Hope is not only a lens through which to view life, but an attitude and an approach to adversity.
Studies reveal that Hopeful people:
- Are more resilient
- Are more successful at achieving their goals
- Are more creative and productive
- Have better health habits
- Earn and save more money
- Have healthier and more abundant relationships
- Report greater life satisfaction
*Check out the Hope Impacts page for a breakdown of the research behind each of these claims, or follow the articles according to our map of this section and learn about the details when you get there.
Are You a Hopeful Person?
You may be surprised by the results. Take our quiz to see where you stand.
“Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” – Barack Obama
Did you know that your perception of reality has a significant impact on the likelihood of achieving your goals?
You may have heard this before, that how you interpret your life can change your experience of it. The concept of Hope often gets a bad rap. To many, it sounds wishy-washy and is thrown around without a lot of definition or specificity.
In truth, Hope is a positive cognitive-behavioral state whose proponents have their feet firmly planted on the ground. A plethora of research has been devoted to analyzing the relationship between Hope and success in various fields, and the results are inspiring. They once again support the notion that we have agency over our lives.
Gaining a better understanding of what Hope is, how it works, and how to employ it in your life enables you to be happier, healthier, wealthier, and more connected! This section is here to help you do just that.
How does Hope have all this positive impact? Well, let’s introduce generally how it works.
Stories of Hope: A Quick Look
Katie Dimmock was committed to finding answers about her health complications and her persistence likely saved her life. If she had not had hope that an answer could be found, she may not have received the treatment that is saving her life.
Milton Hershey became successful in the chocolate business only after three failed attempts. His ability to deal with failure and continue to try new pathways to his goal enabled his accomplishments.
What Is Hope?
First off, we have to point out that we’re not talking about Hope the way it is colloquially defined. Typically, people use the word Hope interchangeably with Optimism, meaning a “positive future outlook.” This idea tends to put people off, dismissing Hope as naive and unrealistic. However, in the scientific community, Hope is defined not only as a positive future outlook, but also includes agency and strategy.
To be more precise: Hope = Attitude (Optimistic Explanatory Style) + Agency (Belief in your ability) + Pathways (Strategy for achieving the optimistic vision)
Dr. C. R. Snyder, a Clinical Psychologist for Vanderbilt University who focused his life’s work on the study of Hope, defined it in the following way:
“a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals).” – (Snyder, Irving & Anderson 1991, as cited in Snyder, 2000, p.8)
These definitions can get a little mixed up with scientists defining terms slightly differently, so here is a chart to show how they relate overall.
|Positive Attitude||Agency/ Self-Efficacy||Strategy|
|C. R. Snyder||“Optimism”||“Agency”||“Pathways”|
Hope is comprised of a vision for the future, a belief in your personal ability to achieve that vision, and the concrete plans for achieving that vision. Because of this practical foresight and thoroughness, it naturally results in higher levels of goal attainment. Understanding how to harness Hope can significantly improve your life.
*We dive further into the nuances of defining Hope in the next article of this section, our Hope Fundamentals page.
Let’s break this down in an example:
While working on Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling embodied hope. Her pitch for the story was rejected by twelve publishers before it was picked up.
JK Rowling saw each rejection as circumstantial and not determinant of what other publishers would do. This perspective enabled her to continue trying.
She believed her actions had an impact on her becoming a successful author.
She continued to submit her manuscript to publishers until it was accepted.
Hope Theory – Make Your Life Better
This video gives a well-rounded introduction to the fundamentals of Hope! Learn the step-by-step process for using Hope to develop and achieve your goals.
High Hope vs. Low Hope
Let’s look at some hypothetical scenarios and compare profiles in High Hope vs. Low Hope.
|How might someone with High Hope versus someone with Low Hope approach the same challenge?|
|Scenario||Person with High Hope||Person with Low Hope|
|An exam they are not prepared for has been moved forward on the calendar without warning.
||They look at it as a random, unfortunate, single event that they can’t get too upset about and still believe they have the ability to do well on the exam. They come up with several plans to prepare for it and contingency plans. They begin to prepare for the exam.||They may think things like this always happen to them. They believe that with the limited amount of time they now can do nothing to improve their chances of excelling on the test and choose not to prepare.|
|They wake up with a mild fever and congestion.
||They will likely explain getting sick as a random event that probably won’t last long. They will inform themselves on what the symptoms indicate and ways to treat them, then will begin trying different things to get better.||They may wonder if they haven’t been taking good enough care of themselves lately and contributed to increasing their risk of getting sick. They may think that there isn’t anything they can do to decrease their healing time and put little effort into getting better other than withdrawing from responsibilities they cannot address while sick.|
|They get a serious speeding ticket that they believe was unjustly written to them.||They see this as an unfortunate one-off occurrence and believe it is worth disputing. They research the situation and then attend their trial and dispute the ticket.||They believe they have perpetual bad luck and this was bound to happen. Even though they don’t believe the ticket is justified, they think it is unlikely that anything they do will get the ticket dismissed. They stew about how awful it was to get a ticket and don’t attend the trial.|
Athlete and motivational speaker Kyle Maynard speaks about his goals and process of approaching them despite his physical limitations. His story showcases Hope in action.
Hope works by changing your relationship with the future. By believing the future can be better than the present, and understanding that the actions you take now are directly related to your future reality, Hope changes the way you make decisions in the present.
Hope offers a greater motivation to eat well, quit smoking, and save money. It means a deep understanding of how every choice you make in the present moment impacts your future, because you are directly connected to that future.
That’s how it changes your life.
Sound too simple? Many things sound easy in theory and are difficult in practice. Luckily, we’ve already dug through all the research for you and have compiled a practical guide to a scientifically supported, pragmatic interpretation of Hope! We’ll walk you through details and help you practice the skills throughout the other pages in this section.
