In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant barrage of negative news, and daunted by the challenges we face every day. However, amidst the chaos, there is an unwavering force that has the ability to uplift us and propel us forward: hope.
Some people think of hope as just wishful thinking or blind optimism, but it can be much more than that. Hope fuels our motivation, resilience, and belief in a better future, sometimes against all the odds. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author who is widely known for his influential book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” He is a shining example of the power of hope and resilience, Frankl said” ““Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Research by Charles Snyder found that that individuals who possess higher levels of hope tend to have better physical and mental health, stronger relationships, and greater overall life satisfaction. Snyder suggests that feeling hopeful helps us navigate the challenges we face with renewed vigour and determination. He sees hope as a dynamic cognitive process that combines a belief in our ability to reach our goals (agency) and an ability to see how to get there (pathways). This kind of hope helps us set goals, overcome obstacles, and helps us to navigate through life’s challenges with resilience.
Anthony Scioli and Michael Biller developed a different theory, which sees hope as complex and multi-layered, linked to spirituality, relationships, and a belief in a power beyond ourselves. They suggest that having this kind of hope can give people a sense of meaning, purpose, and transcendence.
I experienced both kinds of hope when recovering from a knee injury a couple of years ago. I found Snyder’s goal-based theory of hope very relevant to the immediate post injury stage when I mentally “picked myself up” and made an effort to run again. But this theory did not work so well during the slow process of rehabilitation, with the gradual realisation that this injury may be long-term and have a significant impact on my future levels of physical activity.
Scioli and Biller’s theory, with its emphasis on the unconscious beliefs which ultimately influence our life choices, and attitudes, resonated far more and helped me to come to terms with the reality of the situation and the need to accept that I was growing older and might never be as fit as I once was.
Sciolii and Biller also suggest that hope can exist even when something is beyond the control of an individual, which is particularly relevant to these uncertain times, and in contrast to Snyder, who suggests that hope that is outside one’s control is not hope at all, but optimism or wishful thinking.
Feel free to decide for yourselves which of these theories of hope you prefer, but on a wider note, the concept of hope has rarely been so important than it is at present. In June 2023, an internet search for “how to maintain hope during these uncertain times produced 162,000,000 results.
Personally, I hope that humanity learns and grows from these ongoing challenges. Little if any of this is within my control, but nevertheless, this feels like genuine heart-felt hope rather than wishful thinking.
Frankl, V. E. (1970). Man’s search for meaning; an introduction to logotherapy. A newly rev. and enl., ed. of from death-camp to existentalism. translated by Ilse Lasch. pref. by Gordon W. Allport. Beacon Press.
Scioli, A., & Biller, H. B. (2009). Hope in the age of anxiety. Oxford University Press.
Snyder, C. R. (2002). Target article: Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 249–275. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli1304_01