Hope is the sure anchor for your outstanding tomorrows.
Barely three years after I bought the Dell notebook, its internal battery packed up. Getting a replacement was more challenging than getting water in a desert. My solution: Convert the svelte laptop to its PC mode — I purchased a portable uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Six years later, the sleek device is now permanently “table-ridden” in the embrace of its inexorable obsolescence.
Searching for a permanent solution to the flip side of my halfway solution, I finally got a second-hand HP notebook. At the computer shop, I was patiently waiting for the technician to upgrade the RAM to double capacity. That was when I noticed the handsome boy on the seat facing mine. Along with his dad and younger brother, they were also in the shop to pick up a used laptop. We call them “second new” laptops. Fact is that, apart from their old Microsoft Windows versions, some of these used American specified laptops are sturdier than new units — for those who can still afford the new ones.
What immediately caught my attention was the word “HOPELESS” proudly emblazoned in white on the boy’s black T-shirt.
With his permission, I took a shot of his unabashed but arresting “HOPELESS” slogan. I’ve been thinking of the word “HOPE” over and again these past several weeks. The unwritten accord is that our children and youth embody our hopes for the future. But, what is it that could make scions of our collective hopes scream their desperation, fears, and perceived hopelessness for the future?
In business, it’s often said, and for the right reasons that hope is not a strategy. But not in real life. Humans need hope to survive till tomorrow and all the other tomorrows of their lives. Without hope, we wither and die — before our times.
Hope is not wishful thinking but as aptly described by Professor Everett Worthington “Hope is not Pollyannaish optimism — the assumption that a positive outcome is inevitable. Instead, hope is a motivation to persevere toward a goal or end state, even if we’re skeptical that a positive outcome is likely.”
Individual and collective hope is vital to the survival of our human race. When we team up as families, communities, and as a nation, we can guarantee our survival as humans. In business, despite our best plans and strategies, things may still go awry. That’s why we plan for the worst while hoping for the best.
In the 1950s, Professor Curt Paul Richter of Johns Hopkins University carried out a series of interesting experiments — drowning rats experiments. Though cruel, these experiments showed the power of hope and resilience in overcoming difficult situations. He placed rats in half-filled buckets of circulating water seeking to know how long rats could swim before drowning.
Even though the hapless rats were excellent swimmers, they lasted for 15 minutes before succumbing to the water depths and drowning. In his own words: “The situation of these rats scarcely seems one demanding fight or flight — it is rather one of hopelessness… the rats are in a situation against which they have no defense… they seem literally to ‘give up.’”
Following up with the first experiment, he exposed another batch of rats to the same inevitable drowning waters. However, in this second experiment, he intervened and rescued the rats just as they were about to drown. Next, he dried them up and returned them to their nightmare. Amazingly, those same rats now swam for an average of 60 hours — two and a half full days!
A rat that was temporarily saved survived 240 times longer than one that was not given any intervention. “Saving a rat from drowning — even temporarily, gave that rat hope.”
What was it that made the second set of rats last 240 times as long as the first batch? Introducing hope and support.
In Professor Curt’s conclusion, “the rats quickly learn that the situation is not actually hopeless,” and that “after elimination of hopelessness, the rats do not die.”
Even though humans and rats are worlds apart in terms of intelligence and consciousness, these experiments emphasize hope as a catalyst that sustains and energize humans in our quest for life.
A Bridge Called Hope
Hope leads to higher levels of perseverance. It makes people not to give up too quickly. People will keep on fighting so long as there is a chance of winning or rescue. This is one reason dampening of morale is a tactic used by opposing armies to weaken and defeat their adversaries.
In the absence of hope, people tend to more quickly surrender when faced with daunting challenges. So long as its stump remains rooted in the ground, there is always hope that a fallen tree will spring to life again.
Thousands of years ago, the Old Testament prophet Job of the Holy Bible wrote,
For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And that its tender shoots will not cease. Job 14:7 (NKJV)
What Will Hope Do For You?
