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What One Virtue Can Change Everything in Your Life and Work? (not an overstatement!)

I can honestly say, I never thought I would champion and become an advocate for a virtue…. Who me? But this one feels too significant and misunderstood for me and I can’t stay silent any more. Sooooooo…. What’s the virtue and why is it such a big deal? It’s hope. That’s right. H-O-P-E. “A desire with anticipation.” Take it from one who thought “Hope” was pretty much a girls name or a thing you needed when you got ready to die or to drive on the New Jersey Turnpike (hoping that’s not one and the same!) But I’ve come to believe two things about hope.

1. Hope’s a linchpin. It’s the keystone species that launches everything else we really want in life or makes a great life.

2. Hope’s not an attitude or personality type. Instead hope’s a skillset to be developed.

And, we need to revisit this thing called hope in an age known for depression, rampant suicide, political disappointment and so much religion that feels irrelevant. As my friend Eric Swanson (also an author and leader with Leadership Network) says, “Hope is the red haired step child of the virtue trinity. Most don't know much about it.” If the key three virtues that remain are faith, hope and love…(I Corinthians 13:13) why do we talk so much about growing faith… growing in love.. and hardly not talk at all about growing hope? Hmmmm…. in a time when most doctors give you a pill when you’re hope deprived, might this NOW be a time when we’re ripe for a revolution of hope yet in our world? I would say we’re overdue!

Hope’s a Linchpin

Wise people like Martin Luther (1500’s) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1900’s) point to hope as what leads to everything else! Luther said,

“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

Luther King Jr. said,

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, the quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.”

Are they still right? Do we really need hope to do things that matter most? Think about it?

  • Stay married. Well, that would take hope.

  • Raise children. (ie. teenagers) Well, that takes a lot of hope!

  • Start a business. Hope!

  • Work in sales. Hope!

  • Work again tomorrow at your job. Hope!

  • Lose weight. Hope!

  • Get past a death or divorce. Hope on steroids!

  • Stay free of depression and discouragement. Hope!

  • Recover from depression. Hope! (even better than meds!)

The Bible tells us that the very definition and impetus of faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) In other words, hope is required to develop and grow faith.” What would you have faith in if you didn't have any hope?

By definition, hope is the belief that things can okay or be different in the future. One hour from now. One minute for now. Hope creates the power and expectation for what’s ahead.

When you don’t believe things will be okay or better, you don't want to take action. Why act when it’s not going to help things be okay or different?

People who stop hoping stop doing things like caring for themselves, growing or learning. Companies without hope quit taking risk or working hard or making needed challenges. Churches without hope stop reaching out to impact their community.

Father Flannery O’ Connor said, “People without hope not only don’t write novels, but more to the point, they don’t read them.”

In the positive, actress Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

When you have hope, you imagine a positive future. You grow a positive imagination. You dream. You can have a vision for something worthwhile. You’ll invent things or persevere when things get painful and tough.

Hope's a skillset to be developed.

People aren't born with or without it. Hope’s not one of the Myers Briggs or Strengthsfinder types. No baby is just hopeful from birth. Hope’s not a once and for all mindset.

Instead, hope can be grown by practicing hope building practices and developing habits. It's what I call "the habits of hope." Hope can be inteionally grow through spiritual, emotional, vocational and even physical exercises.

As David Orr said, “Hope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.”

Here's what's at the core of this intentional hope-growing mindset:

1. You are not your thoughts.

This should be obvious, but too many of us believe, “I’m negative.” Or, “I’m not smart.” Or “I’m too old.” Or “I’m powerless.” “I’m hopeless.”

And it may be true you CURRENTLY think some of those things. But, those thoughts are not you! Your identity is not one who is negative, stupid, old, powerless or hopeless. Instead, you are the person allowing your brain to think those thoughts.

Stop that!

That’s good news! That means to change my thoughts can change my life! Hurray!

2. You can change your thoughts.

You have the power to start by hearing your own thoughts. That’s right. Pay attention. Mind your mind. Awaken and be conscious of what you’re allowing that brain of yours to think. Be nicer to you!

In the Bible Paul wrote to the people in Philippi, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8)

That’s also good news for the ability to gain more hope! You can choose what you think about! You’re not stuck with old grumpy pants! You’re not stuck with Debby Downer for a roommate!

And there really are doable and practical Habits of Hope. (Thus, the cause for my new book called, of all things, The Habits of Hope.”

3. When you change your thoughts to hope, things change radically for you and those around you.

Walk on with hope and you don’t walk alone. Hope in you attracts other hopeful people to you. It also makes the you in you enjoy your life a whole lost more.

Just even grow your hope a little bit and the fruit IN YOU includes happiness, freedom, enjoyment, satisfaction, peace of mind, purpose…. Not bad things!

Grow your hope a little bit and the fruit THROUGH YOU includes the release of productivity, creativity, courage and even love and faith.

Imagine you and your life if you had a bunch more of this thing called hope? Each and every day?


Well, good question, right? And that would take more than a brief article… So over the last nine year, (count em. Nine!) I’ve written a book called “The Habits of Hope: Self-Leadership Strategies to Unleash Your Bigger Purpose.” My hope (yep!) for this book is it will provide the tangible tools and pathway to live in hope as a way of life… not as a hyped up attitude or brief feeling. The books a spiritual parable that takes place up in the Adirondacks in New York and introduces the readers to a Magical town called Hope. It includes habits such as...

  • Hearing you’re blessed.

  • Appreciating the good.

  • Investing in yourself and your dreams

Check it out! Here’s the website and the way to purchase the book:

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