How to Have a Hope-Filled Holiday

Strategies to grow your hope and help others this holiday season

Posted Dec 22, 2014

My husband and I went out to dinner last week, and as is usually the case with us, we sat at the restaurant bar. We like the casual vibe of the bar area and since we often make our dinner plans at the last minute, the bar is usually the only space left with seating.

While we were munching on our food, another diner started to chat with us. We could tell she had had a bit too much to drink, and she was very loud and effusive with her comments and questions. We asked her a few questions, learned a lot of details about her personal life that she probably wouldn’t have otherwise shared, and our conversation ended when we got up to leave. As we said our good-byes, she grabbed my hand and gave me the most heartfelt thank you. She mentioned that she wasn’t very close to her family and was feeling very lonely during this bustling holiday season. She had appreciated our company, even if only for 15 minutes.

So many of us are fortunate to spend the holidays surrounded by the people we love, or at least, kind of like. We have gifts to wrap, parties to attend, and things to keep us busy, but not everyone is so lucky. One gift we can give each other this holiday season, though, is hope.

Noted hope researcher, C.R. Snyder, developed a three-part framework to help people actually grow hope (Snyder, 1994).

1. Have a clearly conceptualized goal;

2. Identify multiple pathways for making your goal happen, which also includes identifying the obstacles you’re likely to face; and

3. Feel empowered and motivated to actually achieve that goal

Hope is a powerful process that can produce powerful results. In one study, hope proved to be a strong predictor of satisfaction, leading the study’s authors to suggest that hope is a symptom of happiness (Gallagher & Lopez, 2009). A number of other studies indicate that hopeful people tolerate pain better than their less hopeful peers (Snyder et al., 2005), and when it comes to children and how well they follow doctor’s orders, a child’s level of hope is a significant predictor of those who actually follow what the doctor says (Berg, Rapoff, Snyder & Belmont, 2007).

Here are three strategies to put hope into practice (Lopez, et al., 2004):

Create a hope profile. Write out several stories about current and past goal pursuits in order to uncover the hopeful parts of each story. Identify the resources you used to make those goals come to fruition.

Identify which relationships build your energy and drain your energy. Being able to lean on another person (or people) can help facilitate your goals. High-quality relationships, those that include a measure of trust, respectful engagement, and task enabling, help to increase your ability to cope with the different obstacles in your way.

Know the basics of goals. Since hope is all about setting a goal and figuring out pathways to reach that goal, knowing some basics about goals is important. For long-range goals, it’s helpful to break your goals into smaller steps or sub-goals. Begin pursuing that goal by focusing on the first sub-goal. Map out the different pathways to the finish line. For example, if you realize that you need to learn a new skill in order to reach your goal, start mapping out a way to learn that skill. 

Most importantly, remember the importance of hope as you go about your holiday activities. You never know whose life you might change.


Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP is an internationally published writer and a burnout prevention expert. She is the author of the soon-to-be-released e-book, Addicted to Busy: Your Blueprint for Burnout Prevention. You can get a copy of this free e-book at


Berg, C.J., Rapoff, M., Snyder C.J., & Belmont, J.M. (2007). The relationship of children’s hope to pediatric asthma treatment adherence. 2 Journal of Positive Psychology, 176-84.

Gallagher, M.W., & Lopez, S.J. (2009). Positive expectancies and mental health: Identifying the unique contributions of hope and optimism. 4, Journal of Positive Psychology, 548-56.

Lopez, S.J. et al. (2004). Strategies for Accentuating Hope. In Positive Psychology in Practice (P. Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph, Eds.) pp. 388-404. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Synder, C.R. et al. (2005). Hope against the cold: Individual differences in trait hope and acute pain tolerance on the cold pressor task. 73 Journal of Personality, 287-312.

Snyder, C.R. (1994). The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There from Here. New York: The Free Press.

** Photo downloaded with permission from