Over the past 20 months, we have lived through a lot of disruptions. While these disruptions might have started with COVID-19, the pandemic created a cascade of ripple effects that impacted our health system, work environments, economies, social justice, education systems, sports, politics, and family life. These events have continued to create changes in what we used to think were the norms. For example, our supply lines have been impacted, labor shortages in the service sector are now the norm, and people are reflecting on what kind of relationship they want with their employer. Further, many of us know someone who has had COVID, been hospitalized or died from this disease. These changes we are experiencing and have been faced with echo personal stories. Given these experiences, it can be difficult to motivate yourself each day and easy to lose hope for the future.

The word hope has two different meanings

Hopefulness is when our preferred outcome seems reasonably likely to happen.  If we require this kind of hope before we commit ourselves to an action, our response gets blocked in areas where we don’t rate our chances too high. 

Desire is knowing what we hope for and what we’d like, or love, to take place.  It is what we do with this hope that really makes the difference.  Desire can take two different forms of hope – passive or active hope.

  • Passive Hope is waiting for external agencies (or people) to bring about what we want.
  • Active Hope is when participants work to achieve the vision we desire. 

When we lose hope or become hopeless, we believe life is tough and there is nothing that will change it – so we hunker down to survive. If this is where you are after the last 20 months, then finding active hope becomes a critical pursuit to help you increase your resilience to change.  

Another way hope is expressed is through passive hope, where you can see a better future but don’t think you can do anything to make it better. People who have passive hope look to leaders and others to come in and change things for the better. The third way hope shows up is active hope, where you can see a better future, and every day you wake up and act in alignment to help make it happen. People who have active hope believe that their actions can make a difference.

Finding active hope in yourself and others

Here are some ways we can nurture active hope: 

  1. Take time to imagine a better future. Our day-to-day work and routines don’t always leave time to imagine solutions. A “what if…” format for a question can help reimagine the future. “What if I could find a job that would value me and create an environment where I could thrive?”  “What if we created a community where we all could thrive?” The act of reimagining the future moves us from hopeless to active hope.
  2. Talk to others and ask them to share their version of a better future. Other’s visions can stimulate our own vision of a better future.
  3. Identify one behavior or action to help you move toward your vision. Hopelessness is fed by inaction. Acting, even only a small step, helps you find active hope and work towards a brighter future. Every time you choose to act, you move away from a victim mentality where nothing you do matters.

When we experience massive disruption, our ability to find our active hope is essential to helping us create a better future. Finding and nurturing active hope is a crucial step along the way.

 Sources: Active Hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012); and Kathleen E. Allen – www.kathleenallen.net