Hope, with Lindsay Recknell

February 19, 2020 Kim Forrester Season 5 Episode 5
Hope, with Lindsay Recknell
Show Notes Transcript

Lindsay Recknell is a speaker, facilitator and educator, based in Calgary, Canada. Drawing from her personal experiences as the wife of a recovering alcoholic, Lindsay provides a range of courses, seminars, blogs and podcasts that teach people how to use hope to motivate and propel action. On this episode, Kim Forrester and Lindsay discuss why harnessing hope is vital if we want to live an inspired and fulfilling life. 

Kim Forrester:   0:00
Do you have hope for the future? Are you optimistic and driven by a belief that life will somehow work in your favour? I'm Kim Forrester, and today on the Eudaemonia podcast, it's time to honour the imperishable power of hope.

Intro:   0:18
Welcome to Eudaemonia, the podcast that is all about flourishing. Plug in, relax and get ready for the goodness as we explore the traits and practises that can help you thrive in life ... with your host, Kim Forrester.

Kim Forrester:   0:38
Lindsay Recknell is a speaker, facilitator and educator based in Calgary, Canada. Drawing from her personal experiences as the wife of a recovering alcoholic, Lindsay provides a range of courses, seminars, blogs and podcasts that teach people how to use hope to motivate and propel action. It's my absolute delight to be chatting with Lindsay today to discuss why harnessing hope is vital if we want to live an inspired and fulfilling life. Lindsay Recknell, it's such a delight to have you with us here on the Eudaemonia podcast. How are things with you today?

Lindsay Recknell:   1:14
Things are really good. I'm so excited to be here with you. Thanks for the opportunity.

Kim Forrester:   1:19
Much of your work that you do is actually anchored in Dr Rick Snyder's 'Hope Theory'. Can you explain to my listeners what this theory is all about?

Lindsay Recknell:   1:28
Absolutely. So Dr Snyder created Hope Theory, which is essentially goals, plus agency thinking - which I interpret as your motivation - plus pathways thinking, which is how you're able to overcome the obstacles that are absolutely going to get in the way. Essentially, it's the willpower and the way power towards achieving our goals.

Kim Forrester:   1:50
That sounds active. Hope can come across as a quite a passive concept. But you're talking a lot there about action and activity. Is that an important part of having hope?

Lindsay Recknell:   2:00
For me, it really is. When I learned about the science of hope and Hope Theory, it so resonated with me because, up until this point, I really thought of hope as this nebulous feeling; this internal, bubbly, anticipatory sort of feeling that we all know, we can all describe, we all recognise when we're feeling it. But when I could connect hope to action, it was huge for me. So for me, the definition of hope is the expectation of future positive results based on taking action over the things I can control. So without action, hope is just a wish.

Kim Forrester:   2:43
You actually incorporate a lot of science in the work that you do, as well, around hope. What does research say about hope and its effects on our well-being?

Lindsay Recknell:   2:51
There is a tonne of science to support hope as the biggest predictor of a life well lived. So excited to read, over the last 20 years, there has been more than 2000 studies around hope, and so many scientists are really focusing on this right now. I'm reading a book by Dr Chan Hellman and Casey Gwynn called Hope Rising, and they talk about hope as a psychological strength with three key elements. So first, they talk about how hope can buffer the effects of adversity and stress, and we can use it as a coping tool. Both adults and kids can use it in their tool box to help to overcome adversity and trauma. They also talk about how hopeful people are more likely to have better outcomes in life because of the way they think and behave. So hopeful people are naturally inclined to take more action, to think of alternative solutions, and that makes us more likely to have better outcomes. And the final thing that I think is really important and really super resonated with me is that hope can be learned. We can also borrow our hope from other people. It's very contagious and, through our intention, we can really elevate our own levels of hope.

Kim Forrester:   4:11
So you're saying that we can actually learn to become more hopeful about our lives and about obtaining our goals? 

Lindsay Recknell:   4:19
Yep, absolutely. Hope can absolutely be learned, and we can borrow it from other people if we're not feeling so hopeful today.

Kim Forrester:   4:25
That's great news, Lindsay. Many people understand the concept of faith, whether that's in, you know, in a religious deity or in some form of spirituality, or perhaps just faith that things will work out. How does faith differ from hope?

