Shane Lopez planned to fly into the Twin Cities in mid-April on an ordinary academic mission. He would share his extensive research with faculty and students at the University of Minnesota, something the Gallup senior scientist has done countless times.
But when you are a world expert on “the science of hope,” and you are speaking the day after the Boston bombings, you’re likely to have to adjust your script a bit.
So Lopez did.
“We’ve just had a series of events that have put us on unsure footing,” said Lopez, who spoke to 250 jittery U students and faculty April 16. Many didn’t want to talk about hope. They wanted to talk about fear.
“A lot of us have lost our bearings,” he said. “We’re not sure where true north is anymore. A week like [Boston] is psychologically exhausting.”
It’s been a psychologically exhausting month, not just with Boston, but with the crushing rejection of a thoughtful gun bill, and a second suspect arrested in India for the rape of a 5-year-old.
Hope in humanity? Can you check back later?
While it would be tempting to respond with fear, or anger, Lopez hopes we won’t. The University of Kansas business professor and author of the new book, “Making Hope Happen,” says that hope is far more than a feel-good sentiment.
Having hope, maintaining hope, and inspiring others to hope, he has discovered over years of measuring it, leads to greater personal success in school, work and life, but also to better lives for those around us.
A hopeful teacher, for example, believes that students can have a better future and gives them what they need to make it so. Many of us can picture that very teacher in our own lives.
And it is students whom Lopez worries about most. Our young people, he said, won’t lose hope because of tragic news events. They’ll lose hope if the adults in their life do.
Primed to be hopeful
He shares one survey in which fully 95 percent of fifth- through 12th-graders said that it was likely they will have a better life than their parents. But in a separate Gallup poll, half of U.S. adults aged 18 and older said they doubted the kids’ contention.
Clearly, children are primed to be hopeful, Lopez said. Then, we squeeze it out of them.
“My biggest concern is how our approach is affecting our children,” Lopez said. “What are they learning through our modeling about how to approach the future? They still are gung-ho about the future, but what I struggle with is, how can we best help them make amazing things happen in their lives?”
Find something that matters
Lopez suggests that we up our hope ante by, first, attaching ourselves to something we’re jazzed about in our work or personal lives.
“You’re not going to feel hopeful until you’re chasing after something that really matters to you,” he said.