Hope is one of the most important things in life. Hopeful people are even to face even the most negative times with a positive attitude. Their what I call positivity warriors.
Hope doesn’t just make you feel better, it is actually good for your health. Scientific research shows that having hope is one of the most important things you can do to maintain good mental health.
But hey, if you’re a little bit pessimistic sometimes, no sweat. There are steps you can take to become a more confident person.
Let’s take a look at that little thing called hope and why it is so important in life.
Why is hope important?
Are you talented? Do you have crazy skills? Are people in awe of your brilliance? Great. One more thing. Do you also have the right personality, the right mental strengths, the right psychological traits?
Scientists are going crazy in laboratories researching how different personality traits affect your life. For instance, compassion is one of the most important mental strengths. People with compassion are happier and healthier. Courage is important too. Then there’s forgiveness. And you wont believe the health benefits of kindness. But one of the most important strengths in life is hope.
In life, it all depends on the way you look at things, doesn’t it? And the best way to look at most things is in a hopeful way.
Hope is our true magnetic north, keeping us on a positive path. Hope has been shown to hep boost your immune system and your general health, to improve your social relationships and to motivate positive action that leads to real life success.
But sometimes hope can also be a negative. Hope can lead you to great things, but it can also blind you and lead to recklessness and life endangerment.
We’ll reveal the importance of hope, the health benefits of hope, and much more, on the next page. But first, let’s take a look at precisely what hope is, and what it is not.
A definition of hope
To be hopeful is to look on the future positively, to see opportunity in challenges (rather than challenges in opportunities), to “look on the bright side of life.”
What hope is NOT: Hope is not blindly expecting every positive thing to fall into your lap, nor expecting yourself to magically avoid every potential danger. This mentality can potentially lead to inadvertent self harm (for instance, not going to the doctor about a pain in your chest because you’re blindly optimistic everything will be okay could potentially lead to your death.
It’s this idea of “false hope” or “blind hope” that has given hope a bad name in recent years. People often think that hopeful people are naive, even foolish, and that they believe good things will happen when in truth they never will. Heck, many of my own friends think I am naïve and foolish for pouring countless hours into this website in the hope that it might someday pay off big time (though that’s not really why I do it. I do it as a way to give back. But it would sure help if it paid these bills that are sitting on my lap right now).
The main reasons why hope is important
- Hope motivates positive actions that will lead to positive results (SOURCE)
- Hope is a natural stress reliever
- Hope helps strengthen the immune system (SOURCE)
- Hope improves social relationships (you’ll get more friend being an optimist) (SOURCE)
- Hope simply makes you happy
- Hope broadens and builds your mind (for more on this read the work of Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology Barbara Fredricks
Of course, one of the main reasons why hope is important is that life is hard and will kick you in the butt if you let it. We all face setbacks. We all wonder at times whether we’re going to get by. We all know what it’s like to feel like you’re right on the brink of disaster. And many of us knows what happens when we are not hopeful at such times.
The worst time in my life was when I was living in Canada, thousands of miles away from home with no family and very few friends there. I went through a break-up. And I was rocked to the ore. I lost hope. Without a home, I thought it was the end. And because I did not have hope I suffered a lot, mentally. I went through depression. Fell to pieces. And for six months was in utter despair. That time cost me a lot, in terms of my health. And it could have been avoided. I could have chosen to have hope, to believe that everything would come right in the end and that I would land back on my feet (which I eventually did). And had I thought like that I would have saved myself a great deal of mental suffering.
Maybe you’ve been through a similar time of hopelessness. And if so, I’m sure it affected you greatly.
Hope is like a safe-guard. It tells you, even when you’re going through hell, that there is that light at the end of the tunnel. Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going”. Hope gives you the strength to keep going. It is one of the best means of remaining positive in negative times.
But hope also gives you motivation to achieve things
If you were absolutely without hope, you wouldn’t bother to even attempt to do anything positive because… well, you’ll fail, right? So why would you even both? Why bother working hard when it won’t pay off? Why bother going to the gym when you’ll never be fit anyway. Why bother? Without hope it all seems so completely pointless. So you’ll never achieve anything.
Hope gives you the motivation. Hope is that voice inside that says, “Yes, you can.” And it’s that voice that makes you work hard, that makes you learn new things, that gives you the impetus to actually try. In Hope Theory, which is a psychological view of hope, it’s believed that when we are hopeful we are given the motivation to make positive choices and to take positive actions that will move us along the path to success. A lot of research backs this claim. But forget the science. We can all fell, inside, what it is like to be hopeful and why we need hope so much.
Hope Theory was created by psychologist Richard Snyder (you can read more about Snyder’s hope theory on MindTools.com).Snyder devised a way to measure how much hope someone has. He called it the Hope Scale.
