Hope: willpower and waypower in uncertain times

March 31, 2020
March 31, 2020 Admin

Hope: willpower and waypower in uncertain times

As many of you will know, I have an aversion to the common advice: just think positively. At best, it is just plain unhelpful, and at worst, can make a person feel inadequate when they can’t think positively in the face of a difficulty or challenge.

These are extraordinary times. Times that require us draw on all our inner resources to get through. These are times not for simple positivity, but rather, for HOPE.

Firstly, what hope is not: it is not the simple belief that things will all be fine in the end (we are all very aware of the devastating consequences of what the world is going through at the moment). Nor is it doing something on a wing-and-a-prayer ‘hoping’ you will get through a situation and relying on luck to play her part.

Hope is embracing the unknown and uncertain, and then taking action.  

There are 3 elements to hope:

  1. Having clear goals
  2. Thinking of pathways to reach these goals
  3. Being, and staying, motivated to explore these pathways

Psychologist and hope researcher Charles Snyder uses the terms willpower (your motivation to keep trying) and waypower (ability to find new pathways to reach a goal) and says: hope is the sum of the mental willpower and waypower you have for your goals.

In other words, hope links your present to the possibilities in the future. It directs your attention and action toward finding ways to achieve future goals, knowing full well that some pathways won’t work, some will be blocked and some will be cut off unexpectedly. But, and it’s a big but, there are always new opportunities and pathways to discover if you keep looking for them.

Hope is the fuel that helps you to keep pursuing dreams and goals.

One of Snyder’s most interesting findings was that people high in hope enjoyed the process of achieving a goal as much as actually achieving the goals itself. He writes:

Even though high-hope people are goal directed, they enjoy the process of getting there as much as the actual arrival. This is one of the seeming paradoxes I initially had difficulty disentangling when talking with high-hope people. Goals certainly capture the attention of high-hope people, but this largely seems to be true because such goals offer a marker for progress or mastery occurring along the way.

During these uncertain and trying times, all athletes have had pathways towards dreams and goals blocked (and for some completely severed). Now is a time for hope that’s fuels you towards action – drawing on your waypower and willpower – finding ways to love the process as you explore alternative paths towards your dreams. No easy task, but an essential one if we are all to ‘make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep’.


*This article draws on many sources: