Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve.
All of my children are hoping for something right now. For my youngest, it’s about getting into a “good” college (whatever that means). My college-age daughter’s hopes are for a good job next year. My son longs for an end to the lockdown so he can enjoy some normalcy before he is deployed. For my oldest daughter, it’s about a relationship working out. And, for the next daughter, her hopes are much more intense as she focuses all her thoughts on two dear friends—newlyweds, one of whom was severely injured in an auto accident.
We are all hoping for something but hoping alone is not a strategy. When we’re caught up in hoping, we’re focused on the future, which means we may not accurately perceive nor fully cherish today.
Every day, we reset to zero—recalibrating everything from our emotions to our expectations. Along the way, we also redefine hope. We’ve come to realize that hope is not a rescue—magically transforming our lives. Rather, hope is a recharge—an infusion of resiliency.
The other day, as I walked on the beach, I watched the sunset. As the sun sank lower to the horizon, the sky changed from pink to orange to red. The light dimmed to darkness, and then it was gone. I could practically time it—like a curtain quickly closing on that waning day.
How different is sunrise. We don’t perceive the exact moment of the sun rising because all we see is the growing intensity of light. Then, we have no choice but to turn our attention from the horizon to the day ahead.
As we seize the day, do we want to waste our time clinging to the false hope of recreating what once was? Or do we invest our time resetting hope, grounded in what is and what will be?
It is human nature to want to go back in time—to when we were young, our children were still growing up, loved ones were still with us. We tell ourselves we would make different choices—play more, enjoy more, be more present. We’d give anything to go back to those days, but none of us get that extra lap around the track, to rewind Father Time.
It is this moment—right here, right now. If we want to be hopeful about tomorrow, we need to reset how we show up today. Hope requires hustle to turn possibilities into opportunities. That’s why, throughout this pandemic, our hope has not just been in the science. Nor have those scientists diligently working on vaccines and treatments relied on hope. The saving grace has been the resilience of the human spirit, even through the most difficult of times.
As our colleague Felicia Cash, an administrative assistant in our Dallas office, wrote to me the other day: “What comes in this life may not be what I would choose, but…even in the midst of pain and confusion, I can find joy and peace knowing that ultimately…my world will be OK. The heart of the matter is that it’s a matter of the heart!” What truly hopeful words.
Hope is not just a noun—it’s a verb. Hope is not a wish or a want—it is willpower. Hope is not a promise—it is a purpose. Hope is not merely our lifeline—it is our life raft. Here are some thoughts:
Over the centuries, humans have conquered so much—not through false hope or wishful thinking, but with science and innovation. This perspective is good for recalibrating our thinking—to remember that rockets didn’t take us to the moon; the dreamers and engineers did. The internet didn’t create a globally networked economy; it was the innovators and creators. In the same way, a vaccine in a vial won’t end the pandemic; the researchers, scientists, and everyone on the front lines will. That, indeed, is a reason to reset hope.