Hope Definition Essay

For other uses, see Hope (disambiguation).

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.[1] As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation".[2]

Among its opposites are dejection, hopelessness and despair.[3]

In psychology[edit]

Barbara Fredrickson argues that hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities.[4] Frederickson argues that with great need comes an unusually wide range of ideas, as well as such positive emotions as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment, drawn from four different areas of one’s self: from a cognitive, psychological, social, or physical perspective.[5] Hopeful people are "like the little engine that could, [because] they keep telling themselves "I think I can, I think I can".[6] Such positive thinking bears fruit when based on a realistic sense of optimism, not on a naive "false hope".[7]

The psychologist Charles R. Snyder linked hope to the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal:[8]Alfred Adler had similarly argued for the centrality of goal-seeking in human psychology,[9] as too had philosophical anthropologists like Ernst Bloch.[10] Snyder also stressed the link between hope and mental willpower, as well as the need for realistic perception of goals,[11] arguing that the difference between hope and optimism was that the former included practical pathways to an improved future.[12]D. W. Winnicott saw a child's antisocial behavior as expressing an unconscious hope[further explanation needed] for management by the wider society, when containment within the immediate family had failed.[13]Object relations theory similarly sees the analytic transference as motivated in part by an unconscious hope that past conflicts and traumas can be dealt with anew.[14]

Hope theory[edit]

As a specialist in positive psychology, Snyder studied how hope and forgiveness can impact several aspects of life such as health, work, education, and personal meaning. He postulated that there are three main things that make up hopeful thinking:[15]

  • Goals – Approaching life in a goal-oriented way.
  • Pathways – Finding different ways to achieve your goals.
  • Agency – Believing that you can instigate change and achieve these goals.

In other words, hope was defined as the perceived capability to derive pathways to desired goals and motivate oneself via agency thinking to use those pathways.

Snyder argues that individuals who are able to realize these three components and develop a belief in their ability are hopeful people who can establish clear goals, imagine multiple workable pathways toward those goals, and persevere, even when obstacles get in their way.

Snyder proposed a "Hope Scale" which considered that a person's determination to achieve their goal is their measured hope. Snyder differentiates between adult-measured hope and child-measured hope. The Adult Hope Scale by Snyder contains 12 questions; 4 measuring 'pathways thinking', 4 measuring 'agency thinking', and 4 that are simply fillers. Each subject responds to each question using an 8-point scale.[16] Fibel and Hale measure hope by combining Snyder's Hope Scale with their own Generalized Expectancy for Success Scale (GESS) to empirically measure hope.[17] Snyder regarded that psychotherapy can help focus attention on one's goals, drawing on tacit knowledge of how to reach them.[18] Similarly, there is an outlook and a grasp of reality to hope, distinguishing No Hope, Lost Hope, False Hope and Real Hope, which differ in terms of viewpoint and realism.[19]

Hopeful Outlook
Distorted Reality
False Hope
Hopeful Outlook
Accurate Reality
Real Hope
SkepticalNo Hope
Hopeless Outlook
Distorted Reality
Lost Hope
Hopeless Outlook
Accurate Reality
Grasp of Reality

In healthcare[edit]


Hope has the ability to help people heal faster and easier. Individuals who maintain hope, especially when battling illness, significantly enhance their chances of recovery.[20] This is important because numerous people with chronic, physical, or mental illness believe that their condition is stable and that they have little chance of recovery. If health care providers begin to recognize the importance of hope in the recovery process, then they can learn to instill hope within their patients; this would enable patients to develop healthy coping strategies and therefore improve their physical and emotional well being. Shaping people’s beliefs and expectations to be more hopeful and optimistic is an essential component of positive psychology. In general, people who possess hope and think optimistically have a greater sense of well being in addition to the improved health outcomes outlined above. Positive psychologists teach strategies to help boost people’s hope and optimism, which would benefit individuals coping with illness by improving their life satisfaction and recovery process.

