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This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register for 2018 at

On a typical day, what do you hope for?

Take today, for example.  When you woke up, what did you hope would happen? We typically don't think about the day when asked this question; we tend to focus on a situation. For example, "I sent her a text and I hope she'll call me back today." Hope can be thought of as something passive. As a result, if she doesn't text back this can result in negative emotions.

Researchers like Charles Richard Snyder studied how hope can have a positive impact on our overall health and happiness. Mr. Snyder suggested that hope can evolve when we have a plan in mind, are committed, and execute the plan to achieve a goal. He and his colleagues defined hope as "a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)." This suggests that hope doesn't need to be passive; it's better to be active in creating hope.

The purpose of this micro skill is to introduce the acronym HOPE (healthy, optimistic, positive, experience). This acronym can support our daily decision-making that promotes well-being.

We don't have to look at hope as being passive; we can turn it into action. We only need to take a moment to think about each situation and decision through the HOPE acronym. This can increase the likelihood that the choices we make are in our best interests over the short- and long-term.

I once heard Anderson Cooper say, "Hope is not a plan." What we do each day impacts and ultimately defines the level of hope we have.


Hope is a fuel that supports our day-to-day resiliency when we're faced with a setback. The degree of hope we have can influence our decisions. Whether we're faced with a small, medium or major setback, the degree of hope plays a role for seeing a path to get through it. Life happens, and we're often challenged to adapt and adjust to unplanned events. Add HOPE to your daily decision-making to ensure that you're making decisions at a cognitive versus emotional level.


The HOPE acronym can be especially helpful for unplanned events that drain our resiliency. HOPE evaluates whether our decisions have the potential to be good for our well-being. Each one of us is accountable for our own daily decisions that collectively determine our own overall happiness. We can have a positive impact on our hope by taking charge of what we think about and what we do.


To help protect ourselves from emotional decision-making we need only follow a two- or three-step action plan, depending on whether we can do it alone or if we could benefit from support:

  • Micro hope evaluation – Using a scale of 1 (not sure), 3 (sure), 5 (very sure), think about the choice you have and run it through the following four-item HOPE scale:
    1. Healthy – how confident are you that this is a healthy decision?
    2. Optimistic – how optimistic are you that this is your best possible decision?
    3. Promising – how sure are you that this decision will help your overall well-being?
    4. Experience – how likely would you want this to become a daily habit for you?
  • Conscious hope decision – For any choice that gets a score lower than 12 you should look for alternatives. The goal of HOPE is to guide you to make decisions that are positive for your well-being and to avoid making emotionally-driven decisions.
  • Stuck – If you’re stuck and not able to come up with a decision that’s above a score of 12, this can be a sign that you’re not hopeful or your resiliency is being challenged. This is an excellent time to give yourself permission to pause and consider the right kind of support that can help you make a healthy decision. Awareness is the first sign for determining things are not as we like. We don’t need to settle; we can often learn how to find more hope by engaging in conversations with people who have hope in our potential, such as a trusted peer, family member, coach or mental health professional.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto and creator of an online Pathway to Coping course offered through the University of New Brunswick.

Register today for the 2018 Employee Recommended Workplace Award at

Read more columns like this, and read about the winners and finalists of the 2017 Employee Recommended Workplace Award at

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