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