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Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation".
Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson argues that hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. Frederickson argues that with great need comes an unusually wide range of ideas, as well as such positive emotions as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment, drawn from four different areas of one’s self: from a cognitive, psychological, social, or physical perspective.
Hopeful people are "like the little engine that could, [because] they keep telling themselves "I think I can, I think I can". Such positive thinking bears fruit when based on a realistic sense of optimism, not on a naive "false hope".
The psychologist C.R. Snyder linked hope to the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal: Alfred Adler had similarly argued for the centrality of goal-seeking in human psychology, as too had philosophical anthropoloigists like Ernst Bloch. Snyder also stressed the link between hope and mental willpower, as well as the need for realistic perception of goals, arguing that the difference between hope and optimism was that the former included practical pathways to an improved future. He also considered that psychotherapy can help focus attention on one's goals, drawing on tacit knowledge of how to reach them.
Snyder’s proposed "Hope Scale" considered that a person's determination to achieve their goal is their measured hope. Snyder differentiates between adult-measured hope and child-measured hope. The adult Hope Scale by Snyder contains 12 questions; 4 measuring ‘pathways thinking’, 4 measuring ‘agency thinking’, and 4 that are simply fillers. Each subject responds to each question using an 8-point scale. Fibel and Hale measure hope by combining Snyder's Hope Scale with their own Generalized Expectancy for Success Scale (GESS) to empirically measure hope.
D. W. Winnicott saw a child's antisocial behaviour as expressing an unconscious hope for management by the wider society, when containment within the immediate family had failed. Object relations theory similarly sees the analytic transference as motivated in part by an unconscious hope that past conflicts and traumas can be dealt with anew.
Robert Mattox, social activist and futurist, has proposed a social-change theory based on the hope phenomenon in relation to leadership. Larry Stout postulates that certain conditions must exist before even the most talented leaders can lead change. Given such conditions, Mattox proposes a change management theory around hope, suggesting that a leader can lead change and shape culture within his community or organization by creating a "hopescape" and harnessing the hope system.
He illustrated this using a “hope diamond” metaphor (from coal to diamond process).
Hope appears in ancient Greek mythology with the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the god Zeus, which infuriated the supreme god. In turn, Zeus created a box that contained all manners of evil, unbeknownst to the receiver of the box. Pandora opened the box after being warned not to, and those evils were released into the world; Hope, which lay at the bottom of the box, remained.
Contemporary philosopher Richard Rorty understands hope as more than goal setting, rather as a metanarrative, a story that serves as a promise or reason for expecting a better future. Rorty as postmodernist believes past metanarratives, including the Christian story, utilitarianism, and Marxism have proved false hopes; that theory cannot offer social hope; and that liberal man must learn to live without a consensual theory of social hope. Rorty says a new document of promise is needed for social hope to exist again.
A classic reference to hope which has entered modern language is the concept that "Hope springs eternal" taken from Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, the phrase reading "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always to be blest:" Another popular reference, "Hope is the thing with feathers," is from a poem by Emily Dickinson.
Hope can be used as an artistic plot device and is often a motivating force for change in dynamic characters. A commonly understood reference from western popular culture is the subtitle "A New Hope" from the original first installment (now considered Episode IV) in the Star Wars science fiction space opera. The subtitle refers to one of the lead characters, Luke Skywalker, who is expected in the future to allow good to triumph over evil within the plot of the films.
The swallow has been a symbol of hope, in Aesop's fables and numerous other historic literature. It symbolizes hope, in part because it is among the first birds to appear at the end of winter and the start of spring.
Hope is a key concept in most major world religions, often signifying the "hoper" believes an individual or a collective group will reach a concept of heaven.
Hope is one of the three theological virtues of the Christian religion,  alongside faith and love. “Hope” in the Holy Bible means “a strong and confident expectation” of future reward.[this quote needs a citation] In modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation". Paul the Apostle argued that hope was a source of salvation for Christians: "For in hope we have been saved...if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it".
According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a "[t]rustful expectation...the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God's guidance. In the Pilgrim's Progress, it was Hopeful who comforted Christian in Doubting Castle; while conversely at the entrance to Dante's Hell were the words, "Lay down all hope, you that go in by me".
In historic literature of Hinduism, hope is referred to with Pratidhi (Sanskrit: प्रतिधी),  or Apêksh (Sanskrit: अपेक्ष). It is discussed with the concepts of desire and wish. In Vedic philosophy, karma was linked to ritual sacrifices (yajna), hope and success linked to correct performance of these rituals. In Vishnu Smriti, the image of hope, morals and work is represented as the virtuous man who rides in a chariot directed by his hopeful mind to his desired wishes, drawn by his five senses, who keeps the chariot on the path of the virtuous, and thus is not distracted by the wrongs such as wrath, greed, and other vices.
In the centuries that followed, the concept of karma changed from sacramental rituals to actual human action that builds and serves society and human existence - a philosophy epitomized in the Bhagavad Gita. Hope, in the structure of beliefs and motivations, is a long-term karmic concept. In Hindu belief, actions have consequences, and while one’s effort and work may or may not bear near term fruits, it will serve the good, that the journey of one’s diligent efforts (karma) and how one pursues the journey, sooner or later leads to bliss and moksha.