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HOPE: The Best of all Possible Things


Ever since Pandora let hope out of the box, hope has served man well. Studies show that adults and children who score higher in hope (1) score higher in self-esteem, meaning in life and happiness, (2) cope better with injuries, disease, and physical pain, (3) excel in academics from elementary to graduate school; 4) perform better in sports. Reflect on these findings and you will see they are all descriptive of resilient individuals.

What makes hope spring eternal resilience? Considering that nobody “invented” resiliency, it must be Hope’s evolutionary function: to prolong life by attaching the individual to a positive outcome. The cancer stricken patient is resilient because he or she wishes to see their grandchildren; the manager is resilient because he wants to be successful.

We often admire the resilient individual as if he or she is doing something special by overcoming adversity through the most trying conditions, but the fact is, life is hardwired to be resilient.   Eco systems after draughts and floods bounce back. The body, without treatment, mends its own injuries and you often recover from a cold without intervention. The same is true for our emotional landscape. A broken heart mends, and after a devastating setback, spirits may be down but for most come back up; remember depression is an illness.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is nothing special about being resilient —Mother Nature made you that way so that you could work through difficult moments we all encounter—so that you can prolong your life. From an evolutionary perspective Hope fuels resiliency.

Yet, what about individuals who lack resiliency, those who give up easily or let a setback send them into depression, the ultimate killer of productivity, and what about a company that throws in the towel and spirals downward because of a product failure or loss of market share. These non-resilient individuals and organizations have a common denominator—they have lost hope— no chance of achieving a favorable outcome- and thus, see no reason in making an effort. A physician might say, “He’s lost his will to live.”

Resiliency can be returned, fostered, and instilled in any individual, studies tell us, if you create hope and you can do so by applying the major concepts of Hope Theory: Agency and Pathway thinking. Agency, commonly called “willpower,” is the motivational component that propels people along their chosen routes to achieve goals and also reflects their belief in being successful: “I know I can do this!” is a high will power belief.

Pathway thinking is the ability to identify the necessary routes to achieving that goal. The more pathways or way power, the more the individual or organization perceives the goals can be achieved, and the more hopeful they become. More effort results and resiliency is in action. Two tips to take:

  1. Create “will power” by establishing meaningful goals that provide purpose and meaning. These goals are physically arousing and translate into directed energy. After a setback or in times of adversity, reiterate your meaningful goals, purpose and meaning and you will begin to feel resilient.
  2. Create Pathways. Brainstorm and problem solve obstacles away by creating and innovating new routes that can help you achieve your goal. Break each down into a simple step and each one taken, will increase the individual’s will power to continue. The individual becomes resilient because he or she is hopeful they will make it.

Hope—it’s the best of all possible things.

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