If you are in the 45 percent of Americans who typically make New Year’s resolutions, consider that you have just an 8 percent chance of being successful in achieving these goals, according to the University of Scranton’s 2014 Journal of Clinical Psychology study.
If you’re thinking that there must be a better way to make positive, substantive changes to our life, you’re right! We call this simple yet powerful exercise the “hope letter.”
The hope scale
Two decades ago, C. R. Snyder, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, developed something called hope theory. Hope theory states that achievement comes by focusing on three factors: having a goal, having pathways and methods of achieving that goal, and believing in one’s ability to reach that goal. Snyder also created a hope scale questionnaire. Researchers learned that people who have high hopes tend to cope better with physical pain and be happier and more satisfied.
Snyder’s ideas contradicted the words of many philosophers, including Plato’s admonition that hope was a “foolish counselor.” Snyder was building on the work of mental health professionals from the 1950s who had started to view hope as a key ingredient in achieving one’s goals.
The hope letter
Snyder's ideas inspired us to imagine the hope letter, which is described below in a step-by-step fashion. When we write down how we will achieve our hopes and dreams, we are more successful in making them come true. As executive coaches, we have given this assignment to countless clients. The really cool thing about it is that you can write your hope letter any time of year. Just follow these three steps:
1. Write it down
Address your hope letter to yourself and date it exactly one year in the future.
2. Don't limit yourself
Take the time to imagine how it would be if you accomplished all of your goals. Consider your career, health, finances, romance, family, friends, community, fun and personal growth. If you need a writing prompt, try this: What do I hope to have accomplished a year from now?
3. Be accountable
Give your hope letter to your partner, spouse, dear friend, colleague or coach. Ask the recipient to mail it back to you one year from the date you wrote it.
We think you will be surprised by just how many things on your list you achieved. Why? Because when you set an intention, your actions follow. Does everything come true? Not usually. Celebrate what you do achieve, learn from what you don’t, and then write your hope letter for the year ahead.
Create a club by encouraging your family, friends and colleagues to write their own hope letters and mail them to you! Quit simply wishing for what you want and write a hope letter instead.
Margaret H. Greenberg and Senia Maymin, Ph.D., are organizational consultants and executive coaches whose popular talks and workshops inspire business leaders around the world. Their best-selling book, Profit from the Positive has been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Connect with Margaret and Senia on their website or Facebook.