Major theories[edit]

Of the countless models that examine the importance of hope in an individual’s life, there are two major theories that have gained a significant amount of recognition in the field of psychology. One of these theories, developed by Charles R. Snyder, argues that hope should be viewed as a cognitive skill that demonstrates an individual’s ability to maintain drive in the pursuit of a particular goal.[21] This model reasons that an individual’s ability to be hopeful depends on two types of thinking: agency thinking and pathway thinking. Agency thinking refers to an individual’s determination to achieve their goals despite possible obstacles, while pathway thinking refers to the ways in which an individual believes they can achieve these personal goals.

Snyder’s theory uses hope as a mechanism that is most often seen in psychotherapy. In these instances, the therapist helps their client overcome barriers that have prevented them from achieving goals. The therapist would then help the client set realistic and relevant personal goals (i.e. "I am going to find something I am passionate about and that makes me feel good about myself"), and would help them remain hopeful of their ability to achieve these goals, and suggest the correct pathways to do so.

Whereas Snyder’s theory focuses on hope as a mechanism to overcome an individual’s lack of motivation to achieve goals, the other major theory developed by K.A Herth deals more specifically with an individual’s future goals as they relate to coping with illnesses.[22] Herth views hope as "a motivational and cognitive attribute that is theoretically necessary to initiate and sustain action toward goal attainment".[23] Establishing realistic and attainable goals in this situation is more difficult, as the individual most likely does not have direct control over the future of their health. Instead, Herth suggests that the goals should be concerned with how the individual is going to personally deal with the illness—"Instead of drinking to ease the pain of my illness, I am going to surround myself with friends and family".[23]

While the nature of the goals in Snyder’s model differ with those in Herth’s model, they both view hope as a way to maintain personal motivation, which ultimately will result in a greater sense of optimism.

Major empirical findings[edit]

Hope, and more specifically, particularized hope, has been shown to be an important part of the recovery process from illness; it has strong psychological benefits for patients, helping them to cope more effectively with their disease.[24] For example, hope motivates people to pursue healthy behaviors for recovery, such as eating fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking, and engaging in regular physical activity. This not only helps to enhance people’s recovery from illnesses, but also helps prevent illness from developing in the first place.[20] Patients who maintain high levels of hope have an improved prognosis for life-threatening illness and an enhanced quality of life.[25] Belief and expectation, which are key elements of hope, block pain in patients suffering from chronic illness by releasing endorphins and mimicking the effects of morphine. Consequently, through this process, belief and expectation can set off a chain reaction in the body that can make recovery from chronic illness more likely. This chain reaction is especially evident with studies demonstrating the placebo effect, a situation when hope is the only variable aiding in these patients’ recovery.[20]

Overall, studies have demonstrated that maintaining a sense of hope during a period of recovery from illness is beneficial. A sense of hopelessness during the recovery period has, in many instances, resulted in adverse health conditions for the patient (i.e. depression and anxiety following the recovery process).[26] Additionally, having a greater amount of hope before and during cognitive therapy has led to decreased PTSD-related depression symptoms in war veterans.[27] Hope has also been found to be associated with more positive perceptions of subjective health. However, reviews of research literature have noted that the connections between hope and symptom severity in other mental health disorders are less clear, such as in cases of individuals with schizophrenia.[28]


The inclusion of hope in treatment programs has potential in both physical and mental health settings. Hope as a mechanism for improved treatment has been studied in the contexts of PTSD, chronic physical illness, and terminal illness, among other disorders and ailments.[27][28] Within mental health practice, clinicians have suggested using hope interventions as a supplement to more traditional cognitive behavioral therapies.[28] In terms of support for physical illness, research suggests that hope can encourage the release of endorphins and enkephalins, which help to block pain.[20]


There are two main arguments based on judgement against those whom are advocates of using hope to help treat severe illnesses. The first of which is that if physicians have too much hope, they may aggressively treat the patient. The physician will hold on to a small shred of hope that the patient may get better. Thus, this causes them to try methods that are costly and may have many side effects. One physician noted[29] that she regretted having hope for her patient; it resulted in her patient suffering through three more years of pain that the patient would not have endured if the physician had realized recovery was infeasible.

The second argument is the division between hope and wishing. Those that are hopeful are actively trying to investigate the best path of action while taking into consideration the obstacles. Research[20] has shown though that many of those who have "hope" are wishfully thinking and passively going through the motions, as if they are in denial about their actual circumstances. Being in denial and having too much hope may negatively impact both the patient and the physician.


