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The Importance of Hope

Taking control of your health and wellbeing, and in fact your life, is a big process. It requires a desire to change and an idea of how things can be better, the belief in yourself that you can make that change a reality, and multiple pathways to get there. Because, let's face it, how often is Plan A a dazzling success? (I know mine usually aren't!)

Following on from our post on Setting and Achieving your Goals, we're going to take a quick look into the science of hope and why it's so important when we're aiming for big changes in our lives.

We'll look at the three components of hope, why it's so important, and how we can strengthen our own sense of hope. Ready? I know I am!

hope change goals health wellbeing
hope is crucial to creating change

The Three Components of Hope

In order for us to have hope, we need to:

  1. Have a goal or an idea of how things can be better

  2. Believe that we're capable of making that change or reaching that goal

  3. Have multiple pathways or plans on how to reach that goal or create that change

Easy, right? Let's go a little deeper into each of these.

Component One: Goal or Vision for a better future

The first step to having hope is to have a goal you REALLY want to achieve, or have an idea of a change that you REALLY want to see in your life.

This can be anything at all - but the key is it MUST be important to you. If you don't care, or think you should want it when you really don't, or aren't fired up to achieve it, then it's not going to be much use to you when it comes to generating hope. In fact, it will do the opposite. Choosing goals we don't care about means we are less likely to achieve them, which then feeds into a negative self image if we fall short of achieving it.

So, what goal are you fired up to achieve? What change do you really want to make in your life so that you can be a happier, healthier, more energised you?

Think hard - you might want to list out a few goals or changes and then feel into which ones feel the most exciting to you and go from there.

believe dream goals change improvement
belief is crucial, and belief in yourself especially

Component Two: Belief you can make it happen!

Having a big ambitious goal is a great first step, but if deep down you don't believe you can achieve it then it's not going to instil any hope in you at all.

Belief is crucial - and it's belief in yourself, in your own agency and power to make the changes you need to make, to take the steps required, and to keep going until you reach your goal. This may seem obvious, but many of us have some deep seated fears around this, and trusting yourself can be really hard.

We've all experienced situations in which we have let ourselves or others down, or where we have developed coping mechanisms that have led to us not speaking up when we need to, or not standing up for ourselves, stating our needs, or holding our boundaries.

All of these can (but don't always) lead to a lack of trust in ourselves. I'll be writing a blog on self trust and some ways to help build it back up again soon, for now, check in with yourself. How is your self trust? If it's a little (or a lot) shaky, that's ok! Everyone will experience this at different points - just know it's not forever, and the cool thing about trust is that it can always be built up again, if you're willing to put in the work.

Component Three: Multiple Pathways

Our third and final component in the science of hope is to have back up plans. If we have a goal we're excited about, and believe we can do it, but only come up with one plan or pathway to reach it we may get ourselves in trouble.

Truly ambitious goals are hard. Often they fail on the first few tries - sometimes the first few hundred tries. In order to have and maintain hope, we need to have multiple plans on how to achieve our goal, so that if we fail at one we can regroup, see what we learned from that attempt, and take that learning into the next plan.

So take that goal of yours and brainstorm as many ways as you can think of to reach it. If you find this hard, ask for help! Chat with a friend, a family member, loved one, or a coach or therapist. See if they can help you see other pathways.

don't give up sign change goals hope
change never happens in a straight line, stick with it!

Change is a Rollercoaster

On that note - it's important to know that goals and change, like recovery from injury or sickness, don't progress in a straight line. It's more like a rollercoaster, with some ups and some downs, some forward momentum combined with some steps backward.

We're going to have some days where everything goes right and we make big steps forward and feel great, and other days when nothing seems to work out or it all feels a bit hopeless. This is part of the game.

The key here is to remember that even when we fail or a plan doesn't work out, it wasn't wasted time and it doesn't mean we're a failure or will never get there. Sit down and really take stock of what happened - what did you learn from the attempt? What can you use to help you in your next attempt? Where could you change your approach? Do you need to recruit some help?

It can also be a good time to reassess your goal - if it's failing because your motivation is low and you're not making the time to put the work needed into achieving it, why is this happening?

There can be many reasons for this, sometimes you're overworked, stressed, and your energy is so low you can't get excited about much of anything. If this is the case, take a moment to slow down and take stock of what's going on in your life and whether you can reprioritise yourself. I work on this with patients in clinic all of the time, we tend to be so busy these days we are constantly fatigued or on the edge of burn out. If this is you, look for ways you can reintroduce some self care, even if it's just 15 minutes a day to yourself to begin with. It might be a bath, reading a book, or just walking the drive way and back.

If you feel you need a bit more help with this, check out the following posts

Feeling Like a Zombie? A quick look at how to improve your sleep

Tiny Moves, Big Changes - How to get back into exercise when you're busy

Winter is Coming - Ways to nourish yourself and build your energy reserves

If, however, you check in and find your motivation isn't there because you just don't want to achieve this goal of yours, that's another story. If this is the case, it may be time to reassess. Is this something you really need to do? If the answer is yes, then sit down and see how you can make yourself more excited about it (check out my post on Goals for some tips on this).

Is this something you can delegate to someone else? It may be that this thing is important, but not something you really want to do yourself. If it's possible, try recruiting someone else to do this task for you. This may take the form of delegating the task to someone else if this is a work or home thing, or paying someone to do it for you.

Finally, if the task isn't something you need to do and you're not feeling motivated about it, it may be time to drop the goal and find a new one to focus on.

If you need to do this, that's ok! It's nor failing to admit that you just don't want to put your energy into this anymore. There are plenty of other goals out there you could be focusing on, and it's better to pick one you're excited to achieve than try to force yourself to slog away at one you've outgrown or lost interest in.

So, how's your hope?

When you check in on these areas, how strong is your hope?

This is a super quick look at the science of hope and how to leverage this to make positive change in your life, whether your goal is a project or promotion at work, being a better parent, or improving your health and wellbeing. It's a pretty versatile little tool.

If you want to read more on this, check out the book Making Hope Happen by Shane Lopez.

If you're struggling to work through this on your own or would like some support and accountability as you embark on your ambitious goals, get in touch! I'm in the process of offering coaching as well as treatment in my clinic, and I'm looking for a few clients who are fired up to make some lasting change in their life and take themselves to the next level. I have multiple pathways for coaching and we can tailor the experience to fit your needs.

If you're fired up and feel like you've got this, awesome! Go well, and let us know how you get on. I love hearing about your success stories, and how you overcome the stumbling blocks.


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