Hope: Understanding How We Create It in Ourselves and Our Individuals

Hope: Understanding How We Create It in Ourselves and Our Individuals

By: Dr. Ray Heipp


May is a wonderful month - it is a time when spring has taken root here in the Midwest and hints of summer are in the air. From an academic perspective, it is a time of many transitions. When I was an administrator, it came to signify the end of the current year along with the beginning of the preparation for the new year. Those endings came in the shape of graduations and the movement to the next level of academia or movement into the workplace. In all of this, there was and still is a feeling of hope and excitement for all involved.

But what is hope and why is it so important, especially after the pandemic? Let’s start with the current levels of anxiety and stress in everyone. The pandemic brought about a lot of changes in how we interact with others. It was a traumatic experience which created ripple effects in the way people deal with daily activities. That anxiety has also led to a level of frustration that we see played out in the world around us. Part of what helps us address that anxiety and stress is the hope that things will get better.

The mistake many make is to assume that the ideas of wishing and hoping are the same. It is not a matter of semantics here. Instead, it is a matter of approach to the world that differentiates the two. A wish is a passive idea. “When you wish upon a star….” and other phrases around wishes surrender the idea to the power of someone or something else. A hope, by its very nature, includes some action on our part. Let’s go back to school ourselves. “I hope to play varsity this year.” “I want a lead role in the fall production.” I want to get a 3.0 GPA.” “I want to pass physics.” These are all statements of hope that require us to put in the practice or the work that will help us to get there. Unfortunately, we allow a lack of understanding of the difference between these two ideas to hinder ourselves and our students from perceiving the actions which need to take place.

Think of it this way. “I want to pass Physics” is a statement of hope that includes an awareness that homework needs to be done, tutoring may need to be a part of the plan, and studying will be required. We lose some of that deeper understanding when we say things like “I hope I have Ms. Flabitz and not that crazy Dr. H.” That is not a statement of hope, it is simply a wish which could lead us down a bad path if we end up with that crazy guy.

So how can we grab onto hope and demonstrate it to our students, our colleagues, our families, and our communities? First, we want to understand that we will be taking some action. I have recently had the privilege of taking a course on hope through the work of our owners here at School Health. We aligned ourselves with Kathryn Goetzke and her SHINE Hope Company to take a look at this idea of hope and how we could incorporate it into the workplace. There are also versions for schools. Here, I simply hope to focus on what we can be doing as individuals. We can start by taking a quick survey to determine our “Hope Score” and begin to work from there.  Here is the link for that survey: Measure Your Hope - The Shine Hope Company

From there, we are able to look at our own strengths in this area.  Always focus on your strengths first as that supports us subconsciously. You and your students have amazing strengths that can heighten hope around what you are doing and help get through those difficult times. Once you have taken the survey, you are able to move into the process which entails movement through the idea of SHINE. So how do you SHINE as you seek to increase your hope?

We start by looking at the ways in which we can address our stress. Stress Skills make up the “S” in SHINE. These are skills that most of us will recognize and can probably even identify why they are important. These are not extensive skills which require hours of study or practice. Simple ideas like controlled breathing, walking, exercise, listening to soothing music, and counting to 10 are all examples of how we can act when dealing with stress. The more that we can utilize skills that reduce stress the better the opportunity we have for increasing hope.

The “H” brings us to Happiness Habits. What are those activities that both make us happy and can create a positive sensation (for which there is a physiological reason!) within us. These habits include things like listening to music, being in nature, practicing affirmations, and playing games. Those are some of the activities one might expect. There are others though that focus on our health, like getting the proper sleep, eating in a healthy manner (yes, it is okay to have a cheat day!), and practicing affirmations. There are also a few habits which may surprise you.  These are habits like donating time, talent, and treasure to groups in need, giving a hug, and smiling. All of these help produce chemicals in the brain which add to our happiness and well-being.

Next, we move into taking Inspired Actions. Basically, think of this as setting goals for yourself that can help you navigate the challenges of any given day. Many of you have heard me speak of SMART goals before and those fit quite well into bringing hope to your life. SMART goals are those which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Set these goals for all aspects of your life and look to help students understand how goal setting works. Don’t be afraid to set some short-term goals to achieve levels of success leading up to your long-term goals.

The “N” refers to Nourishing Networks. Who is it you spend your time around? What are they inspiring you to do? It is a researched fact that spending time with a set group of people acclimates you into feeling, believing, and reaching similar levels as those in the group. If you are around positive people who are focused on making life better, you will tend to do the same. However, if you are around negative people or people who chose the couch over other activities, you will tend to act in the same way. For those of us who have children, think of the warnings we may have given to our children when it came to their friend groups. Hope is achieved through positive action and the belief that there is another level for you to reach. Hanging around the right people reinforces your belief in yourself and gives you the potential for a support team as you move forward.

Finally, the “E” represents Eliminating Challenges. The greatest challenge many face is limiting beliefs around what they can become. Believe in yourself, work to enhance your strengths, and then address areas for improvement. When you see something you believe in, go after it and do not let naysayers hold you back.

This post is not long enough to take your completely through the process of using hope to achieve your goals and to bring you through the challenges of each day as unscathed as possible. Should you have more questions about hope, this program for your school or students, please feel free to reach out to me.


Posted in SH Special Education Today Newsletter