The impact that hope can have on a patient’s recovery process is strongly supported through both empirical research and theoretical approaches. However, reviews of literature also maintain that more longitudinal and methodologically-sound research is needed to establish which hope interventions are actually the most effective, and in what setting (i.e. chronic illness vs. terminal illness).[28]

In culture[edit]

In the matter of globalization, hope is focused on economic and social empowerment.

Focusing on parts of Asia, hope has taken on a secular or materialistic form in relation to the pursuit of economic growth. Primary examples are the rise of the economies of China and India, correlating with the notion of Chindia. A secondary relevant example is the increased use of contemporary architecture in rising economies, such as the building of the Shanghai World Financial Center, Burj Khalifa and Taipei 101, which has given rise to a prevailing hope within the countries of origin.[30] In chaotic environments hope is transcended without cultural boundaries, Syrian refugee children are supported by UNESCO's education project through creative education and psycho-social assistance.[31] Other inter-cultural support for instilling hope involve food culture, disengaging refugees from trauma through immersing them in their rich cultural past.[32]

In management[edit]

Robert Mattox, a social activist and futurist,[citation needed] proposed in 2012 a social change theory based on the hope phenomenon in relation to leadership.[33]Larry Stout postulated in 2006 that certain conditions must exist before even the most talented leaders can lead change.[34] Given such conditions, Mattox proposes a change management theory around hope, suggesting that a leader can lead change and shape culture within a community or organization by creating a "hopescape" and by harnessing the hope system.[citation needed]

In literature[edit]

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.

— Emily Dickinson[35]

A classic reference to hope which has entered modern language is the concept that "Hope springs eternal" taken from Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, the phrase reading "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always to be blest:"[36] Another popular reference, "Hope is the thing with feathers," is from a poem by Emily Dickinson.[37]

Hope can be used as an artistic plot device and is often a motivating force for change in dynamic characters. A commonly understood reference from western popular culture is the subtitle "A New Hope" from the original first installment (now considered Episode IV) in the Star Wars science fiction space opera.[38] The subtitle refers to one of the lead characters, Luke Skywalker, who is expected in the future to allow good to triumph over evil within the plot of the films.

Contemporary philosopher Richard Rorty understands hope as more than goal setting, rather as a metanarrative, a story that serves as a promise or reason for expecting a better future. Rorty as postmodernist believes past meta–narratives, including the Christian story, utilitarianism, and Marxism have proved false hopes; that theory cannot offer social hope; and that liberal man must learn to live without a consensual theory of social hope.[39] Rorty says a new document of promise is needed for social hope to exist again.[40]


The swallow has been a symbol of hope, in Aesop's fables and numerous other historic literature.[41] It symbolizes hope, in part because it is among the first birds to appear at the end of winter and the start of spring.[42]

Other symbols of hope include the anchor[43] and the dove.[44]

In mythology[edit]

Elpis (Hope) appears in ancient Greek mythology with the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the god Zeus, which infuriated the supreme god. In turn, Zeus created a box that contained all manners of evil, unbeknownst to the receiver of the box. Pandora opened the box after being warned not to, and unleashed a multitude of harmful spirits that inflicted plagues, diseases, and illnesses on mankind. Spirits of greed, envy, hatred, mistrust, sorrow, anger, revenge, lust, and despair scattered far and wide looking for humans to torment. Inside the box, however, Pandora also discovered and released a healing spirit named Hope. From ancient times, people have recognized that a spirit of hope had the power to heal afflictions and helps them bear times of great suffering, illnesses, disasters, loss, and pain caused by the malevolent spirits and events.[45] In Hesiod's Works and Days, the personification of hope is named Elpis.

Norse mythology however considered Hope (Vön) to be the slobber dripping from the mouth of Fenris Wolf:[46] their concept of courage rated most highly a cheerful bravery in the absence of hope.[47]

In religion[edit]

Hope is a key concept in most major world religions, often signifying the "hoper" believes an individual or a collective group will reach a concept of heaven. Depending on the religion, hope can be seen as a prerequisite for and/or byproduct of spiritual attainment, among other things.


