When you want to change, you have two choices: think your way into acting or act your way into thinking. Let’s look here at the first choice, changing your patterns of thinking. (Thinking includes the ways your brain processes sensory inputs, how it organizes itself, and the processes by which you remain self-aware).

To strengthen hopeful thinking, you might consider any of these possibilities:

  • Be honest about your basic temperament. With all your layers peeled back, who are you, really?
  • Revisit situations in which you could have chosen hope but didn’t. Recall the first set of thoughts that came to mind.
  • Recollect your thinking at especially hopeful moments in your life. What were you thinking, and why?
  • At the end of each day, give yourself a score on a “hope index” you invent.

After a week, analyze the scores for patterns that you want to strengthen or change:

  • Ask people who know you what they see in your eyes in a variety of circumstances. (The concept: your eyes are the light of your soul.)
  • Imagine yourself as predominantly hopeful.
  • If your basic spirit tends towards discouragement or frustration, ask yourself what it would take—what circumstances, influences, miracles, or experiences—for you to forsake those ways of thinking, perhaps only one step or thought at a time.
  • Ask someone who loves you to remind you to resolve to keep hope as your ideal choice for approaching life.

All of these changes in thinking presume an affirmative answer to this question: “How willing are you to change your thought patterns toward basic hopefulness?” With such an answer, you will have already begun to increase hopefulness.

Another way to become more hopeful is to change the way you act, knowing that your attitudes will likely follow. To increase your ability to change behaviors, try any of the following:

  • Imitate people whose hopeful behaviors you admire. (You learn much of what you do or think from others’ actions.)
  • Notice the people who are mimicking your behaviors! (What good example of hopefulness do they see in you?)
  • Pick one of the places where you spend significant time. Write down which of your actions in that situation might be changed to become more hopeful.
  • Listen to the words you use, or reread what you write. Talk with a friend about words that get in the way of hopefulness, and words that act like sparks of hope.
  • Give names to your hope-actions. (For example, Changing Gossip into Appreciation or Seeing the Big Picture.) Use the names frequently in your conversations.
  • For at least one day, act as if your problems were actually opportunities. A good way to start: In difficult situations, ask yourself, “What’s useful here?”
  • During your end-of-day prayer time, review significant decisions you’ve made that day. Give each one a “hope
    index” score. Look for patterns you can change or strengthen, or change the content of your prayers.
  • Recount your assets—the gifts from God that are useful. How could you put those assets together so that you could accomplish one hopeful deed?
  • Make and keep one promise to yourself, regardless of its size or importance. Tomorrow add and keep another promise. (Part of being hopeful is keeping promises.)

Your hopeful actions can create hopeful thoughts, starting you on your way to even more changes.


Comments welcome on the   Alban Roundtable blog     


Adapted from It’s Not Too Late: A Field Guide to Hope by Bob Sitze, copyright © 2010 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.   



AL397_SM It’s Not Too Late: A Field Guide to Hope   
by Bob Sitze 

A “field guide” is a small, pocketable book that accompanies you on an adventure or journey. It’s Not Too Late is a field guide to hope—sized so that you can carry it along with you on your daily journey of faith. The entries in this book will help you find hope, whether it’s right in front of you or it remains elusive despite your searchings.  

AL344_SM Starting Simple: Conversations About the Way We Live  
by Bob Sitze

In today’s complex and busy world, people yearn for simpler lives. Bob Sitze believes conversations change us as individuals and that most important social changes take place through conversation, so in Starting Simple he invites us into heart-to-heart conversations about simple living. 

AL245_SM Not Trying Too Hard: New Basics for Sustainable Congregations    
by Bob Sitze

In Not Trying Too Hard, Bob Sitze offers a vision releasing congregational leaders from the growing burden of trying harder to invent and implement “better” worship, evangelism, stewardship, small groups, long-range planning, mission statements, and the like. Sitze advocates a “small-step approach” to change and provides the necessary tools to engage what is possible without trying too hard. He points readers toward the congregation of the future and assures them that they have the capacity to reimagine their own congregations.   

AL289_SM Your Brain Goes to Church: Neuroscience and Congregational Life  
by Bob Sitze

Emerging discoveries in brain science are sparking new areas of research as cutting-edge educators and psychologists are asking, “What can we learn from brain science about how we function in the world?” Bob Sitze joins the conversation with a new question: What does the human brain have to do with the beliefs, practices, and structures of congregations? Weaving together clear, accessible explanations about the workings of the human brain, Sitze shows how a congregation’s identity and behaviors are shaped by the work of individual members’ brains as well as by the “collected brains” of the congregation.


Dan literally “wrote the book” on effective board leadership. This is your chance to find out what it could mean for your congregation.    

Hotchkiss, Dan_Winter 2010 Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership
September 20-22, 2011,
Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, West Hartford, CT
Presenter: Dan Hotchkiss, senior consultant and author of Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership (Alban 2009)

Last Chance! A few slots still available!  


For a full list of learning events, check out
  Alban’s 2011 Event Calendar    


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