Hope Theory

It makes sense that the first part of our soon to be hope page will be an exploration of what hope is. What exactly gives people hope can be any one of a million things and so way too much for a single article. Fortunately defining hope is much easier.  According to Merriam-Webster hope is:

intransitive verb

1 :to cherish a desire with anticipation :to want something to happen or be true

  • hopes for a promotion
  • hoping for the best
 transitive verb

1 :to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment

  • I hope she remembers.

2 :to expect with confidence :trust

  • Your mother is doing well, I hope.

In 1991 Charles R. Snyder released a theory that touched on something that until that time the sciences had only briefly examined:  hope. Snyder and his colleagues defined hope as:

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)

According to hope theory the positive motivational state of hope is primarily goal oriented and has 4 main parts:

  1. Goals that are valuable and uncertain are described by Snyder (1994, as cited in Snyder, 2000, p.9) as the anchors of hope theory as they provide direction and an endpoint for hopeful thinking.
  2. Pathway thoughts refer to the routes we take to achieve our desired goals and the individual’s perceived ability to produce these routes (Snyder, 2000).
  3. Agency thoughts refer to the motivation we have to undertake the routes towards our goals.
  4. Barriers block the attainment of our goals and in the event of a barrier we can either give up or we can use our pathway thoughts to create new routes.

In 2002 they published this journal article for Psychological Inquiry. In it they defined hope theory and its implications. They have also released Adult State Hope Scale, The Adult Domain Specific Hope Scale and The Chilidren’s Hope Scale as tools for measuring hope.

More recently Liz Day and her colleagues found that hope was related to academic achievement above and beyond IQ, divergent thinking (the ability to generate a lot of ideas), and conscientiousness

“It seems that performance can be enhanced in the short term by reminding people that they have the motivation and the means to pursue a goal.” Liz Day

Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D, in his book Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others. Hopeful people share four core beliefs:

  1. The future will be better than the present.
  2. I have the power to make it so.
  3. There are many paths to my goals.
  4. None of them is free of obstacles.

He describes hope as “the golden mean between euphoria and fear. It is a feeling where transcendence meets reason and caution meets passion.”

Interestingly every researcher makes a distinction between hope and optimism, treating the latter as an attitude that things will get better but doesn’t necessarily promote the motivation and/or action to improve. This blog will mainly use Snyder’s hope theory as a basis for providing methods and ideas for finding hope but all three examinations are valid and will be considered going forward.

A few sources:



What is hope? a psychological perspective



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