Main article: Hope (virtue)

Hope is one of the three theological virtues of the Christian religion,[48] alongside faith and love.[49] "Hope" in the HolyBible means "a strong and confident expectation" of future reward (see Titus 1:2). In modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation".[50]Paul the Apostle argued that hope was a source of salvation for Christians: "For in hope we have been saved...if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it"[50] (see Romans 8:25).

According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a "[t]rustful expectation...the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God's guidance.[51] In The Pilgrim's Progress, it is Hopeful who comforts Christian in Doubting Castle; while conversely at the entrance to Dante's Hell were the words, "Lay down all hope, you that go in by me".[52]


In historic literature of Hinduism, hope is referred to with Pratidhi (Sanskrit: प्रतिधी),[53] or Apêksh (Sanskrit: अपेक्ष).[54][55] It is discussed with the concepts of desire and wish. In Vedic philosophy, karma was linked to ritual sacrifices (yajna), hope and success linked to correct performance of these rituals.[56][57] In Vishnu Smriti, the image of hope, morals and work is represented as the virtuous man who rides in a chariot directed by his hopeful mind to his desired wishes, drawn by his five senses, who keeps the chariot on the path of the virtuous, and thus is not distracted by the wrongs such as wrath, greed, and other vices.[58]

In the centuries that followed, the concept of karma changed from sacramental rituals to actual human action that builds and serves society and human existence[56][57]–a philosophy epitomized in the Bhagavad Gita. Hope, in the structure of beliefs and motivations, is a long-term karmic concept. In Hindu belief, actions have consequences, and while one’s effort and work may or may not bear near term fruits, it will serve the good, that the journey of one’s diligent efforts (karma) and how one pursues the journey,[59] sooner or later leads to bliss and moksha.[56][60][61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Hope | Define Hope at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. 1992-11-27. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  2. ^"Hope – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  3. ^B. Kirkpatrick ed., Roget's Thesaurus (1995) pp. 852–3
  4. ^Fredrickson, Barbara L. (2009-03-23). "Why Choose Hope?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  5. ^Fredrickson, Barbara L., et al. (2008). "Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources"(PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, pp. 1045–1062. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  6. ^"Mental Health, Depression, Anxiety, Wellness, Family & Relationship Issues, Sexual Disorders & ADHD Medications". Mentalhelp.net. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  7. ^D. Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (1996) p. 88
  8. ^"Breaking down Barack Obama's Psychology of Hope and how it may help you in trying times… – Wellness, Disease Prevention, And Stress Reduction Information". Mentalhelp.net. 2008-11-05. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  9. ^Eric Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello? (1974) p. 57-8
  10. ^Peter Berger, A Rumour of Angels (1973) p. 79
  11. ^Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pp. 7–8
  12. ^Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg. 19
  13. ^D. W. Winnicott, The Child, the Family, and the Outside World (1973) pp. 228–9
  14. ^P. Casement, Further Learning from the Patient (1990) p. 7
  15. ^"Hope Theory"(PDF). Teachingpsychology.files.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2017-06-13. 
  16. ^Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., & Sigmon, D. R. (2002). Hope Theory: A Member of the Positive Psychology Family. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 257–276). New York: Oxford University Press.
  17. ^"Self-concept, Hope and Achievement: A look at the relationship between the individual self-concept, level of hope, and academic achievement". Missouriwestern.edu. 1997-05-01. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  18. ^Snyder, Charles D., The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, p. 10
  19. ^"Emotional Competency - Hope". www.emotionalcompetency.com. Retrieved 9 June 2017. 
  20. ^ abcdeEnayati, Amanda. "How hope can help you heal". CNN. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  21. ^Snyder, C.R (1994). The Psychology of Hope. New York, NY: Free Press. 
  22. ^Weis, Robert; Speridakos, Elena (2011). "A Meta-Analysis of Hope Enhancement Strategies in Clinical and Community Setting". Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research and Practice. 
  23. ^ abHerth, K.A. (2000). "Enhancing hope in people with a first recurrence of cancer". Journal of Advanced Nursing. 32: 1431–1441. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.2000.01619.x. 
