By now, we’ve all heard the question: “How are you doing? How are you really doing?”
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everyone into a tailspin, but adding this to a complicated mix of political turmoil, the climate emergency, and a whole host of other global challenges has turned 2020 into the year none of us will forget.
Working in the tourism industry, the second question I receive is: “How are you feeling about the future of travel?”
My response: I feel optimistic.
One of the key reasons I feel optimistic is because I am a big believer in leaning into solutions. When you adopt a solutions-centered mindset, a whole world of possibility opens up.
You may be familiar with this famous quote by Norman Vincent Peale: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” With a solutions-focused mindset, the act of problem solving and trying — even if you fail — still moves the needle. In a world where we need to move that needle in a very real way, every little nudge forward helps.
I recently wrote about the importance of a solutions-focused mindset in achieving sustainability goals. One of the most powerful reasons to adopt this kind of outlook is because there is a certain amount of “looping” in our thinking. Just as dwelling on problems reveals more problems, focusing on solutions unveils more solutions and possibilities.
There are three key characteristics woven into a solutions-centered mindset: optimism, hope, and self-efficacy. These characteristics of the solutions-centered mindset help surface solutions. And as solutions reveal themselves, these three important characteristics wield even more potency, pushing that needle of possibility even further.
What does this look like in the tourism context? And, more importantly, why are these characteristics vital for a more sustainable, equitable, and regenerative future?
As we jump in to explore these concepts on a deeper level, I’d like to acknowledge the work and research conducted by Jodie Jackson, author of You Are What You Read: Why Changing Your Media Diet Can Change the World, which has guided my solutions-focused work and understanding within the tourism industry.
Optimism is a future-oriented emotional state centered around the belief that the future can be better than the past. People with this kind of mindset look at problems and see opportunities versus roadblocks.
Though some people see optimists as deniers of reality, the truth is the reality optimists seek doesn’t yet exist. In fact, optimists are better at engaging with negative information, use more active coping strategies, and actively approach problems rather than being passive observers of them. They don’t deny; they acknowledge and act.
The tourism industry has inflicted a lot of damage on the planet and the communities people visit. Embracing a solutions-centered mindset and holding an optimistic outlook for the industry’s future — and its ability to be a force for good — allows those working in tourism to approach their work more mindfully, responsibly, and sustainably.
The world can feel incredibly overwhelming and chaotic. Falling into a loop of negativity and focusing on problems can lead to a disengagement from addressing the challenges we face as a human race.
Hope is an emotional coping mechanism born from a desire for and belief that an aspirational and improved future can be created. Having hope is essential to defeating those feelings of doom and fatalism brought on by the problem-focused loop. Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning, keeps our focus on the future, and helps us tackle the challenges we face, even if they feel insurmountable.
As Jackson notes in her book, “Hope does not require us to ignore negative possibilities. Rather, it requires that we do not ignore positive possibilities.” We lean on our belief that we can make a difference.
I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people working in the tourism industry were dissatisfied with the direction the industry was headed going into 2020. The good news is that dissatisfaction creates the perfect conditions for improvement because people are primed for change. Nurturing a sense of hope for a future model of tourism built on equity, sustainability, and regeneration is an essential piece of creating solutions in order to reach it.
If at first you don’t succeed, do you give up and walk away? Or do you try again?
When we’re faced with problems and we accept them as inevitable, we are far less likely to muster up the energy to combat them. Believing that your actions make a difference and your efforts can create change is at the heart of self-efficacy.
A key point in self-efficacy is that surrounding yourself with others who believe they can make a difference feeds the fire for you to do the same. Witnessing empowerment and achievement in action creates the conditions for surfacing and accelerating solutions. Adopting this solutions-focused mindset empowers us to be a force for good in our own right.
Self-efficacy is a key ingredient in helping tourism reach its full potential. It is important that you feel a sense of self-efficacy in your work, but it is also essential that we as an industry help travelers tap into this feeling as well. There is a powerful — but largely untapped — opportunity to empower people to move from being passive travelers to actively engaged global citizens through travel.