The Challenge: We all want to find inner peace and perform at our best -how can we do it?
The Science: Hope is a little-known secret to getting ahead and improving well-being!
The Solution: Implementing a hopeful mindset in life gives you 5 serious advantages!
Psychologists have proposed lots of different vehicles to success over the years. Grit, conscientiousness, self-efficacy, optimism, passion, inspiration, etc. They are all important. One vehicle, however, is particularly undervalued and underappreciated in psychology and society. That’s hope.
Hope often gets a bad rap. For some, it conjures up images of a blissfully naïve chump pushing up against a wall with a big smile. That’s a shame. Cutting-edge science shows that hope, at least as defined by psychologists, matters a lot.
Here are 5 reasons hope gives you a serious advantage:
Hope Gives You Willpower
Why is hope important? Well, life is difficult. There are many obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to keep getting closer to those goals, amidst all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.
In 1991, the eminent positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways. The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.
Hope Makes You a Better Learner
Hope is not just a feel-good emotion, it actually makes you a more resilient and better learner:
Hope leads to learning goals, which are conducive to growth and improvement. People with learning goals are actively engaged in their learning, constantly planning strategies to meet their goals, and monitoring their progress to stay on track. A bulk of research shows that learning goals are positively related to success across a wide swatch of human life—from academic achievement to sports to arts to science to business.
Those lacking hope, on the other hand, tend to adopt mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope.
Hope Improves Performance
In one study, researchers looked at the impact of hope on college academic achievement over the course of 6 years. Hope was related to a higher GPA 6 years later, even after taking into account the original GPA and ACT entrance examination scores of the participants. High hope students (relative to low hope students) were also more likely to have graduated and were less likely to be dismissed from school due to bad grades.
In fact, in more recent research, Liz Day and her colleagues found that being a hopeful person was related to academic achievement above and beyond IQ, divergent thinking (the ability to generate a lot of ideas), and Conscientiousness!
In another recent study with athletes, hope predicted GPA and, among female cross-country athletes in particular, the state of having hope predicted athletic outcomes beyond training, self-esteem, confidence, and mood.
Hope Improves Creativity
Rebecca Görres at University College Utrecht found that when people were made to think hopefully, their creativity improved! In her study, participants who were instructed to think hopefully were better at making remote associations, generated a higher quantity of ideas, and added more details to their ideas, compared to those who weren’t instructed to think hopefully. This link between hope and creativity makes sense because hope involves coming up with a number of different strategies for obtaining a goal.
Hope is one of the most powerful mindsets for success & well-being.
Talent, skill, ability—whatever you want to call it— can help you get to your goal but aren’t enough to get you there. A wealth of psychological research over the past few decades show loud and clear that it’s the psychological vehicles i.e. mindsets that really get you there. You can have the best engine in the world, but if you can’t drive it, you won’t get anywhere.
And hope is superior to other psychological vehicles, such as self-efficacy and optimism. Self-efficacy refers to your belief that you can master a domain. Optimism refers to a general expectation that it’ll all just ‘be alright’. Hope, self-efficacy, and optimism are all incredibly important expectancies and contribute to the attainment of goals. Even though they all involve expectations about the future, they are subtly, and importantly, different from each other. People with self-efficacy expect that they will master a domain. Optimism involves a positive expectancy for future outcomes without regard for one’s personal control over the outcome.
So how does hope stack up against other vehicles of success? Philip R. Magaletta and J.M. Oliver measured hope, self-efficacy, and optimism and found that hope stood head and shoulders above the other vehicles. In contrast to both self-efficacy and optimism, people with hope have both the will and the pathways and strategies necessary to achieve their goals. The scientists also found specific effects: the will component of hope predicted well-being independent of self-efficacy, and the ways component of hope predicted well-being independent of optimism.
In another study Kevin Rand and his colleagues found that hope, but not optimism, predicted grades in law school above and beyond LSAT scores and undergraduate grades. Interestingly, LSAT scores were not even a significant predictor of law school GPA. Seems like if you want to predict law school performance, a 12-item measure of Hope is more predictive than looking at a person’s LSAT scores! Additionally, both hope and optimism uniquely predicted greater life satisfaction at the end of the first semester.
Important psychological studies show that ability is important, but it’s the vehicles that actually get people where they want to go. Oftentimes, the vehicles even help you build up that ability you never thought you had. And hope—with its will and ways—is one of the most important vehicles of them all.
Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the nature, measurement and development of imagination. In his book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Kaufman presents a holistic approach to achievement that takes into account each person’s ability, engagement, and personal goals. Kaufman is also co-founder of The Creativity Post, and he writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American Mind.