In Greek mythology, when Pandora opened the box and let out all the troubles that have since plagued the world, she also let out a tiny fairy who said,

“Yes, it is true that you have unleashed all manner of afflictions upon the world, but you have also let me out. I am Hope and will always be there to bring hope to humans, whenever they are in trouble.”

This myth goes to the heart of the truth that it’s difficult to endure hardships without hope. Hope offers balm for the soul in the moment and encouragement to keep on going.

Recently, positive psychology has begun to explore this quality. Psychologist Shane Lopez conducts research and training in the role of hope in our daily lives. He says that hope is “the ideas and energy you have for the future…It forms when goal thinking (I want to go from here to there) combines with pathways thinking (I know many ways to get from here to there), and agency thinking (I think I can get from here to there.)” He calls being hopeless as “having a damaged relationship with the future.” His research has shown a strong correlation between hope and a sense of well being and has demonstrated that people can learn how to be more hopeful.

What do you want to make happen in the situation you find yourself in now? Hope helps you vote for the best outcome with your imagination and with your feet in terms of taking action. It gives you the energy you need to keep swimming as long as it takes to get to the shore. Like all the other positive emotions, research shows it actually helps you increase your ability to endure difficulties and persist in the face of setbacks.

How can you increase your hope account right now? I do it by remembering that I’ve made it so far; thinking of all the people in my life that I can count on for help if needed; reading inspirational stories of people who have overcome hardships to make a difference. What about you?

If you have lost all hope, and are feeling hopeless, helpless, and defeated by your situation, please, please seek professional help—a therapist, support group, or clergy member. Depression and despair is an all-too-real condition that saps energy and creates immobility. You can’t adapt well and create a positive future in that state of being. Hope is one of the energies you need to cope.

Tune in next time when I write about why having hope is a crucial business skill.


Author's Bio: 

A member of Professional Thinking Partners who is recognized as a leading expert in change, M.J. Ryan specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, individuals, and leadership teams around the world to maximize performance and fulfillment. Her clients include Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Hewitt Associates, and Frito Lay. Her work is based on a combination of positive psychology, strengths-based coaching, the wisdom traditions, and cutting edge brain research. Her new book, titled “AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For” was recently released published by Random House’s Broadway Books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.