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Hope: Optimism With a Plan

A look at the key components of hope.

Recently I have noticed a commercial that plays frequently on television. It has to do with a couple, a young couple, who is trying to stay within their grocery budget. In the commercial they are known as “The Hopefuls.” They are hopeful in that they may be able to stay within budget the next time they visit their grocery. But, alas, they fail. Consistently they go over budget until the cashier at their market comes to their rescue. She introduces them to a new app that will help them stay within budget. They make a plan to use the new app in making their grocery list and to their amazement, they accomplish their goal of not overspending. The end.

The advertisement does include some of the key components of hope. First of all, hope is future oriented. The young couple is concerned with the future. And secondly, hope is based on a system of belief that you can find a pathway to achieve your goal. For the young couple that is staying within their budget. And last of all, hope involves a plan. If the young couple uses the app that they have been shown, they will hopefully be able to reach the desired goal. That is their plan.

In the next few blogs, we are going to be talking more about hope and its relationship to resilience and to other positive states, such as optimism, self-esteem and side-efficacy. So I will take a few moments to define these terms. As we have discussed in this blog repeatedly, resilience is the ability to come back, to bounce back from a minor disappointment, such as having to spend more on car repairs than you expected, or from a major life event, such as the death of someone close. It shares many similarities with hope, but it is distinct from hope.

Optimism is the belief that positive events will occur and negative events will hopefully be rare. It is similar to hope in that it is thought based, but it does not necessarily mean that the person is optimistic as specific goals are planned.

Self-esteem is the emotion that results from an assessment of ourselves in terms of our worth and value. It is similar to hope in that goal-directed thoughts are part of it, but it is different in that self-esteem is more emotionally based.

Self-efficacy, as we have discussed previously when we were talking about the readiness to change, is the belief in one’s ability to execute a change in your life or to complete a task that you have established for yourself. Self-efficacy focuses, like hope, on pathways to achieving a goal, but it is more focused on specific situations and is less emotionally based. And last of all is happiness, which is another emotional state. It is similar to hope in that both focus on positive inner experiences, but happiness is more emotion based and hope is more belief based.

In the next blog we will talk about the key characteristics of hopeful people.

More from Ron Breazeale Ph.D.
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