3 Principles of Hope That Enable Transitions

By Dave Ulrich | January 30, 2019

"If I could implant one trait in my family, friends, and colleagues who are undergoing continual transition, it would be hope."

As a calendar year ends and begins, it is an opportunity for transition. Transitions allow for reflection and renewal, for letting go and beginning anew, and for learning from the past and creating the future.

Instead of laying out trends for the next year, I would like to comment on a fundamental enabler of any transition: hope. Leaders who want to improve, HR professionals who aspire to deliver more value, and employees who seek well being all achieve their transitions by realizing hope.

Hope integrates many of the positive traits that shape transitions for others and matter to me personally: learning, patience, service, faith, humility, optimism, gratitude, and so forth. I send hundreds of formal and informal e-mails every month to invite people to programs, to thank people for attending programs, to check in on those I mentor, and to stay connected to those I care about. I begin almost every one of these notes with “Hope you are well.” Hope is one of my personal desires, tag lines, and biases and an enabler of any transition.

If I could implant one trait in my family, friends, and colleagues who are undergoing continual transition, it would be hope.

Examples of hope

Martin Luther King was a social guide for me when I was fourteen to sixteen years old. At that time, I lived with sixteen- to nineteen-year-old minorities on the Job Corps (a social program in the 1960’s to help minorities progress) camp in a small town. The townspeople did not much like the influx of these minorities into their city. I was painted with the same brush as these Job Corps members. As I felt and experienced the shackles of prejudice around me, I so appreciated Dr. King’s words and example: “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” For decades, his picture has been the only non-family picture in my office to remind me of the hope he promised to so many.

As a young adult, I read and was moved by the book The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo, which taught me that excellence comes from paying the price for it and that real excellence comes from a lifetime of sustained effort. Michelangelo shaped the world for centuries because of his persistence both to daily improving and to lifetime dedication. His continued impact is captured in his statement, “I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.”

My commitment to serving others comes from watching parents who lived each day a little better than the day before, saw what is right in others more than what is wrong, and cared for those in need. This service mantra has been reinforced by my firsthand experience in seeing the shift from apartheid in South Africa; I have spent time there and have seen enormous progress. From Desmond Tutu, I learn that “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

Other thought leaders whose work I admire have fulfilled their stewardships on principles of hope:

Hope establishes ability to be realistic without resignation, regret, or remorse. With hope, I can accept the past and create the future, focus more on what is right than what is wrong, and have confidence with humility.

What are the principles of hope?

When I think about how hope enables transition, I recommend three principles:

Principle 1: Hope focuses on the future.

Hope focuses forward not backward. The things we hope for are often future events. It is too easy to become mired in the present and lose sight of our potential and the possibilities of our future. With hope, my past does not limit my future. With hope, I can envision nearly limitless opportunities. I hope we can envision that the best is yet to come, that 2019 will create more opportunities about what can be. Business leaders and HR professionals can imagine opportunities more than limitations.

Principle 2: Hope brings happiness.

Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all that we do. Hope allows me to seek and find meaning in various activities. I can capture meaningful outcomes from the work I do. I am not merely producing workshops, books, or articles; I hope that I can craft ideas that will have meaningful impact on the lives of those who access those ideas. My hope helps me see my work as more than activity-based; it is purpose-driven. Hope infuses transitions with purpose and helps us create a more meaningful life. Leaders and HR professionals can become meaning makers for those they serve.

Principle 3: Hope sustains daily living.

The things we have hope in sustain us during our daily activities. They uphold us through trials, temptations, and sorrow. Everyone experiences discouragement and difficulty. Hope sustains us through despair. With hope, I know that even though I will never be perfect, I can still be improving. I don’t have to obsess about what goes wrong, but I can celebrate what goes right. And when things go wrong or I make mistakes, hope allows me to learn from it. With hope, I can grow, improve, and have a positive outlook even about difficult challenges. Leaders and HR professionals can gain a perspective on how daily challenges allows for longer term growth.

So, as we transition to a new year, instead of identifying trends, I would like to encourage hope. With hope, we can create our future, find happiness, and sustain daily living. So whatever 2019 brings, I would hope for hope.

“Hope you are well” is more than a conversation starter—it is a positive outlook on life.

Dave has published over 30 books on leadership, organization, and human resources. These ideas have shaped how people and organizations deliver value to customers, investors, and communities. He has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200 and worked in over 80 countries.  He has received numerous public recognitions and lifetime awards for his work. 

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