#162 from R&D
Innovator Volume 4, Number 6
for High Hope
Dr. Snyder is director of the Graduate Training Program in Clinical Psychology at the University of Kansas. He’s author of The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There From Here (Free Press, New York, 1994).
I usually find
myself having to explain why I study the subject of
"hope," a subject many people to consider somewhat
it's a popular subject in the literature, theater, and song, it
hasn’t received much attention from a scientific viewpoint.
I'd like to discuss how I measure hope, the importance of
hope, and how to increase it.
But first, we
have to define it: Hope
is the sum of mental willpower and waypower that you have for your
goals. Willpower is
the driving force in hopeful thinking.
Waypower reflects the mental plans or road maps that guide
hopeful thought. It’s
not enough just to have the wish for something; you need the
means, too. On the
other hand, all the skills to solve a problem won’t help if you
don’t have the willpower to do it.
Therefore, a simple yet powerful definition is the
Hope = mental willpower + waypower for goals
clarify my definition of hope, let me also tell you what it isn't.
While hope and optimism seem to be similar, they’re
different in that optimism involves expectations that you’ll get
to your desired goals, but it doesn’t necessarily involve the
thoughts about how to get there.
Indeed, so called pollyanna optimism has come to have
negative connotations because it isn’t based on solid thinking
about how to attain
one’s goals. Hope
also isn't "type-A behavior," hard-charging, time-urgent
goal pursuits. Further,
hope isn’t simply emotion or self-esteem, and it cannot be
reduced to intelligence or previous achievement.
Based on the
definition above, I've developed the Hope Scale that's been used
on thousands of people, and has shown many interesting
Read each item
carefully. For each
item, what number best describes you?
false 2=mostly false
3=mostly true 4=definitely true
I energetically pursue my goals.
I can think of many ways to get out of a jam.
My past experiences have prepared me well for my future.
There are lots of ways around any problem.
I've been pretty successful in life.
I can think of many ways to get the things in life that are
most important to me.
I meet the goals that I set for myself.
Even when others get discouraged, I know I can find a way
to solve the problem.
Total the eight numbers.
What’s your score? The score reveals your thoughts about getting the things you
want in life. The
average score is 24, which is equivalent to "3" for each
question. If your score is higher than 24, you’re generally a very
hopeful person. On
the other hand, if your score is less than 24, you probably aren't
You can also
change the wording on the items to be specific to work goals, rather than goals in general. For instance: 1.
I energetically pursue my work goals.
By comparing results from the two tests, you’ll be
alerted to the influence of the work environment.
Items 1,3,5, and
7 relate to willpower, and items 2,4,6, and 8 relate to waypower.
From analyses of scores, it’s interesting that, despite
the folk wisdom, “where there’s a will, there’s a way,”
the two aren’t always perfectly connected. Many people, who score high on willpower, have low scores on
waypower, and vice versa.
The value of the
Hope Scale score is that it correlates with a variety of
characteristics that are important for R&D management, a role
usually filled with major uncertainties.
There's a strong correlation of a high-hope score with
measures of optimism. The
score also correlates positively with an overall measure of
control--decisiveness, readiness for stress, leadership, and
One of the
factors of hope is waypower thinking; thus, it's not surprising
that the score predicts an individual's perceived problem-solving
people, we’ve shown statistically, are more likely to operate
with several simultaneous goals, and set difficult goals for
embrace challenges. They
expect excellent returns on their mental investments.
How do high-hope
people get the advantages in dealing with stressful situations?
They don't routinely perceive problems as being disruptive;
rather, problems are welcome challenges.
Instead of worrying about themselves, high-hope people
concentrate on the problem to see what needs to be done—a clear
advantage in setting a pathway to the solution.
on the other hand, appear to be used
by other's goals. They’re
more concerned with protecting
themselves from losses. They
look at goals as threats.
You Change Hope?
We find that Hope
Scale scores are relatively stable—perhaps over decades.
Does that mean you cannot change?
No. Most of us
may change somewhat and a few of us may change a lot.
For most jobs in
R&D, you'd like to have high-hope people. While they needn't take my test, you can assess their level
of hope during an interview.
In fact, you may want to ask one or more of the test
But what if you
already have low-hope people on your team, and want them to be
more comfortable and able in solving problems?
What can you do to increase their hope and, therefore,
their effectiveness? You
have to first realize that one's level of hope is mainly derived
from childhood experiences, and a manager wouldn't be expected to
reverse ways of thinking that have a long history in an employee.
there are things you can do to increase hope at work. You need to cultivate a relationship with your employees
where the long- and short-term goals are shared.
By "shared," I mean understood and appreciated.
Just because both manager and employee have read (or even
memorized) goals written by the CEO, doesn't mean the goals are shared.
You need to spend
time with employees, open lines of communication, and increase
your familiarity with their hopes and fears.
Routinely mingle with them in the actual work setting.
Listen to your staff and value their input.
What you really have to do is get your supervisees to feel
that their input
actually will help achieve their
(and your) goals, that their
ideas will be appreciated and listened to.
Of course, this
won't work unless goals are clearly defined by you.
They should be measurable, realistic, and challenging.
If these goals are agreed on, you and your staff have
guidelines that both will be monitoring.
You also have to
be sure to establish an environment that provides a fair
opportunity to reach goals. Don't
implement goals that probably won't be met; rather, negotiate
goals that the employee perceives as attainable.
There's been a lot of research showing that when people are
treated as if they're going to succeed, they're prone to do so.
Be careful not to
overplan for your employees, for it will take them out of the
participation process, and their level of hope will decrease.
An example of a way to increase involvement and, therefore,
hope is Texas Instruments’ policy that those who implement plans
are also the ones to make them.
What should you
do if you find yourself in a low-hope environment?
Try improving communication between yourself and your
supervisor. Try to
understand the pressures and personality of the supervisor. Communication typically starts with listening and often ends
with compromise. These
two ingredients help a difficult situation, whether it's in the
context of one manager and one employee, or teams of managers and
Do what you can
to stimulate communication and cooperation directed towards common
goals. These are
precisely the conditions where hopeful thinking should thrive.
In closing, I
would leave you with perhaps the most important lesson I’ve
learned from high-hope people.
Namely, hope is a we,
and not just a me concept. Hopeful
people want to live and work in settings where shared goals can be
met by the many and not just the few.
As such, a hopeful work environment is one where common
goals, and willpower and waypower thoughts to attain those goals,
occupy the minds of employer and employee alike.
items of the Hope Scale are taken from an article entitled “The
Will and the Ways: Development
and Validation of an Individual Differences Measure of Hope,” by
C. R. Snyder, Cheri Harris, John R. Anderson, Sharon A. Holleran,
Lori M. Irving, Sandra T. Sigmon, Lauren Yoshinobu, June Gibb,
Charyle Langelle, and Pat Harney, Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 1991, Vol. 60 (4),
570-585. © 1991 by
the American Psychological Association, and adapted by permission
of the publisher.)