At the personal level, I’ve been reading and reflecting about hope and how hope (in God) has seen me through many impossible situations in the past.
Again, in the Holy Bible, Apostle Paul wrote,
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
~ Romans 5:3–5 (NKJV)
Since I started reinforcing my hope stamina, I’ve read many interesting stories that have helped to buttress me. Tim Denning invites us to relearn the meaning of hope from the story of a 5-year-old boy who was lost for 26 years. He described hope as a survival mechanism that will enable us to get through anything in life.
In one of her essays, Lynda Coker astutely quipped “Is HOPELESS really hopeless? NOT if you get rid of the less …” In the picture story, I canceled out the “LESS” and ushered in the more “FULL” realm of a life full of HOPE — hopeful.
Hope Is Not Equal To Optimism
Many people confuse optimism with hope. In his book, The Psychology of Hope, author Charles R. Snyder defined hope as the tendency to see desired goals as possible and to approach those goals with “agency thinking,” a belief that you or others can achieve the goals. He also defined hope as “pathways thinking”, a focus on mapping routes and plans to achieve those goals.
Yes, you should always make room for and expect positive things to happen to you. But, optimism differs from hope. Psychologist Charles Carver defines optimism as a general expectation that good things will happen in the future. Optimists tend to seek out the positive and, at times, deny or avoid negative information.
Unlike optimism, where people may merely go about expecting good things; hope combines optimism with our planning to achieve our desired ends.
Cultivating and Watering Our Hopes
In Dante’s Inferno, Dante and his guide heard the screams of the Uncommitted. They were being welcomed into inexorable fiendish hell with these inscriptions at its gatepost, “Abandon hope, ye who enter here”. Here on earth, a life without hope is a life of quiet desperation or living-hell.
How can we cultivate hope and flourish in a world forever saturated in ceaseless storms that leave hearts palpitating — in hopelessness?
- Don’t just daydream, follow your plans with needed actions.
- Have faith in your ability, that they will bear fruits if you do not quit.
- Do not overload on the overwhelming deluge of negative information all around. This doesn’t mean you’re living in denial of our world chocked full of brokenness and broken people, but that for you, hope is a non-negotiable imperative.
- Do not become a hermit. By connecting and relating with people and the community, you will get the encouragement to last longer in your life’s arena.
- Reflect on your victories during past challenges. All your past victories, both the big and the small count and they have prepared you for this moment.
- Reprogram your thinking, because being easily discouraged, expecting the worst, and quickly giving in to despair could be self-fulfilling.
- Through hope, we skew the inverse relationship between hopeful thinking and depression to our advantage. Research has shown that hope helps to coax us from depressive symptoms.
- Let gratitude be your life’s default response. You will soon discover for yourself that it is very difficult to keep a grateful heart attitude in a state of permanent discouragement and hopelessness.
- The world is not all about you. No matter what negative challenges you are passing through now, some others have had it worse in our COVID-19 ravaged planet with its endless theatres of famines, wars, and political instabilities. Reaching out to succor other sufferers may well be the path to our own redemption.
By showing up with hope to help others, I’m guaranteed that hope is present. Then my own hope increases. By creating hope for others, I end up awash in the stuff.” ~ Anne Lamott
Giving people hope may be as simple as picking their calls, returning missed calls, listening to them talk, or just staying by them in their times of distresses. Do not be the one that destroys people’s hope.
Borne by the wings of hope, the light of more fortuitous tomorrows beckons on you. Let this be the more reason you must never give up.
Hardships, setbacks, or heartaches may leave you with no other song than Skeeter Davis’ dirge — “Why does the sun keep on shinning… Don’t they know it’s the end of the world …”
Tell yourself, the sun will yet rise again. You have come this far — in hope. Why will you give up now when your deliverance may just be by the corner — tomorrow?
Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free. — Shawshank Redemption, 1994