Lindsay Recknell:   4:39
So I really believe that both faith and hope are very personal experiences for people. When I first started doing this work, that was the number one question that came up when I told people that I was researching this thing called hope, and doing work in the science of hope. People always asked me, 'How does that connect to faith?' And so for me, I believe that faith and hope differ around the action piece. So as I talked about, my definition of hope is about that expectation of a future positive result based on action on the things I can control. But with faith, I believe this is more about releasing control, and understanding your expectation that something happens regardless of the actions I take. That I will have faith in somebody else to achieve that thing -whether that is a faith in somebody else, or a higher power, or just an expectation that something is going to happen down the road. It's more external, and hope is more internal, in my opinion.

Kim Forrester:   5:41
Yeah. As I was asking the question, I realised that - that faith is really putting the power 'out there' into someone or something else. Whereas hope is obviously about empowering yourself and understanding that you have the ability to make positive changes and work towards your goals. Is that how you'd see it?

Lindsay Recknell:   5:58
It is absolutely the definition that's resonated with me - that I have power to use my hope to motivate action. 

Kim Forrester:   6:07
Now you say that hanging around hopeful people can actually increase your own sense of hopefulness. Correct? So hope is contagious.

Lindsay Recknell:   6:14
Yeah, you bet.

Kim Forrester:   6:15
Other than hanging around with very hopeful people, are there other actions that we can take, then, to not just grasp our sense of hope, but actually amplify it and use it productively in our lives?

Lindsay Recknell:   6:28
Yeah. So, I talk about five ways we can increase hope levels in our lives. I really think that, like I mentioned, that hope is very personal. I think the sort of levels of hope that we're born with, so to speak, is a combination of nature and nurture. You know, our adverse childhood experiences and the things that we've gone through in our lives will absolutely affect our hope levels. But I believe that there's a baseline, and that everybody's baseline can be increased. Where that base line is for people is different, but that we can increase our hope levels. And I think we can do it in these five ways. The first is to activate the science of hope, and I suggest to do this by creating a bucket list or, you know, identifying your dreams. There's another hope scientist called Dr Shane Lopez, and he was a mentee of Dr Snyder, Dr Rick Snyder. And he used to do this activity with his son called 'nexting'. And he and his son would have conversations about 'what comes next?' What does the future look like after this next step? And I really think that creating these bucket lists, and dreaming about the things you'd like to be, see, do or have, it really engages the limbic system of the brain, which is helping to create neural pathways to our hopeful future. The second thing that will help to increase hope levels in our lives is, the progress towards our goals. More often, it's the progress that matters more than the actual goal. Progress makes it real. You know, the action implied in the progress gives us that sense of agency - that part of hope theory. And that the feeling after the small achievements is what keeps us feeling hopeful that we'll accomplish the next things that we're setting out to do. I think the third way we can increase hope is to connect 'what we're doing' with 'why we're doing it'. I'm a huge believer in connecting our goals to our internal motivation. You know, making our goals personal and using that intrinsic motivation as fuel to take action over the things we can control, I really think that's going to encourage us towards our goals, even when the easier option is to quit. Fourthly, I think we can teach our brains to look for alternative solutions. Encourage us to use our pathways thinking to overcome the obstacles and barriers that are absolutely going to get in the way. You know, brainstorming with other people, learning about new technologies or theories, or different ways of thinking - those are all ways we can be more creative in our problem solving and move the blockages that are going to get in the way. And lastly, I think the number five way to increase our hope is our most important one. And this is related to modelling behaviour out loud. This is the contagion. If you're feeling particularly hopeful today, model that behaviour out loud. Maybe someone else needs to see it; be inspired by you. So share your hope when you have some extra and borrow hope when you need it.

Kim Forrester:   9:27
So once again, that entire concept of hope, as you see it, is so active. It is us engaging in hope and using it to propel us towards our goals. I love what you said there, in number three, though, about how having a sense of purpose and meaning - having that 'why' - is really important. Do you feel that there is an intrinsic connection between purpose, having purpose, and feeling hopeful about the future?

