How to become more hopeful.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hope

Hope.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hope lies on a continuum from low to high.

In a previous blog post titled Stocking Up on Hope, we talked about how hope lies on a continuum, and people can move from low levels of hope to become a high hope person. If you’re feeling less than hopeful right now, there are some things that you can do to increase your levels of hope.

While hope is certainly a feeling, it’s also an attitude towards things. Whether you’re a high hope person or a low hope person, your hope of achieving a specific goal can fluctuate dramatically as time, and you change. People who lose hope of reaching their goals give up trying and become depressed. Once someone comes up with a plan to reach their goal, their level of hope increases, sometimes dramatically.

Hope appears to have two separate components.

Hope seems to be the result of the interplay of two separate factors. First is your belief that reaching your goal will be the result of your own actions. If you believe that outside factors control your fate, that’s not hope, that’s wishful thinking. The second factor in building hope is developing a plan so that your actions take you where you want to go. Let’s look at these two separate factors.

Believing in your abilities increases the motivation to act.

One component of hope, at least according to hope theory, is agency. Closely related to self-confidence and affected by your self-concept, agency is your belief that you might be able to take actions that would lead you toward your goal. Those actions can be all sorts of different things. You might seek out help from friends, family, or a professional. You might begin to develop a plan of action yourself. Any one of these steps is likely to increase your level of hope.

Having a roadmap to take you to your goal increases hope.

The second component in hope theory is developing a plan of action. If you believe there are pathways you can take, which might lead you closer to your goal, this is certain to increase your level of hope. Let’s look at some of the ways that developing a plan of action can increase your level of hope.

Breaking goals into smaller doable steps increases hope.

If you try to eat an elephant in one bite, you’re going to choke. I see lots of people who try to accomplish one big major goal in a short period of time and end up defeated. You decide you don’t like your current job and you’re going to go back to school and get a degree so you can get a better paying job. If you try to take too many classes that first semester, you’re likely to overload yourself, do poorly in those classes, and give up.

One reason people lose hope is that they radically overestimate what they can accomplish over the next year. People who accomplish a lot of their life goals discover that important goals are rarely achieved in a single year, not even in a single step. Those same people often underestimate what they can accomplish in five years. You probably won’t get a college degree in one year. But going a little at a time over five years or so, can result in a college degree and a whole new career.

People often have a goal of getting out of debt and saving for retirement. They try to not spend anything the first month or two using all their money to pay off their credit card. The process becomes so unpleasant that they give up. Changing your spending and saving habits so that each month you spend a little less than you make, and that surplus goes to paying down your past debt can result in being debt-free over a period of years.

More options mean more hope.

People who have only one possible pathway to reaching their goal are likely to get frustrated, become hopeless, and give up. In developing a plan to reach your goal, it’s useful to have multiple options. You might select one option, option A, try that, and if it’s not taking you where you want to go, revise your plan. Multiple options mean you will be more hopeful of eventually reaching your goal.

Goals take time to accomplish.

Most goals, the worthwhile ones, will take time to accomplish. A thinking trap that leads to low hope is the belief that there is some magical action that will produce your goal quickly. If you expect someone else to solve your problem, you’re likely to become disillusioned. Often the solution to the problem requires you to develop specific skills. Even if a family member can get you your dream job, if you don’t have the skills and education required for that job, you’re not likely to keep it very long.

Specific goals are easier to accomplish, then vague ones.

Lots of people have vague general goals. They want to be wealthy. Failure to quantify that goal means that no matter how much money you make, you won’t feel wealthy. Lots of people who say they want to “be wealthy” try to make themselves feel wealthy by spending like a wealthy person. Wealthy people who spend that way don’t stay wealthy long. Being wealthy is about making more money than you spend or said the other way, spending less money each month then you make.

