I attended a leadership development class this week at work, which included an afternoon defining my personal values. We were given 36 cards with phrases like ‘Financial Stability’, ‘Responsibility’, and ‘Teaching Others’ and asked to sort them from most to least important. My top two of ‘Spirituality’ and ‘Healthy Relationships’ were expected, but my third surprised me: ‘Hope’. Of all of the difficult choices in front of me around personal development and money and accomplishment, Hope came in behind only my relationships with God and my family and friends. Why Hope?
Being an optimist has always been a strength of mine, but ironically, I’ve also been aware of how critically important it is to my well being. Though I’m good at holding on to hope, I’m also terrified of somehow losing it. But until I went through this week’s ranking exercise, I’d have never realized it was that high on my list. I’ve always assumed that everyone needs hope – revolutions and violence stem from its absence. But I’d be surprised if anyone else in our group of 20 had it ranked that high. It clearly matters to me even more than I knew.
The last part of the exercise was to develop an action plan around our top values, what we would start, stop, and continue. But how do you develop an action plan around hope? My other top values were easy…I had start/stop/continue plans in minutes. But I nearly didn’t get done in the allowed time, sitting staring at the word ‘Hope’. Stop was the easiest: I committed to stop beating up on myself when I mess up, something women are especially bad at. For start, I decided to start replacing nagging of my girls with more of the positive, affirmative language I know they need. And for continue, I will continue to provide support to beyond-stressed families on the histio sites. I don’t know if it makes much difference, but I distinctly remember the support I got in the darkest moments of Megan’s illness from those who’d walked in my shoes, including the mom who saved my life when she told me “You’ve got this.” I survived on that stranger’s faith in me for weeks. As I look around, I see that, indeed, everyone needs hope. I can’t fix much, but I will do what I can in my tiny corner of the world.
“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” –Vaclav Havel