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Allegory of hope; Oil on canvas, Francesco Guardi, 1747

Hope is the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or in the world at large.[1] Despair is often regarded[by whom?][weasel words] as the opposite of hope.[2] Hope is the "feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best" or the act of "look[ing] forward to something with desire and reasonable confidence" or "feel[ing] that something desired may happen".[3] Other definitions include: "to cherish a desire with anticipation"; "to desire with expectation of obtainment"; or "to expect with confidence".[4] In the English language the word can occur either as a noun or as a verb, although hope as a concept has a similar meaning in either use.[5]

In leadership[edit]

Napoleon Bonaparte said: "A leader is a dealer in hope".[citation needed]

Robert Mattox, social activist and futurist, has proposed a social-change theory based on the hope phenomenon.[6] There is significant research on the ability of leadership to effect change,[citation needed] but little research exists that examines the conditions of leadership necessary to initiate and successfully lead change.

Many[quantify] leadership theories[weasel words] presuppose that an individual who does the right things will be an effective leader.[citation needed] Larry Stout postulates that certain conditions must exist before even the most talented leaders can lead change. Stout highlights four conditions necessary to lead change:

  1. people (who)
  2. place (where)
  3. position (what)
  4. period (when)

If a leader meets all four conditions, he will be able to lead change.[7]

Hope system

Considering these leadership conditions among other macro social change-drivers, Robert Mattox proposes a change management theory. Dealers in Hope explores four leadership profiles: Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Mike Morhaime, and the historical[citation needed] figure Moses, each of whom succeeded or failed to lead change based on whether or not he was a dealer in hope. Mattox prescribes how a leader can lead change and shape culture within his community or organization by creating a "hopescape" and harnessing the hope system – illustrated using a “hope diamond” metaphor (from coal to diamond process).

In psychology[edit]

Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, Principal Investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab and Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,[8] argues that hope "...comes into play when our circumstances are dire", when "things are not going well or at least there’s considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out". She states that "hope literally opens us up...[and] removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture [, thus allowing us to] become creative" and have "belief in [a] better future".[9]

"Psychologist, C.R. Snyder and his colleagues say that hope is cultivated when we have a goal in mind, determination that a goal can be reached, and a plan on how to reach those goals".[10] Hopeful people are "like the little engine that could, [because] they keep telling themselves "I think I can, I think I can".[11]

Hope is distinct from positive thinking, which refers to a therapeutic or systematic process used in psychology for reversing pessimism. The term "false hope" refers to a hope based entirely around a fantasy or an extremely unlikely outcome.

"Hope, which lay at the bottom of the box, remained." Allegorical painting by George Frederic Watts, 1886.


Alfred Adler said: “We cannot think, feel, will, or act without the perception of a goal”[12]

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.[13]


Das Prinzip Hoffnung (de) Auschwitz, a rose expressing hope

Charles Snyder, Ph.D, one of the first developers of positive psychology, embellished upon the overlaying topic of "hope", relaying its subject matter within a psychological construct. Snyder created his "hope theory" while on sabbatical from the University of Kansas. Instead of finding evidence in a book in the library, he felt inspired to observe people and interact with them. Through his observations, Snyder was able to determine his own definition of "hope": "Hope is the sum of the mental willpower and waypower that you have for your goals".[14] Snyder continues his definition with these 3 underlying concepts:


Several researchers[weasel words], after defining their concept of hope, have devised ways of how to measure the actual psychological construct. Snyder’s proposed "Hope Scale" measures a person's intended succession in congruence to their goals. Overall, their determination to achieve their goal is their measured hope.

Fibel and Hale measure hope by combining Snyder's Hope Scale with their own Generalized Expectancy for Success Scale (GESS) to empirically measure hope.[19]

Snyder’s book, “Hope Theory”, 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.[20]

Versus optimism[edit]

The difference between hope and optimism: hope entails pathways and thoughts to an intended goal. Optimism leads one to “expect the best, but it does not necessarily provide any critical thinking about how we are going to arrive at this improved future”.[21]

Snyder says that “we can best understand emotion and self-esteem as a by-product of how effective we are in the pursuit of goals”.[22]

