HOPE 101 – The “Pathways” To A More Hopeful Life

Hope Sign

In explaining the inspiration for his book, The Psychology of Hope – You Can Get Here From There, C.R. Snyder, Ph.D recounted the following story:

“Whenever I go to a hospital, I try to find the window where you can see the babies who have just been born.  I don’t know which I enjoy more, looking at the newborns or soaking up the joy of the relatives viewing their offspring.  This day was different, however. I walked quickly past the baby-viewing window of the Kansas City hospital and headed to my daughter’s room.  There I met my grand-daughter for the first time. As I held her, I wanted to give her a gift. Surely I could come up with something very special for my first grandchild.  Not the usual stuffed animals and outfits, but something she could use for the rest of her life.  She should give a lasting gift from her grandfather.  It came to me that I’d like to give her hope.”

Fortunately for his granddaughter (and the rest of us!), Professor Snyder and his colleagues largely fulfilled that desire through the publication of his book and the years of research that preceded and post-dated its publication – research that was instrumental in developing a “hope theory,” which enables modern day psychologists to view HOPE as an important cognitive construct that has enormous power to facilitate healing, rather than simply as an esoteric virtue or emotion.

According to Professor Snyder, HOPE consists of three cognitive components:  (1) the ability to conceptualize goals, which serves as the centerpiece of the construct; (2) the perceived ability to develop what Professor Snyder refers to as “pathways” (i.e., specific strategies for attaining those goals); and (3) “the perception that one can muster the requisite motivation to [follow] those chosen pathways” and remain on them until the interim and ultimate goals are fully realized (a concept that Professor Snyder refers to as “agency”).  See Hope: The Imperative Human Motive, C.R. Snyder, Hal S. Shorey, Carla Berg, The Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science, W. Edward Craighead and Charles B. Nemeroff (John Wiley & Sons 2004).

Interestingly, Professor Snyder and his colleagues believe that, not unlike the academic skills referenced in my last post, children can be taught to be “high-HOPE people” by “interactions with consistently responsive and supportive caregivers” (i.e., “HOPE-inducing coaches”) who “teach the child to trust in the consistency of cause and effect relationships and to trust that others will be available to lend assistance in attaining [their] personal goals.”  Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology at p. 444.

As importantly, at least from my perspective, Professor Snyder’s work provides a framework within which individuals, young and old, who have not had the benefit of those idyllic “childhood interactions,” can be taught to be more hopeful by: learning how to identify and set goals that are important to them; exploring the paths that can lead to the realization of those goals; and finding and/or being provided the encouragement they need to begin that journey and to remain committed to staying the course until they have reached those goals.

Interested in learning more?  I am!



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