Lindsay Recknell:   9:54
I really think that it does, because if we want to make our future better than it is today, I feel like connecting to our values and why we want our future to be better than today, is a very hopeful idea. It's about intention. It's about moving in directions that are important to us; that are going to impact ourselves and our friends and our family, our community, our humanity in ways that are important to us. And that's very hopeful for me.

Kim Forrester:   10:26
Really interesting, St Augustine has a quote. 'Hope has two beautiful daughters', he said. 'Their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.' Now, how do you feel about that particular quote? Do you feel, Lindsay, that anger and courage have a part to play in activating hope?

Lindsay Recknell:   10:47
Yes, I think both anger and courage could have a part to play in activating hope. But I don't think anger is necessarily a requirement. I do think the daughter called courage often encourages hope, because to accomplish big goals we often have to take big risks. And that takes courage, right? Courage to act, courage to speak, courage to connect. All of those things require bravery in some form. I think anger can be part of the motivation a person draws on to make a change - the 'why' in hope theory related to agency thinking - but I also believe we make changes toward a better future inspired by other emotions, not related to anger. You know, you can want to change the world from a place of joy or ambition; a desire to feel satisfied or accomplished. I don't think it has to be anger, although it could be, for sure. 

Kim Forrester:   11:40
You also say that telling your story is a really powerful facet of engaging hope. What are some of the ways that we can tell our stories and why does it matter that we do so?

Lindsay Recknell:   11:50
Telling my story has been huge for me. I am not good at talking out loud. I would absolutely much rather keep those things inside. You know, show up as the strong, capable, powerful human who has it all together - which is clearly a big fat lie. So telling my story out loud has been super cathartic for me. Whether it's a one on one conversation with a friend or a colleague, or even a more public forum like this podcast or a conference or networking group, it has been super powerful. For me, it was when I first recognised that I wasn't alone. You know, that sense of community; that social connection with other people who had experienced the same things, or similar, that I have. Talking out loud has also help me learn things I didn't know; questions I didn't even think to ask. It especially taught me about feelings I wasn't sure how to name. You know, sometimes I tell bits of my story to relate to someone else, or if someone else has asked for advice, I'll share part of my story as an example of a different pathway they could take. Sometimes it's more of a testimonial to show someone that, although it's ridiculously hard sometimes, it's not impossible. And it feels so great when it's out. Yeah, talking out loud has been a big relief for me.

Kim Forrester:   13:09
It's really interesting. So often in these interviews is that sense of common humanity that comes up. It's almost like, when we engage with others - when we are vulnerable and courageous enough to share our stories with others - we realise that we're not alone in our struggles; we're not alone in our situations in life. And, as you were saying just earlier on, I imagine sharing your story and realising that you're not alone places you in a position where you can borrow hope from others - is that right? Who have made their way through that situation before.

Lindsay Recknell:   13:42
Absolutely. Because when I hear other people who have come through the things, the journey that I'm at the beginning of, that makes me very hopeful that I can also be that guy someday. You know, it is very contagious and it often is what keeps me going on particularly, you know, dark moments for sure.

Kim Forrester:   14:02
Well, I think that's a really powerful concept then for my listeners to take away. Because, as you say, sharing our struggles and sharing our vulnerabilities is not always easy. However, it seems that if we want to feel more hopeful about the future, it's one of the major steps that we need to take. You also teach, Lindsay, that knowledge is a powerful tool in our hope toolbox. Now, why on earth do you say that?

Lindsay Recknell:   14:25
I'm a huge reader. I always have been. I joke that my biography should probably read, 'She was born. She learned to read. She did things with the stuff she learned, and someday she'll die.' I have always found so much solace and peace in knowledge, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed or indecisive. Learning really helps me get grounded. You know, for me, I have an analytical thinking preference and the more data is better for me. I recognise that not everyone is the same, that needs all of that data. But I really believe that any knowledge is good knowledge. It gives us choice. It's especially important in what we do with that knowledge. You know, as it relates to hope, I think back to what we talked about in Hope Theory - you know, identifying goals. If I'm going to set a goal and I don't know how to get there, knowledge and learning is the only way I'm going to accomplish that goal; that progress towards the goal. I don't know what I don't know, until I've learned the things I need to learn.

