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Why You Should Turn Your Wishes Into Hopes

Are you wishing or hoping for good things this year? 

Wondering what the difference is?  According to new scientific findings, quite a lot in terms of the results you’ll be getting.

Shane Lopez from the Gallup Research organization recently found that eighty-nine per cent of people believe the future will be better than the present.  This is what scientists call a wish. 

Unfortunately, Lopez found only fifty per cent of us believe we can make it so.   Yet scientists are adamant both beliefs are required in order for us to ignite enough hope to move us from where we are to where we want to go.

The problem with a wish is it makes you passive and less likely to reach your goals. Hope has been found to lift your spirits, buoy your energy and positively change your day-to-day behaviour.

The work of you head and your heart, hope happens when your rational self meets your emotional self, Professor Rick Snyder  and his colleagues found hope requires three elements:

  • Firstly, hope is built from clearly conceptualized goals that most excite you and fill your mind with pictures of the future.   This is called ‘goal thinking’.
  • Secondly, you need to be able to seek out and identify multiple pathways to your goals, pick the most appropriate routes for your situation, and monitor your progress over time.  This is called ‘pathways thinking’, but you might want to think of it as ‘way power’.
  • Finally, you need to be able to motivate yourself and to build capacity for persistence and long-term effort in the face of obstacles.  This is called ‘agency thinking’, but you might want to think of it as ‘will power’.

When it comes to our work researchers have found hope plays a central role in driving persistence, motivation, goal setting and innovation. 

In fact, other things being equal, hope has been found to lead to a 14% bump in productivity because it makes us feel more engaged and enthusiastic about our work.  To put that into context, it means hope is worth about an hour a day.

Longitudinal studies of workers have also suggested that employees high in hope experience more happiness and well-being over time.

One of my favorite approaches to turn a wish into a hope was created by Lopez and it’s called a Hope Map.  Next time you want to turn a hope into action try this simple exercise:

  • Take a piece of paper and place it horizontally on your desk.  Then fold it into three sections and open it up once more.
  • On the far right third of the page write the heading ‘Goals’.  Then note down below a goal you’re hoping to achieve.
  • On the far left third of the page write the heading ‘Pathways’.  Try to note down at least three different pathways you’ll need to initiate to reach your goal.
  • In the middle third of the page write the heading ‘Obstacles’.  Try to note down at least one obstacle for each of the pathways you’ve identified.  One of the things researchers have uncovered about achieving our goals is we’re more likely to succeed when we plan for possible obstacles at the outset.  This way they don’t send us into such a loop.
  • Around the edges of your page note down what you can do to maintain your motivation and will power to complete the pathways and achieve your goal.  How will you make the journey enjoyable?  Which strengths can you use?  Who will encourage you?  How will you measure your progress?

Once your map is complete your hopes are clear and you’re ready to get on with it. 

Research suggests no other workplace measure – including job satisfaction, company commitment and confidence to do the job – counts more than hope in determining whether you’ll show up, it’s surely worth a try.

So what are you hoping for?

Michelle McQuaid, a born and raised Australian girl, is a best-selling author, workplace wellbeing teacher and playful change activator.

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