Despair all too readily embraces the ills it foresees; hope is an energy and arouses the mind to explore every possibility to combat them […].*
Instead of starting with your goals and working backwards, you started with no goals at all.**
(Chip and Dan Heath)
Hope is important when it comes to restoring the future, that is, the dreams we or others once had but have given up on.
To hold that something that does not yet exist is possible means that we have a goal, and when we have a goal we can take steps in the now, facing the reality of how things are and to make changes.
Making changes involves doing things differently, being engaged in the unfamiliar, and therefore involving the risk of failing. Failure is undervalued although it leads us into seeing more:
‘Action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action.’**
Here, Chip and Dan Heath are identifying the need to “stretch for insight.” Setting goals and working backwards is a critical way for seeing the change-steps that are individually or collectively necessary. Those changes will take us into unfamiliar territory, where our old competencies and knowledge don’t work so well. Theory U’s Otto Scharmer would suggest that we try some prototyping, producing “version 0.8” ideas designed to help us fail and learn and to try again; Seth Godin would encourage “zooming,” stretching who we are and what we do into the unfamiliar.
This way of seeing and acting is itself a future hope. We’re imagining the possibility of stretching and failing and learning as normal components of lifelong learning and contributing. We can then work backwards to see where our schools, universities, and businesses are working for or against this, we are seeing more and then we can begin to explore different ways.
Albert Camus spoke about how labour and intelligence are a:
‘single nobility, that their truth and, above all, their effectiveness lie in union’
The rule of our action, the secret of our resistance can be easily stated: everything that humiliates labour also humiliates intelligence, and vice versa.’^
I hope for labour that dignifies intelligence and intelligence that dignifies labour – a growth mindset over a fixed one.
(*Thornton Wilder, quoted in Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)
(**From Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments.)
(^From Albert Camus’ Create Dangerously.)