Last week I wrote about 3 key elements we need when times are tough.
There is a 4th element that I want to write about today, and that is HOPE.
Feeling hopeful almost feels like negligence or naivety at the moment. Can we feel hopeful when we think of women in Afghanistan, or climate change accelerating, or a pandemic? Is it responsible to feel hopeful?
Hope is essential to activating courageous leadership. Yet how can we cultivate hope in a way that is clear and directional, and not passive and waiting. I’m talking about the difference between taking action in the hope a better future is created vs sitting around hoping someone else comes up with a solution to the mess we are in.
I’m interested in the former, naturally, and I know you are too. Brick by brick, centimetre by centimetre I want to strengthen my hope activation. If you want this too, read on.
According to hope researchers, 3 things need to be present for it to exist.
The first is a clear vision for the future that you want. What do you want? What future inspires you or you feel offers you what you need?
The second is agency to make it happen. This is the freedom to choose. The ability to take action.
The third is a pathway or strategy to get there. You may not have the whole pathway, especially for a complex or longer term vision, but you need to have steps to take to forward your vision, even if it’s just the very next step.
If you are missing any one of these 3 things, hope won’t be present. For instance, you might have a vision for a better life, and you are able to act to bring it about, but if there is no pathway or roadmap toward it, you’ll get stuck and lose hope.
I believe a further key element for hope is believing it is possible. We can’t take effective action for a desired future if we don’t believe that future is possible. The key word here is ‘possible’. Too often we want guarantees before we start, and given the enormity of the challenges we face, who in their right mind can offer such guarantee? Instead of focussing on how unlikely something is, focus on what might be possible.
For my decades working on ending hunger, I knew there was no guarantee the aim would succeed and yet this did not diminish my activity. I knew the end of hunger was possible – and this was enough, so I worked to help bring about the conditions that could fulfil this possibility. This renewed my hope, and it gave hope to others.
Hope does not need proof or guarantees. It does need the possibility – and then the action.
‘Hope is a discipline” as Black community activist Mariam Kabe says.
If you are feeling a lack of hope – and I get it – you can build a pathway so these 4 qualities are in place: vision, agency, pathway and possibility. The alternative is too much to face.
I need you, and we need each other to activate this decisive, clear-eyed hope.
The future is not yet written. Let’s write a more hopeful reality together.
Till next week,