“Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. ‘I have a feeling tomorrow will be better’ is different from ‘I resolve to make tomorrow better.’”
―Dr. Angela Duckworth, Positive psychologist
Hope is not weak. It’s not just “hoping” things will get better and doing nothing about it. If you’re doing nothing about making your life or future better, then you don’t have hope.
Research shows that HOPE is more powerful than self-efficacy (confidence) and optimism. Confidence is the belief that you can develop skills and achieve your goals. Optimism is the general sense that the future will be better. Both of these are important, but HOPE matters more, and here’s why:
From a scientific standpoint, HOPE involves 3 things:
- A specific vision or goal of a better future.
- Agency: which is confidence — the belief that you can learn and do whatever is required to have what you want.
- Pathways: which is adaptability and strategy — being flexible at finding different ways to achieving your goals.
You need all three of these to have hope. If you’re lacking any one of these three, then you’ll lack motivation and drive. You won’t be resilient to challenges. You’ll continue trying broken or ineffective approaches to achieve your goal, which will lead to slow or non-progress.
“Without hope, there can be no basis for agency, which informs goal-directed action.”
— Dr. Smadar Cohen-Chena and Dr. Martijn Van Zomeren, Positive psychologists
In 2020, we need HOPE more than anything else. We are living through a global pandemic, social unrest, widespread unemployment, lack of trust in the media, government, etc. If you want to rise above the noise, have peace, and take control over your life, then you need to increase your HOPE.
Here are 10 science-based ways to increase your HOPE:
1. Do This 10-Minute Gratitude Exercise
“The process of gratefully writing about one’s own experience in the past of facing a similar experience of hoping — and of having the hope fulfilled — prompted increases in current hope.”
— Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet, et al., Positive Pyschologist
Research shows that gratitude can really boost your hope. In one study, participants took out a journal and reflected back on former experiences where they hoped for something, and eventually, their hope was realized. By looking back on former “hopes” that eventually came about, their hope in the here-and-now really increased.
If we need hope more than anything right now, then we also REALLY need gratitude more than anything right now.
Try this yourself: Pull out your journal and write about things you once wanted that you eventually got. How can this help you here-and-now while you’re trying to move forward?
Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, has a concept he calls THE GAP AND GAIN. It’s incredibly powerful to consistently look back on the “gains” you’ve had — either over a short or long period of time.
You can look at the “gains” at the end of every single day, every week, every month, and every year.
Take a look back:
- What are the “gains,” wins, or progress you’ve made in the past 7 days?
- What are the “gains” you’ve seen or made in the past 30 days?
- What are the “gains” you’ve seen in the past year?
- What are the “gains” you’ve experienced in the past 10 years?
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
— Abraham Lincoln
I recently sent a survey to my readers, and over 3,000 people responded. One question I asked was: “What do you do, or what gives you hope, when things start to look bleak?” The most common response to this question, by over ten times any other response, was “Prayer.” My findings are not unique.
Research has shown that prayer can increase hope and optimism, self-esteem, adaptability during challenges, and can lower feelings of depression and suicide. Prayer has been shown to greatly improve relationships and can even improve health problems. One study found that prayer reduced blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates in patients who suffer from chronic kidney disease.
Like journaling and meditation, prayer is private. It’s something you do when you’re looking for perspectives, energy, or reasons. Prayer is more powerful when done in the right environment, accompanied by meditation and journaling.
Ultimately, prayer is about putting yourself in the right frame of mind so you can take action. Get yourself moving. Prayer also puts you into a state of hope and faith — where you believe good things will happen. But not just believe passively, but seek to do something tangible about it. You’re not just waiting for lightning to strike. Your seeking to collaboratively create the lightning and you’re boldly acting. As the American writer, Florence Shinn wrote, “Faith knows it has already received and acts accordingly.”
3. Upgrade Your Vision and Find Unconventional Strategies
“How can I achieve my 10-year vision in the next 6 months?”
— Peter Thiel, billionaire
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
— Mark Twain
If you have a big vision, then there probably isn’t a traditional approach to getting what you want. Having high-hope means you’re adaptive. It means you’re committed to what you want and hyper-flexible in how you get it.