  24. ^Wiles, R.; Cott, C.; Gibson, B.E. (2008). "Hope, expectations, and recovery from illness: A narrative synthesis of qualitative research". Journal of Advanced Nursing. 64 (6): 564–573. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04815.x. 
  25. ^Simonik, T. "Reflections on hope and recovery". National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  26. ^Knabe, Hannah (2013). "The Meaning of Hope for Patients Coping with a Terminal Illness: A Review of Literature". J Palliative Care Med. 
  27. ^ abPhillips, Suzanne. "Does Hope Really Make a Difference? Scientific Findings". PsychCentral. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  28. ^ abcdSchrank, Beate; Stanghellini, G; Slade, M (2008). "Hope in psychiatry: a review of the literature". Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 118 (6): 421. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2008.01271.x. PMID 18851720. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  29. ^Jarrett, Christian. "Is it ethical to instill false hope?". Research Digest. Retrieved 2 April 2015. 
  30. ^Moïsi, Dominique. "The Culture of Hope." The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope Are Reshaping the World. New York: Doubleday, 2009. 30–55. Print.
  31. ^"Five stories of hope from Zaatari refugee camp - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 9 June 2017. 
  32. ^Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Berlin refugee guides show off cultural riches from home". Retrieved 9 June 2017. 
  33. ^Mattox, Robert (2012-10-14). Dealers in Hope: How to Lead Change and Shape Culture. lulu.com. ISBN 978-1105577208. 
  34. ^Stout, Larry. Time for a Change. USA: Destiny Image, 2006
  35. ^"SparkNotes: Dickinson's Poetry: " 'Hope' is the thing with feathers—..."". 
  36. ^An essay on man – Alexander Pope – Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 1811. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  37. ^Dickinson, Emily. "Hope is the thing with feathers". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  38. ^""A New Hope" – Star Wars". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  39. ^D. L. Hall, Richard Rorty (1994) p. 150 and p. 232
  40. ^Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and Social Hope. London: Penguin Books, 1999
  41. ^Christos A. Zafiropoulos (2001), Ethics in Aesop's Fables: The Augustana Collection, ISBN 978-9004118676, Brill Academic, page 61
  42. ^Hope B. Werness (2006), The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art, ISBN 978-0826419132, page 395
  43. ^M. Ferber, A Dictionary of Literary Symbolism (2007) 'Anchor'
  44. ^J. Matthews, The Grail Tradition (2011) p. 67
  45. ^Magaletta, Philip R., & Oliver, J.M (April 1999). "The Hope Construct, Will, and Ways: Their Relations with Self-Efficacy, Optimism, and General Well-Being. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55, pp. 539–551". doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-4679(199905)55:5%3C539::AID-JCLP2%3E3.0.CO;2-G/pdf (inactive 2017-10-02). Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  46. ^Tom Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien (2001) p. 153
  47. ^Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth (1992) p. 140-3
  48. ^"hope" A Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Edited by Elizabeth Knowles. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford University Press.
  49. ^"Meaning of : Hope; Bible Definition". Bible-library.com. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  50. ^ ab"Hope | Bible.org – Worlds Largest Bible Study Site". Bible.org. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  51. ^"HOPE – Holman Bible Dictionary on". Studylight.org. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  52. ^Dante, Hell (1975) p. 85
  53. ^prati-dhi Sanskrit Lexicon, University of Koeln, Germany (2009), see page 666
  54. ^Apêksh Sanskrit Lexicon, University of Koeln, Germany (2009), see page 56
  55. ^apekSA Spoken Sanskrit-English dictionary Version 4.2, Germany (2008)
  56. ^ abcDe John Romus (1995), Karma and Bhakti ways of Salvation: A Christological Perspective, Indian Journal of Theology, Volume 37, Issue 1, pages 1–14
  57. ^ abDe Smet, R. (1977), A Copernican Reversal: The Gītākāra's Reformulation of Karma, Philosophy East and West, 27(1), pages 53–63
  58. ^Maurice Bloomfield, The Mind as Wish-Car in the Veda, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Volume 39, pages 280–282
  59. ^David Krieger (1989), Salvation in the World – A Hindu-Christian Dialogue on Hope and Liberation, in Jerald Gort (Editor, Dialogue and Syncretism: An Interdisciplinary Approach), ISBN 0-8028-0501-9, see Chapter 14
  60. ^Jeffrey Wattles, The Concept of Karma in the Bhagawad Gita, Department of Philosophy, Wabash Center, Kent State University (2002)
  61. ^Oliver Bennett (2011), The manufacture of hope: religion, eschatology and the culture of optimism, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 17(2), pages 115–130

