Goals thinking, pathways thinking, and agentic thinking are the three components of hope [1].  

Goals thinking is to paint a beautiful picture of how we want the future to be. Pathways thinking is to plan the way there. Agentic thinking is to build belief in our capability to follow the path.

Looking at those three ways of thinking, we see that hope is accessible to everyone. We can all fill our lives with hope, if we make a conscious effort.






Hope The Hopeful Human

Hope the hopeful human is a 31 year old woman that popped into existence a few seconds ago. Hope was really lucky and got all the characteristics correlated with having high hope.

Slow down, thinkAlthough surprised by the start of events, she also became very happy. So many possibilities! Hope started setting goals right away. She wanted to be a sci-fi writer; she wanted to be able to swim 10000m in one go; and she wanted to build a school in a poor country.

But she knew that having goals was not enough. She sat down to develop strategies for reaching those goals (Hope popped into existence with an average level of knowledge of the world). After a good session of thinking (link 1 hour think) she saw a path forward.

Hope was also wise enough to see that the road would have bumps. She would, at times, struggle with motivation, so she planned how to keep motivation high. Her plan for sustaining high motivation (agency thinking) included specific steps to increase her skills, how to keep control of the process, and to meet other people who have similar goals. What she didn’t know was that she was following the self-determination theory of motivation by increasing competency, autonomy, and relatedness [3].

Progress, not perfectionLike most other hopeful individuals, Hope believed in her skills, had high self-esteem, and was only rarely depressed [4]. Hope was optimistic. She encountered difficulties on the way, but she tended to focus on her small successes instead of the numerous failures [4]. She viewed failures as necessary stepping stones on the path to her goals. Hope thought it was strange that other, less hopeful individuals, had negative self-talk when they struggled. She felt that her self-worth only grew when she struggled [1]. Over time she got to know other hopeful individuals. She noticed that they also developed many goals, and believed themselves capable of overcoming any problems [4].

Hope started taking courses in creative writing at the university. Her high level of hope helped her thrive. She scored among the top in her class, was well liked, and her friends marveled at her creativity [4, 5].

Hope had every characteristic that hope promises to give. She wants you to have the same.

Guidelines for Hope through Goals:

  • Decide who you are, then work on itSet goals that are more difficult to reach than what you have already achieved [1]
  • Align your goals with your values and what you find meaningful [1]
  • Rank and prioritize your goals [1]
  • Make your goals specific and concrete, as opposed to general and abstract [6]
  • Make approach goals where you move towards something, as opposed to avoidance goals where you move away from something [7]
  • Also include goals that involve others [8]

Highly intuitive people pay more attention to their dreams. Read more about highly intuitive people here:
13 Absurdly Awesome Traits Of Highly Intuitive People


Guidelines for Hope through Pathways Thinking

  • Break your goals into smaller subgoals [1]
  • Put your subgoals into a logical sequence [1]
  • Ask for help in creating subgoals (people with low hope struggle with creating subgoals) [1]
  • Create multiple paths to your goals [1]

 

Guidelines for Hope through Agentic Thinking

  • The consequence of failing to try is much higher than the consequence of trying and failingUse positive self-talk (e.g. “I can achieve this”) [9]
  • Align your goals with your own values, beliefs, and standards [1]
  • Create goals that make you excited [1]
  • Practice reframing by changing self-criticism into more positive thoughts [1]
  • Use positive, uplifting memories, and create your own narrative [10]
  • Improve your your motivation through increasing levels of competency, autonomy, and relatedness [3]
  • Love the process!

 

The 1- Week Hope Exercise

Find the time for what brings goodnessThe purpose of this exercise is to increase hope over seven days. The structure of the exercise is based on scientific insights into how we can change. It consists of seven sessions with a natural progression.

It is important that you actually write, because writing helps us process our thoughts in a deeper way. Writing has been shown to have positive effects on mental health and well-being [11]. When we work to improve something it is also important to test our progress. Take the Hope Test before you start the week-long exercise, then test yourself again when you are finished. The challenge is to increase hope as much as possible in one week.

Test Your Hope: A Glimpse Into Your Future

Day 1

Goals thinking – Multiple Goals

  1. Write down every goal you can think of, no filter. Dare to dream!
  2. Cross out every goal you wrote that involves avoiding something, and rewrite to an approach goal. For example, change “I will not make a fool out of myself at the competition” to “I will win the competition”
  3. Rewrite all the goals to make them more specific/concrete. For example, change “I will be a writer” to “I have 3 published books in 7 years”
  4. Rank your goals from step 3 by how excited they make you.
  5. Visualize yourself already having reached your goals. Make it vivid and real. Think and feel!

 

Day 2

Pathways Thinking – Multiple Goals

  1. Think process, not outcomeRead the goals from yesterday
  2. Break down every goal from yesterday into smaller subgoals (at least 3). Write! What are the main blocks and how can you overcome them. What takes you closer to your goal? What are the essential steps?
  3. Put the subgoals for each goal into a logical sequence. Remember to stay open for the possibility that they can happen in a different sequence. “First I will…”, “Then I will…”
  4. For each main goal, write down who you can ask for help in creating more and better subgoals
  5. Go through each subgoal in the sequence you laid out, and visualize yourself on the path to your goals and how it feels when you take action. Think and feel!