People with low-hope continue trying to same ineffective approaches over and over, even when they fail to produce desired outcomes. They can’t find alternative pathways or strategies to getting what they want.
In the book, The Third Door, author Alex Banayan has a great statement:
“Life, business, success… it’s just like a nightclub. There are always three ways in. There’s the First Door: the main entrance, where 99 percent of people wait in line, hoping to get in. The Second Door: the VIP entrance, where the billionaires and celebrities slip through. But what no one tells you is that there is always, always… the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open the window, sneak through the kitchen — there’s always a way.”
The “Third Door” is the idea that there are alternative pathways to getting what you want. And that’s what HOPE is all about. That’s what HOPE creates. You have to be willing to try something that could fail, and fail, and fail again.
You can’t just stick with tried-and-true methods because as the world increasingly changes, there aren’t any. You’ve got to develop confidence (agency) and become gritty and adaptive. You’ve got to embrace learning and failure.
You also have to have a big enough vision that inspires alternative thinking. Dan Sullivan teaches all of his entrepreneurs to “10X” their vision. As he explains:
“10X thinking automatically takes you ‘outside the box’ of present obstacles and limitations.”
“When 10X is is your measuring stick, you immediately see how you can bypass what everyone else is doing.”
If you 10X the size of your vision, then your strategy will immediately have to change. Therefore, you’ll need to become more adaptive and flexible at finding unique and different ways to create amazing results.
4. Replace Hope-Destroying Media With Inspiring Media and Humor
“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.”
— Zig Ziglar
Research shows that high-hope people proactively seek positive information and media, whereas low-hope people choose negative and pessimistic information. High-hope people compared to low-hope people prefer listening to media and messages that help them achieve goals. They also listened goal-supporting messages longer than low-hope people.
If you want to decrease your hope, watch the news. The purpose of most “news” is literally to kill your hope and optimism toward the future. The goal is to make you feel terrible and helpless about the situation.
Yes, it’s good to be informed. But it’s also incredibly important to protect your hope, expectancy, vision, and agency. Garbage in, garbage out. Be VERY AWARE of what you put in your head, because the information you consume shapes your view of the world. It can either increase your agency or destroy it.
Also, other research shows that “humor” can really help with hope, particularly when you’re going through a hard time. Some healthy comic relief can help you realize that everything will be okay. Laughing and “turning things into a game” is essential for learning and growth.
5. Apply “Implementation Intentions” To Your Biggest Weaknesses
“High-hope students also find multiple pathways to reach their goals and willingly try new approaches. Low-hope students, on the other hand, stick with one approach and do not try other avenues when stymied.
Instead of using problem-focused thought, the low-hope students often use counterproductive avoidance and disengagement thinking. Reinforced in the short term by their avoidance thoughts, low-hope students continue their passivity. Unfortunately, they do not learn from past experiences.
High-hope students, however, use information about not reaching their goals as diagnostic feedback to search for other feasible approaches.”
— Dr. Charles R. Snyder, et al., Hope Researcher and Expert
Low-hope people distract themselves when things get tough. They avoid uncomfortable emotions. They haven’t developed smart strategies to overcome their lack of willpower.
One of the best strategies is what psychologists call “Implementation Intentions” — it is a pre-planned response to a negative or “triggered” situation. You create an IF-THEN scenario… If X happens, then I’ll do Y.
For example, IF you’re tired and are about to distract yourself with social media, THEN you will get up, grab a cup of water, and go on a 5-minute walk.
Your IF-THEN is personal to you. But the more strategic you can be with your potential failures, and the better you are at proactively responding, the more confident you’ll be. You’ll watch yourself improve your behavior and stop falling to your addictions or distractions. This will increase your agency.
High-hope people will do something like this. They’ll make plans to live better. Low-hope people will just zone-out, because, they aren’t committed to their future anyways. Which is another reason they are trying to zone-out. Reality sucks. Without hope in the future, being conscious in the present is something to be avoided.
6. Celebrate Even Small Victories
“To create a habit fast, cheer for yourself while you’re doing the new habit you want, or cheer just after completing it.”
— Dr. BJ Fogg, Renowned Habit Expert
Confidence is built by recent positive experiences. Confidence and hope go hand-in-hand. By making small progress and importantly, by celebrating whatever progress you make, your hope will increase that you can continue moving forward.
