Hope Theory

Hope Theory2

This theory also considers emotions in a defined way: “a combination of goal-directed thoughts and actions which function as feedback regarding perceived success or failure of a goal pursuit.”


In other words, Hope Theory breaks down the concept of hope into goal setting, openness to pursue various pathways towards your goal, and the perceived belief that you have agency and you got this. We then use our emotions as feedback to recalibrate.


And the research bears out—researchers have found that humans with higher hope indicators, or who are more likely to rely on hope to get them through, have higher success in a multitude of arenas:


  • Academic performance

  • Athletic performance

  • Physical well-being

  • Psychological well-being

  • Interpersonal relationships


(I’m still waiting to see what researchers discover about hope in relationship to my chances of meeting my BFF, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, in real life, though.)


Now that we understand the theory, how exactly do we implement it into our lives? There are lots of different kinds of Hope Theory exercises, but a simple, fun one to do is called a “Hope Map.”


To build a Hope Map, grab a piece of paper and draw 3 columns:


  1. Goal

  2. Pathways

  3. Obstacles


Do a little daydreaming here and come up with a few forward-thinking goals you’d like to accomplish. Then under pathways, brainstorm the different actionable steps you might take towards that goal. Finally, consider any obstacles you may encounter along the way. (Write at least one obstacle here, because there will always be obstacles.)


After you’ve completed these columns, do a little noodling around these questions:


  • What skills and tools do I have to achieve these goals?

  • How will I maintain my motivation when things get difficult?

  • Who will be my biggest cheerleader along the way?

  • How will I make this process enjoyable?

  • How will I measure my progress and success?


Today, reflect on hope’s place in your life at present. Do you find yourself operating from a mindset of hope, or does it feel a little hard to grasp right now? How can you cultivate hope in your life?

Houston, E. (2020.) What is Hope in Psychology + 7 Exercises & Worksheets. PositivePsychology.com

Rand, K. L., Cheavens, J. S. (2009, July.) Hope Theory. The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (2nd edn). DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195187243.013.0030

Snyder, C. (2002). Hope Theory: Rainbows in the Mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249-275. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1448867

Snyder, C. D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pp. 7–8