Further reading[edit]

  • Averill, James R. Rules of hope. Springer-Verlag, 1990.
  • Miceli, Maria and Cristiano Castelfranchi. "Hope: The Power of Wish and Possibility" in Theory Psychology. April 2010 vol. 20 no. 2 251–276.
  • Kierkegaard, Søren A. The Sickness Unto Death. Princeton University Press, 1995.
  • Snyder, C. R. Handbook of hope: theory, measures, & applications. Academic [Press], 2000.
  • Stout, Larry. Ideal Leadership: Time for a Change. Destiny Image, 2006

External links[edit]

A Syrian refugee girl with a hopeful expression
Hope diamond system – A coal to diamond process
Engraving of Pandora trying to close the box that she had opened out of curiosity. At left, the evils of the world taunt her as they escape. The engraving is based on a painting by F. S. Church.

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”—Langston Hughes, poet

What is hope? Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” It whispers, “You’ll overcome this hardship.” It reassures us, soothing our minds by reminding, “life will improve.”

Our lives are infused with pain and suffering. Some people experience more of these regrettable symptoms of the human condition than others. Yet, we can overcome hardship with hope. Hope provides us with strength to conquer misery and despair, caused by misfortune, perhaps an unforeseen job loss when on a Friday afternoon, after you’ve worked long hours on a project, your boss, calling your into his office, sitting you down, saying, “Your fired.”

Perhaps an unanticipated ending of a marriage. Your wife weeping in bed, when you’re desiring to make love. She turns to you and says, “I’m unable to live with you anymore.”

Perhaps an unexpected auto accident: A man in a rush, texting on his smart phone, crashes his delivery trunk into the side of your new blue Mustang, the one you saved five years for, now being dragged away by the tow truck to the scrap yard.

Hope motivates us to persevere, into the darkness, to journey onward, despite the obstacles blocking the trail of life, despite not knowing how, or when, or where, or why our life’s story will conclude.

According to Charles R Snyder, a psychologist, hope includes three elements: a belief, a goal, and a path. The person who is hopeful believes that he/she will succeed. Secondly, the person has a specific goal or direction or destination. Thirdly, the person knows the route or path he/she will take to achieve the desired outcome. And so, hope is a mindset, the will and determination to believe that you’ll overcome. Hope also provides you with a map of the route on how to achieve the desired outcome.

Anne Lamott writes: “Hope begins in the darkness, the stubborn hope that if you just show up, and try to do the right thing, the dawn will arrive. “

Hope always whispers to the psyche, “Try one more time.”

Benefits of Hope

Imagine if you had no hope, life would be unbearable. Essentially, you’d feel hopeless, and in a mental state of despair. Your mind would descend into the depths of depression—you might feel suicidal. When a love relationship ended, you would believe that there is no one for you in the future. If you lost a job, you’d believe you’d never find another. If you became sick, you’d imagine you would never get well again. If you suffered from terminal illness, you’d tell yourself that when life ends there is nothingness, nonexistence. You’d suffer from existential angst.

What are the benefits of hope? Hope is a remedy for all sorts of hardships and misfortunes. Hope enables us to cope with stressful events, such as an elderly father who’s dying in a hospital bed. Hope motivates us to persevere when our lives are infused stressful life situations or painful events. The unemployed person searching for work is inspired by the image of a new job to pay the bills and purchase a few of life’s comforts, perhaps a television, iPad, new pair of blue jeans, money to fill the refrigerator with food.

Hope assists the sick person in getting well, encouraging them to do what it takes to recover. It reassures them, “you’ll get better.”

Hope comforts the dying and gives them courage to face the unknown. It whispers “there’s life beyond death.” It also comforts the grieving who has lost loved ones, enabling them to pass through the five stages of grief, finally accepting, but never forgetting.