Dr. BJ Fogg has spent the past two decades studying behavior design and habit formation. What BJ has found is that habits are not actually formed through repetition. Instead, they are formed through deep emotion, which is why some habits or addictions can start after just one event.
To build habits quickly, BJ recommends actively celebrating even the smallest wins. And he doesn’t mean a small celebration. He wants you to have a full-out, “YEAHHHH!” moment where you fist-pump in the air (or do any form of celebration that feels natural to you).
By making small progress toward a goal, and by enthusiastically celebrating, you train yourself emotionally to want more of that behavior.
7. Actively Prepare for Worst-Case Scenarios
“One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.”
— Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
No one could have anticipated COVID-19 or everything else that has happened in 2020. But some people were more prepared than others. Many businesses weren’t prepared and have had to shut-down. Other business owners had lots of cash reserves just in-case!
Some people have a year supply of food storage and cash at their house, just in-case!
How prepared are you for worst-case scenarios? What if you spent your time actively preparing not only for the worst, but what if you spent your time actively preparing — even over-preparing — to live your dreams?
If you’re prepared, you won’t have fear. If you’re prepared, you’ll feel confident and hopeful about the future. You won’t have to spend half your time and energy waiting and wondering. You’ll have a plan and therefore, you’ll have the energy to adapt not only to challenges, but to incredible opportunities.
How can you prepare right now for unforeseen events in the future?
How can you actively prepare now to create an incredible future, while others are living day-to-day?
8. Instill Hope In Others
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
— Dr. Seuss
Helping other people is one of the best ways to help yourself. Helping other people puts your own problems into perspective. It helps you see that you’re not the only one struggling, and that many people are hurting way worse than you are right now.
Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to go visit a friend. I texted him out of the blue just to see how he was doing, and was surprised to find that he had two herniated discs in his back, and that he’s been in bed in excruciating pain the past two months. I went over to visit him and provide some comfort and was humbled. He was in tears due to not only his physical pain, but due to the uncertainty of his future. He has a young family to provide for and he’s been frustrated — laying in bed and unable to move.
I was only over there for an hour, but I could see a change in my friend when I left. I didn’t change his life, but he may have changed mine. I left with more determination and humility that I had come with. I determined to live better in all aspects of my life.
Go help someone — for their sake and yours.
9. Frame All “Failures” As Feedback, Then Adapt A Better Strategy
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
When you face failures, which you will — it can be easy to lose hope in your future. When you lose hope in your future, then you have what Dr. Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset.” In order to have a growth mindset, you must have hope that the future can get better. Without hope, you won’t do anything. Dr. Angela Duckworth has shown with her research that you cannot have “grit” or resilience without hope.
So what do you do when you “fail” or face a setback? Well, if you have “hope,” then you’ll find a better approach. You’ll take the experience and learn from it so you can do better in the future.
This doesn’t mean you’re not disappointed or bummed. It does mean, however, that you know how to emotionally regulate and cope. You know how to handle your emotions rather than be destroyed by them.
Give yourself some space to recover. Write in your journal about what happened. Maybe get some fresh air, some fitness, some comic relief.
But ultimately, look at the situation and learn from it. Don’t try to make the situation right and you wrong. Instead, look at how you could improve. View this failure as incredibly learning.
Everything happens FOR you, not TO you. When you fail or something doesn’t go your way, say to yourself: “This is happening FOR ME!”
Then, learn from it. Get counsel, get advice, get better. Learn to not make the same mistakes so your future can be bigger and better than your past.
10. Surround Yourself With Happy People and Focus On What’s Most Important
“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things.’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.”
— Thomas S. Monson
Sometimes, you just need the right perspective. Greg McKeown said in Essentialism, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
Most things in life and in the world aren’t that important. There are few things, which “matter most.” When you focus on that which matters most, you don’t lose hope as quickly. Instead, you realize how great your life is. You better handle negative situations. You bounce back, because you have people who care about you, and whom you care about.
Focus on the good things already in your life. Focus on the people you love. Connect with them. Love them. Serve them. And watch as most of your “problems” fade away.