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MCLEOD: How hope can help you solve problems

How do you solve big problems?

You start with hope.

Perhaps you've heard the expression, "hope is not a strategy." I beg to differ. Hope is an excellent strategy. It's the first step to solving any problem.

Consider what happens when you have no hope.

Imagine you're facing a difficult situation. If you don't have any hope, you won't have any energy. With no energy, you don't come up with any ideas. Without any ideas you can't take any action. So you remain stuck.

I call it the Circle of Hopelessness because it's an endless loop. No hope. No energy. No ideas. No action. No success. Which circles you right back to hopelessness.

Now consider what happens when you start with hope.

Hope gives you energy, which helps you generate ideas, which enables you to take action, which results in some success, which gives you more hope, which gives you even more energy.

That single decision -- choosing hope -- puts you on an entirely different trajectory.

The important thing to note here is, you don't need to know how to solve the problem; you just need to be hopeful that you can.

You don't need a concrete plan to be hopeful. Hope gives you the energy to generate the ideas that will eventually create the plan. Rather than being on an endless hopeless loop, you're you're moving up a ladder one rung at a time.

Webster's defines hope as: To desire with the expectation of fulfillment. To expect with confidence.

Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King didn't start out with fully baked plans. They started with hope.

Here's how I taught my Elementary Sunday School Class about Tubman and King's Ladder's of Hope:

-- Harriet Tubman -- Born a slave in 1820

Hope

Energy -- Visions and dreams about a different life

Ideas -- Underground Railroad

Action -- 19 trips south

Success -- Saved over 300 slaves

-- Martin Luther King -- Born in 1929 into segregation

Hope

Energy -- Studied non-violent change

Ideas -- I have a dream

Action -- Bus boycott, march on Washington

Success -- Ended segregation

An initial spark of hope propelled Harriet and Martin to dream bigger dreams, and eventually create bigger plans than they ever could have envisioned at the outset.

Here's the other secret about hope -- hope attracts help. Hopelessness just attracts more of the same.

Many people find it hard to be hopeful when they can't see a clear path out of a problem. But the important lesson here is that you don't need a plan to be hopeful. Hope is the first step. The plan may not come for a while, but hope gives you the energy to create it.

Here's how you can use the Ladder of Hope next time you're facing your own problem.Hope -- Tell yourself you can change this. Don't worry about how to do it yet.

Energy -- Envision yourself being successful. Contemplate. Ask the Universe or God for help.

Ideas -- Examine the problem from other perspectives. Come up with lots of ideas, big and small.

Action -- Do one small easy thing first. Ask others for help.

Success -- Remind yourself and others that you did it! If you did one thing, you can do more.

Hope -- it's a good thing.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the author "The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small."