Hope provides the gift of faith. It instills the will to believe, motivates a person to read sacred texts, to engage in prayer and meditation, to contemplate the mysteries of life and find answers. Hope reminds us to live a moral life—to be compassionate and kind.

Hope is a spiritual practise that enables us to feel “spiritual”, enabling us to experience awe, wonder, delight. With hope, we are able to transcend the self, observe the beauty in nature, live in peace, be respectful to others, live mindfully, and believe in the unknown, the ineffable. Hope is an essential ingredient of optimism, which teaches us “dwell on the best possibilities” in a dire situation. Hope as a spiritual practise is a remedy for hopelessness, existentialism, nihilism.”

According to Positive Psychologists who have studied the science of happiness, hope is a signature strength that improves our well being, providing peace of mind, contentment, life satisfaction.

Developing the Spirit of Hope

For some people life is a graveyard of buried hopes. For others, it is the possibilities that motivate a person to achieve a desired outcome, to overcome hardship, to keep trying, to keep hoping despite the small odds of success. What do hopeful people have in common?

First, the hopeful person believes that life will work out, that they’ll solve the problem or overcome the illness, or get through the depression or grief. How is this hopeful mindset created? First, a hopeful person practises positive “self talk.” When faced with a stressful situation or hardship, and negative thoughts enter the person’s mind, the hopeful person will tell themselves, “It will work out. I will find a way to conquer, to succeed.”

Secondly, despite the adversity, a hopeful person visualizes a positive outcome. For instance, when sick, the person imagines being well again. When out of work, the person envisions being hired by an employer again. When alone, by oneself, the person imagines finding a soul mate.

Thirdly, when the situation is dire, perhaps a person is terminally ill, the dying person focuses their attention on the positive aspects of a grim situation. The person accepts their fate, but chooses to concentrate on the positive conditions in their life. For instance, the dying person might direct his/her attention toward living in the present, putting their affairs in order, spending time with loved ones, fulfilling a dream.

Fourthly, the hopeful person lives in the moment. Instead of being tormented by worry of the future, the person focuses on what he/she can do today to make tomorrow a reality. For instance, the single person who is sitting at home alone on Friday, will combat their loneliness and despair by attending a singles dance or conversing with other single people at an online dating site.

Finally, hopeful people embrace the spiritual or a particular faith. The spiritual person might be an agnostic who doesn’t belong to a particular religion, yet believes in God and an afterlife. The spiritual person might seek wisdom from the spiritual wisdom of all sages. The spiritual person might believe in the philosophy of Buddhism, which includes the belief in rebirth. Or the person of faith is a Christian who attends church, reads the scripture, and prays for hope. Each of these people has a will to believe—which provides comfort. It is the will to believe that answers their questions, that conquers their doubt, which motivates them to hope for the light, when their life is in darkness.


Hope is not wishful thinking, nor is it magical thinking. Hope is an emotion, a mindset, a belief, a motivation, that despite setbacks and obstacles, despite hardship and misfortune, despite the unknown last chapter of your life’s story, you believe that your life will work out, that when you take your last breathe, there is something else beyond this world.

You can do incredible things when you have enough hope. It was Christopher Reeves, a former actor who became paralyzed, a quadriplegic, after being thrown from his horse, and then forced to live for many years strapped to a wheelchair, breathing from a ventilator, who said, “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

Additional Reading
For more information on developing the signature strength of hope, read the following:

  • Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
  • The Psychology of Hope by C. R. Snyder
  • The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley
  • Awakening to the Sacred by  Lamas Surya Das
  • Spiritual Literacy  by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
  • The Heart of Christianity by Marcus J. Borg
  • Spirituality and Practise at www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/

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About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.

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This entry was posted in Essay, Hope, Positive Psychology and tagged Aldous Huxley, benefits, C. R. Synder, Dave Hood, definition, emotion, essay, existentialism, finding hope, Hope, Lamas Surya Das, Marcus J. Borg, Martin Seligman, mindset, nihilism, Perennial Philosophy, positive psychology, signature strength, Spiritual Literacy, Spiritual Practise, Suggestions, Theory of Hope, Tips, writer. Bookmark the permalink.

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