ONE OF THE first things I do when I start with a new client is search for a sense of hope in them.
It doesn’t matter whether they present with anxiety, depression, lack of friendships, school problems, or family issues.
If I can find what they are hopeful about, even if it is buried down very deep, we can engage their motivation for change.
We find a preferred vision of their life and start making purposeful steps towards it together.
But what is hope?
Some people think it’s just a feel-good emotion.
Like watching a romcom that is all about Hollywood’s expectations of love.
I mean, how many people really do “that run” to the airport to stop their great love from flying away in the real world?
Hope is so much more than that.
Hope is a feeling of anticipation and craving for a particular outcome.
It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, but positively pragmatic and rooted in the reality of what is possible.
That is what makes it so powerful as a motivator.
It pushes us to understand and clear obstacles, channel energy into learning, and use the approaching goal to fuel more hope and confidence.
It’s a self-generating positive energy source for change and growth.
Research shows us that hope has many positive benefits in our lives.
People with higher levels of hope have better health behaviours, physical health, less chronic disease and live longer.
The mental health and well-being aspects are evident in lower levels of anxiety and depression, less stress, better social support, and more resilience.
Studies have shown that hope was a better predictor of academic achievement than IQ and athletic success than training and confidence.
In other words, it’s the holy grail of mindsets to have.
It has been suggested that those with higher hope are more likely to set learning goals that promote personal growth and change.
Those without hope are more likely to set mastery goals that aren’t particularly challenging and give up if they hit obstacles very early.
This continues their feedback loop that having hope is pointless because they “succeed” anyway.
In being hopeful, we look for solutions to the obstacles rather than just focusing on the obstacles.
Hope is flagging for a lot of our young people right now.
If we remember that hope is pragmatic and rooted in the real world, let’s look at the types of evidence they see around them.
They will inherit climate change but currently have little power over the decisions currently being made.
Overall living costs, which we are all constantly talking about, including housing prices, make it seem like having their own house when they grow up is impossible.
The pandemic that took such a vast toll on their lives and development and the notion it could happen again, the war in Ukraine, and rising Russian threats to the West.
Bringing it closer to home, how many young people struggle with school or university because of remote learning?
How many young peoples’ grades took a nosedive?
How many young people’s social groups or families struggled over the past few years?
This is all viewed as evidence that the world has become increasingly unpredictable and frightening and their place in it cannot be relied on.
Whether it comes from us or others, doubt can also eat away at the foundation of hope.
For our young people, parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, other extended family members, or family friends can intentionally or accidentally plant the seeds of doubt.
I’m sure all of us can remember when an adult said something that planted doubt about what we could achieve and, what it did to us, how it felt.
It literally can take the wind motivation from our sails.
It doesn’t mean we tell every young person they can be an astronaut or Prime Minister.
But, it does mean we role model and teach them how to problem solve obstacles, hopefully for things that are important to them.
We need to show them hope in action where we can.
Whether that is taking a risk in looking at a promotion for yourself or trying out that new exercise regime to deal with a health problem.
We can discuss our hopes and dreams with them and actively determine courses of action to get us there.
When given the chance, our young people want to help us achieve our hopes the same way we do for them, and many are incredibly smart at coming at things from angles we would never see for ourselves.
They can also be quite blunt in calling us out on our BS.
Equally, we want to help them identify and maintain their hopes for themselves.
This might be pointing out evidence of what they have achieved to date, when we saw them overcome previous obstacles, that we believe the doubting voice in their heads isn’t accurate.
Hope is the best motivator there is for our young people.
Have a good think about what you are hopeful for and make time to talk to your young person about their hopes and dreams.
Until next time folks!
Natalie Rinehart (B.A.Sci (Psych); Grad.Dip.App.Psych)
Young Person & Family Counsellor/Life Coach, Author
0425 735 106