From the valley of despair to the slope of hope

slope of hope

Did you start 2012 with one or more resolutions?  Did you get up this morning with the intention to achieve particular tasks?  Have you leapt into February with new goals?  Or have you resolved to change your attitude or behaviour?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines resolution as a firmness of purpose, with intention reflecting the determination required to achieve this end goal.

The reasoned action model, known as the theory of planned behaviour, proposed by Fishbein and Ajzen, identifies intention as a key determinant of  behaviour, predicated on three considerations:

  1. Salient (accessible) beliefs about the consequences of the action.  Anticipating a good outcome is important.
  2. Perceived social pressure regarding the behaviour.  Expecting the positive support of relevant referent groups or individuals is motivating.
  3. Degree of control over the behaviour.  We need to be able to achieve a desired outcome.

So, do you believe you can achieve your goals?  Do you think others support you in doing so?  And, is it possible to get the result you seek?

The above image is a slide I’ve developed for Starting to Study sessions.  Students set out with a high level of motivation.  But at some point, they get a wobble.  Maybe they get stuck on a particular topic, or find some reading difficult to understand.  They start to lose their belief.

Or perhaps family, friends or work colleagues seem less supportive.  I often find that despite an employer paying for someone to study the CIPR qualifications, for example, there may be little overt support over time.  Or maybe other barriers get in the way and students feel that time pressures, personal issues or work expectations affect their ability to achieve the end goal

They are on the edge of the valley of despair.  They begin to slide and find their motivation drops.  But, as Martin Luther King said in his famous ’I have a dream’ speech: Let us not wallow in the valley of despair…

My cheesy advice is less poetic than King’s belief that ‘we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope’.  But I say much the same thing – if you ask for help, the other side of the valley is the slope of hope.

Within a chapter on digital PR for the forthcoming Public Relations Strategic Toolkit, I have written:

Self-efficacy (‘the conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior required to produce the outcome’, Bandura 1977: 79) is particularly relevant for older practitioners who may not believe they are capable of understanding, utilising or managing digital technologies. Gangadharbatla (2008) identifies internet self-efficacy as a key factor in influencing adoption of social networking, alongside a need to belong and collective self-esteem. Communities of practice (Wenger and Snyder 2000) within social networking sites (particularly LinkedIn) enable practitioners to share experiences and engage in debate about technologies. However, without the initial confidence or skill to join such communities, practitioners may not be in a position to benefit from this peer-group learning.

To use a phrase from my PR Conversations colleague, Judy Gombita’s recent Social Capital Byte post, we need to ‘mine online gold in the hills of existing relationships’.  Judy was looking at how organizations can benefit from PR strategies to augment relationships online.  But the same principles apply in achieving learning or other goals.

Not only can others enhance your determination to succeed (improving your motivation), they can help share positive outcomes (acting as role models) and make suggestions of how to overcome problems. 

Social networking is useful in finding supportive others and building mutually-beneficial relationships.  Students often connect via Facebook groups; practitioners tend to prefer LinkedIn, and Twitter is a way of reaching out to new contacts.  With Google+, we can create circles and start hangouts.

Judy’s advice to capitalise on existing offline relationships by adding social media connections, is a helpful reminder.  Most of us already know people who could help us achieve our goals.  But we forget to maintain our relationship online.  Taking the time to review and add contacts is something I intend to get better at doing, along with Judy’s recommendations for improving the social capital of my online relationships.

What I really like is the idea of maximising online reciprocity.  It is hard to maintain motivation and stop ourselves from slipping into valleys of despair in the modern world where even taking time for a quick coffee with a friend is often difficult.  Thinking of our online presence as reinforcing relationships in a reciprocal manner (leaving a comment, retweeting or liking for example) offers an easy “small act of kindness” (or pay it forward) approach.

Bruni argues the value to be found in ‘the territory of relational genuineness’ includes life-satisfaction and holistic (win-win), rather than individual consequences.  This suggests a virtuous circle whereby positive actions are reinforcing – providing the power to get us back up the slope of hope.

So, how may I help you?

One thought on “From the valley of despair to the slope of hope

  1. Hi Heather,
    I came across your blog online and love the green banana meme. It is a great concept to encourage continuous learning. Your “mining online gold” approach is a wonderful idea for companies or individuals that don’t leverage online opportunities. I understand that a simple like or retweet promotes a pay it forward attitude, but I am curious if there is too much focus on the online relationship these days. Many forget to further develop personal and business relationships in “real-life” because it is so much quicker to schedule a tagged tweet or re-share something on Facebook. Do you think we are leaning more towards an online-centric relationship as the norm?

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