Successful people are hopeful people. Over the past 30 years, research has shown that hope, not skill mastery or optimism or grit, is the most important determinant of success (according to Pattison Professional Counseling and Meditation Center). Does this fact leave you cheering or sighing?
I’d venture to guess that many of us would call ourselves generally hopeful people. If this doesn’t describe you, I believe that hope is both a gift from God and a skill that can be developed, so you’re not out of luck – stick with me!
In the 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust Survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl explains (in a much more grandiose way) that humans always need something to look forward to. This statement may sound basic, but it’s actually incredibly deep.
Frankl tells of being imprisoned in a concentration camp and noting that death rates of prisoners always increased the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
He concluded these excess deaths were because these prisoners had held on to illogical, ridiculous hope that they would spend Christmas with their families. When Christmas Day came and went with no sign of their loved ones, so did their will to go on. Their ridiculous hope had a direct impact on their frail physical well-being; it literally kept them alive.
Sometimes we don’t realize the hope we’re holding onto is ridiculous until later, and this is a good thing! People living in a state of hope are more likely to achieve their goals and live with a sense of purpose.
For instance, others might chuckle if I say I believe the novel I’m writing could one day change the world, but that ridiculous hope is precisely what it takes to accomplish the difficult task of completing the novel. Anything less than ridiculous hope would result in an unfinished manuscript.
After I complete my manuscript, I may then be able to look at it more objectively and see that it might not change the entire world, but it still might change a few lives – lives that wouldn’t have been changed without my holding onto such hope. Hope gives us drive toward our goals and enables us to push through difficulties. Ridiculous hope keeps us pressing on long after others have given up on our vision.
Hope (or the lack thereof) also clearly affects our physical health, as noted above. Not only does Frankl give several examples of this in his eye-opening book, but in a recent chat with a medical professional friend, I was told that the patients who beat cancer nearly always have a hopeful attitude. He said the physical difference between hopeful versus hopeless patients is stark and obvious.
Hope is not the same as optimism, although they are certainly related. While optimists believe good things likely await in their futures, hope-filled people are driven to make those good things happen rather than sitting passively by.
God has a lot to say about hope, too. Here are seven of God’s many promises about hope:
- We have hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
- Jesus Christ is our living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
- Hope anchors the soul. (Hebrews 6:19)
- Hope in the Lord allows us to be strong and take heart. (Psalm 31:24)
- Our hearts are sick without hope. (Proverbs 13:12)
- The eyes of the Lord are on those who hope in him. (Psalm 33:18)
- Hope makes us bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12)
If we take these seven truths about hope and use them to chase after our God-given goals, I’ll be surprised if we don’t start seeing significant change in our lives. There’s no magic formula (after all, who can know the ways of God?), but ridiculous hope is certainly a life-attitude that will deliver results, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.
If you want to read more about the psychological benefits of hope, I found this article helpful: Want More Success in Your Life? Have Hope.
And have a peek at my middle grade novel, Power Up, if you want to share with the children in your life about the ways the Holy Spirit can bring them hope. (Grown-ups have found hope through it too!)