When was the last time you lost your way? Maybe you experienced a job loss, divorce, or an illness. How did you get back on track? I used to think about hope as just another fluffy, positive emotion, present for a short period of time then disappearing. It wasn't until I lost my own way that I realized the importance of hope. I burned out after practicing law for seven years, and toward the end of my practice, I couldn't figure out the next steps in my career. I had no idea what to do next and realized that I had lost my way. I needed to re-craft a new point B.
How hopeful are you? Have you considered how -- or even whether -- hope impacts your family, work, or health? Did you know that there is a science of hope? These are just some of the questions Dr. Shane Lopez asks you to consider in his new book, Making Hope Happen.
Dr. Lopez outlines why hope matters in the following five key areas:
Hope and Absenteeism
Absenteeism is a huge problem facing corporations, which lose billions of dollars each year when employees fail to show up for work. In a study of mechanical and electrical engineers at a Fortune 100 tech company, the high-hope engineers, on average, missed less than three days of work in a twelve-month period. The low-hope engineers missed, on average, more than 10 days of work in that same period of time.
Hope and Productivity
Hope and productivity go hand-in-hand. I suspect that on the days you get the most done you have a strong sense of what your goals are combined with the energy to accomplish what you want. Dr. Lopez summarizes the research as follows: "Hopeful salespeople reach their quotas more often; hopeful mortgage brokers process and close more loans; and hopeful managing executives meet their quarterly goals more often."
Hope and Happiness
The three elements of hope include having goals (seeking out where you want to go), feeling empowered to shape your daily life, and identifying multiple avenues toward making your goals happen. Working toward meaningful life goals is one of the most important strategies happy people utilize. In one study, hope proved to be a strong predictor of satisfaction, leading the study's authors to suggest that hope is a symptom of happiness.
Hope and Your Health
What kinds of choices do you make about your health on a daily basis? Most of us will be impacted by a serious illness, whether it happens personally or to a loved one. A number of studies indicate that hopeful people tolerate pain better than their less hopeful peers. When it comes to children and how well they follow doctor's orders, a child's level of hope is a significant predictor of those who actually follow what the doctor says.
Hope and Aging
Hope can help you make life worth living. When my grandma passed away in 2004, I could tell the point at which she gave up hope. Research shows that hopelessness is a strong predictor of mortality; and in a study on older Mexican and European Americans, those folks who said they felt hopeless were more than twice as likely to die during the study follow-up period than those who were more hopeful.
How hopeful you are has important work and life implications. It impacts how well you age, how you take care of your health, and how productive you are at work. Being a hopeful thinker about the future will help you build your resilience and give you yet another tool for handling stress, change, and adversity.
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Paula Davis-Laack, is an internationally published writer and travels the globe as a stress and resilience expert. She has helped train nearly a thousand professionals on how to manage their stress by building a set of specific skills designed to increase personal resilience. Paula will soon launch a new online magazine to provide busy professionals with the latest tools, tips and information about how to manage stress and build strong, happy, and healthy lives.
 Avey, J.B., Patera, J.L., & West, B.J. (2006). The implications of positive psychological capital on employee absenteeism. 13 Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 42-60.
 Lopez, S.J. (2013). Making hope happen: Create the future you want for yourself and others. New York: Atria Books.
 Gallagher, M.W., & Lopez, S.J. (2009). Positive expectancies and mental health: Identifying the unique contributions of hope and optimism. 4, Journal of Positive Psychology, 548-56.
 Synder, C.R. et al. (2005). Hope against the cold: Individual differences in trait hope and acute pain tolerance on the cold pressor task. 73 Journal of Personality, 287-312.
 Berg, C.J., Rapoff, M., Snyder C.J., & Belmont, J.M. (2007). The relationship of children's hope to pediatric asthma treatment adherence. 2 Journal of Positive Psychology, 176-84.
 Stern, S., Dhanda, R., & Hazuda, H. (2001). Hopelessness predicts mortality in older Mexican and European Americans. 63 Psychosomatic Medicine, 344-51.