The numbers have changed over the years, but the principle is the same. When I asked students how much money they would need to have to be wealthy I frequently get numbers in the millions or even billions. The truth is that a very small amount of money will put you into the wealthiest of all Americans. More than half of all Americans owe more on their credit cards than they have in the bank. If you can pay off your credit card balance, and save a small amount of money, somewhere between 500 and 1000 dollars, you will rapidly move into the wealthiest one half of all Americans. Depending on the economy somewhere between $3000 and $5000 will move you into the wealthiest one-third of all Americans.

Setting a goal of paying off your credit card and saving even a small amount of money, rapidly increases your security, and takes you in the direction of being a wealthy American.

So, there you have the essential ingredients to having more hope.

For more on this topic, please see the category, Hope.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Stocking up on hope.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hope

Hope.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hope lies on a continuum.

The way people talk, and some of the articles I read on the Internet, might lead you to believe that hope is a genetic factor, like eye color, hair color, and so on. In this way of thinking, when your genes are being blended at the time of conception, God, or random chance, decides on what genes you will get from the pool available and, therefore, what you will be like, and you’re stuck with that. While some genes are yes or no, like hair color, even those genes can change in the way they are expressed across the lifespan. My gene for black hair now produces white hair.

Hope is one of those things like your weight, which lies on a continuum. Your environment, early childhood experiences, possibly genetics, may start you off with high hope or low hope or somewhere in between. But throughout your life, a great many factors can move you along the continuum resulting in increases or decreases in hope. This is good news for someone low in hope. But it’s also a caution for those who are high in hope, that they need to nurture that high hope.

Hope is a way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Many people think of hope as a feeling. It’s easy to think that whatever your feelings are, they were caused by outside influences, and therefore you have no control over them. I don’t believe that’s accurate. Hope, like other feelings, is fed or starved by what you’re thinking and by the way you behave.

This connection between thinking, feeling, and behaving, is the basis of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is one of the most recognized therapeutic approaches. We know that changing the way you think about things can change your feelings. As your feelings change, you are likely to alter your behavior. So, keeping track of your thoughts, avoiding rumination, and challenging unhelpful thoughts can all change the way you’re feeling.

This process also works in the other direction. If you begin to behave in a more positive manner, you begin to feel better, and your thinking about your situation will change. Repeated research has shown that aerobic exercise can treat depression. Depressed people who walk for twenty minutes a day, five days a week or more, even when they don’t feel like walking, often experience a reduction in their depression. This approach is summed up by the old recovery proverb that people who want a different result in life should “act as if.”

High hope people tend to follow this system. Whether they are aware of the value of cognitive-behavioral therapy or not, high hope people repeatedly tell themselves they can do something. These self-statements, sometimes called positive affirmations, change the way they feel about things. These new feelings result in high hope people taking action towards those goals, and as a result, they begin to feel more hopeful.

When you run low on hope you need to replenish your supply.

Once you begin to understand that hope is on a continuum and you’re not stuck with a low amount, the possibility that you can replenish your supply opens up. So, if you are currently low in hope, there are things you can do to increase your level of hope and create a happier, more productive life.

Reaching out for help increases your supply of hope.

Hope is one of those emotions that isn’t reduced by sharing. Sometimes when people can’t see even a faint glimmer of the light of hope, others around them can help them find the hope they are lacking. Just the act of reaching out, talking to your friends, positive family members, or professionals, can increase your supply of hope. Sometimes what you need is an infusion of hope from friends or professionals.

The counselor’s office has a good inventory of hope.

If there’s one thing you don’t want to run out of during these difficult times, it’s hope. If you watch the news too much, you are likely to believe that hope is in even shorter supply than toilet paper. When you need groceries, you go to the grocery store. When you need medication, you should visit a pharmacy. When you’re going through difficult times and running short on hope, there’s no better place to find it in your therapist’s office, whether that office is a physical place or a virtual office. If you’re not finding hope when you talk to your counselor or therapist, then you may be shopping in the wrong place.

What varieties of hope are counselors stocking these days?

Counselors have a remarkably good supply of hope. And no matter how much hope they give to their clients, more seems to arrive each day. When clients arrive at a counselor’s office, just the fact that they made it through the front door often increases their level of hope. Being able to take an action that you think might be helpful raises the possibility you have something to hope for.

