Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hope and Goals

I realize this blog is starting to become (or has already become) a miscellaneous mess of road trips, parties, crafts, recipes, and poetry.  On one hand I feel like a sense of focus would be nice. On the other hand, it's a pretty accurate reflection of my lifestyle.  I seem to dabble in a little bit of everything.  I love learning, and probably would have stayed in college forever if I could afford it.  

That being said, one of the things I like about my "day job" is that I am in an academic environment, and work alongside a lot of really great, really brilliant people.  Today I went to an interesting lecture in which one of the primary topics was hope.  You don't hear scientific research talks on that topic every day. So in addition to the categories above, you now get to hear me vaguely discuss scientific research.  I don't know that I can accurately sum up the whole lecture, but here are some of the takeaways that I'm currently churning in my brain:

- Hope is experienced when there is expectation that a desired goal can be achieved. (informal definition) 
- There can be two components: pathway & agency. The pathway would be: are there ways to reach this goal/what are those ways?  The agency would be: is it possible for me to do that?
- Personal outlook can be broken down into positive affect and negative affect.  Positive affect can be good, obviously (good attitude), but the statistics also showed that those with positive affect become risk adverse (ex. why rock the boat when things are going well?).  Negative affect can actually be kind of good.  Often times negative feelings drive change and critical thinking (ex. I'm currently unhappy with X, so I will take action to change this situation).  Really they are both needed to accomplish goals, so both can be "good" in a way.  
- Understanding/discovering potential pathways and feeling like you have a sense of agency to succeed contributes to the feeling of hope.  Both negative and positive affect are usually required to discover those pathways and to feel empowered that one can reach a goal.  
- When asking the question, "what is your goal" sometimes your first answer, the primary goal, is literally not possible. Which can really knock hope.  However, when pushing further and asking "what is another goal" and "what is another goal," those are possible.  And when those become the new goal(s) (in the lecture termed: re-goaling) one can have a renewed sense of hope because that goal can be achieved.  

Interesting stuff. (I will note that most of the study related to palliative care, for those of you who might be questioning the "not everything is possible" point...)

I think a lot about my own personal goals, what they mean to me, and whether they are moving me in the right direction.  As my priorities shift, often so do my goals. As anyone who has ever had a goal knows, when you have a goal that you can't reach, it can lead to frustration and loss of hope.  Admittedly some of my major goals in life are a bit expansive (and yet incredibly specific- no surprise to anyone who knows me...). But then I marvel when things fall perfectly into place, and I take a huge step closer to my goal.  It renews my sense of hope that with a bit of critical thinking and innovation, a little adversity for motivation, resilience, hard work, and empowerment, I can accomplish the things I want in life.  

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