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The evolution and survival of a species depend on its ability to weather challenges and dangers. As humans, we have been given the unique gift of consciousness. With it come many abstract emotions and ideas. Some aid in survival, others don’t. The capacity for hope is unique to humans.
What exactly is hope?
Charles Richard “Rick” Snyder (1944-2006) — an academic who spent a lifetime on the study of hope — established the Hope Theory. His work on the subject is seminal. Snyder states that there are three main elements that constitute hopeful thinking:
- Goals – Handling life in a goal-oriented fashion.
- Pathways – Finding or delineating routes to reach your goals.
- Agency – Summoning up the physical and emotional strengths to initiate events and work towards these goals.
What cannot be measured, cannot be improved.
Being the scientist that he was, Snyder devised three scoring systems for objective measurement of a nebulous entity like hope.
1. The Adult Dispositional Hope Scale (ADHS). It is a self-reported questionnaire of 12 items. Total scores range from a minimum of 8 to a maximum of 64 with high scores reflecting high levels of hope
2. The Adult State Hope Scale (ASHS). One drawback to the ADHS is that it assesses hope solely as a baseline trait. It only measures an individual’s general level of hope. Hope levels may vary based on specific circumstances. (ASHS) assesses goal-directed thinking in any given moment or situation.
3. The Adult Domain Specific Hope Scale measures an individual’s level of hope in six specific areas: social, academic, family, romance/relationships, work/occupation and leisure activities.
The scales make it possible to compare assessments across different groups and times.
Hope is the best predictor of success, better than optimism
A growing corpus of scientific research has shown that hope enhances academic success.
- A study conducted by a group of British academics found that hope is not just linked to academic achievement, but it is a better predictor of success than IQ tests, personality, or past academic performance.
- Researchers at Santa Clara University discovered in 2014 that hope was the most constant predictor of GPA, edging out optimism.
When you lack hope, you are more prone to set “mastery objectives,” which are straightforward, doable activities that are not difficult and do not contribute to your growth. Pursuing mastery targets signifies a loss of control over one’s circumstances, making it simpler to give up.
There is a middle ground between starry-eyed optimism and relentless dark thinking. It’s called “realistic optimism“. Realistic optimists believe they will succeed, but emphasize that they have to make success happen through their own efforts.
Surfacing from the depths of hopelessness, into creativity
(By Francesco Jodice – ticket:2013022110009441, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24823403)
The Japanese word hikikomori translates to “pulling inward.” It was coined in 1998 by Japanese psychiatrist Tamaki Saitō to describe a burgeoning social phenomenon among young people who, feeling the extreme pressures to succeed in their school, work, and social lives, decided to withdraw from society for at least six months.
In recent years, there has been a subtle change in how people understand the phenomena, manifested through increased awareness of the complexity of the experience. It can be understood as a radical act of introversion and self-discovery.
Kazumi Leiri, a recovering recluse, suggests that there is no need to hurry to retie social bonds, rather to “tie small knots, little by little.” Creative expression could be a powerful way to both share experiences of isolation and to reconnect with others within and beyond the state.