Arts & Tradition

What Is the Connection Between Motivation and Hope, Part 2

BY James Sale TIMEAugust 21, 2022 PRINT

In our last article, we looked at the ideas of hope and motivation and pointed out that hope was an ancient word going back long into the classical past. Motivation, as a word, was first coined in 1904; yet both are still very active words—with billions of hits on Google. Yet these each have different connotations.

Specifically, we alluded to Freud and the rise of psychology as a science that made the term “motivation” more acceptable than “hope” and its strong theological connotations. In the secularly dominated world of the West, theological connotations are usually undesirable. They remind people of a higher authority, which secularism perpetually seeks to denigrate.

We started that article by discussing Pandora and the fact that hope alone was left in the box after it was opened. While “hope” is a positive term, in our modern world even that can seem painful. In the 1986 film “Clockwork,” John Cleese’s character says, “It’s not despair I mind; it is hope I can’t stand.” And the contemporary English poet Tony Watts writes brilliantly, if bleakly, in this three-line poem “Pandora”:

And at the bottom of the box lay Hope—

its muffled, unstoppable cry—
like a cell phone in a body bag.

Watts’s vivid imagery makes hope seems worse than despair.

Faith, Hope, and Charity

Epoch Times Photo
Hope is a word associated with spiritual intervention. “Saint Thecla Praying for the Plague-Stricken,” circa 1758–1759, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Public Domain)

This is precisely the modern malaise. It seems ingrained in our thinking that there is no hope; our cosmic situation, if you will, is hopeless.

However, as G.K. Chesterton observed: “Charity means pardoning what is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. And faith means believing the incredible, or it is no virtue at all.”

In other words, the absence of the tangibility of these concepts (charity, hope, faith) is not evidence that they do not exist or that they do not point to something real. They are the very conditions under which we prove the order of, the benevolence of, the meaning of the whole created world—visible and invisible!

We have hope despite the darkness, the chaos, the anarchy, and the evil with which our world is blighted. And if we do not have it, then we are a lost people.

How Hope and Motivation Differ

Epoch Times Photo
Do we wait with expectations or in a state of hopelessness? “Waiting by the Window,” before 1935, by Carl Holsoe. (Public Domain)

For the purposes of this article, let’s leave aside the elements of faith and charity. Hope, properly understood, is a precondition for our sanity and our health. And here we come to an essential distinction between hope and motivation. This can be summed up by the word “tense,” understood grammatically, as in past, present, and future.

Motivation has (though not exclusively) a present-tense orientation. It is about my or our motivation in the now. In this sense, it is highly person- and me-centric because it is linked to performance. We perform to achieve goals, and if we are motivated, we have abundant energy to do so.

But what happens when motivation evaporates? As English psychiatrist and author Dr. Raj Persaud in his book “Staying Sane” puts it: “A breakdown in motivation not only becomes self-fulfilling, but can also lead to severe psychological problems, if it leads to hopelessness and the feeling that things are not going to get better in the future.”

As we see from this quotation, a breakdown of motivation in the present leads to feelings of hopelessness about the future. Hope, then, is more explicitly future-orientated. Indeed, hope is how we send messages to the future!

Hope is also less me-centric than motivation and more other-directed; it is more linked to altruism and the welfare of others. That is why, colloquially, we often refer to our hope for the world, for the human race, for our nation, and for myriad groups and organizations that may or may not be directly connected with us: for example, hope for the poor, for the dispossessed, for victims of torture or abuse, and so on.

How Hope and Motivation Are Similar

Epoch Times Photo
A study in hope: “Studies of a Woman Praying,” early to mid-19th century, by Ludwig Emil Grimm. Graphite and watercolor. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Public Domain)

In Part 1 of this article, we stated that the word the ancient Greek poet Hesiod used for hope is “Elpis,” which can mean “hope” but is often also translated as meaning “expectation.”

In my book “Mapping Motivation,” I outline the theory that motivation comprises three primary ingredients: our personality, our self-concept, and, crucially, our expectations. What are expectations? Expectations are our beliefs about future outcomes. To give a simple example: If we believe that applying for a highly desirable job is going to be successful, then our motivation to apply is going to be high; if we believe that applying for such a job is going to be unsuccessful, then we are less likely to, less motivated to, apply, and we enter into the realm of self-fulfilling prophecies.

But if expectations are a key ingredient of motivation, they are also critical to hope as well. As Vivienne Collinson in the article “Improving College Teaching: Learning From Exemplary Secondary School Teachers” observed, “Expectations accompanied by action is a hallmark of hope.”

The importance of all this cannot be overstated. We have established that motivation goes hand in hand with performance; one cannot perform to any high level without high levels of motivation.

Hope, too, is also essential. In his book “Working With Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman states: “Competence studies show that top performers in the human services—everything from health care and counseling to teaching—express hope for those they seek to help. … In jobs like these, where stress is high and frustrations common … hope is crucial.”

But let’s be honest. Stress is ubiquitous in our modern world, and so it is probably true to say that all top performers in any arduous field have high expectations, have high motivation, and have high hopes accordingly.

One conclusion of this discussion is that motivation and hope are both critical to our welfare. Without them, we are much more likely to suffer from those “severe psychological problems” that Dr. Persaud noted.

The challenge for all of us is to be motivated, to have high hopes, and so to find those expectations that nurture these elements in us. But perhaps most powerfully of all when we consider the future orientation of hope is to remember that wonderful saying of St. Clement of Alexandria: “If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.” If our hope were to be realized—become an actuality—something even more incredible might occur! Now that, in our current world, is something worth cherishing, surely?

Part 1 discusses the meanings of hope and motivation.

James Sale
James Sale has had over 50 books published, most recently, “Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams” (Routledge, 2021). He has been nominated for the 2022 poetry Pushcart Prize, won first prize in The Society of Classical Poets 2017 annual competition, performing in New York in 2019. His most recent poetry collection is “HellWard.” For more information about the author, and about his Dante project, visit
You May Also Like