Hope Theory and the GROWTH model

Some people like to look under the bonnet of the car to see how and why it works; other people don’t care too much just as long as it works. When it comes to things mechanical I take the latter approach! When it comes to coaching however, looking ‘under the bonnet’ to explore how and why a certain approach works often helps to make that model or approach work even better.

The gci GROWTH model is a simple but profound coaching conversation scaffold - that works. When we take a look beneath the surface through the lens of Hope Theory it helps to build our commitment and expertise in the application of this useful scaffold.

Hope Theory emerged largely through the work of C.R. Snyder in the 1990’s. Noting that much human behaviour was goal directed, Snyder argued that two key factors influenced the movement towards goals:

Pathways thinking: the ability to generate various routes from the present to the desired future

Agency thinking:
the level of intention, confidence and ability to follow those various pathways towards the desired future.

Key to Snyder’s theory is that hopeful thinking requires both the perceived ability to generate different routes to a goal and the perceived ability and intention to use those routes. An additional interesting aspect to this is that there is a cyclical relationship between these two dimensions – Agency thinking leads to more Pathways and more Pathways leads to higher levels of Agency - confidence and commitment towards goal achievement.

When we consider these two factors it is clear that the generating Options step in the GROWTH model is a Pathways thinking activity designed to tease out a variety of different routes towards goal achievement. Less obvious perhaps is that the Reality phase provides an opportunity to build Agency thinking- the commitment and confidence to move on the various emerging pathways. When Reality is focused on what’s working and what’s already in place it clearly helps build Agency thinking.

So asking a few more ‘What elses?’ when exploring what is already working is a helpful approach because it is likely contributing towards more options being generated in the next Options step within the GROWTH framework. Helpful Agency promoting questions include… What strengths could be used to help achieve the goal? What aspects of the current situation might be leverage points for goal achievement? When have you had success in similar situations in the past?

When we move to generating Options, including the more obvious alongside the more outrageous to generate several possibilities, we are also helping to build that sense of… ‘I can do this’ ‘ I do have some choices’ ‘ I am not as stuck as I thought’ . So pushing for a range (5-6) of possible options is helpful at this point. When that is happening Pathways thinking is not only generating more options and possibilities but it is simultaneously strengthening Agency thinking so that goal achievement is much more likely.

In the years since Snyder’s work first emerged considerable research has begun to link high levels of hope to academic performance, athletic performance and physical health and well-being. Helping people become ‘high hopers’ has all sorts of benefits in coaching and in life and work in general.

Maybe you could do some thinking about what more ‘high hope’ could mean for you…

  • “What would make this a ‘High Hope’ week for you?”
  • “What are some small steps you can take towards a ‘High Hope’ week?”
  • “How could you use your coaching knowledge to support someone else to have a ‘High Hope’ week?”

Have a high hope month!

About the author

John Campbell BADipEd, MAppSc (Comm Mgt), MAppSc (Psych Coaching) FAIM

John Campbell is Managing Director of Growth Coaching International Pty Ltd, an Australian based consulting organisation that provides coaching and coaching services to school leaders and teachers across Australia and now in the UK, the Middle East and the Asia/Pacific region.

John has been a high school teacher, a curriculum consultant and over the last decade has led leadership and coaching skill development workshops for thousands of educators across Australia and internationally. In addition to his teaching degrees he holds a masters degree in the psychology of coaching from the University of Sydney.

Connect with John: LinkedInTwitter

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Reference: Lopez, Shane,J. and Snyder, C.R.(Eds.)(2009) Oxford handbook of positive psychology (2nd ed.)Oxford. Oxford University Press.

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