You must first possess a positive outlook of the future before you can authentically lead with hope into the future.
I like eggs for breakfast. Some people like them sunny side up and others scrambled. How about you?
Leaders are wired as differently as we like our eggs. Some are just sunny side up people. They wake up happy! Others wake up a little scrambled, until their first cup of coffee. (My hand is up.) For some, it seems like they burnt their eggs, it’s just not going to be a good day.
Regardless of our wiring, we don’t get a pass when it comes to leading with optimism. People are counting on us to have faith in the future.
If we can’t lead ourselves forward with an optimistic spirit and hope in the future, we can’t lead others there either.
But life isn’t always like a bowl full of cherries, is it?
We all face difficult challenges both in our personal lives as well as in the church. Perhaps you’re going through one right now.
How do you authentically express hope when life doesn’t always feel hopeful?
And by the way, I’m not suggesting that as a good leader, you never have a bad day, get discouraged, or second-guess yourself. We all do.
But your confidence will wear thin, and your influence may decline without a positive attitude toward life in general. A hope-filled and optimistic disposition about the future will increase your leadership confidence.
Before we dig into how we can increase optimistic hope, let’s take a brief look at some ways that can break down your optimism.
5 responses that break down your optimism and hope:
(The key question is, are any of these an ongoing disposition, or a leaning you are prone to?)
- Doubt – lack confidence about the potential of the church to be a force for good in the future.
- Worry – consumed by big problems that might happen, rather than focusing on the good than can happen.
- Cynicism – for example, losing confidence in the faithfulness of volunteers.
- Negativity – a general bent toward the glass half empty, seeing problems over solutions.
- Fear – faith often takes a backseat to fear.
On a temporary basis, these are common to leaders, what requires more immediate action is if they have become chronic and crowd out optimism and hope.
You can begin to regain your hope in the future by meditating on these truths. God is your Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, Refuge, Strength, and Rest.
God provides the power to win over doubt, worry, cynicism, negativity and fear. He is our source and can replace those five responses to the uncertain and challenging circumstances of life with trust, faith and hope.
You can add strength to that meditation by soaking in scriptures such as:
And one of my favorites, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5
Praise and worship of God helps conquer our worries, fears and doubts.
5 Practical Choices Help You Lead With Optimism and Hope.
1) Refuse to let your critics get the best of you.
With even modest success, you will have critics. It’s easy to let them wear you down and discourage you. You may need to listen once, and learn what you can, but you are not captive to their agenda.
We can help our critics see a different perspective. One that isn’t based on our agenda or theirs, but something higher, greater and one that might unite us.
Your critic might be hurting. Try to discover what’s underneath their complaint.
The ironic thing is that sometimes we can be our own toughest critic. Self-evaluation is good, but be cautious of overthinking things, being too hard on yourself, and forgetting to create room for mistakes and joy.
2) Keep your heart set on the vision.
A great heart-felt vision brings hope. As leaders, each of us must stay focused on something bigger than ourselves.
And the truest God-birthed vision always begins with a burden.
One of my favorite Old Testament narratives is the story of Nehemiah. In chapter 1:3-4 it says that he wept because the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and those who survived the exile were in great trouble and disgrace. He was burdened for the people! Then in chapter 2:1-5, Nehemiah’s vision was clear, rebuild the wall!
Nehemiah knew exactly what he was to do and had the passion to do it. That’s how he kept going through all the problems he faced. That’s how he held onto hope. He had a positive hope-filled picture of the future and was focused on its completion.
3) Keep the best interest of the people you serve at the forefront.
When you are for the people you lead and serve, and want the best for them, that pulls you and them forward to a hopeful future.
“If you continue to read Nehemiah’s story, it is clear that he fought for the people, their best interests and welfare. (They needed more grain and were over-taxed by the King. The were mortgaging their fields, vineyards and homes during the famine. They felt powerless and Nehemiah stepped up on their behalf!)” Nehemiah 5:1-12
The majority of our attention is directed to the spiritual growth and welfare of those we serve, but we also have opportunities to influence physical and emotional needs as well. The point is that the more we can truly help people and see positive change, the greater hope we have to continue that process for a better future.
Starting small and remaining consistent leads to better and better outcomes.
4) Fill your mind with uplifting content.
What you fill your mind with is what directs the paths you take, and if not always your path, certainly the amount of steps you take forward . . . or backward.
Part of the equation is what to avoid, like toxic people and inappropriate or negative places on the internet, but our focus has to be on pursuing the best possible input. This will always strengthen your optimistic outlook and how you perceive what the future holds.
This list isn’t new, but it’s about what you consistently practice.
- Humor and laughter. It’s good for the soul.
- Choosing how you think and process thoughts, choose to focus on the good.
- Positive and truthful conversations. (Some can be hard, but the goal is healthy outcomes.)
- Good music, including worship.
- Meditating on scripture is already mentioned in the introduction of this post, but let me include another of my favorites.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
5) Cultivate a strong and wise inner circle.
Those closest to you will determine in large part who you become as well as how you see and experience the world.
Who is in your inner circle?
- Who are your trusted advisors?
- Do you have a coach or mentor?
- Who prays for you?
- Who knows everything about you?
- Who do you take your spiritually oriented questions to?
- Who are your closest friends?
A good inner circle:
- Loves you and believes in you.
- Tells you the truth.
- Brings wisdom and discernment.
- Is a safe place to process.
- Thinks big and has strong faith in God.
- Will confront you when needed.
Communicating your genuine trust in God and corresponding confidence and hope in the future isn’t always easy, but its needed. Without vision the people suffer. The path may not be easy, but we can always take the next steps.
This article originally appeared on DanReiland.com and is reposted here by permission.