There is a significant amount of research that tells that us that the more hopeful people, those who view the future with optimism, are simply happier and achieve greater long-term economic well-being. Hope is defined as an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes. It is best conceptualized by Irving Snyder (Health and Hope 1991) as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of (a) successful goal-directed energy, [and] (b) pathways (planning to meet goals).” Further, studies have found that hope is positively correlated with life satisfaction and serves as a buffer against the impact of negative and stressful life events.
I believe we underestimate the power of holding a hopeful, steadfast belief that the future will be positive, and that life will meet our expectations. And this underestimation fundamentally impacts the way those of us in the helping profession construct messages and deliver services.
I find that many individuals who walk through the doors of the many companies of The Fedcap Group, have experienced subtle, consistent messages of low expectations. Rarely do systems and services encourage aspirational thinking or dreaming big dreams. Instead, the individuals we serve have been subject to a lifetime of overt and covert messages that encourage them to accept a future of “less than”, that caution them against expecting too much of their lives and guide them toward generational defeat. These messages help form their self-definition, their personal brand.
What would happen instead, if systems and services were designed to encourage hope, raise expectations, challenge negative self-definitions, and help people carve out a path to greatness from a very early age?
What if all children living in poverty, children of color, children with disabilities, and children in foster care were told how smart they were—and they started to believe it?
If they heard how motivated they were—and they started to believe it?
If someone looked them in the eye every day and told them that they could accomplish anything they set their mind to—and they started to believe it?
What if all the systems, tools and resources reinforced greatness?
How would a fundamental belief in the future, in the power of possible, in the ability to achieve big dreams, change the lives of people we serve?
Transformational is a word that comes to mind.