Positive Expectations for the Future
It’s usual for most of us at this time of year to reflect on the last 12 months and ponder what the New Year may bring. To have hope is to hold positive expectations about our future. Hope is vital for our wellbeing, as it gives us the will and the resolve to move forward.
The Nature of Hope
The late, great Rick Snyder, advocated that rather than focusing on hope as an emotion (I.e. merely feeling hopeful), it is more effective to view hope as a positive motivational state with accompanying thinking processes. Snyder (2000) and those who have since followed his work, conceptualise hope as having 3 key facets. A Goal – which gives us focus: an anchor and a clear target to aim for. Pathways – which guide us, allowing us to set and flexibly follow routes towards our goal. And Agency – the passion and perseverance to strive to achieve our goal, despite obstacles and setbacks along the way.
Hope for a New Year
New Year is traditionally a time for focusing on the first of these facets: goal setting. We tend to be pretty adept at producing our wish lists, but typically not so good at sticking to our goal pursuits – with many of us often giving up before January is out.
I wonder whether part of the problem is not just issues with our motivation, or not being able to envision clear pathways to our goal – but rather that we have pinned our hopes of future happiness on the wrong goals in the first place.
Often our New Year’s Resolutions are about attaining status, obtaining material possessions or hedonistic pursuits. Such things frequently do not live up to the expectations we set for them, failing to bring the ‘high’ we had hoped for. Even if they do, the rush of joy we experience is short-lived and leaves us wanting (a common effect known as hedonic adaptation).
I wonder whether, if we were to turn the focus of our goals inwards, towards achieving more contentment and satisfaction – a deeper eudaimonic happiness that comes from a connection to others and the world around us and from a meaningful life in alignment with our identity and purpose – that that might bring more chance of success. Surely seeking ways to be at our best and to thrive not just survive, is a goal worth aiming for. To give us an even stronger likelihood of achieving our goals, the equally late, great hope guru Shane Lopez, would advise surrounding ourselves with ‘high hopers’. People high in hope can support and encourage us in achieving our goals and can motivate us through the tougher times by helping us reframe setbacks as opportunities to learn (Lopez, 2013/2015).
Whatever your hopes for 2020, here’s wishing you a happy, hopeful and prosperous new year!
- Lopez, S. (2013/2015). Making Hope Happen with Shane Lopez. Podcast available at https://www.livehappy.com/podcast/happiness/making-hope-happen-shane-lopez
- Snyder, C.R., (2000). Hope Theory: Rainbows in the Mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13, (4), 249-275