Dr. Barbara Frederickson states that, “Because positive emotions arise in response to diffuse opportunities, rather than narrowly focused threats, positive emotions momentarily broaden people’s attention and thinking, enabling them to draw on higher-level connections and a wider-than-usual range of percepts or ideas through cognitive, psychology, physical, or social resources”. Frederickson is explaining hope in a moment of great need. With the sense of hope come positive emotions such as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment. She describes these “positive emotions” as coming from four different areas of one’s self: from a cognitive, psychological, social, or physical perspective.[23]

In philosophy[edit]

Contemporary Philosopher Richard Rorty understands hope as more than goal setting. Hope assumes a metanarrative, a story that serves as a promise or reason for expecting a better future. Rorty believes the Christian story and Marxism both proved to be false hopes because neither delivered. Jesus Christ promised to return but he hasn't. Communism promised equality for all but the economic system folded. Rorty says a new document of promise is needed for social hope to exist again.[24]

As a literary concept[edit]

Hope is a common theme in cultural works across the world, and has a strong place in both classical and contemporary western literature as well as in works of world literature.

A classic reference 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:"[25] Another popular reference, "Hope is the thing with feathers," is from a poem by Emily Dickinson.[26]

Hope is a key concept in many classic and contemporary fictional works. It can be used as a 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.[27] 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 anchor symbolises hope. This is because a seaman's last resort would be putting the anchor down. A dove also symbolises hope.[original research?]

Swallow has been a symbol of hope, in Aesop fables and numerous other historic literature.[28] It symbolizes hope, in part because it is among the first birds to appear at the end of winter and the start of spring.[29]

In religion[edit]

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.


"In many traditional Christian texts, the word is an indication of certainty and a positive expectation of future reward. “Hope” in the Holy Bible means “a strong and confident expectation.” In modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation".[30] The author of the book of Romans, Paul the Apostle, argued that hope was a source of salvation for Christians. Romans 8:24-25 states "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it".[30]

According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a "[t]rustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God's promises. Hope, is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God's guidance[;]... the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future.[31]

The concept is considered one of the three theological virtues of the Christian religion. [32] "Hope is an essential and fundamental element of Christian life, so essential indeed, that, like faith and love, it can itself designate the essence of Christianity".[33]


In historic literature of Hinduism, hope is referred to with Pratidhi (Sanskrit: प्रतिधी), [34] or Apêksh (Sanskrit: अपेक्ष).[35][36] 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.[37][38] 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.[39]

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.[37][38] The Hindu philosophy, as epitomized by Bhagavad Gita, emphasizes that non-action is a hypocritical denial of human nature; rather, one must pursue action whatever be one’s calling and duty with a right understanding of hope. The correct focus is a commitment to one’s work for the joy of work, as a journey to learn or serve, for self liberation from ignorance, and without craving for immediate fruits; one’s effort has a wrong focus if it only craves for immediate fruits (sarva karma phala tyagam).[37][38][40] A desire that is only focused on immediate fruits, prevents one from learning or true service, from self-improvement and self liberation, blinds one from one’s duty and from doing what is right and good. One should seek to be one’s best in whatever role one accepts or finds oneself, without desiring immediate fruits (nishkama-karma).[41][42] When one looks beyond immediate fruits, one starts looking for deeper meaning and motives in one’s efforts, the first step to one’s journey towards higher motivations, liberation from ignorance and the perfection of the Self.[43]

