Stress

Want Less Stress and More Happiness? Try Hope

The impact of hope on your health, productivity and resilience

Posted Apr 30, 2015

As I was reflecting on my career path recently, I was struck at how strong an influence hope has played in my career.  Whether I was representing a client in a real estate transaction, helping a solider develop his or her resilience, or working with a nurse to prevent burnout, I’m helping another person achieve a particular goal while thinking about the possibilities for the future. 

While many people think of hope as an emotion, researchers describe it as a cognitive theory that is tied to goal setting.  Hope researcher Dr. C.R. Snyder often described hope with this phrase: “You can get there from here.”  He believed that life is made up of many thousands of instances in which you think about and figure out how to get from Point A to Point B (Snyder, 1994).

Have you considered how, or even whether, hope impacts your stress levels, happiness, or health?  There is a science of hope, and the research is robust.  Hopeful people share four core beliefs (Lopez, 2013): 

The future will be better than the present;
You have a say in how your life unfolds;
There are multiple pathways to achieving personal and professional goals; and
There will be obstacles.

High levels of hope have been linked to less absenteeism, more productivity, and greater health and happiness.  This is a summary of some of the hope research:

Hope and Leadership

Leaders need to be skilled at building hope in their followers.  A random sampling of more than 10,000 people was interviewed by a Gallup Organization research team and asked to describe a leader that had the most positive influence on their daily life.  These followers were asked to describe this influential leader in three words.  The research showed that followers want their leaders to meet four psychological needs: stability, trust, compassion and hope (Rath & Conchie, 2009). Many leaders spend the bulk of their time putting out fires and reacting to demands.  Inspiring leaders have figured out how to also craft an inspiring message about the future.   

Hope and Productivity

Hope and productivity are connected.  I suspect that on the days you get the most done you have a strong sense of what your goals are combined with the energy to accomplish what you want.  Increased levels of productivity translate into business results.  Hopeful salespeople reach their quotas more often, hopeful mortgage brokers process and close more loans, and hopeful managing executives meet their quarterly goals more often (Lopez, 2013).

Hope and Stress & Resilience

When you experience stress, how do you respond?  People with high levels of hope typically generate more strategies for effectively coping with a stress producing event and express a greater likelihood of using one of the strategies generated.  High-hope people are flexible, accurate and thorough thinkers; that is, they have the cognitive flexibility to find alternative solutions when they get knocked off course.  Low-hope people tend to ruminate unproductively about being stuck, use avoidance as a coping strategy, and fail to learn from past experiences (Rand & Cheavens, 2009).

Hope and Social Connection

What does your social support system look like?  People with higher levels of hope often have close connections with other people because they are interested in other people’s goals and lives.  Research also shows that high-hope people have an enhanced ability to take the perspective of others and enjoy interacting with other people.  Higher levels of hope are also associated with more perceived social support, more social competence and less loneliness (Rand & Cheavens, 2009).

Hope is a process that includes three parts or elements.  The first part is goals.  Hope stems from the goals that matter most to us as we shape where we want to go in life and in work.  The second part is agency.  Agency is our ability to feel like we can produce results in our lives and make things happen.  The third part is pathways.  There will often be many routes you can take to accomplish your goals.  Being able to identify these different routes, along with the obstacles that might arise, is critical to being hopeful (Snyder, 1994).

Not only does hope have so many work and life benefits, it can also be learned.  One of the best ways to build your own hope and the hope of the lawyers you work with is to let them figure out how to get unstuck.  You may be tempted to fix the problem, but try to ask these questions instead (Lopez, 2013):

** “What do you think you should do?”

** “Can you think of more than one possibility/solution?”

** “Which solution would work best?”

How hopeful you are has important work and life implications.  It impacts how well you lead, how you take care of your health, and how productive you are at work.  Being a hopeful thinker about the future will help you build your resilience and give you yet another tool for handling stress, change, and adversity.

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For more strategies and tips to prevent burnout and thrive under stress, click here for a free copy of Paula’s e-book, Addicted to Busy: Your Blueprint for Burnout Prevention.  Her website is www.pauladavislaack.com.  Paula is available for speaking engagements, training workshops, media commentary, and private life coaching – contact her at paula@pauladavislaack.com.   

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References

Lopez, S. (2013). Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others.  New York: Atria Books.

Rand, K.L., & Cheavens, J.S. (2009).  Hope Theory in Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, 2nd Ed. (Shane J. Lopez and C.R. Snyder, Eds. pp. 323-333). New York: Oxford University Press.

Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2009).  Strengths-Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow.  New York: Gallup.

Snyder, C.R. (1994). The Psychology of Hope.  New York: Free Press.