For more than 150 years, Gay Head Light has stood high atop the cliffs of Martha’s Vineyard, its guiding light sweeping out to sea. Battered by storms, almost hidden by fog, threatened with erosion, the lighthouse is stalwart in its beacon of hope. Those lost in the elements only had to look for the sweeping light to find their way.
As a leader, mastering the heART of your business, you are the lighthouse. You are the last bastion of hope. You are the inspiration and guiding force when others lose their way.
Hope is different than optimism. Optimism is important in life and business. Yet, optimism is dependent on shifting circumstances and opinions. Hope is deeply wired into your heart and soul and, even if the light dims somewhat, is ever-present. Hope involves a deep motivation and belief in self while optimism involves expectation.
“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” – Vaclav Havel
David Henderson of Montana State University sums it up well in his moving blog post for The Center for Courage and Renewal following the shootings at Sandy Hook:
“Optimism claims everything will be all right despite reality. Hope accepts reality, the poverty of spirit that underlies all fear, instigates all tragedies, bureaucracy and institutional inertia. But hope has a trump card—the capacity of the human heart. When optimism gets ground up by reality, hope will go toe-to-toe with reality because of a heart that simply refuses to quit…it simply knows the human heart’s capacity to withstand those realities, and it trusts in the inexhaustible power of our hearts to choose love over fear.”
I’m not debating the merits of optimism over hope or the other way around. I am simply honoring that you have a deep love for the work you are doing and with that, a well-spring of hope that refuses to let you quit.
Athletes with higher levels of hope are higher performers. Furthermore, based on research with college students, hope has a considerable relationship to academic achievement. If this is true, and science bears it out, it stands to reason that a leader imbued with hope will have a similar type of success.
Hope is like a muscle. Muscles are more effective when they are given a work out. Here are five steps to strengthen your hope muscles. The brighter your light of hope, the greater your capacity to inspire others into meaningful action.
- Take responsibility for your own creation. It’s efficient to place blame but it’s not effective. Hope springs from those who take 100% responsibility for thought, word and deed. The quicker you can accept that whatever is in your path has been created by with and for you, the quicker you will be able to change what doesn’t suit you. Which brings us to step two.
- See every occurrence as an opportunity for learning. Everything that happens is a source of new knowledge. “Failure” is course correction. The tough situations facing you are curriculum designed to strengthen you. Follow the patterns or trends of your behavior and thoughts to see the connections. Release what doesn’t work for you. Learn so that you can grow and help others, too.
- Inspire the beacon of hope light in others. Others may need your light. Caught up in victim or defense or justification or lack of vision, others will look to you to re-inspire their hope. Ask questions. Show appreciation. Empathize but don’t care-take. Let others know they are capable of practicing steps one and two above and then role-model how it’s done. Hope doesn’t require a rah-rah parade, rather it requires consistency.
- Always reach for the next highest emotion. You have a choice about how you feel. Abraham-Hicks has been teaching the Emotional Guidance Scale for years. Of the 22 emotions listed, despair is number 22 and hopefulness is number 6 (joy/love takes the top spot). That means there are more than a dozen emotions between despair and hope. Keep reaching for the next highest emotion until you dig out of the hole. Again, you have a choice about how you feel.
- Work on purpose. The most hopeful people know why they do what they do. They work on purpose. They have a guiding set of values or principles and they know what they stand for. Re-tool your purpose statement and remind yourself daily to be purposeful in your hopeful activity. The lighthouse has a purpose too – bring the sailors to shore safely. What is yours?
Finally, hope creates resilience. The ability to find the light in the storm and to bounce back from undesired circumstance is part of our DNA.
Leaders inspire hope – that’s why they lead.