C.R.Snyder explored many areas of positive psychology, but he is renowned for his work on hope. He authored or co-authored books such as The Psychology of Hope, The Great Big Book of Hope and Making Hope Happen.
Ricky, as he was known, spent much of his academic career at The University of Kansas. Describing himself as a ‘graying and absent-minded professor’, he also had a gift for translating academic research into practice.
One example is The Hope Scale, which is an exercise that people can use to measure their present level of hope. There are several versions of this tool. But here is the first one that readers are invited to tackle in his book The Psychology of Hope.
The Hope Scale invites a person to measure two things. First, their Will Power. This is their will to shape their future. Second, their Way Power. This is their ability to see ways to shape their future.
People who score highly on both will have a high level of hope. If people score low, however, there is definitely hope. Ricky showed many practical ways that people could increase their ability to shape the future. Here is the exercise.
So what are the average scores? Ricky used this tool with thousands of people. He says:
Scores of around 24 approximate an average amount of hope. I would emphasize, however, that average in this context actually suggests a strong base of hope.
This was because people were marking statements that for them were ‘mostly true’.
Writing for the Buddhist Journal, SGI, he gave a more theoretical background to the scale. Here are extracts from the article called Approaching Hope, which you can find at the following link.
A recent definition of hope that has received considerable attention has partitioned this goal-directed thinking into two components, corresponding to the ‘will’ and the ‘way’ of the old expression ‘where there's a will, there's a way.
First, people believe that they have the capacities to come up with the routes to desired goals. This is called pathways thinking.
Second, when people believe that they have the requisite motivations to actually use such routes, this is called agency thinking.
To hope is to have both the will (agency) and the ways (pathways) to pursue desired goals.
Scientific approaches for examining hope did not begin until the 1950s, when mental health professionals defined hope in terms of positive goal expectancies – similar to dictionary descriptions.
Increasingly in the last two decades of the 20th century, scholars turned their attention toward hope, and in the 1990s an approach known as ‘hope theory’ captured attention by defining hope as the perceived capacity to find routes to desired goals (pathways thinking), in conjunction with the motivations to use those routes (agency thinking).
Such hopeful thinking does not appear to be based on genetic inheritance, but instead reflects learning experiences over the course of childhood.
Finally, hope theory is an example of an emerging 21st-century viewpoint called positive psychology in which the emphasis is on the strengths of people rather than their weaknesses.
So can people increase their sense of hope? Ricky and many others have shown this is possible. It is often said that:
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
But you can also turn that phrase around and say:
“Where there’s a way, there’s a will.”
If people can see a way of achieving their goals, they are more likely to develop the will to have a go.
Any work on developing hope therefore focuses on helping people to develop both their will and ways for achieving their goals.
* The Will.
Here are some of the suggestions that Ricky makes for encouraging people to develop their will. It can be useful:
* To set a goal because it is something you really want, not what another wants for you.
* To produce several goals in different areas (e.g., relationships, friendships, career, etc.).
* To recall your earlier successes, especially when you are in a jam.
* To rank goals from the most to least important and then select a few most important goals on which to work.
* To be sure to set aside sufficient time for the important goals.
* To not let yourself be interrupted as you work on these important goals.
* To learn how to talk to yourself in positive voices. For example: "I can do this.”
* To view problems as challenges.
* To laugh at yourself, and enjoy a good laugh with your friends.
* To enjoy getting to your goals as much as reaching them.
* To get enough sleep, eat several small meals and eat more of your food earlier in the day.
* To get vigorous physical exercise.
* To cut back on cigarettes and alcohol, along with caffeine-laden products.
* To get sufficient bright lighting (preferably sunlight) to your eyes.
* The Way.
Here are some of the suggestions that Ricky and others make for encouraging people to develop possible ways to reach their goals. It can be useful:
* To study positive models.
* To learn from people who have followed various pathways to reach their goals.
* To keep adding to your repertoire of options for achieving your goals.
* To make a clear goal and clarify the ‘What’ – the real results you want to achieve – before moving to the ‘How’.
* To visualise the picture of success.
* To brainstorm the possible options – the routes you can take – toward reaching goal.
* To clarify the pluses and minuses of these options.
* To settle on your chosen path – then clarify how you can build on the pluses and manage the minuses.
* To take long-range goals and break them down into steps.
* To start with the first step and build in some early successes.
* To build in the support you need on the journey – such as the kinds of people, practical support and other things that can help you to reach the goal.
* To mentally go over what you would do if you should run into a blockage.
* To, when a route does not work, do not blame yourself. By knowing what strategy does not work, realize that this will help you find another route that will work.
* To, if you need a new skill to implement a route to a desired goal, take time to learn it.
* To make the best use of your prime times – the times of the day when you have most energy.
* To keep looking at the benefits of achieving the goal and encourage yourself on the journey.
* To look back on the day and record even the smallest things you have done towards reaching the goal.
* To do whatever is necessary to reach the goal.
Ricky authored or co-authored many other books. These included Uniqueness: The Human Pursuit of Difference and Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. The latter was one of the first textbooks to provide a thorough overview of positive psychology.
Ricky died in 2006, but he left a great legacy. He continued to produce books that encouraged people to develop their will power and way power. The theme, as ever, was giving people hope.
* Ricky Snyder.
Here is the statement written by Ricky’s colleagues at the University of Kansas after his death in 2006. They point to his generosity, knowledge and being a symbol of hope.
Here is the link to his page on Amazon.