The Practices and Principles of Hope

October 28, 2014

By: Max Branson

Hope. Little word, big concept. In their Positive Links Speaker Series session, Oana Branzei and Neil Hetherington broke it down. Hope is “forward-looking, a passion for what is possible.” It’s “rational, practical, and warranted.” And if you cultivate it, it can be transformational. But how do you do that? Step one is to read through the practices Oana and Neil outlined in their presentation:

1. Focus on acts with clear endings—they are harbingers of hope when hope is lacking.

“Thinking of hope as a practice starts with a small act. Now, I’m not telling you to give up millions, or reconcile with your ex-partner. But it may mean going back to that project, it may mean going back to that team-member that you didn’t want to talk to anymore. Or it may mean getting out in the community when you have a bad day and seeing if you can give a helping hand to somebody else.”

2. Offer stories, tools, and artifacts as quick reminders of potentiality and betterment. 

“As soon as hope slips, get right on it, right away. Not just with diaries and hopeful thought, but with more actions. Behaving ‘as if’—and as quickly as need strikes—will prevent the downward spiral of loss of hope.”

3. Stage opportunities for contagion whenever & wherever hope is found.

“The most powerful leverage for hope is when you can leverage that hope across pursuits: if there’s something you do in the community and you can bring it back to school, if something good happens at home and you can bring it work, and vice versa. As you grow your organization, you can find hope in corners of the organization, and make it known, and spread.”

These practices align with three core principles: Keep the sense of possibility alive by acting “as if”; redirect energy by “kissing it better”; and sustain momentum by “sharing (not storing).” And that brings us to the next step you take to learn how to cultivate hope: listen to Oana and Neil’s inspiring stories, which help illustrate these principles. The video of their presentation can be viewed here.

If you want to learn even more, you can read Oana’s chapter in How to Be a Positive Leader