Written by : Jennifer Moss

5 Ways to Build Your Hope Skills at Work

Young woman typing on her computer with her dog at her side

The world getting you down? Need a boost of hope? Best-selling author Admiral William McRaven may have the answer: Make your bed.

Simple? Yes. Too simple? No.

Let me explain. The definition of hope is often misinterpreted as wishful thinking.

“I hope I get rich.”

“I hope I get promoted.”

“I hope I get married.”

But hope, according to world-renowned psychologist C.R. Snyder, Ph.D., is believing that we can create a pathway to our goals. When we wish for something, it is left up to luck or happenstance. When we hope, we set goals and achieve them. We don’t wish to get rich, we set a path to finding a career that makes us happy and successful. We don’t wish to get promoted, we communicate our goals with our boss and agree to a way to achieve them. We don’t wish to get married, we put ourselves out there and foster enduring relationships.

Simply explained, we make our own luck. So, back to the bed theory. How can making your bed every day be tied to increasing hope?

When you accomplish small tasks at the start of your day, you increase self-effi­cacy, a key trait to building up hope. If you believe you have the capacity and the tools to accomplish a small task, you trick your brain into believing it can achieve bigger, more challenging tasks. Making your bed may seem inconsequential in the moment, but when you add up these small wins over the course of the day, the week, the year, it has a significant impact on how con­ dent you feel about yourself and your ability to follow through on commitments.

Building hope habits at work is hugely valuable in a place where procrastination and distraction are major barriers to engagement and productivity. So, what happens when hope is at risk in the workplace?

According to David Whiteside, Ph.D., director of organizational insights for Plasticity Labs, when the highest performing employees lose hope that the organization is going to improve, it can lead to burnout. “In strong cultures, engaged employees practice citizenship behaviors. The goal of these targeted actions is to improve the organization they love, for example, they work on weekends on special projects that inspire them,” he says. “In weak cultures, engaged employees are blindly hoping that if they put in extra effort, it may turn things around, for example, they work on weekends to make up for the low performance of their colleagues.”

David believes hope is tied to happiness and well-being in the workplace. “Basically, without hope that their efforts will make a difference, engaged employees in a weak culture can experience a signi­ficant decline in their well-being over time,” he says.

There is a way to solve this, and it’s easier than you think. You can start by setting smaller, realistic goals that are achievable daily and tied to a bigger purpose that isn’t measured quarterly or annually. Hope is a skill that is built over time, incrementally, and is more likely to yield positive results if it’s celebrated regularly. I believe we need to get better at building hope into every day.

Five Tips to Build Your Hope Skills

Aside from making your bed every day as the admiral suggests, here are a few other tactics to increase hope at work and at home to lead a happier, healthier and higher-performing life.

Set a WOW goal.

What have you been putting off? Force yourself to tackle a project that can be completed Within One Week. Our brains love checking tasks off lists, particularly if our procrastination has stopped us from tackling that project for longer than we’d like to admit. Make this week the week you complete one of those goals. It may be cleaning out y our closet, or sending in your expenses—whatever it is, get it done before Sunday comes.

Make every success matter.

You’re presenting to the leadership team? Don’t view success as a fully prepared presentation. Instead, be proud when you come up with the first rough draft. Even a title slide is a great start. Every step toward your end goal should count.

Say thank you.

Hope is contagious. Start spreading it. Know someone who has been dealing with a challenging life event or someone who just needs a lift? Write a note of appreciation on a Post-it and stick it on that person’s desk. Don’t take credit, just let hope take root and see what happens.

Take a break.

As David noted, when we go above and beyond and aren’t feeling acknowledged for that work, we may be at risk of burnout. For high-performing people, it can be hard to let something go at work or at home, but sometimes we have to. Take a day off and recharge—a mental health day is just as important as a vacation day.

Get perspective.

We all lose sight of the significance of our problems. That is completely OK. We should never feel guilty for any feeling we experience. However, sometimes it’s being selfless that is the most selfish act we can engage in. Researchers claim that giving back is highly correlated to happiness and longevity. It gives us hope by reminding us that our singular efforts can impact a person, and hopefully with a ripple effect, can change the world.

If all else fails, heed Admiral William McRaven’s advice, “If by chance you have a miserable day, you’ll come home to a bed that is made. That you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Live Happy magazine.


Jennifer Moss is the co-founder of Plasticity Labs and best-selling author of Unlocking Happiness at Work. She’s a happiness researcher and thought leader on the topics of emotional intelligence and organizational performance as well as a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC, National Post and Huffington Post.

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