Kim Forrester:   15:27
And I guess the point is, the knowledge doesn't necessarily have to be scientific knowledge, which is what you're drawn to. Correct? It can be the knowledge that you gain from sharing your story with others around you.

Lindsay Recknell:   15:38
It is all the kinds of knowledge. It is book learning. It is human interaction. It is learning from other people - especially learning from other people. I think, you know, identifying those mentors that you can learn from. Those people that know way more than I do, those are the ... that's where I'm going to get my knowledge. It's academic papers. It's, you know, pop culture. It's having conversations with people, like you, who ask me questions that are very deep and bring out some self awareness. It's all of those things. It's the well-roundedness of knowledge and getting it from all the different places that is so powerful for me. 

Kim Forrester:   16:20
Well, that seems like another great first step. If any of us are sitting in that space - and we've all been there - where we have a hope, we have a dream for the future, but no concept of how to actually put that into action. Correct? So we're actually missing that component of the Hope Theory. So knowledge truly is power in that regard.  

Lindsay Recknell:   16:41

Kim Forrester:   16:41
Lindsay, on your website you share a lot of your personal story. You're very open and vulnerable about what you have experienced. At one point, you actually remark how you didn't realise that you had lost hope - you didn't realise it had gone from your life - until that moment where it came back. Looking back now, do you feel that there are ways you could have recognised, in the moment, that you had actually lost hope?

Lindsay Recknell:   17:08
Oh, for sure. Hindsight is definitely 20/20. I mean, I have spent the last three years reflecting back and thinking 'Man, if I'd only recognised that I'd lost that hope prior to the time I recognised I got it back.' I mean, how much time did I waste by just going through the motions, and, you know, showing up and just being in that status quo? You know, I wish I had recognised that I was worrying more than usual - that I was really putting in the motions instead of enjoying life the way I typically do. I knew I was having trouble sleeping, but I wish had connected it to something deeper than just the extra coffee I had that day, or the work deadline I had coming up that I was worked up about. You know, I knew I was feeling helpless when it came to knowing what to do to help my husband and our family. But that was a helpless feeling - more externally driven - and I hadn't connected that to hopelessness, which I feel is very personal, very internally driven. I wish I'd recognised it sooner, but I'm at least thankful that I did recognise it. I said earlier that I'm not good at talking out loud. I'm also not great at internal self-reflection. That's a scary place to be in my head. I don't know if anyone else is going to relate to that. You know, the vulnerability and the fear that comes with that deep self awareness. But I am on a journey, and it really was the catalyst for this journey that I'm on.

Kim Forrester:   18:37
Okay, because a lot of those symptoms that you were talking about there, I think we've all felt them at certain times through our lives. But I think we might mislabel them. It might be a sense of despair that we're feeling, or just unmotivated. Or just feeling low in mood. And what you've actually said, there, is that we should check in and see how hopeful we are about life when we're feeling like we don't have energy to get on with our lives or chase our goals.

Lindsay Recknell:   19:05
Yeah, I think that's really important. I think you nailed it - the conscious checking in with ourselves. And the question to ask is, 'Do I expect that my future is going to be better than today?'

Kim Forrester:   19:17

Lindsay Recknell:   19:18
And if it's not, then your hope is missing. I don't think it's ever gone. I absolutely don't think that hope ever leaves us, you know, packs its bags and takes off. It's just hiding. It's down deep. And so, I really think that that's the question to ask. Do I expect my future is going to be better than today? And if it's not, then that's the time to do something about it.

Kim Forrester:   19:43
That's the time to take action. I love that a lot. Tell me, Lindsay, are there occasions, in your view, where hope is unhelpful? Do you see situations were hope will actually prevent us from making healthy choices or accepting reality the way that it is?

Lindsay Recknell:   20:00
So, I believe there is a difference between hope and optimism. And often, I think it's the optimism that prevents us from making healthy choices or accepting reality. I think that hope is actually the part of us that makes accepting reality, better. So, for example, I believe high hope people are also pretty rational and reasonably logical. Like, I talked earlier about the limbic system in our brains. Part of the limbic system is the amygdala, which can be sort of characterised as our guard dog. This is the part of the brain that triggers our reactions to emotions, and spurs us to act when we feel threatened. But it's also the part of our brain that helps us let go of goals that don't matter anymore, or aren't in our best interest. So whether we listen to that guard dog or not is a totally different question. But hopeful people, using their hope to make decisions, are well positioned to expect positive outcomes because of that hope circuit; that limbic system and using our amygdala in that way.

