music.
The picture of Mary was taken 50 years ago when I hoped she would marry me.
So hope is a perception of what is possible. And research shows that when people have hope, their goals are more likely to become reality.
This is NOT because hope has magical powers.
It’s because people who choose to have a clear belief of what is possible are more likely to take steps to make it happen. As Barack Obama communicated in the title of his book, The Audacity of Hope, hope is often audacious. It involves taking a cold, hard look at reality, and then choose to believe that a better future is possible.
Some might call it foolhardy, but the goals most of us believed were impossible turned out to be just the opposite.
We learned to fly
We landed on the moon
We networked the globe
We eradicated diseases like polio and smallpox.
So…if you’re feeling hopeless, rather than telling yourself that things are not possible, take a “audacious” approach, and choose to believe they are!
3. Hope includes a strategy
Let me say that merely feeling hopeful is NOT a strategy. Although a hopeful feeling may buoy us up when we’re feeling down, it won’t solve anything.
Hope is far more than a feeling; it’s a way of thinking that pushes us to take action.
This is supported by research of psychologist C.R. Snyder, who found that hope is at the heart of pursuing our goals.
Through interviewing large numbers of hopeful people, Dr. Snyder discovered that most of them had three things in common: goals, pathways, and agency.
They had a clear sense of their goals.
They took the time to create pathways—also known as strategies—that they believed could move them toward their goals. They were under no illusions that all (or even most) of these pathways would work. Instead, they chose to try multiple pathways, realizing that many would inevitably be blocked.
They had an abiding belief in themselves (which Dr. Snyder calls ‘agency.’)
To be clear, this “active” kind of hope won’t magically eradicate COVID-19, or instantaneously bring about our goals
But research indicates that hope is the psychological engine that drives our efforts.
As psychologist Meg Van Deusen, author of Stressed in the U.S., wrote of hope, “When we have it we move and when we move we change things.”
I know one person who, when feeling hopeless, volunteered to make COVID-19 masks for a community organization. It was a small effort, but it changed her view of the situation and contributed to making the world a better place.
Clocking volunteer hours, making a donation, writing a letter, calling a friend, or making a social media post are all pathways to consider. Not everyone will be comfortable with or able to do all of them, but doing nothing when we’re feeling hopeless just amplifies that sense of hopelessness.
It is tempting to lose hope right now. However, this alone makes it far more important to hold tightly to our vision of a better future.in our little part of the world. There are ALWAYS steps we can take make the world just a little bit better?
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available online at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.