The posts and comments are familiar and often repeated. We are exhausted. It’s been going on too long. We hoped it would be over by now. A note of despair has entered our lives. The old normal will never be back. I’m hearing and reading more absolute terms being used such as the “never” in the previous sentence. Or “always” as in, “it’s always going to be this way.” We need to be careful of thoughts like that. It is a mindset that feeds despair and drains us of something vital – hope.
Our world has always been filled with “ills and diseases,” but hope is there as well. As Emily Dickinson has said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” Perhaps we need to give the tune words. Hope is vital to our well-being. We need to nourish it. Instead of thinking of hope as wish, take steps that will bring it to life.
In a long post on 3 Things the Most Resilient People Do Every Day, Eric Barker proposes a simple approach for creating hope. His idea is to “Fill the Gap” with the formula:
Goals + Agency + Pathways = Hope.
Only three steps, but it takes work – and time – to correct our negative mindsets.
Goals – Always a powerful place to start. You write them for your library and for your lessons. Perhaps you write them for personal achievements. But to use goals for creating hope is a bit different.
If you are accustomed to writing SMART goals (Specific Measurable Attainable, Relevant, and Timely), how can this work for Hope? Baker says begin the process by starting a sentence with “I want …” But then make it more specific. For example, if you start with “I want to build a relationship with my principal,” drill down to “I will research my principal online, and regularly send them a link to something that interests them along with new achievements from the library.”
What goal might foster hope? Perhaps if you notice yourself using never and always too often, you can set a goal of “I will decrease (don’t try to eliminate) absolutes in my language by changing the wording after I use them.”
Agency – This is the action step. Agency is what gets and keeps you moving. It’s related to persistence and perseverance.
As I have seen in WW (formerly Weight Watchers), it’s easy for people to leave the program when they experience a setback. Agency means you make a choice to continue even when it gets difficult. If you think you quit, share your goal with a friend. That tends to cause you to be more accountable.
And to keep yourself going, don’t beat yourself up when you have a bad day and fail to follow one of the steps towards your goal. That way leads to defeatism and abandoning what you want to achieve (and an absolute “See, I’m never going to get this right”). Instead, focus on previous successes you have had after experiencing a setback. You have done it before, and you can do it again. This is part of the process not an end to it.
Pathways – You have to have a plan. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Barker says to visualize the path, and by that he doesn’t mean dream. That might be how you start, but you must take action and move along the path in specific ways to get to your goal.
Your opening steps are probably obvious. You are going to outline textually or visually how you are going to reach the end. The opening is easy. The middle is where things tend not to go as planned (and where agency helps). You are on your way. If things veer off course, you need to find an alternative or create a new plan. It happens. Just remember what I said in Agency, “you have succeeded before and you will succeed again.”
These three pieces together – a goal, the agency to stick with it, and a path to follow – can lead to an increase in hope. According to the Greek legend, Pandora was given a box with all the world’s ills and diseases. She opened it, letting them all out. When the box was shut, only hope remained inside. I like to believe she opened the box once more and let it out. The uncertainty of our time, not knowing what will happen next, and fear tend to keep us in despair. By giving yourself a direction you want to go – something with more certainty – will bring hope. And that hope will make you feel more positive about today, tomorrow, and the days beyond.