• This article appeared in the December, 2013 Guidance Newsletter 

       The Psychology of Hope

    by Dr. Gloria Rothenberg, School Psychologist at JFKHS

    [material for this article was reported in Weir, K. (2013). Mission possible. Monitor on Psychology, 44, 42-45]

                Over the past decade, research has grown in the field of Positive Psychology.  Positive Psychology is a strength-based approach to the study of human behavior that stresses resilience, health, optimism, and the factors that promote success.

                Throughout human history, people have understood the value of hope in getting through adversity and meeting challenges.  It has energized immigration to new lands to seek prosperity.  It has helped nations endure the horrors of war to protect their future.  It has sustained societies seeking to remove  tyrannical rulers from power.  It has helped communities survive and rebuild following disasters.  It has helped those stricken with life-threatening illnesses to recover.

                Recent research has scientifically documented the effects of hope.  Hopeful students attained greater academic success than those lacking hope over a 3 year time span (Maltby, 2010) and it was a better predictor of academic achievement in the study than intelligence, personality or previous academic achievement.  Rand (2011) found that hope predicted the academic performance of first year law students more accurately than their level of optimism. In a review of 45 studies examining workplace productivity in over 11,000 employees, Lopez (2013) reported that hope accounts for 14% of employee productivity.  Hope keeps people alive.  Of 800 people between the ages of 64 and 79, those demonstrating hopelessness died at a higher rate than those considered hopeful (Stern, 2001).  Restoring a sense of hope for the future is a key factor in preventing suicides.

                So what is hope and how does it yield so many benefits?  Snyder’s model of hope consists of three factors: goals, agency, and pathways.  Thus, hope is not merely a general feeling or wish, but it is connected to specific goals we are trying to attain. Agency refers to the belief that we can direct and control our lives and the motivation to reach a goal.  Pathways are how we plan to get to our goals, the specific steps and directions we take in pursuit of our goals.  Hope is action-oriented and results in our feeling and being more in control of our lives.  It moves us from wishing and hoping for our dreams towards the specific steps we must take to accomplish those dreams.  Cultivating hope is a task for all of us to engender in ourselves, our students, and our families.