Whilst studying for my Positive Psychology degree I came across hope theory by C.R.Snyder. Hope theory basically consists of 3 components, a goal, a pathway, and agency. It is something I instantly recognised as I realised, I’d live by this theory for most of my life. I had goals for everything, business goals, financial goals, health and fitness goals, relationship goals etc. Every time I put my hand to something I would set up a goal. The idea is quite simple, I achieve these goals and I would be deliriously happy. However, it never quite turned out that way because I discovered hope theory has some major flaws.
In 2004 I was offered the chance to run my own business and it went really well. By year 4 I had ambitious plans to expand, everything felt right, I was building a team that had plenty of happy customers, and so I drew up a series of goals for the business and what I was going to do with the money I was going to make. What could possibly go wrong? I don’t think anyone saw the bank crash coming. Overnight my company went from big profit to big loss, we had to re-evaluate everything and the goals I had set up were quickly set aside. A few years later my marriage broke down and with it all my personal goals.
Ten years later my life had turned around, my business and personal life was going well, I had a whole lot of new goals and defined pathways to reach them. This time there would be nothing to hold me back, I’d put in place contingencies for another bank crash, I had a degree under my belt and was ready for new opportunities. Who would have thought that the whole world would come to a standstill because of a virus? I never saw that coming. It was like every one of the pathways to my goals had “road closed” barriers put in front of them. We were now in a very uncertain time with no idea how the world would be going forward. It was a very anxious time for me, I even went into denial and convinced myself it was all just a hoax, everything I was working towards was now up in the air.
But it’s not always been bad news.
The joy of reaching a goal
I have over the years accomplished many things and hit quite a large number of my goals. Hitting a goal has always brought some joy and a sense of achievement. However, there are two things I began to realise, first it somehow never quite felt as I imagined it. Yes, I was pleased with myself, but I often thought I would be more pleased than I actually was. The second was that there was a feeling of emptiness, the goal had been reached so what do I do now? I have heard about this from a lot of pop starts and sports stars who have achieved great things and reached the top of their profession. They have nothing else to achieve so they end up depressed and, in some case, turn to drink or drugs. I never quite got to that stage, but I was missing something when the goal was achieved, I no longer had hope.
Time to smell the roses
As the pandemic went on, things in my life started to change. Once I had come to terms with having to spend time alone, I began to get involved in activities I hadn’t been involved with before. I took a keen interest in my garden, starting growing plants form seed, learnt to cook, volunteered for a charity, and supported local businesses where I could. These were not goals as such, I had no pathway, although I did have agency, but they were very enjoyable. I loved watching my garden grow, my cooking was delicious with lots of new flavours, I made some people very happy with my charity work, and made friends with some local shopkeepers.
I discovered that by following hope theory I had missed so much. I live in a beautiful part of the world and yet a lot of my goals were based around visiting other places. The volunteering was based around dog walking, and in walking dogs, I started to discover just how beautiful my hometown is. I walked up local hills, walked to the local beach, found places in the town that I never knew existed.
Whilst doing these activities I often got into a state of flow, where I was enjoying the moment so much, I lost all track of time. I also found myself getting to know my neighbours better and had many a good chat over the garden fence. I also met people when out dog walking and even saw people I knew but had not seen for a while and enjoyed our socially distanced chats.
There is only Now
According to Eckhart Tolle there is only now, the past has gone, and future is yet to be written. Whilst I’d read the book, I don’t think I ever practised it until the future became so uncertain. What I found myself doing was living in the “Now”. Each day I would get up and look forward to doing just the simplest things and a year or so after the start of the lockdown I discovered something, I felt happier and more content. I appreciated my friends, my home, my garden and local area more, and noticed things around me.
Coming out of lockdown
So, what happens when everything opens up again, I can set new goals and the pathways will be there, but will the agency be there? I have been forced to slow down and appreciate what I have and found new skills I never knew I had. I am looking forward to being able to spend more time with my friends and family and being able to hug them again, and I have a feeling I will appreciate them more and be happy to spend quality time with them.
I have read so much about how good it feels to live in the moment, but it is probably something I would never had done until I was forced to do so. My life has taken on a whole new meaning.
Read more about Steve Emery and his other articles HERE