Before we move on, you may find inspiration in the following stories.
Inspirational Stories of Resilience and Hope
A Heart Touching Story
This powerful speech/story is set to inspiring footage, and will put a smile on your face and a lift in your heart.
My escape from North Korea
Hyeonseo Lee tells her remarkable story of resilience in escaping North Korea as she grew up.
The Inspirational Story Of 9-Year-Old Ezra Frech
Watch Ezra’s inspirational story of optimism and commitment to improvement.
Colleen Kelly Alexander: A Story of Resilience
Athlete Colleen Alexander survived a horrendous accident on her bike. Her practical commitment to recovery and positive attitude contributed to her healing.
I Have A Name
A short video about Sudanese Refugees who are engaging in pragmatic steps to contribute to their communities and thrive after experiencing the trauma of a war-torn country.
Transcending addiction and redefining recovery: Jacki Hillios at TEDxBoulder
Jacki Hillios talks about patients with addiction and her work with Phoenix Multisport, an organisation that fosters recovery through engagement and connection that foster hope for the future.
Feel free to explore this section of the website per your whims and interests. We cover these fascinating topics in the following pages:
- What exactly is Hope and where does it come from?
- How does Hope work?
- What are the positive impacts of Hope on various areas of our lives? (Academic and Career Success, Physical and Mental Health, Relationships, and General Wellbeing)
- How do Pessimism and Fantasy impact our lives?
- What other types of Hope are there?
- Hope Criticism
- Practices and Exercises
- Inspiration and Resources
“Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
― Shel Silverstein
Cornel West: Hope Is Spiritual Armor Against Modern Society’s Spiritual Warfare
Cornel West with Big Think lectures on the value of Hope in a society that focuses on consumption and stimulation.
The No.1 Habit Billionaires Run Daily
Motivational speaker Mel Robbins explains the power and science behind the skill of visualization in attaining goals.
What is Hope? (+Why Does it Matter?)
Brian Johnson with Optimize gives a concise breakdown of what Hope is.
NEVER LOSE HOPE
A motivational video
**Hope research has some criticism that is valuable to consider as you read through the following pages. We highly recommend reviewing them! Check it out here.
- Huen JMY, Ip BYT, Ho SMY, Yip PSF (2015) Hope and Hopelessness: The Role of Hope in Buffering the Impact of Hopelessness on Suicidal Ideation. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0130073. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130073
- Ong Anthony D, Edwards Lisa M, Bergeman CS (2006) Hope as a source of resilience in later adulthood. Personality and Individual Differences 41(7):1263-1273. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2006.03.028
- Lloyd, T.J. and Hastings, R. (2009) Hope as a psychological resilience factor in mothers and fathers of children with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 53: 957-968. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2009.01206.x
- Kato T, Snyder CR (2005) [Relationship between hope and subjective well-being: reliability and validity of the dispositional Hope Scale, Japanese version]. Aug;76(3):227-34. DOI: 10.4992/jjpsy.76.227
- Gilman, R., Dooley, J., & Florell, D. (2006). Relative levels of hope and their relationship with academic and psychological indicators among adolescents. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25(2), 166–178. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2006.25.2.166
- Mcdermott, Ryon & Cheng, Hsiu-Lan & Wong, Y Joel & Booth, Nathan & Jones, Zachary & Sevig, Todd. (2017). Hope for Help-Seeking: A Positive Psychology Perspective of Psychological Help-Seeking Intentions. The Counseling Psychologist. 45. 001100001769339. 10.1177/0011000017693398.
- Snyder, C. R. (Ed.). (2000). Handbook of hope: Theory, measures, and applications. Academic Press.
- Fitzgerald, T.E., Tennen, H., Affleck, G. et al. The relative importance of dispositional optimism and control appraisals in quality of life after coronary artery bypass surgery. J Behav Med 16, 25–43 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00844753
- Solberg Nes, L., Evans, D.R. and Segerstrom, S.C. (2009), Optimism and College Retention: Mediation by Motivation, Performance, and Adjustment1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39: 1887-1912. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2009.00508.x
- Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2014). Dispositional optimism. Trends in cognitive sciences, 18(6), 293–299. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2014.02.003
- Rebecca J. Reichard, James B. Avey, Shane Lopez & Maren Dollwet (2013) Having the will and finding the way: A review and meta-analysis of hope at work, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8:4, 292-304, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2013.800903
- Geers, A.L., Wellman, J.A., Seligman, L.D. et al. Dispositional optimism, goals, and engagement in health treatment programs. J Behav Med 33, 123–134 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-009-9238-z
- Carla J. Berg, Michael A. Rapoff, C. R. Snyder & John M. Belmont (2007) The relationship of children’s hope to pediatric asthma treatment adherence, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2:3, 176-184, DOI: 10.1080/17439760701409629
- Irving, L.M., Snyder, C.R. and Crowson, Jr., J.J. (1998), Hope and Coping with Cancer by College Women. Journal of Personality, 66: 195-214. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.00009
- Rasmussen, H. N., Scheier, M. F., & Greenhouse, J. B. (2009). Optimism and physical health: a meta-analytic review. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 37(3), 239–256. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-009-9111-x
- Segerstrom S. C. (2007). Optimism and Resources: Effects on Each Other and on Health over 10 Years. Journal of research in personality, 41(4), 10.1016/j.jrp.2006.09.004. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2006.09.004
- Neff, L. A., & Geers, A. L. (2013). Optimistic expectations in early marriage: A resource or vulnerability for adaptive relationship functioning? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(1), 38–60. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032600
- Lopez, Shane J. “Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others.” New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2013. Print.