In Summary

The thing about helplessness though, is that it is entrapping and a vicious cycle with little hope of improvement. The wallowing just goes on and on.

In a distraught world that is full of negative rhetoric, overwhelming challenges that seem never ending, it is almost impossible not to feel helpless.

The thing about helplessness though, is that it is entrapping and a vicious cycle with little hope of improvement. The wallowing just goes on and on.

Today, I want to talk about hope! The understated beacon of light that drives one to believe deep inside that it is possible.

It allows one to isolate what they need to do, organize and work towards the set goals.

We heard quite a lot about hope in the Obama years because in all his messaging he never forgot to re-focus people on the idea that things will get better, if they just kept pushing. On the face of it, it may seem a simple message with no consequence, but the reality is that every night we go to bed trusting we will wake up in the morning and the evidence to this hopeful belief is in our long term planning.

A lot has been written about how positive thinking does wonders for our psych and how it helps to drive our resolve and focus in the right direction, but we often forget that all is nothing in the face of pure darkness.

The question becomes how do we lift the weight of helplessness? In an environment where everyone is losing faith and feeling defeated what are some of the things that we can do to swing the conversation back to positivity? How can our leaders deploy powerful hopeful messaging that carry their followers through? How do we go about deploying this potent portion to engage the imaginations and re-ignite the excitement of the people we lead enough to help them work through the challenges?

It brings to mind the words of Napoleon, “a leader is a dealer in hope” in other words, the core role in leadership is offering inspiration. It is about awakening and stirring a deep belief in those that we lead, to believe that it is possible.

Inspiring hope

President Barack Obama was great at inspiring hope, he was an uber talented dealer in hope, his definition of hope most inspires me; he said, “hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” What practical actions can we take to help cultivate a more hopeful attitude? Here are some suggestions;

1. As a starting point, understanding that failure is part of the journey of life– this means we must internalise that we only know the taste of success because we have tasted failure. Everybody fails at many things over and over again, so it mustn’t spell doom.

2. We must try to frame our philosophical perspective on the basis that there are no dead ends, just misdirection. All one needs to do to get to their destination is recalibrate and re-route.

3. Learn that you are only defeated when you accept it. It is a state of mind, there is always a little more fight left in us if only we are willing, no matter how hard it is, to dig a little deeper.

4. Do something for someone else with no expectations. Even better, for a stranger, it could be as simple as offering to run an errand, or teach a class. It is amazing how much inspiration we gain from volunteering to do acts of kindness for others with no expectation, where the only reward is the feel - good feeling.

5. Guard your thoughts jealously. This can be achieved by refusing to entertain negative thoughts, constantly resisting allowing yourself to wallow and deliberately disengaging from negative interactions.

It is easy to find what is not working out in all situations; the skill we need to develop is seeking out what’s great in every situation. As we train our minds to find the positive, we find even more positive stories along the way.

Ms Terry Ramadhani is a senior manager in the Human Resources Department, East Africa Aga Khan University