Last week I attended a community forum that looked at the political arena and the impact social media and “fake news” is having on the well-being of citizens and their confidence in those leaders whom they have elected. The topic went beyond just the local level and expanded to what was happening at the national and international levels. The conversation began with the theme: What keeps you up at night? We debated the trends or patterns of behaviour and outcomes we have experienced over the past year AND the lack of confidence we have in our elected officials to solve big problems. The dialogue was robust and very engaging.
Although we spent a lot of time focussing on what’s not working, we also started exploring different ways of coming together to find solutions. After I got home, I began to wonder if this was the only way of looking at where we are going and, as such, I am posing a different question: What keeps you hopeful? This question requires us to believe that all of us are change makers and that the future is still full of possibilities. It requires a belief that the path we are on is not fixed nor the outcomes inevitable, and that we have the ability to make choices that influence outcomes.
In my opinion, when we are anxious or experiencing hopelessness, we tend to be reactive in our thought processes—the blame game. We are quick to judge, internalize feelings, isolate ourselves from those less like us, and we go to extremes to protect what we are comfortable with. Sometimes in our anxiousness we cannot see or imagine a new and better future and sadly, in our despair, we tend to display our ugliest fears.
When we come from a place of hope, and focus on the universal objectives that are shared by many, we can create a collective mindset that is more likely to bring people together to seek out solutions, is more open to discourse to find common ground, and, finally, inspires agency so we can change the direction we are going. In this frame of mind, people come together for a purpose and draw from diverse perspectives, utilizing historical reference points of “lessons learned” to guide us all forward.
At St. Margaret’s, we practice hope regularly. We challenge our girls to learn through their mistakes, to keep trying even when things go wrong. We encourage them to seek first to understand while assuming positive intent before judging others. We ask our girls to set goals and to imagine opportunities to achieve those goals. We encourage them to draw from the expertise or experiences of others exercising agency and pathway thinking—the desire and ability to change using both head and heart. Finally, we advocate coming from a place of positivity, recognizing the importance of seeking out others who bring joy and fun to our lives. By promoting these ideas, we are able to broaden our girls’ mindsets such that creative and novel responses are more likely and our girls will build their resiliency in preparation for the future.
So… let’s give our girls permission to hope and to believe that the best values are possible: integrity, empathy, care, and love. I know that the more we exercise hope today, the better equipped we will be to survive and thrive in challenging times—to be energized to search out the good rather than be overwhelmed by the bad.
Life is unpredictable,
It changes with the seasons,
Even your coldest winter,
Happens for better reasons,
And though it feels eternal,
Like all you’ll ever do is freeze,
I promise spring is coming,
And with it, brand new leaves.
“Hope provides us with the motivation to persevere, It calls us to dream dreams of significance and influence, it begs us to work diligently with optimism and promise.”