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,[44] sooner or later leads to bliss and moksha.[37][45][46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As in, for example: "I hope you rot in hell". Jay, Timothy (1992). Cursing in America: A Psycholinguistic Study of Dirty Language in the Courts, in the Movies, in the Schoolyards, and on the Streets. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 75. ISBN 9789027220929. Retrieved 2013-12-11. "Here are some of the commonly used expressions of anger [...]: [...] 'I hope you rot in hell' [...]" 
  2. ^ "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" (Fourth Edition ed.). Retrieved March 18, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Hope | Define Hope at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. 1992-11-27. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  4. ^ "Hope - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary hope, n.1 Second edition, 1989; online version June 2011. [1]; accessed 19 August 2011. Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1899. hope, v. 1 [2]
  6. ^ Mattox, Robert. Dealers in Hope- How to Lead Change and Shape Culture. USA. 2012
  7. ^ Stout, Larry. Time for a Change. USA: Destiny Image, 2006
  8. ^ "Barbara L. Fredrickson". Unc.edu. Retrieved February 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ Fredrickson, Barbara L. (2009-03-23). "Why Choose Hope?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  10. ^ "Breaking down Barack Obama’s Psychology of Hope and how it may help you in trying times… - Wellness, Disease Prevention, And Stress Reduction Information". Mentalhelp.net. 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  11. ^ "Mental Health, Depression, Anxiety, Wellness, Family & Relationship Issues, Sexual Disorders & ADHD Medications". Mentalhelp.net. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  12. ^ Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg.3
  13. ^ Magaletta, Philip R., & Oliver, J.M (April 1999). "The Hope Construct, Will, and Ways: Their Relations with Self-Efficacy, Optimism, and General Well-Being. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55, pp. 539-551". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  14. ^ Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg. 7
  15. ^ Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg.8
  16. ^ Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg.10
  17. ^ Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg.10
  18. ^ a b Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg.13
  19. ^ "Self-concept, Hope and Achievement:A look at the relationship between the individual self-concept, level of hope, and academic achievement". Missouriwestern.edu. 1997-05-01. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  20. ^ Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., & Sigmon, D. R. (2002). Hope Theory: A Member of the Positive Psychology Family. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 257–276). New York: Oxford University Press.
  21. ^ Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg. 19
  22. ^ Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994, pg. 26
  23. ^ Fredrickson, Barbara L., et al. (2008). "Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, pp. 1045-1062. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  24. ^ Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and Social Hope. London: Penguin Books, 1999
  25. ^ An essay on man - Alexander Pope - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  26. ^ "32. “Hope is the thing with feathers.” Part One: Life. Dickinson, Emily. 1924. Complete Poems". Bartleby.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  27. ^ ""A New Hope" - Star Wars". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  28. ^ Christos A. Zafiropoulos (2001), Ethics in Aesop's Fables: The Augustana Collection, ISBN 978-9004118676, Brill Academic, page 61
  29. ^ Hope B. Werness (2006), The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art, ISBN 978-0826419132, page 395
  30. ^ a b "Hope | Bible.org - Worlds Largest Bible Study Site". Bible.org. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  31. ^ "HOPE - Holman Bible Dictionary on". Studylight.org. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  32. ^ "hope" A Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Edited by Elizabeth Knowles. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford University Press.
  33. ^ "Meaning of : Hope; Bible Definition". Bible-library.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02. 
  34. ^ prati-dhi Sanskrit Lexicon, University of Koeln, Germany (2009), see page 666
  35. ^ Apêksh Sanskrit Lexicon, University of Koeln, Germany (2009), see page 56
  36. ^ apekSA Spoken Sanskrit-English dictionary Version 4.2, Germany (2008)
  37. ^ a b c d De John Romus (1995), Karma and Bhakti ways of Salvation: A Christological Perspective, Indian Journal of Theology, Volume 37, Issue 1, pages 1-14
  38. ^ a b c De Smet, R. (1977), A Copernican Reversal: The Gītākāra's Reformulation of Karma, Philosophy East and West, 27(1), pages 53-63
  39. ^ Maurice Bloomfield, The Mind as Wish-Car in the Veda, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Volume 39, pages 280-282
  40. ^ M. Hiriyanna, Outline of Indian Philosophy, Blackie & Sons, pages 99-118
  41. ^ Robert Minor, in Edwin Bryant (Editor), Krishna: A Sourcebook, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-514892-3, see Chapter 2
  42. ^ Natesan, N. C., Keeffe, M. J., & Darling, J. R. (2009), Enhancement of global business practices: lessons from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, European Business Review, 21(2), pages 128-143
  43. ^ Tattvabhushan, S. (1912), Ethical science among the Hindus, International Journal of Ethics, 22(3), pages 287-298
  44. ^ David Krieger (1989), Salvation in the World - A Hindu-Christian Dialogue on Hope and Liberation, in Jerald Gort (Editor, Dialogue and Syncretism: An Interdisciplinary Approach), ISBN 0-8028-0501-9, see Chapter 14
  45. ^ Jeffrey Wattles, The Concept of Karma in the Bhagawad Gita, Department of Philosophy, Wabash Center, Kent State University (2002)
  46. ^ Oliver Bennett (2011), The manufacture of hope: religion, eschatology and the culture of optimism, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 17(2), pages 115-130

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]