Hope Theory - A Brief Summary

Hope is a critical human emotion and psychologists Charles Snyder and Shane Lopez (2005) have contributed a lot to our thinking about cultivating hope and how this relates to motivation and goal attainment. Their work emphasises the role of ‘agency thinking’ - that sense of ‘can do’, and ‘pathways thinking’ - the ability to see pathways to a positive future (the goal), and the reciprocal relationship between the two.

Drawing on this theory, John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh (2018) summarise these two key components as follows:

  • Agency Thinking refers to the level of intention, confidence and ability to follow various pathways towards the desired future.
  • Pathways Thinking refers to the ability to generate various routes from the present to the desired future.

John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh (2018) go on to demonstrate how hope theory and other evidence-based positive psychology theories underpin the GROWTH coaching system:

  • Getting clear (in a detailed way) about ‘what’s wanted’ instead of an extended conversation about what is not wanted and its causes
  • Identifying resources, strengths and skills that might be useful in moving towards the desired future
  • Acknowledging, affirming and amplifying identified resources and strengths
  • Identifying small steps towards the desired future
  • Monitoring progress over time and doing more of what is helping
  • If it’s not helping, change and do something else

  • Campbell, C., & van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2018). The leader’s guide to coaching in schools: creating the conditions for effective learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Snyder, C., & Lopez, S. (2005). Handbook of positive psychology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.