In future posts, I want to give you some additional information about hope. We’ll talk a little bit about how to grow more hope, and some of the technique’s counselors use to help clients find the hope they need.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Hope fuels the successful life.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hope

Hope.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Genuine hope doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

As we go through this challenging time in our history, we all need to hang onto our hope. Not much gets accomplished by people who give up and stop trying. One of the most important things a counselor can do for their clients is to help that client develop a sense of hope.

While there’s a general understanding that hope plays a role in a successful life, there is not a great deal of agreement on what hope is and where you go to get more of it. I decided now would be an excellent time to look at the research on hope, see what it is, and how people go about developing an adequate supply of this scarce commodity called hope.

Lots of unrelated ideas masquerade under the name of hope.

The more dictionaries you look in for the term hope, the more confusing it becomes. Remember, dictionaries don’t start with the one correct meaning for the word. The way dictionaries are created is to look at the way writers use a word and then record what it meant in that context. The more comprehensive the dictionary, the more meanings you will find for any one word.

As I’m writing this blog post, my editing program keeps trying to get me to substitute words such as optimism, faith, belief, confidence, concern, desire, for the word hope. While all those words have similar or related meanings to the word hope, we need to be sure we’re talking about one specific thing.

One of the ways the word hope is used is in a very passive, wishful sense. Someone might say, “I hope nothing bad happens today.” People hope they’ll be rich someday, but they don’t do anything about improving their financial condition. Hope, in this sense, is nothing more than a vague wish, and hopefully, we all know by now wishes rarely come true without action.

There’s a field of psychological research called hope theory.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve read quite a bit of research into the area of hope and discovered there’s an entire field of study in psychology called hope theory. A researcher named Snyder has researched and written extensively about hope theory. I’ll try to explain what I got from reading the research and hopefully won’t distort it too much in the process.

Hope is best understood as goal-directed behavior. While not all the researchers agree on all the fine points, there seems to be a general agreement that people who are high in hope are frequently happier, more productive, and are more successful at reaching their goals. People who are low in hope have difficulty taking action, and in my view, this lack of hope creates them not taking action to get what they want out of life. Why would you do anything about your current problematic situation if you believe changing the situation was outside your control?

Hope theory divides the concept of hope into two distinct categories.

Hope consists of two separate processes, agency, and goals. People who are high in hope generally believe that their own actions will affect the outcome. If they want to be wealthy, whatever that means to them, they don’t depend on the death of a rich uncle or expect to win the lottery as their primary path to financial security. What they do is work, spend less than they make and, over time, save their money.

Agency is the belief that your actions matter.

There is a lot of similarity between the idea of agency and things like self-confidence and self-esteem, and self-efficacy. But in this application, the concept of agency seems to be the idea that your actions matter. People who are high in hope have the belief that they are not helpless victims. They generally believe their efforts have some impact on the outcome. They either have the skills to accomplish something, or they think they can develop those skills.

High hope people believe there’s more than one road to their goal.

People who are low in hope get locked into the belief that there’s only one way to do something, and they keep doing it over and over even when they don’t get the result they want. This inflexibility is probably a good operational definition of crazy behavior. People who are high in hope develop a list of alternative ways of reaching their goal. They start work on the most likely method. But if that route doesn’t take them where they want to go, they have the flexibility to alter their approach and try another path.

What are the benefits of being high in hope?

People who are high in hope keep trying until they find a way to be successful. I found research that says high hope people have better relationships. They are more likely to reach their goals. People who are high in hope don’t get stuck in ruts.

Is it possible to increase your hope?

Absolutely it is possible to increase your level of hope. Your current level of hope is not something you’re just stuck with because of your past experiences. But there are two things you must do to develop higher levels of hope. One is to believe that your actions matter. The other is to create multiple pathways towards reaching your goals. In future blog posts, I want to explore this idea and show you how people who seek out professional help, medical doctors, counselors, or therapists, often become more hopeful even before their first appointment with that professional.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.