Exploring the grounds for hope

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in Workplace Communication

Executive coach Michael Neill was conducting a seminar a few years ago when a woman stood up, “dripping with disgust,” and pointed at him.

“The problem with you,” she said, “is that you give people hope.”

Neill acknowledges she was right. It had never occurred to him, however, that this was a problem.

It started him wondering where hope had acquired such a bad name. What he found was that critics of religion often accuse those belief systems of giving people “false hope.”

Next, he looked up “hope” and found it defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” and as “grounds for believing that something good may happen.”

From this he concluded that “false hope” doesn’t have so much to do with desire and expectation as with the grounds on which those feelings are based.

Here’s what he derived from that: If he asks us to believe in ourselves because he has “secret” knowledge that if we do certain things, we are guaranteed to succeed, that’s false hope. He has no such knowledge and can’t make that guarantee.

However, if he asks us to believe in ourselves because thousands of people succeeded despite the odds stacked against them, those are legitimate grounds for hope.

Neill’s own definition of hope, abridged:

Hope energizes dreams, fuels possibilities, and lets you live beyond the limits of your historical thinking. It is not a promise. It is an invitation. There is never a good reason not to hope.

— Adapted from Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life, Michael Neill, Hay House.

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