Hope: more than just words

By Jeanette Cowley on September 2, 2016

Sometimes I wonder if there has ever been a more comprehensively cited emotion than hope. Possibly there has, but hope is certainly a major contender, covering a vast situational spectrum. For instance, hope can arise in pretty banal circumstances, such as wanting the 65 bus to turn up when it’s raining. At work, hope could simply mean wanting to render our tasks more efficient and bearable.

But of course there are broader, profound issues to examine. Human history is full of individual examples of hope’s inspirational power. And in the workplace, hope can inspire us, our teams and even entire businesses to achieve great results. In the case of nations and cultures, a sense of hope can ignite and sustain transformational social campaigns. Just consider events across the world, where people living in repressive states controlled by unaccountable elites have demanded, often at grievous personal risk, fundamental democratic reforms. Such aspirations represent the politicised aspects of hope, yet there is a connective strand that links all of hope’s manifold expressions. Essentially, it is the wish to achieve something better.

But how might we achieve this? What are we really aspiring towards and how do we achieve our hopes? Or is it just words?

In a complex world full of competing demands and powerful vested interests, many of us look to political, business and cultural leaders for inspiration and hope. Yet in this context, hope can sometimes seem a degraded concept, even in so called ‘mature’ democracies. How many times have we heard soaring rhetoric from a politician – feel free to insert your own nominations for The Big Letdown award here – only to see them fail to deliver on those lofty statements? Similarly, there are many examples where ostensibly stirring declarations from business leaders have amounted to nothing more than words. Verbal dexterity is not enough. The point here concerns substance and tangible results.

And whilst we’re talking about results, let’s be clear that politicians and business leaders aren’t the only people who sometimes speak loftily but fail to deliver. Whilst we shouldn’t let them off the hook too readily, we all have a duty to deliver on our hopes, whether or not we are tasked with leadership responsibilities. Otherwise, it’s just empty rhetoric, unfulfilled dreams; a waste of everything from oxygen to printer ink.

What I’m reaching for here is a sense of energy and personal commitment. Not, by the way, a vague notion that by some magical process we can all make it if we try. On a more pragmatic level, I’m thinking specifically about retaining the key feature of hope – the desire to improve upon our lot.  However, this is where we must move beyond talk and words. We need to be clear and categorical about what we want, understanding the obstacles and assistance we might encounter along the way. Additionally, in order to transmute hope into something tangible, we need to stay true to our principles and ethics. This often requires bravery, clarity, commitment and the kind of clear-headed optimism that won’t allow any of life’s pernicious blows to spin you off course.

Many of us have days when positive outlooks feel elusive, such as the midst of a jaw tightening, stressful work situation. This is where holding onto to our aspirations and principles really matters. It also helps to reflect upon examples of hope, whether it is an individual’s personal achievements, an inspirational business transformation or the brave campaigns for political and social reform we considered earlier.

Reduced down to its conceptual core, hope looks far from vague and shapeless – instead it has a diamond hard strength that can sustain and inspire, perhaps then allowing us to achieve the dreams that may well have started with just words.


© Steve Burniston 2016      Contact: sburniston@goforgrowth.com

About The Author

Jeanette Cowley

Jeanette Cowley is all about helping clients voice possibilities, an avid singer and artist.

Jeanette is the CEO of Go For Growth. She is a London and Kent based mediator, team and executive coach who is often called on to moderate on-line events, speak about negotiation and personal presence. Jeanette has many years of commercial experience, culminating in the role of Group HR Director for a FTSE 100 business. She is a pioneer of using art in business to unleash the creative mind, accelerate success and deepen self-awareness.

Jeanette’s current research into how senior executives sustain momentum, builds on work she carried out at Henley Business School, uses with clients at London Business School, as well as to support private clients across many sectors. Jeanette is the creator of Voicing Possibilities Art-based Coaching Cards. These cards are used by meditators, coaches and consultants around the world to help clients and individuals decide if, how and when to move forward. Contact: jcowley@goforgrowth.com