How can we strengthen our movement toward bringing active hope into our lives? The journey from being hopeless to having passive hope, and then finding active hope depends on two things:

  1. The ability to see the present reality of your community/organization and imagine a different future that helps the system thrive.
  2. The ability to identify the behaviors that will help you support the future you envision.

The combination of strengthening your individual and collective capacity of imagination and activation brings an intentional practice to your day-to-day living and leadership. We are in an opportunity-rich environment, one that helps us imagine a future that is more regenerative. A future designed so that everyone AND the planet thrive. First, let’s think about the many opportunities to build our active hope “muscle.”

Working out strengthens the muscles in our body. Similarly, showing up every day and behaving in alignment with a better future strengthens our active hope muscle. Taking action requires us to develop a belief that our behaviors matter and that one individuals’ actions can make a difference in the world.

From a power, hierarchical, and position perspective, the ability to initiate change comes from the top of a system or organization. From an interdependent, living system perspective, change from anywhere in the system has the power to spread through the lines of our relationships and influence the larger system. When we shift from a hierarchical to a networked perspective our efficacy also changes. Efficacy is the belief that our behaviors matter and that we have the power to change not only organizations but systems within communities, politics, health, social justice, and others.   

I used to work in Higher Education as a VP for student affairs. When I went to work, I chose to show up differently with my colleagues and the President’s cabinet. Instead of thinking that I was representing a division at those leadership meetings, I set this challenge for myself:

“What if I believed that sharing my perspective was essential to the institution’s ability to thrive in the future?”

By letting this question shape how I showed up, my behavior started to change. One result was I stopped screening what I was thinking and started sharing my thoughts and why I thought they mattered. One of the wonderful outcomes of doing this is that I became more authentic and influential in the organization I was working in. 

Reflective questions

Here is a simple exercise to help you reflect on ways your behavior might change if you asked different questions about yourself. These questions are focused on the beliefs that strengthen active hope in our lives. By connecting these different questions to your behaviors, you can develop a personal road map for practicing active hope. This helps strengthen the active hope “muscle” you’re presenting to the world. 

Provocative Questions How might your behavior change?
How would you, as an individual, act if you knew your work was essential to your community or organization’s ability to thrive in the future?
How would you lead if your leadership was essential to your organization/community’s ability to thrive in the future?
How would organizational or community members behave if they believed the future of the organization or community depended on their gifts (time, talents, and treasures)?

Remember a powerful question helps us shift our thinking and practice. Active hope is measured in part by its power to motivate you to get out of bed in the morning and create a world that is better when you leave it.