While everyone experiences hope uniquely, examples of hope can be seen universally among all peoples of the world, such as the hope that you will achieve your goals.

Hope is a part of the human experience. It can be found almost everywhere in some form, from hoping it doesn’t rain while you’re walking to your car, to hoping that better days are ahead for humanity as a whole.

No matter what you’re hoping for, hope itself is seen as a can-do state of mind, where you’re looking at paths to success rather than why something is doomed for failure.

Hope is a way of thinking that involves future-oriented optimism. It’s a pervasive, positive outlook that the pathways to your desired goals exist and are achievable, even in the face of extreme challenges.

“Hope is an empowering psychological concept that embodies our ability to anticipate a more favorable future, to conjure the possibilities, and to remain steadfast in challenging times,” says Ian Jackson, a licensed professional counselor and clinical director at Recovery Unplugged, Austin, Texas.

“It is more than just a fleeting thought — hope is anchored in the conviction that we have the power to determine our own fate,” Jackson adds.

Over the years, many different types of hope have been suggested by scholars and researchers.

1. Dispositional hope

Dispositional hope is the trait of hope, explains Jackson. When hope is dispositional, it means you’re naturally inclined to a hopeful way of thinking, regardless of the situation.

2. Situational hope

Hope involving a specific circumstance is called situational hope. It’s the hope for a specific outcome from specific experiences, like hoping your latest project gets praised at the next performance review meeting.

3. Generalized hope

When you’re hopeful and optimistic most of the time, you’re experiencing generalized hope. Generalized hope is a pervasive belief that most things will turn out all right in the end.

Even if something negative happens during the day, generalized hope means believing the day will still be a success.

4. Comparative hope

Jackson says comparative hope comes from viewing yourself in relation to others. An example would be hoping you can run as fast as your teammate in the next relay race, or hoping that your outfit is as well-tailored as your best friend’s.

5. Realistic hope

Hopes that are founded in practicality are realistic hopes. Finley says, “[Realistic hope is] grounded in logical evaluation of one’s situation and the probabilities of outcomes.”

An example of realistic hope would be feeling optimistic you might get a year-end award because you’ve had successful career quarters, hit multiple goals, and went above and beyond for your position.

In other words, you’ve done all the things necessary to achieve the desired outcome in realistic hope.

6. Utopian hope

When you have hope that the state of the world will improve, Finely says it’s Utopian hope. An example of this type of hope is the idea that humans have the knowledge and capacity to change things at a global level, and someday they’ll do that for the better.

Another example would be hoping that one day the planet will naturally find a way to override all the damage that’s been done through pollution.

7. Transcendent hope

Transcendental hope is hope that involves broad existential issues, like:

  • spirituality
  • the meaning of life
  • your sense of purpose
  • a connection to something greater than yourself

An example of transcendental hope might be seen in someone diagnosed with a terminal condition who, despite the finality of their situation, remains positive in the hope they made an impact on the lives of others.

Or they remain positive in the hope that a rewarding afterlife lies ahead of them.

8. False hope

False hope is optimism that’s not supported by reality. It can be the result of someone’s deception, like being told you’ve won the lottery when you have not.

Or it can be hope that’s not supported by facts, like believing you’ll grow an inch taller if you recite the alphabet backward once a day.

The 6 dimensions of hope

As an intangible, individual experience, the concept of hope isn’t easy to define. It involves emotions — but it’s not only an emotion. According to some researchers, hope has as many as six different dimensions, including:

  • Affective: Emotions of hope related to positivity, courage, and trust.
  • Cognitive: Hopeful thoughts, ideas, goals, and expectations.
  • Behavioral: The actions taken for hope-related goals.
  • Associational: Relationships with others or spirituality that influence hope.
  • Time: The future-looking perspective of hope.
  • Contextual: The specific circumstances that influence and challenge individual hopes.
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Charles Snyder, an American psychologist credited with the positive psychology concept of “hope theory,” believed hope was made up of three core parts:

  • goal-setting
  • motivation
  • the willingness to find multiple pathways to goal achievement

According to Snyder’s theory, high levels of hope were associated with higher levels of overall well-being.

Research supports those claims. A 2020 longitudinal study of nearly 13,000 people, for example, found a greater sense of hope was associated with:

  • reduced all-cause mortality
  • fewer chronic health conditions
  • lower risk for cancer
  • fewer sleep challenges
  • increased positive mindset
  • better life satisfaction
  • maintaining a sense of purpose in life
  • lower psychological distress
  • better social well-being

“Studies indicate that individuals with high hope tend to have better mental and physical health outcomes,” says Chanell Finley, a licensed professional counselor and owner of CF Counseling & Consulting, Monroe, Louisiana. “This includes enhanced overall happiness, more effective recovery from diseases, and a reduced prevalence of depressive symptoms.”

Hope isn’t one of those things where you either have it or you don’t. It’s OK if you don’t feel optimistic all the time; hope is something that can be nurtured. By building hope, you can start to see its positive effects in your daily life.

Jackson and Finley recommend the following ways to strengthen hope:

  • write down specific, attainable goals
  • plan out several pathways to achieve each goal
  • empower your agency, and your ability to self-motivate, through positive affirmations, keeping a success journal, or engaging in activities that boost self-esteem
  • surround yourself with supportive, positive people
  • regularly reflect on past successes to help maintain your drive toward future goals
  • cultivate stress reduction techniques
  • practice mindfulness to encourage a focus on the moment
  • keep a gratitude journal to help encourage a positive state of mind and outlook

Hope is a dynamic form of positive thinking that involves optimism, goal-directed thoughts and behaviors, and a persistent belief in a path to success.

While many different types of hope may exist, they are all part of the universal human experience. Deliberate goal-setting, self-empowerment, and a focus on building a positive mindset are all ways you can help nurture and strengthen your sense of hope.