 

Day 3

Agentic Thinking – Multiple Goals

  1. Write down some qualities you already have that will help you reach your goals
  2. Write down some qualities you want to work on that will help you reach your goals
  3. Write down, one by one, how your goals are important to you (think personal beliefs, values, standards)
  4. Think about what your typical self-criticism sounds like, and write down how you can change it into positive thoughts. Self-criticism usually comes from a focus on person instead of process. Person focus is “I am not good at this”; process focus is “I need to change how I do things to become good at this”.
  5. Think of a time when you achieved a goal. What difficulties did you overcome and how?





Day 4

In day one to three you got familiar with the process and (hopefully) made many goals. Today you will do the same as in day 1, but with only one big goal.

Goals thinking – One Big Goal

  1. Write down a goal that is important to you. Make it a “stretch goal”! Dare to dream! It can be similar to one of the goals from day 1 or it can be a new goal, but you have to make it bigger and more exciting.
  2. If the goal involves avoiding something, rewrite it to an approach goal.
  3. Rewrite the goal to make it more specific/concrete. For example, “I will become a pro soccer player” to “I will play for Arsenal FC, and score a goal in the world cup”
  4. Write down a three-step plan for how you can increase your competency in subjects relevant to reaching your goal.
  5. Visualize yourself already having reached your goal. Make it vivid and real. Think and feel!

 

Day 5

Same as day 2, but only for the big goal you set yesterday. Be more specific and detailed than on day 2.

Pathways Thinking – One Big Goal

  1. Trust your own unique pathBreak down yesterday’s goal into smaller subgoals (at least 3). Write! What are the main blocks and how can you overcome them. What takes you closer to your goal? What are the essential steps?
  2. Put the subgoals into a logical sequence. Remember to stay open for the possibility that they can happen in a different sequence. “First I will…”, “Then I will…”
  3. Create an alternative path to your goal. Come up with a “crazy” way to reach it.
  4. Write down a three-step plan for how you can increase your relatedness to people relevant to your goal. Think of people who can help you reach your goal. How can you get in contact with them? Who do you already know?
  5. Go through the subgoals in the sequence you laid out, and visualize yourself on the path to your goal and how it feels when you take action. Think and feel!

 

Day 6

Same as day 3, but only for the big goal from day 4. Be more specific and detailed than on day 3.

Agentic Thinking – One Big Goal

  1. Write down some qualities you already have that will help you reach your goal
  2. Write down some qualities you want to work on that will help you reach your goal
  3. Write down how your goal is important to you (think personal beliefs, values, standards)
  4. Think about what your typical self-criticism sounds like, and write down how you can change it into positive thoughts. Self-criticism usually comes from a focus on person instead of process. Person focus is “I am not good at this”; process focus is “I need to change how I do things to become good at this”.
  5. Write down a three-step plan for how you can increase your autonomy relevant to your goal. How can you stay in control of the process to your goal? How can you become more free to pursue it? What can you do to gain more control over your actions?

Day 7

Fall in love with the future image of youRead over your notes and let yourself become excited. If there are some goals you feel are missing you can include them.

Set reminders for once a month on your phone, where you remind yourself to read the notes.

Also, set a reminder on your phone for every 6 months in the future, telling you to redo this exercise.

Retake the hope test here when you are finished, and see whether hope has changed.

 

G

P.s. I would love to hear your stories of how this exercise has impacted you. Also, tell me in the comment section if anything is unclear.

 






References
[1] Snyder, C. R. , Lopez, S. , Shorey, H. S. , Rand, K. L. , & Feldman, D. B. (2003). Hope theory, measurements, and applications to school psychology. School Psychology Quarterly, 18, 122–139.
[2] Everson, S.A., Goldberg, D.E., Kaplan, G.A., Cohen R.D., Pukkala, E., Tuomilehto J., & Salonen J.T. (1996). Hopelessness and risk of mortality and incidence of myocardial infarction and cancer. Psychosomatic Medicine, 58, 113-121.
[3] Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: Guilford Publishing.
[4] Snyder, C. R., Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Rapoff, M., Ware, L., Danovsky, M. et al. (1997). The development and validation of the Children’s Hope Scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22, 399–421.
[5] Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (1999). Relation of hope to self-perception. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 88, 535–540.
[6] Emmons, R. A. (1992). Abstract versus concrete goals: Personal striving level, physical illness, and psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 292–300.
[7] Snyder, C. R., Feldman, D. B., Taylor, J. D., Schroeder, L. L., & Adams III, V. (2000). The roles of hopeful thinking in preventing problems and enhancing strengths. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 15, 262–295.
[8] Snyder, C. R., Cheavens, J., & Sympson, S. C. (1997). Hope: An individual motive for social commerce. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1, 107–118.
[9] Snyder, C. R., LaPointe, A. B., Crowson Jr., J. J., & Early, S. (1998). Preferences of high- and lowhope people for self-referential input. Cognition & Emotion, 12, 807–823.
[10] Snyder, C. R., McDermott, D., Cook, W., & Rapoff, M. (2002). Hope for the journey: Helping children through the good times and xx (revised edition). Clinton Corners, NY: Percheron Press.
[11] Lepore, S. J. & Smyth, J. M. (eds) (2002) The Writing Cure: How Expressive Writing Promotes Health and Emotional Well-being. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

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