Hope Theory

Hope Theory

Just like “flourishing,” you probably already have some preconceived notions about the word “hope.” We may perceive hope as naive, intangible, or maybe even silly, but the folks over in the Positive Psychology world have done some amazing work to nail down exactly what hope is. They have quantified it, figured out how to measure it, and developed theories of how hope changes the ways we live in the world.


Today, let’s take a look at the Hope Theory of Positive Psychology.


The Hope Theory was created by Charles R. Snyder in the 1990’s, and defines hope as “the perceived ability to produce pathways to achieve desired goals and to motivate oneself to use those pathways.” You may already notice that there are some concrete components of this definition: pathways, goals, motivation. Within this context, hope is measurable and something we can foster in our lives in order to reach our goals. Hope is also different from optimism according to Snyder, because it involves practical pathways towards improvement.


In this theory, we break down hope into a few areas of focus:

  1. Goals: walking through life in a goal-oriented way, having a forward-thinking attitude. Mental targets that you are in the process of achieving.

  2. Pathways Thought: the belief that you have multiple, creative, novel pathways for achieving your goals, ability to remain flexible and adapt as pathways yield positive or negative results.

  3. Agency Thought: the belief that you have the ability to navigate these multiple pathways well, you are capable of adaptation, of achieving the goal.