Courage. Willpower. A million-dollar coaching course. There's no end to the list of things that will help you reach your goals. But in all the rush to visualize and manifest and achieve, there's one crucial piece that often gets overlooked – and yet without it, you'll get nowhere.
That thing is hope.
But what exactly is hope?
Here's how I think of it: hope is what tennis players have when they're on a winning streak. (Can you tell I was watching the US Open this month?) This is true in other sports, too, but especially in a tennis match, you can actually see the players' level of hope. When she's down and feels like she can't win, she's making unforced errors, she's losing her serve – it's obvious. It's in her body language, in her face, in how she carries herself. She's pacing, angry, distracted. You can practically tell she's going to lose.
Until something changes. Usually it's a change in strategy. She tries something different – a dropshot, going to the net, whatever – and if it works, you can just watch her hope return. Her energy changes. She walks differently, it's in her attitude, it's in every shot she takes.
Hope is what enables us to believe that we can still win, no matter how badly we're losing. Hope is what fuels us to keep going.
Recently, I came across Dr. C.R. Snyder's definition of hope in his book The Psychology of Hope, where he writes that hope is the sum of your willpower and your waypower. What's waypower? It's your capacity to come up with multiple paths toward the same goal. If one path doesn't work, you can try another – and another, and another, and another. People high in waypower don't see failure as final because they always have another possibility up their sleeve. It's like how Thomas Edison described his rocky path to inventing the lightbulb: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." That's waypower. Basically, it's hope in action. It's the belief that if one way doesn't work, I'll try another.
That can be easier said that done. When we've lost hope, it's hard to think of alternate paths. That's when a lot of people come to me. "I've tried everything," they say. "I just don't know what to do." They feel stuck. Hopeless. We've all been there, whether we're trying to win the US Open or find a new job.
So how can we rekindle our hope when it's gone?
We can tap into our waypower.
There are, of course, a thousand different ways to do that. The core guideline is to simply think of other things that might conceivably work. Ask yourself, "What else could I try?" Let yourself be imaginative here. No idea is too crazy! I once worked with a publicist who was a fantastic artist, and one day, she decided to use her talent to help me connect with Robert DiNero. Instead of a boring old phone call, she sent him a box full of little toys and cartoons, including a life-size cartoon of him. And it worked! It got his attention, and I actually got a meeting with him because of it.
If that question – "what else can I try?" – doesn't work, try this one: What if it were easy? What would I do then? (Sound weird? It might, but trust me: this is one of the most powerful questions in the world. Try it and see!)
Another way is to purposely try something you know you'll mess up. By freeing yourself to make mistakes, you open up the door to a thousand new options – one of which has to work! (For more on this, check out my blog on tapping your intuition.)
Let's turn to you. What can you try that's different?
If you've already tried something different, then what you can try that's outrageously different?
Will you go do it?
When you do, come back and share what it was you did! What action did you take that inspired hope? How did it go for you?
Sometimes, stretching beyond your comfort zone (safely, of course) will open you up to hope that you thought was gone. And when you have hope, you can find that willpower to keep going.
"When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them," writes Angela Duckworth in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. "When you stop searching, assuming they can't be found, you guarantee they won't."
Go out, tap into your hope, and shine.
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