STRONGER TOGETHER: Nurturing a more hopeful community

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Last updated: 15/08/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses Hope Theory and nurturing a more hopeful community.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.’ Some of you will be familiar with this Eleanor Roosevelt quote, and it will mean different things to different people. For me, this quote serves as a form of conversational compass, guiding and directing my conversations in a way that inspires me and aims to evoke curiosity and interest from others. Today, it’s rare to read a social media feed or newspaper that is not about someone (usually a famous person) who has done something. Or there has been an event that has created harm or problems for the planet, a country, or maybe even a community. It’s therefore easy to lose our focus on ideas when distracted by so many other ‘newsworthy’ things. Things that prevent opportunities to create groundswells of change – particularly change that creates a positive effect on the people around us.

This article is therefore written from a place of sharing an idea with the residents of our local community – an idea that if we all took the time to try it, would create a community of more hopeful people. The idea is not a new one and is grounded in theory and research, yet Charles Snyder’s Hope Theory may be unfamiliar to some. This powerful psychological concept stands out as a beacon of light – hope - with the theory based on creating Goals, Pathways, and Agency, that when put into place, can have a transformative impact on a person’s life. And there’s some great news – hope is a learned response, therefore everyone of us can improve their hopeful thinking.

At its core, Hope Theory revolves around three key elements.

Goals serve as the foundation, urging us to think with purpose and direction. Setting goals, whether they are ambitious dreams or pragmatic aspirations, creates progress and propels us forward with intention and conviction. The magic happens when these goals are both challenging yet attainable, as this duality fuels the fire of hope, driving us towards success.

Pathways thinking, the second element, embodies our unwavering belief that there are always alternative options when faced with obstacles. Letting go of fixed ways of thinking and instead bringing some creativity to the pursuit of pathways demonstrates our resilience and determination, leading to increased levels of hopefulness. By imaging and planning for potential hurdles and having a plan B in place for when we need it, we position ourselves to overcome challenges that may otherwise derail our progress.

The final element of Hope Theory is Agency – the persistent belief that we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. This mindset is essential, especially when faced with setbacks. Because there will be setbacks – that is the reality of life. We therefore need to be ready to adapt, pivot, and confidently explore new avenues, even when we feel like giving up.

Hope is inextricably linked to psychological well-being and extends its benefits beyond immediate situations. What this means is that people with hope, will experience higher levels of life satisfaction, less stress, and an overall improved sense of resilience. Moreover, studies have shown that those who embrace hope are more successful in achieving their goals, resulting in greater self-esteem and well-being, and leading to a perpetuating cycle of self-positivity.

In a world where challenges seem to outnumber solutions, hope becomes a precious resource that everyone needs in their personal toolkit, a guiding light that keeps us moving forward. Charles Snyder's Hope Theory has the potential to enhance our lives - it's not only a beacon of light in the darkest times but a skill we can cultivate to create a brighter future. The journey of hope begins with each step we take towards our goals, armed with the knowledge that we can shape our destiny.

I encourage you to set aside time to reflect on your goals, explore pathways with resilience, and nurture an unwavering belief in your ability to instigate change. Remember, hope is a learned response, and with the right tools and mindset, we can all cultivate a more hopeful, purpose-driven life for everyone in our community.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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