As I write this post, I am struck by the fact that as a nutritionist, I have not posted anything about nutrition yet. And I will, but I feel it is more important to share what is flowing through my consciousness lately rather than sell you on the benefits of eating your vegetables. Since I practice as a functional nutritionist and a functional medicine coach, I believe that food and nutrition is a huge piece of wellness promotion and disease prevention, but it is not the only factor. How we live our lives and which beliefs shape and motivate us can be equally as important. If we aren’t getting restorative sleep, moving, doing activities that we do well, experiencing joy, and feeling supported and connected, we can eat all the kale we want and we still may not flourish. There is oh so much to dive into with all of this. Today I am pondering hope. I invite you to think about hope and what that means to you.
When I have asked people what hope means to them, it generally creates a pause. Some share that hope means a miracle or that it involves faith and trusting that things can be different. I was curious about this. Was hope just another word for wish or belief?
Because as a coach, I focus on positive psychology, I realized that I needed to better understand the power of hope. I was unclear about my personal definition. The Dalai Lama says:
Hope means keeping going, thinking, ‘I can do this.’ It brings inner strength, self-confidence, the ability to do what you do honestly, truthfully and transparently.
His words are beautiful and full of light, and certainly provide a piece of the puzzle. I think what clarifies the more nebulous meaning of hope are the words self-confidence and ability. I continued to look further and found the late Charles Snyder’s Hope Theory which offers this definition:
Hope is defined as a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals).
Now that made more sense to me.
To really understand what Snyder is saying, we have to look towards the tangible. Hope is not a dream or wish, but something based on opportunity and possibility and self-confidence, as the Dalai Lama says. To have hope, we need to have a goal and realistic action steps to reach that goal no matter how small. We also need to have the confidence in our ability to enact the small steps. Goals fuel hope! And achieving goals encourages positive emotions, the mother of happiness and flourishing. Isn’t that wonderful!
Here is an example. Let’s say you hope you will be able to run a 5K next spring even though you can only walk a mile right now. To realize your hope, you would have to have action steps to move towards the longer term goal, like maybe buying some running shoes and then walking a longer distance every week. Being optimistic is important in moving forward, even though there may be barriers and challenges along the way. And success breeds success! The good news is that with hope there are many paths we can take to work towards our goals. That, my friends, leaves the door open to possibility, creativity, imagination and well…hope!
The University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center has a survey based on Snyder’s work that you can download. There are only 12 questions. Here is the link if you are curious.
I think the best way to achieve goals and build self-efficacy no matter what life dishes out is to cultivate hope. Then we can look towards the many ways to get there.
So I ask you:
What is one thing you are hopeful for concerning your wellness?
Is there a long-term goal?
What is one small step that you can do to begin the journey?
If the action steps aren’t working out, hope will offer other pathways to get there. Let hope propel you towards a state of positivity and wellness!
*Photo of the Sierra by Larry Freilich.