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  • Writer's pictureDr. William Sommers

Keeping Hope Alive

Updated: Mar 30

Doom Loop or HOPE: Your Choice

“Never deprive someone of hope. It may be all [they] has”.

H. Jackson Brown

These are very difficult times. Health issues, individual financial problems, and family concerns. Racial issues are causing most of us to re-examine our thoughts on equality, equity, and systemic racism. Many are asking, "Is positive change possible?" Answer: YES, and it takes effort and action on our part.

It is easy to go into the Doom Loop. In an article that appeared in Fast Company, 2004, the

author noted that when things are not going well, many of us experience fear and anger. When hope fades, negative thoughts and feelings start occupying more of our attention and attitude.

Combining the work of Marshall Goldsmith’s (2015) book Triggers and Charles Duhigg’s

(2012) book The Power of Habits, here is a formula to consider: Trigger – Routine – Result.

Some event happens to us, we go into a response loop, and we get an outcome. Do this many times, and it becomes automatic.

Think about a person close to you. They say something, maybe a complaint. You respond like you always do. Both walking away, not dealing with the issue but feeling unsatisfied. We can’t control the triggers in life.

What we can control is our routines that get the same result.

Here is an acronym for HOPE that may help to change our routines in combating negative

thoughts or events that trigger emotions and behaviors.


H – Honesty and Humility. Be honest about what is happening, the results that we are getting, and what we want to change. If we cannot take a ruthless assessment of reality, the chance of change is limited. Have humility to listen, learn, and lead actions that will get better results. As a white male, in order to learn, I want to ask questions of others who are not like me. That is how I learn from different cultures and perspectives.

O – Optimism and Options. Martin Seligman, UPenn, has written extensively about Positive

Psychology and Learned Optimism (1990). This is not happy talk. Talk to people you trust to

see what they do in similar situations. Create multiple ways to get to a goal. Develop emotional agility to use those options when needed. Ask others how they deal with disappointment, delusion, and diversion. Find people who have found good options staying away from the doom loop.

P – Personal and Persisting. What can I do to help myself and others to find positive responses to long-term problems? Start with what you can do and enlist others to join you. I recommend the book Beyond Ally by Akbar. We need allies and advocates. No more standing by, hoping things will get better, and giving no effort for change. See a previous New Rule -

‎Be Aware of Bullies and Bystanders – Demonstrate Bravery. Persisting with actions that will contribute to a more equitable education and community. Strong

values require constancy of purpose.

E – Efficacy and Equity. Efficacy is the belief that we can make a difference and then take

action to do something. As Ibram X. Kendi (2019) explained in his book How to Be an

Antiracist, “One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.” If we want to change it, take actions that dismantle systemic biases and support what helps with equity. Change to make life better for all. Equity is NOT Equality. Equality is giving everyone the same.

A thought on equity. Equity is supporting people in what they need to be successful. This is different from equality where everyone gets the same. Too often, we confuse the two terms. If you haven’t noticed, people are different. We all come from different backgrounds, families, and circumstances. Not everyone needs or wants the same.

There is plenty of research that says having diverse perspectives yields better decisions and is more effective. At Pixar, the company gets the most vocal people in a room. Brad Bird said, “Give me the misfits and mavericks.” I’ll produce the best results when all ideas are in the room. Pixar produces Oscar-winning films by using conflict as an energy source. Of course, there has to be psychological safety in order to get the best ideas. Nobody wants to be an outcast in their organization. That goes for staff and students.

The organization, be it a classroom, department, school, district, or community, must have more than knowledge. Knowledge is important and insufficient. There must be actions that support diverse points of view and have the ability to communicate different ideas effectively. When we are listened to, taken seriously, and know that people have a genuine interest in your point of view, people's hope will come alive and stay alive. Then, and only then, will those people give all they have and are capable of contributing.

Here’s the challenge. Do Something. Do one thing differently that will contribute to a positive outcome. I’ve seen the following quote attributed to several people. “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got." Albert Einstein

Scott Russell Sanders (1998) said, “Memory grips the past, and hope grips the future.”

Join me in gripping the future for better schools, communities, and our society as a whole.


Akbar, Maysa. (2020). Beyond Ally. Hartford CT: Publish Your Purpose Press.

Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit. New York: Random House

Fast Company. (2004). Lessons from the Doom Loop

Goldsmith, Marshall. (2015). Triggers. New York: Crown

Kendi, Ibram X. (2019). How to be an Antiracist. New York: Penguin.

Lopez, Shane. (2013). Making Hope Happen. New York: Atria Books

Sanders, Scott Russell. (1998). Hunting for Hope. New York: Penguin

Seligman, M. (1990). Learned optimism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Dr. Bill Sommers has been an administrator at the middle school, high school, central office, and at the university level working in leadership preparation programs and doctoral faculties. As a teacher, he worked with self-paced physics, math, and chemistry teaching methods. With over forty years of experience in teaching and leading schools, he has actively extended his learning from educational to include business models. He has been a consultant with Cognitive Coaching, Adaptive Schools, Brain Research, Poverty issues, Leadership Development, and Conflict to Consensus models. He can be contacted at

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