Nothing is more influential to our happiness than hope. What I mean by hope is a strong expectation that something good will happen. Numerous studies have shown that hope has a greater impact on happiness than standard of living. Poor people with more hope are happier than richer people who have less hope.
Hope is different than optimism. Optimism provides little impact on happiness because optimism implies a probable outcome, whereas hope provides a confident assurance.
Optimism: “Today I may get a kiss from Suzie.”
Hope: “I’m going to do whatever it takes over the next few weeks to get countless kisses from Suzie."
Genuine hope requires a change to our lives because hope requires faith. For this discussion, I’m not referring to the Biblical definition of faith. Rather, I define hope as,
A strong belief or trust that certain actions
will produce the desired result.
(One of my grandmothers was named Faith. Everything she did was an act of Faith.)
The principles of faith and hope cause us to take responsibility for our lives and make changes in our lives for the better.
To illustrate this, here are some examples:
If hope is so important to our happiness, why don’t we take advantage of it more often?
“What?” you say.
Here are some questions for you:
What are you looking forward to with your home?
What are you looking forward to with your family?
What are you looking forward to in your schooling?
What are you looking forward to at work this week?
What are you looking forward to this year in your marriage?
“Looking forward to” is another way of saying “hoping for.”
We must always have something to hope for. Such a strong expectation compels us to have increased faith in ourselves and causes us to adjust our thoughts and behaviors.
Do not confuse hope with goals.
Examples of goals are:
Increasing income by 15%
Losing ten pounds of weight
Living without fear
Enjoying better health
Having a greater sense of well-being
Enjoying more meaningful relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
Hope helps us to increase our strength, potential, wisdom, happiness, and fulfillment. Hope and faith drive us to alter our lives to become better people.
People often achieve something great and then stop hoping. They get married, publish their first novel, or become Class President, and then feel they’ve “made it.” They forget that hope must remain central to maintaining their happiness. So, they start to coast. Over time, happiness for these individuals diminishes.
The opposite of hope is hopelessness. Hopelessness produces misery. Utter hopelessness produces utter misery. Whereas, it is difficult to be miserable if you believe that what you’re doing will eventually result in achieving your desires.
Something to look forward to
Always have something to hope for in as many areas in your life as possible. Such hope will require constant faith, which in turn requires continuing efforts to make your lives and relationships better.
Everyone needs something to look forward to at all times.
I can look forward to dinner this evening. I can look forward to break time at 9:30. I can look forward to passing that old, restored car in front of "that one house" on my walk home. It is healthy for us to be in the habit of looking forward to something. This helps promote hope and gratitude within us. No matter what I am going through at this moment, in three hours I will be able to listen to that musical recording I enjoy. This uplifts me.
Berlin, July 1945
Watch the video linked here, which shows colorized footage of people in the streets of Berlin two months after Germany surrendered. Every person you you see in this film lost members of their family in war. Notice the physical condition of the city. Then notice how the people are dressed and how they carry themselves. What is the predominant expression on everyone's faces? Is it anger, bitterness, despair, and hatred? Or is it hope?
Another benefit of having hope is it engenders gratitude. Gratitude is documented by countless studies to provide the following affects:
Improved physical health
Improved physiological health
Increased empathy and reduced aggression
Google the phrase, benefits of gratitude and you can read as many academic papers and accounts as you'd like.
Happiness is not possible without gratitude.
You cannot be happy about something that you are not grateful for. I was raised hearing the following phrase spoken by my mother countless times:
"Count your blessings."
The phrase never really did anything for me because I believed my blessings to be innumerable, and I sensed that I did not recognize most of them. But, I did try to develop a general sense of gratitude and respect for what was happening around me. The older I get, the more grateful I become. I believe that the majority of my grievances come from my not being sufficiently grateful for the events and people around me.
Hope and gratitude
Hope is the confident expectation of a desired future. Hope, in this sense, is gratitude in advance. I believe that the more grateful we are generally, the deeper and richer hope we will feel in what is to come in our lives.