Alex Chiri's Blog

What about hope?


In general, I cannot describe myself as the most hopeful optimistic shiny happy person, so when I found out about a book specifically about hope, from the world leading scientist researching hope, I thought it would be interesting to read it. The book is called "Making Hope Happen", by Shane J. Lopez and this is what I found out from it:

Hope is essentially a way to think about the future and there are 4 key beliefs that distinguish it from optimism or wishful thinking:

  1. "the future will be better than the present"
  2. "I have the power to make it so"
  3. "there are many paths to my goals"
  4. "none of them is free of obstacles"

If when you imagine your future, you believe all these things, then you are a hopeful person.

What distinguishes hope from wishful thinking is that hopeful people have a realistic view regarding the obstacles there might be in the paths towards their goals. Hopeful people are primed for action, wishful thinkers are unrealistic about what it takes to achieve something and might have a hard time taking even the first step.

Even less so, optimism has no base on what the future might look like in reality. It is kind of an illusion that the future will be better without concern about any other details. It is sometimes referred to as "positive expectation bias".

It sounds like hope is a very powerful skill to have, especially in the dynamic times we live in.

How do we become more hopeful?

From what I could get from the book, there isn't any step-by-step do-this-and-be-hopeful guide (surprise, surprise!!!), but there are some things that can encourage the behaviors that hope is built on.

First, it pays off to have a vision and plan for the future. This could pull us forward, even when the present might not be great. The story we create in our mind about the future might be quite at odds with our previous experiences, but as we take small steps in our future direction, we free up energy from worrying.

Then, it is really important to think of different ways of moving towards our goals, of finding different pathways. Plan B, plan C or even plan D can save us from quitting in face of obstacles. That means that we should also be realistic about what obstacles and challenges we might face. The more options we have, the better perspective we have of the future and we are more hopeful.

When the present might be too much to feel hopeful about the future and how much agency we might have to make it happen, the author recommends to ask ourselves 2 questions:

  1. Who makes us feel like we matter? By talking or spending time with them or thinking about them, might give us the energy and determination to move forward.
  2. What really matters to us? "Whenever you recall what matters most to you, you reconnect with you and feel your own sense of identity and purpose, which can spark you to take hopeful action."

Besides helping us move forward in our life "hope buffers well-being from the effects of negative life events, shielding us from adversity, protecting us from stress and sadness, and making room for happiness."

Finally, hopeful people are attractive to us, because by just being around them, we might catch some of their positive energy and make us more hopeful ourselves.

I have to say that before reading Shane J. Lopez' book, my picture about what hope is and how it can influence our life was blurry.

Some days it might be more difficult to be hopeful, but I have a better idea of what I could try to do to bring the spark back and focus more on building my future, rather than worrying about it. I hope it will inspire you to do the same!