The Power of Hope

(Today’s blog is taken from the 10th Anniversary revised and updated edition of Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life)

I was teaching a seminar a number of years ago when a woman stood up, dripping with disgust, and pointed an accusatory finger at me. ‘The problem with you,’ she said, ‘is that you give people hope.’ She had a point, although in my defense it had never occurred to me that this might be perceived as a bad thing. But she was also inaccurate in her description. I can’t ‘give’ anyone hope any more than I can give them anger or fear. What I can do, and do whenever I can, is point to a deeper understanding of where hope comes from and why it’s such a wonderful thing when it comes.

I’ve actually often wondered when hope got such a bad name. Criticism of both classical religion and New Age thinking is filled with accusations of giving people ‘false hope.’ But what makes hope false?

The Oxford American Dictionary defines ‘hope’ as ‘a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen’ and as ‘grounds for believing that something good may happen.’

False hope, then, doesn’t have to do with my feeling of expectation and desire for my relationships to be successful, my business to make money, and my body to recover from an illness, but with my grounds for believing that these things are possible. If I ask you to double down on your dreams because I have ‘secret’ knowledge of the future that reveals that as long as you do X, Y, and Z, you’ll ultimately succeed, that is unfortunately false grounds for hope – I have no such knowledge. However, if I ask you to move forward on your dreams because there are hundreds of thousands of stories of people who have succeeded in spite of the odds, no matter how heavily those odds have seemed stacked against them, that is indeed legitimate grounds for hope, regardless of how things ultimately turn out.

(A quick aside about ‘evidence’: in days gone by, evidence has clearly ‘proven’ that the sun revolves around the Earth, which is in fact flat; that bumblebees can’t fly; and that humankind will not only never reach the moon, but can’t run a mile in less than four minutes or find true and lasting happiness in a world filled with suffering – oh, wait, is that one still a fact?!)

Here’s my definition of hope:

Hope is the magic elixir that energizes dreams, fuels possibilities, and lets you live beyond the limits of your habitual thinking. It’s not a promise that something you want will happen – it’s an invitation to enjoy the possibility of what you want while you and life negotiate the eventual outcome.Click To Tweet

And here’s our 10th and final secret:

Hope is the gateway to new possibilities.

In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien equates ‘good magic’ with awakening hope and ‘dark magic’ with covering it over. In my work with clients, I find the same thing to be true. Until they uncover hopeful thinking, there’s no spark in their eyes or spring in their step. Once that hopeful feeling is awakened, everything becomes possible.

How do you awaken hope?

1. Stop arguing for why you can’t have what you want

For a number of years, I worked alongside Dr Richard Bandler. He had a simple dictum he brought out whenever someone started making the case for their own limitations:

If you can’t, you won’t.

As someone who loves to use three words when one would probably do, my preferred version is this:

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you don’t actually know, so why limit yourself by guessing?

If instead of arguing for your limitations you argue for your possibilities, you will find much more capacity and creativity inside you than you ever dreamed possible.

What if your dream could happen? Yes, I know, but what if it could? What then?

2. Check in to see if you actually want it

A friend told me that before she died, Syd Banks’ first wife, Barb, said, ‘You can have anything you want – you just have to actually want it.’ This was, in fact, the point at the heart of my first book. No matter how hard you try, it’s really difficult to keep yourself moving forward long enough to create what you don’t actually want in the first place.

How do you know what you do want? While it’s something that you’ll get a feel for over time, a simple way to check is to ask yourself, ‘If this fell into my lap out of a clear blue sky, would I take it?’ If your answer is anything other than an emphatic and obvious ‘yes,’ move on.

3. Take the first step

One of my favorite bits of ‘wisdom fiction’ is Ken Roberts’ book A Rich Man’s Secret. On a mysterious tombstone, the young seeker at the heart of the story sees the following phrase engraved in marble:

Take the first step, no more, no less, and the next will be revealed.

It sounds easy, but I’ve found that people have so many good reasons not to move forward on their dreams that their creativity shuts down and they literally can’t see what’s possible. They make up the future and then decide what to do or not do based on what they’ve made up.

Here’s a simple truth I’ve seen play itself out again and again in my life and the lives of my clients:

You can’t think your way out of a problem you’ve made up with your thinking. Click To Tweet
If you know you want to head in a particular direction, take the first step. In my experience, you’ll not only be pleasantly surprised by where you end up, you’ll be even more pleasantly surprised by how quickly you get there.

Have fun, learn heaps, and may your heart be filled with the hope of a wonderful day today and an even more beautiful tomorrow!

With all my love,