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Hope: The Secret Ingredient for Success

Aug 19 2021
By Laura Roe Stevens
6 min read
Woman smiling outside with arm raised in air.

It’s hard to imagine that top athletes and star performers ever have to pretend to believe in themselves.

But many of them report that’s exactly how they find the motivation to keep training and trying.

“Accomplished athletes can inspire us to set and achieve our own wellness goals. We can learn from them by watching their process: how they dream, envision, set a goal, focus, plan, and train. They then make necessary sacrifices and preparations that will lead to the anticipated outcome,” explains Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MDiv, MA, Canyon Ranch Director of Spiritual Wellness.

Clearly, top performers and spiritual leaders have known for decades what psychologists are now confirming: If you can believe it, you’re more likely to achieve it. Multiple studies have shown the impact hope has on a person’s persistence and ability to reach goals.

For instance, in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a team of researchers described hope as “having agency to move toward a goal,” or having “a will.”

Why, then, do some people with equal abilities and backgrounds have more focus and drive to reach for dreams while others give up? Experts say it boils down to the ability to believe in yourself. And belief blossoms from an internal resource of hope in potential and possibilities.

For that reason, it’s not surprising that research published in the Journal of Athletic Training showed the important role hope plays in performance. By tracking levels of hope with the attainment of goals and peak performance — as well as the ability to rebound from setbacks — scientists drew conclusions linking hopeful thinkers with persistence, dedication, perseverance, and drive. 

While most of us are not elite athletes, this process can be applied when setting any intentions — whether related to fitness, our personal lives, or careers. And, luckily, hope is not something that some of us are born with and others are not. It can be supported and fostered. Perhaps just as important, once there is a strong belief in your own abilities, setbacks can be more easily overcome. 

“Hope aids us in believing we can achieve our goals. And hope helps people to rebound from adversity or illness or setbacks,” says Ludwig. 

“We might unexpectedly become injured, or fail at something, or lose our way. Life can defy our expectations. Those who have hope, however, access this inner resource that aids them to seek out possibilities, to keep moving forward, to believe they can heal, that life will get better, that there are more chances. Hope is a component of resilience that allows us to stay the course in the face of setbacks and adversity.”

Ways to Foster Belief in Yourself to Reach Goals

If you find it a challenge to stick to your goals, it may be time for an injection of hope. Try these strategies to support hopeful thinking and get you back on track. 

  • Fake it till you make it. Pretend that you believe in yourself, and eventually you will. “I’ve got this,” may become your most overused declaration until you do.
  • Repeat positive affirmations. Make daily declarations that correlate to your goals: “I am strong.” “I am focused.” “Today I believe in myself.” “I am worthy.”
  • Visualize success. Visual meditations powerfully allow you to see yourself accomplishing a specific dream, and to feel it happening. So go ahead and see your book-signing party, or the marathon completion, and revel in the feelings of pride and accomplishment.
  • Get support. Join a group at the gym, or hire a personal coach, if possible. Surround yourself with positive friends and colleagues who mirror your potential and believe in you.
  • Track success. Write down weekly milestones of success and celebrate them, no matter how small.
  • Plan. To achieve goals, plan ahead – especially for wellness intentions. Find ways to stay on track, whether that includes setting daily times to train and meditate, getting a sitter, or taking more time in the morning to pack healthy snacks and water bottles.
  • Jedi positive thought training. When old negative thought patterns begin, notice them, detach, and turn them around. For instance, when a setback occurs, if you initially think: “This always happens to me! What was I thinking? I’ll never be able to __” pause and detach from the circumstance. Flip the switch of making it personal and about your lack of ability, and spin it into believing in yourself. Replace the negative rant with: “Okay, that happened. I’m capable of handling it. I can find ways to turn this around.” 

(1) Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., Yoshinobu, L., Gibb, J., Langelle, C., & Harney, P. (1991). The will and the ways: development and validation of an individual-differences measure of hope. Journal of personality and social psychology, 60(4), 570–585.

(2) Scioli, A., Ricci, M., Nyugen, T., & Scioli, E. R. (2011). Hope: Its nature and measurement. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 3(2), 78–97.

(3) Lu, F. J., & Hsu, Y. (2013). Injured athletes' rehabilitation beliefs and subjective well-being: the contribution of hope and social support. Journal of athletic training, 48(1), 92–98.

Headshot at Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MA, MDiv at Canyon Ranch Tucson

About the Expert

Headshot at Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MA, MDiv at Canyon Ranch Tucson

Stephanie Ludwig

PhD, MA, MDiv, Director of Spiritual Wellness

Stephanie is dedicated to helping guests transform themselves and their lives through spiritual practice and conscious spiritual development.