The Size of Your Hope

I had a conversation with one of my entrepreneur friends this past week. Ryan had big plans for a new software release, but needed to put the project on pause to sort out some of the final details. To bridge the time gap, he took an interim CEO role to help turnaround a small company.

Then COVID-19 hit and disrupted everything.

“I’m not quite sure how we’re going to make payroll next month,” Ryan told me, taking inventory of his options.

It’s been a painful several weeks as much of the United States has adjusted to shelter in place orders with no clear end in sight. People are worried about the health of their loved ones and many millions have been impacted financially.

You might have expected Ryan to be despondent on our call. He was anything but. “We’ll figure things out with this company,” he explained. “But honestly, as painful as the pandemic is, it will impact my business in a really positive way. Beforehand, I was behind. Now everyone is on pause while I’m preparing my launch behind the scenes. Once everything returns to normal, I’ll have a running start to deliver just what my customers need.”

John Johnson observed, “It’s the size of your hope that will determine how far you’ll go in life.”

This misery of COVID-19 will eventually end. Things will return to their new normal. In the meantime, all of us have some tough decisions to make, including how to keep our hope healthy and strong, despite challenging circumstances.

When I think about protecting and growing my hope in times like these, here are the categories I consider.

What You Feed Your Mind

Before COVID-19 hit, the average adult spent five hours per day watching television and over two hours on social media. With social distancing, the temptation is to overdose on media that plays on our fears (or at best, our desire for distraction), rather than our hopes.

Zig Ziglar encouraged people to actively think about “the good, the clean, the pure, the powerful and the positive” – regardless of the circumstances. We eventually become what we consume.

Who You Spend Your Time With

One of the downsides of social distancing has been the stark lack of social interaction. But it’s also allowed for intentional interaction via technology as people reach out to friends and loved ones they haven’t spoken to in a while. I’m impressed with how many friends I have are like Ryan – their plans may be disrupted but they’re working on alternatives that in some cases are even more exciting than what they originally had in mind. These are the kind of people we need to encourage and inspire us.

How You Manage Your Time

The pace of normalcy is harried, frantic and stressful, as my friend Garland Vance details in his book Gettin (un)Busy. The extra time generated by shelter in place guidelines has come as a culture shock to most of us. I wonder how many people will be reluctant to move at the same systematically hectic pace after tasting a reprieve.

Hope needs time and space to breathe. When you push yourself to the limit, there’s no space to focus your hope for the future.

How You Manage Your Finances

Finances are a sore subject for many of us right now. Many of us who were prepared for a financial crisis are hurting. Those of us who weren’t prepared are hurting even worse.

In my new book (yes, I had to pause on my new book launch), I share that most hopes and dreams have a financial component. That’s why it’s so important to have a budget, live on less than you make, stay out of debt and have an emergency fund handy. If you’re in a tight spot financially – hang in there! Once the dust settles, make starting a Dave Ramsey plan your top priority.

How You Handle Disruption

I don’t think any of us expected a scenario like COVID-19 to confine us to our homes, but we all have a different response to how we handle disruption. Some see it as an annoyance and others as a crisis. (I’m definitely the planning type with high dislike for major disruptions.) But life rarely goes according to perfect plans.

If you see disruptions as opportunities, rather than setbacks, it’s easier to find new perspectives (and solutions) that can feed your hope in the midst of trying times.

How You Manage Your “Dream Energy”

How much time do you spend dreaming of a brighter future? What’s the upper limit of what you consider to be possible for someone like yourself?

So many of us approach life on auto-pilot. We don’t stop to consider there may be more in store for us or an alternate path with a better, brighter destination.

If you do have big dreams, are they written down somewhere? Do you revisit them? Most importantly, are you taking actions and do those actions have space in your schedule? Hard work is required to make dreams come true, but the pursuit of a dream can create a kind of energy that can overcome all kinds of obstacles, provided we nurture it.

What shape and size is your hope today? Circumstances may confine you to your four walls, but they can’t confine your aspirations. Choose hope – and go the extra mile to keep it healthy and strong.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, facilitator and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting work Nathan is doing with young professionals.