How Hopeful Are You? Test Yourself With This Hope Scale
The Hope Scale asks questions that are designed to test how hopeful you are.
Answer these questions from 1 to 8. 1 is for “absolutely false”. 8 is for “absolutely true”.
- I can think of many ways to get out of a jam.
___ 2. I energetically pursue my goals.
___ 3. I feel tired most of the time.
___ 4. There are lots of ways around any problem.
___ 5. I am easily downed in an argument.
___ 6. I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are important to me.
___ 7. I worry about my health.
___ 8. Even when others get discouraged, I know I can find a way to solve the problem.
___ 9. My past experiences have prepared me well for my future.
___10. I’ve been pretty successful in life.
___11. I usually find myself worrying about something.
___12. I meet the goals that I set for myself.
Items 2, 9, 10, and 12 make up the agency subscale. These are about believing in where you’ve been and where you’re going.
Items 1, 4, 6, and 8 make up the pathway subscale. These questions are about being able to see ways to success, or ways to avoid failure.
Add up both those numbers for your total, which is out of 64.
This test will tell you how hopeful you are, but it will also tell you where you need improvement. For instance, lots of people meet the goals that they set themselves (question 12) but don’t energetically pursue their goals. If this is you it could be a sign that you are not setting high enough goals (because you’re achieving your goals without the need to energetically pursue them). Or you might find that you worry about your health (7), and other general worries (11) and you don’t believe you are well prepared for the future (9). This is a classic sign of pessimism, so you might like to take some progressive steps to be more hopeful and less pessimistic.
Research suggests that your level of hope is very important
In one study, researchers looked into the affect that hope had on college. It turns out that students who are hopeful are much more likely to achieve good results. And it’s easy to see why. If you believe you can succeed you therefore must believe that you will be rewarded for your effort. It’s much easier to study for hours on end when you truly believe you will get a good result at the end of it.
Simply put, hope is the motivating factor. When you do not believe your work will pay off (when you’re hopeless) you quite logically won’t try very hard. Imagine going to the gym every day genuinely believing that you would never get fit. What a downer. Now imagine that you’re going to get the toned body, you’re going to look and feel amazing. That hope would make you genuinely want to workout harder and harder.
How important is hope compared to other mentalvi traits?
Okay. So we know that hope is important. But is hope as important as other mental traits? For instance, spirituality is important in life. Is hope more or less important than spirituality? What about sense of humor? That’s important too. Perseverance is very important. And Fairness.. I could go on.
How does hope compare to these other mental traits?
Well we know that hope is more important than self-efficacy (your belief in your own ability) and optimism. We know that because psychologists ? Philip R. Magaletta and J.M. Oliver measured the affects of both and compared them. And they determined that hope was by far the most important of those three.
But hope might not be as important as some other character strengths. One study shows that when it comes to well-being, gratitude and love of learning are most important. (Source: Scientific American). And another fascinating study showed that if you want to be in the military the most important character strengths are Leadership, Teamwork, and Open-Mindedness. (Source: Research Gate)
Some excellent ways to boost your levels of hope.
Be Mindful of your Expectations
Whether you are an optimist or a devout pessimist you will have certain expectations of the future. To begin developing your hope, become aware of the fact that you CHOOSE the way you view the future. You can look on the bright side or the dark side. You can choose to be hopeful. Find the opportunities where you can turn pessimism to optimism.
Pessimists tend to think that looking on the negative side of things is being “realistic.” Somehow, it seems more realistic that things will turn out bad, but in reality there’s no more self deception in looking on the bright side than the dark side. Think of something you feel pessimistic about. Whatever your subject is, you will know certain facts about it and have some uncertainties. Now consider how you are using those facts and uncertainties to falsely create a negative and how you could instead use them to create a positive.
Take a look at my guide to staying positive in negative situations. It’ll help.
Understand what causes your psimism
Continuing from the above; there will be a reason why you are choosing to be pessimistic at times. More often than not it’s because you are afraid to look positively at something and end up being hurt.
To counteract this, tell yourself that even if you do end up disappointed you will then turn that disappointment to a positive. To illustrate this: imagine you’re awaiting your university degree exam results. You know you could pass, you know you could fail, but you’re going to choose to believe that you’ve failed simply to save yourself from disappointment (this is the pessimistic outlook). You can, however, look optimistically and still avoid disappointment. To do so, realise that you’ll likely pass the exam (optimism) but that even if you don’t you will turn failure to a positive, for instance by learning lessons from the experience that strengthen your character and set you up for future success (optimism that safeguards you from disappointment).
Hope. It’s seriously important in life.
What do you think about this?
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