On Christmas morning, when I opened my present of sportswear from my favourite brand, the words, ‘Hope is not a strategy’ greeted me on the packaging.
It transported me back to when I delivered a seminar some years ago on hope versus optimism. A coach in the audience had raised her hand with urgency during the discussion and declared to the room, ‘We tell our athletes categorically that hope is never a strategy’.
I recall being somewhat taken aback at the strength of her conviction, and the second-rate view she held of hope when compared to optimism. However, I did see her point. She was concerned that athletes might substitute hope for adequate preparation. In her mind, if they were hopeful of success, they may fall into the trap of underestimating their preparation or the competition – and as a consequence, rely upon wishful thinking alone and enter their event unprepared.
What is the role of hope in our lives?
So, if not a strategy, how can we use hope effectively in our lives? It can certainly help us maintain a positive outlook. It can also have an impact on our mindset. When you are hopeful you typically develop pathway thinking, which allows you to be resourceful in generating multiple ways to reach your chosen goal. Having a hopeful mindset means you are not restricted to or bound by the expected outcome. You use creativity in your problem solving, which expands the possibilities and lays a solid foundation for success.
Does hope positively influence our actions?
While my Christmas gift bag cautioned against a reliance on hope, research suggests it can have a positive influence on our level of achievement and wellbeing. In one study, college students who were hopeful were found to perform better academically than their less hopeful counterparts (Snyder et al. 2002). In a separate study, a relationship was identified between low levels of hope and a decline in overall wellbeing (Diener 1984). It seems hope can have a positive impact on your performance, while also insulating you from sadness and distress.
How can you be more hopeful?
If you’re not naturally hopeful, or would like a boost in this area, here are some simple strategies to bring more hope into your life:
- Mood is contagious. Surround yourself with people who are hopeful.
- In daily life, ask yourself this question: How could this situation go well?
- Be grateful for all you have in life and seek out more opportunities for gratitude.
- Know that hope is the starting point – you then need the actions to make it happen.
Rather than being the poor cousin to optimism, hope instead offers an emotional turbocharge to get you closer to the goals you seek. When hope is part of how you view the world, you give yourself a mental advantage to find a way forward.
If you’ve had enough of barriers in your life, hope may give you the leverage to reframe them as challenges that can be overcome.
At the very least, if your sporting team is at the bottom of the ladder, hope gives you the resolve to turn up again next week!
Diener, E 1984, ‘Subjective well-being’, Psychological Bulletin, vol. 95, pp. 542–575.
Snyder, CR, Shorey, HS, Cheavens, J, Pulvers, KM, Adams, VH & Wiklund, C 2002, ‘Hope and academic success in college’, Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 94 (4), pp. 820–826.
About the author
Dr Jo Lukins is a psychological Indiana Jones. She spends her day inside the heads of athletes, individuals, teams and organisations, seeking to understand what makes them tick and supporting them to achieve their best. She holds a PhD in Psychology, is acknowledged as an expert in her field and was awarded an Outstanding Alumni by her university. In her book, The Elite: Think like an athlete, succeed like a champion, she translates the lessons of elite athlete thinking into strategies that can be used by anyone who wants to succeed in life.