Snyder’s Hope Theory by James Manktelow

What do you do when you’re faced with an obstacle? Do you soon give up, or do you persist, and actively look for ways to work around it?

If you can usually find another path to your goals, you probably have a hopeful outlook on life.

According to positive psychologist Charles Richard “Rick” Snyder (1944-2006), hopeful thinkers achieve more, and are physically and psychologically healthier than less hopeful people.

About the Theory

Snyder was fascinated by the concepts of hope and forgiveness. Throughout his career, he published six books about Hope Theory, and 262 articles about the impact that hope can have on aspects of life such as health, work, education, and personal meaning.

Hope Theory argues that there are three main things that make up hopeful thinking:
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.

Snyder characterized hopeful thinkers as people who are able to establish clear goals, imagine multiple workable pathways toward those goals, and persevere, even when obstacles get in their way.

The Importance of Hope
It’s a simple fact of life that even the best laid plans can go astray. Whatever talent or skill you may possess, hope is the state of mind that helps you navigate life’s twists and turns, and keeps you moving forward when times are tough.

What’s more, as we shall see, hope isn’t simply a happy feeling – it’s a human survival mechanism, and we couldn’t thrive without it.

Our capacity for hopeful thought begins to develop in early childhood. From birth, we start to piece together correlations (what goes with what), until we begin to develop an understanding of causation – or the notion that one thing can lead to another. This is the foundation of the “pathways” thinking that forms one element of Snyder’s Hope Theory.

At around one year of age, “psychological birth” happens, and we develop a sense of identity. It is also the time when we realize that we can make things happen. This is “agency thinking.”

Together, pathways and agency thinking give us the tools we need to pursue our goals. According to Snyder’s 1999 research, people who scored highly on the Hope Scale tended to be more successful at achieving their goals in athletic and academic arenas than people with low scores. This, he argued, contributed to their greater levels of self-esteem and well-being.

Applying Hope Theory

You can use Hope Theory to help your people make best use of opportunities, put their talents to good use, and become more fulfilled in life by setting and vigorously pursuing meaningful goals.

Step 1: Encouraging Goal-Oriented Thinking
Step 2: Finding Pathways to Achievement
Step 3: Instigating Change

If you feel your motivation waning, create a treasure map, or vision board, to act as a constant reminder of what you are working towards.

Long-term goals require even greater perseverance. Learn how to develop long-term focus so that you can stay motivated, even when the end isn’t yet in sight. Give yourself extra staying power with strategies like visualization, affirmations and positive thinking.

Allow your team members autonomy to decide how to pursue their goals, and make sure that there are resources in place to support them on the way. Then, set up some quick wins for yourself and your team to build confidence.

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