Kim Forrester:   21:08
Okay, so there again, it's all about that taking action and moving forward towards a more positive goal or outcome. Because the reason I asked that question is I feel, Lindsay, that some people may sit in toxic situations. And instead of taking action, they simply use optimism - as you would term it - to just believe that somehow things will change. Do you feel that in those moments is when people really need to connect in and say, 'What changes can I make in my life that can actually take that optimism and turn it into hope?'

Lindsay Recknell:   21:43
Yes, I think again, back to that action word. Optimism can often ... I feel like ... can be kind of that blind faith; that holding on to that 'It's going to be awesome. It's going to be perfect. It's going to work out' without actually taking any agency or having any control over the things we can control. My mental health counsellor talks to me about - I will make a change when the tolerable becomes intolerable. And that's one of the things that I connect to most in my own hope, is recognising if I'm in a tolerable situation and there are things that I know I can do - and maybe I'm not actioning them yet - that's okay. That there is forgiveness in also taking no action, because you're not ready; it's not the right time; it's not the right space. It's not intolerable yet. That sort of permission to take no action is also an action. That's also hope - that you are going to make the future better than today, when you're ready to do that thing. And you know, sometimes taking no action is the action in itself.

Kim Forrester:   22:59
Yeah. I think the important thing there is, though, it is a conscious decision. Correct? You've checked in. You're self-aware. You are aware of it may be tolerable in your environment; however, you know that at some point it may become intolerable. And you're making a conscious decision to not engage hope and take action. I think that's really, really powerful. A few weeks ago, Lindsay, I was talking to one of my guests about positivity, and how the media actually compels a sense of learned helplessness in us because they, you know, they have this negativity bias. And I was wondering if our modern media diet also, in your view, instils a sense of learned hopelessness in us?

Lindsay Recknell:   23:41
I really liked this question a lot because I have learned about learned helplessness through my work in hope, because Dr Martin Seligman is the gentleman that founded positive psychology, and hope is a sub-science ofpositive psychology. He started his work in learned helplessness, back in the sixties. If we go back to what we were talking about, helplessness being external and hopelessness being internal, then I think the media does contribute to that feeling of hopelessness by suggesting we are helpless to make a large impact on society. I think it's about our way power and our willpower, again. If we don't feel like we have a way to change things in the world, for example, we will feel lower levels of hope. Or if we feel like we've lost our willpower to take action, that's also going to lower our hope. We talk about hope as being contagious, so when we're inundated with messages that say that we can't affect change or that problems are too big for us to solve, we learn that the only possible solution must be hopelessness.

Kim Forrester:   24:52
Yes, I see what you're saying there. Certainly I think there's a lot of the news headlines sort of convey the message that we have no sense of agency; that there is nothing we can do. Which, of course, is going to take away that sense of hope within us. Let's expand on this whole sense of society then. Do you feel that the principles you teach on a personal level regarding hope can also be applied on a humanity level; on the societal level? Are there ways that we can motivate hope for humanity and for the planet?

Lindsay Recknell:   25:25
Absolutely. I absolutely could not believe this more. Hope is so personal but when we apply Hope Theory in our workplace, at our schools, in our communities, we're lifting up our individuals, which can't help but lift up our society and our planet. Teaching people how to set and progress towards their goals, connect to the values that are important to them, helping them keep moving forward towards those goals - even when it seems impossible - and then teaching how to be more creative and employ every possible option to solve their problems, that's the exactly the equation we need as humans to change the world. 

Kim Forrester:   26:06
And one of those things ... I was going to ask you how we can inspire hope in others, but I think you answered that question very early on. One of the things that we can do to inspire hope for humanity and inspire hope in others is to simply, go out there and express our hopefulness. Would you agree with that?

Lindsay Recknell:   26:25
You bet. Model that behaviour out loud. You know, if you are feeling hopeful, tell the world you're feeling hopeful. Do the things that make you more hopeful; that bring you joy. Other people are going to see that. You know, like I say, we don't know what is going to impact other people. We don't know what they need from us. And so, if we can model our behaviour out loud, people are going to see that, they're going to be inspired by that. They're going to be motivated and want to accomplish their own dreams because they can see that it's possible.

