You Can Get There From Here If You Hope Right!

Work hard and hope is not a strategy! If we don't invest in mapping our career-life hopes, they'll get trapped in the land of always hoping and never coming true. Read on to learn how to hope 'right'.

“Thank you. You’ve given me My Hope back today.”

If you look Hope up in the dictionary, it’s defined as ‘the belief that something you want will happen’.  Which seems to me to be about anticipation that grows into trusting some positive expectation for the future.

But I frequently meet committed careerists who have adopted the ethos of work-hard-and-hope, only to find themselves confused and disheartened some years later, when their ‘career strategy’ hasn’t taken them from Here to There.

Work Hard & Hope Is Not A Strategy

It never could. Work-hard-and-hope is simply not a strategy! And now they’re stuck in a role, feeling unappreciated and overlooked day after day. Without Hope and wondering why. 

For me, the kind of Hope that fuels positive expectations but then relies on external forces is as misguided as it is divorced from reality. It might as well be called ‘passively waiting to see if my hoped-for future is an illusion.’ 

I felt unease recently, when a leadership coaching client thanked me for giving his hope back at the end of our session. Our work together had undeniably triggered his commitment to taking action and the feedback was powerful. So why did was the coaching compliment disturbing me? 

As I carried on working that day, I started thinking, how was it possible for one person to give another ‘their’ Hope back? Does he really believe that? I feel sure we have sole ownership of our own Hope – or is that just me? 

Sh*t Happens. What’s Hope Got To Do With It? 

Are we sure Hope is such a good thing anyway? Have you ever wondered why we hold ourselves back from opportunities we need to thrive? Or persevere instead of pivot when we know we’ve lost hope? 

Most of us believe the future will be better.  But only about half of us believe we are the ones that can make it so! Do you think you can make your tomorrows better or that’s beyond you? 

Generally I find asking questions is how we arrive at our answers – both within and outside of coaching. So I followed my nagging thoughts into the psychology of Hope.

Cognitive psychologist, Snyder talked about Hope in terms of ‘the willpower (agency) and waypower (pathway) you have for your goals.’  And I far prefer this. It has legs. It’s ownable, actionable and crucially – learnable. 

For Snyder, this brand of reasonable hope has firm roots in reality, and becomes an overarching goal, under which smaller steps are taken. Future-focused faith is still in play, but here, Hope falls from trusting our own abilities to be flexible, problem-solve and to make our efforts count. 

If the science of hope is learnable, it’s teachable too!  

Who’s In Charge Here? You, I Hope! 

Here are some psychology-backed ideas about making the connection between the future career you want and your effort, commitment and action today to achieve it. Owning your Hope.

It’s called Hope Theory and in 7 steps, you will create your own Hope Map. 

  1. Goal Setting

Create a clear and exciting vision of your future career. You could capture this goal, and put it onto a vision board, or if you feel this is a private source of inspiration, hop online and use a mind map tool to capture your Hope Map in a digital way.  

2. Getting into Action

If we don’t take steps to achieve our goal, we’re in fantasy land. So write down several actions, pathways or micro-steps you will take to pursue your career vision.  Take time here – this is you tying your vision to reality. 

3. Identify Obstacles

Capture at least 1 obstacle that might block each of the paths you have described.

4. Now, Navigate Them

  • Review your pathways, including strategies to overcome the obstacles identified. This may include developing new  pathways or building extra steps to your existing ones. If you do identify new pathways, repeat step 3 and 4 to overcome any new obstacles that may block your forwards motion.

  • Write down ideas for staying in positive energy – maintaining motivation while you move towards your career vision. Be especially conscious about situations likely to deplete your willpower (agency). And be sure to come up with ideas to stay on course in the face of threats to your autonomy.  This is where we will typically lose Hope. 

  • Review your Hope Map a few times. Choose which pathway to move towards your career vision first – confident that you have a range of strategies to employ as you move forwards now. 

  • Finally, let yourself Hope – the right way! Not just imagining what it would feel like to live your career vision – mentally rehearse all the smaller steps you need to take to get there in real life and let that brand of Hope energise you in your efforts. 

How To Hope Right

To hope or not to hope? That was the question, and having spent some time with the psychology now, you know I come with a health warning about Hope. But have also shown you how to hope right.  

So if you catch yourself talking about your career aspirations couched in terms of, ‘I hope…’, please take a minute, then say, ‘but being fate-focused, I’ll just wait and see’.  Notice all over again how passivity dents your Hope – and strips you of agency. Time to go back to your Hope Mapping until you can see the opportunity, even within the difficult pathways, harness your willpower and waypower and get back into action. 

For my part, the next time I am offered thanks for giving someone their Hope back, I’m going to explain how Hope-based illusions undermine ambition.  That it’s time to stop being Hope-ful or Hope-less and harness Hope instead. 

Because that gives us the best chance of achieving what we want. It’s also how we feel empowered to actively aim for the career elevation or evolution we crave and think through how to strive for that. 

Ready to invest in your Hopes so they can come true?


P.S. if you think your friends would like this too, I’d love you to share it. Thanks.

Warmly, Helen



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