Is appreciation limited only to the past and present? No! We just call it something different when we look into the future. That’s when we call appreciation, “hope.” The more positive we feel about the future, the more hope we have, the more confident and competent we become in life and work. The key, then, is to define a winnable game so that we can throw ourselves into life with enthusiasm. I seem to do that rather naturally and consistently, with even the simplest and smallest of projects. In this Provision, I share some of how that happens thanks, in part, to the work of Albert Bandura. I invite you to read on and come along for the ride.
The next few weeks are going to be a lot of fun and work for me. Notice how I put those two words together: fun and work. The two are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. Unfortunately, for many people, work is the opposite of fun. In fact, many people define work as “that which I would rather not be doing but which I have to do in order to make a living.” Coaching seeks to change all that, and coaches seek to model what it looks like to love your work and make it fun.
I certainly love my work and make it fun, regardless of what I am doing. My parents have been in town for a few days this week, and we’ve had fun while working on the garage. At one point, we knocked a hole through a brick wall in order to run a new dryer vent. Noting the work that was going on, my wife, Megan, walked by observing, “There’s nothing that Bob loves more than knocking holes through brick walls.” She said that because 30 years ago, while working in the inner-city of Chicago, I spent three days opening up the space for a double door through a wall that was six bricks thick. Talk about fun!
No matter what I do, I like to turn it into a winnable game. That’s where my passion and gusto for life comes from. That’s how I go through life. Take this weekend. I’m back for another marathon, this time the Marine Corps Marathon, with my son and daughter-in-law. It will be their first marathon and my 39th. Each marathon is a story. Some have been fast, some have been slow, some have been to pace others, some have been to challenge myself, some have been to see the sights (like when I did Rome, Italy), while others have been to run a marathon in yet another State.
Each of those stories represent a winnable game. Doing something well, making something both functional and beautiful (like the dryer vent!), seeing something new, accomplishing something difficult, overcoming an injury, accomplishing a milestone, playing a song • whatever it may be, I have a way of seeing the game within the task at hand. In fact, seeing the game is where my motivation comes from to do whatever it is I’m doing. Unless I find something interesting that I have a reasonable chance of doing well, chances are you won’t find me doing it at all.
That’s what I call the help of hope. When we anticipate a measure of success at a task we find interesting, we become at once more confident and competent. Apart from such positive anticipation, life becomes a chore, our performance degrades, and our reason for being evaporates. The help of hope is that essential.
Albert Bandura, a pioneer positive psychologist from the last generation specializing in social cognitive theory, refers to the help of hope as self-efficacy. The theory can be summarized in that famous quote attributed to Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” When you have hope, all kinds of things become possible. When you don’t have hope, all kinds of things become impossible.
So what contributes to that kind of hope? Bandura identifies four sources:
- Verbal Encouragement. The more encouragement we receive, the more hopeful we become. If at first we think of something as impossible and without hope, we may change our mind on the basis of verbal encouragement from others. Perhaps our hopelessness is due to a limited understanding of the problem; perhaps we need some new ideas; perhaps we have to define the game differently. Just because it may be impossible to do something one way, does not make it hopeless. It just makes it a conundrum. And with a little encouragement, we can have fun solving the puzzle and discovering a new way forward.
- Vicarious Experiences. Verbal encouragement is one way we can assist others to discover the help of hope; we can make an even more significant contribution when we demonstrate how to play and win the game ourselves. When people see others being successful at a task, they are more likely to think, “Perhaps I could do that too.” That’s how we learned to walk. We saw others walking and, in our fledgling way, we thought to others, “If others can walk, perhaps I can walk.” So we took off to figure out how. Of course we fell over a bunch of times, but that was all part of the fun. It wasn’t a failure, it was a learning experience. As role models, we make huge contributions to the learning patterns of others.
- Emotional Engagement. After receiving encouragement and witnessing success, we may still not feel very optimistic about our ability to do something new. The help of hope may still elude us. That’s because our emotions, and the felt senses of our emotions in our bodies, are overwhelming. The mind may be willing, as they say, but the flesh can be weak. Although it’s not really a matter of weakness. It is rather a matter of emotions. The Limbic system is protecting us from ourselves. And sometimes the Limbic system should be listened to; it has been serving our species well for millions of years. But if we never listened to anything other than our Limbic system, we would never have done anything great. What Limbic system would ever go to the moon, for instance? The key, then, is to listen to our bodies, to learn what they have to teach us, and then to allow hope to work its magic. The help of hope can overcome just about any fear. Focusing is one way to do that.
- Mastery Experiences. Another way to do that is to have some quick wins. Nothing builds confidence and competence more than success. That’s what I mean by defining a winnable game. We don’t have to run a marathon our first time out; in fact, that could be a dangerous proposition. We have to train and get ourselves ready for the big event. So we go for short runs first, building up to 26. 2 miles (42.2 kilometers). The more successful we become at shorter distances, the more hopeful we become regarding our capacity to run longer distances. Instead of a vicious cycle, we find ourselves in a victorious cycle. We find ourselves benefiting from the help of hope.
I see how that plays out in my work as a public speaker as well. As a coach who works with people around matters related to their motivation and movement in life, I occasionally have opportunities to speak to large groups of people. Now public speaking is a nerve wracking experience for many people. I don’t usually experience it that way, however. I usually think of it as a fun opportunity to connect with other people. And I know that comes from my successful efforts in the past. Nothing succeeds like success. Doing something well on a small scale generates confidence and competence for doing something well on a larger scale.
It also generates the help of hope. Although confidence and competence are part of the equation, along with successful perseverant experiences, hope goes beyond such basic ingredients to a larger conviction that everything is going to be alright. That’s what the Irish poet, Derek Mahon, discovered from his experience of creativity and his contemplation of creation:
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The lines flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart;
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
When times are tough, and times are always in some senses tough, we need the help of hope. We need to believe that our efforts can be successful, and we also need to believe that somehow things will work out even if our efforts are not successful. We need to trust the mysterious ways of life’s unfolding. I know that I have learned to hope in this way, and I have witnessed the difference that makes in how life has gone.
I encourage you to adopt that hope for yourself. Start small. Be successful in one thing; fan those flames into many things; then notice how others are doing the same. We are not alone on planet earth. The help of hope is not a private possession. It is a shared reality that makes life better for one and all.
Coaching Inquiries: How strong is your hope? How confident are you that “everything is going to be all right”? How can you bolster that hope? What small thing can you be successful at right now? Who could help you with that? How could you make it so?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Congratulations on completing your book. I think you may enjoy Alchemy of the Heart and The Presence Process by Michael Brown. His website http://www.thepresenceportal.com. Here’s an excerpt from the website:
“The present moment is valid. Entering it consciously is a portal into authenticity, integrity, and intimacy. Present moment awareness is being fully present within each unfolding moment just as it is • without interference • without binding it with the resonance of fear, anger, and grief arising from our un-integrated past”.
“Only when we are present are we vulnerable to receiving, and therefore able to contain, each unfolding encounter as a divinely ordained opportunity to intimately explore the profound possibilities of our humanity. Entering the moment fully requires a behavioral transformation • a shift from unconscious reactivity into deliberate responsibility. This transformation is only authentically accomplished through integrating the underlying imprinted emotional signatures that consistently distract us from being present. No one can accomplish this on our behalf.”
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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