Kim Forrester:   27:02
Okay, flip side of the same coin. What is the healthiest thing for us to do when we're feeling really helpless and hopeless? We're feeling a bit low about the future, or about life, and someone comes into our space and they are filled with hope. Are there behaviours that we really need to make sure that we are not exhibiting, in that moment, so that we catch their hope, rather than chip it away from them.

Lindsay Recknell:   27:25
I think it comes back to that consciousness again. Like we talked about being aware of how we're feeling and the impact it's having on us internally. But then also the impact it's having on those around us. We shouldn't feel like we have to show up in a particular way, or impact other people in a particular way, if we aren't feeling awesome. There is something to be said for feeling what we're feeling, and recognising it and then moving through it. But, if we notice that someone in our space has hope to spare and we want to grab onto it, it's that consciousness again. That recognition of what they're doing and 'Can we do that, too?' Even if it's just something small. Like, if someone is volunteering in their community; they have connected their goal of reducing poverty to their action of volunteering at the food bank. If we're inspired by that but we have a hard time getting out the door, right now, because of how we're feeling - the hopelessness maybe that we're feeling today - maybe a small action that we can take is to, I don't know, start a Go Fund Me campaign or something like that, right? We're modelling our behaviour in the scope and scale that we're capable of doing, at the time we can do it. I really think it's about any action, no matter how small or how big. It doesn't have to be this momentous, huge, monstrous, overwhelming thing. We can start small, and those small steps build confidence; builds that foundation that we can continue to build on. 

Kim Forrester:   29:03
That's awesome. And just moving on from that question about what we can do personally, my final question is one that I ask every guest on the Eudaemonia podcast. Lindsay, can you offer a simple daily exercise - now this could be a practise, a mantra, perhaps a ritual - that can help my listeners feel more hopeful in their day to day lives?

Lindsay Recknell:   29:26
I think it's one question that we can ask ourselves every day. And that question is, 'What action or step am I going to take today to make my future better than it is today?' And it's open scale. What's important to me on a daily basis can fluctuate, so that action or step that I'm going to take could be big or small, or somewhere in between. But again, it's that action that we're going to take to move us towards our hopeful future, right? Maybe it's deciding to reach out and request an information interview with a model or mentor we've been admiring from afar. Maybe it's something as simple as, get up and have a shower and put on fresh clothes, moving us towards that bigger intention of getting outside if we've been suffering from a particular bad bout of depression. Whatever it is, we get to choose. You just need to make that choice to do something. Our hope, the expectation of future positive result based on taking action over the things we can control, is totally within our control. We just need to choose to take the action.

Kim Forrester:   30:32
Lindsay, this has been such a fascinating conversation. You've really taken that whole concept of the passivity of hope, and you've made me realise that hope really is something that resides within us that we need to choose to activate on a daily basis. I'm really grateful to you for sharing your knowledge with us. If people want to learn more about you, and the work that you do around hope, and activating hope, where can they find you?

Lindsay Recknell:   30:55
I think the best place to get to know me and the work that I do is on my podcast. It is called Hope Motivates Action. You can find it on Google, Spotify, Apple podcasts and my website. I have a website, it's called and you can find out all about my programmes. I specialise in increasing hope levels in the workplace. And then I speak on using hope to motivate action, as well as listening for better health, and other workplace mental health initiatives.

Kim Forrester:   31:32
Well, I encourage anyone who would like to activate a little bit more hope in their life to go along and visit your website and have a listen to your podcast. Lindsay Recknell, thank you so much for choosing to be a part of the Eudaemonia podcast. It's been an honour to chat with you today.

Lindsay Recknell:   31:46
It has been so wonderful. I so appreciate you reaching out, and for this conversation.

Kim Forrester:   31:52
The 19th century poet, Emily Dickinson wrote, 'Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all.' You have been listening to the Eudaemonia podcast. If you'd like to learn more about how to live a truly flourishing life, please subscribe and check out for more inspiring episodes. I'm Kim Forrester. Until next time, be well, be kind to yourself and allow hope to fuel your actions.