What is hope?
The psychological importance of hope
The distinction between types of hope
The contributors to "non-hope"
How to increase hope
Evolutionarily speaking, we seek that which will have us survive (or survive better). Hope is expecting a possibility of something coming along that will have us at least survive better. That is a good feeling, one that we seek. Individuals who are unhappy about their lack of survivability skills, may, instead of learning those skills, just "run away" and may seek a land of make-beleive hope, which feels "better", certainly than thinking of nonsurvival or surviving unhappily.
Psychological training and reality training will help to have one be better able to assess how not to fear, get depressed (a condition of hopelessness, plus some physical malfunctioning), or seek emotional escape. They will learn how not to misuse hope, which is a positive emotion, and hopefully to base hope on reality. We always have real hope in life in terms of the fact that we have the basic ability to think and then develop whatever we need to make life work well. (See Am I Capable Of Creating An Excellent Life? for the "why"s and "how"s.)
WHAT IS HOPE?
Definition of hope: A feeling that what is wanted will happen; desire accompanied by expectation.
Definition of realistic hope: A hope that is based on achievable, realistic expectations, which are not based on fairy tale wishes that are unexamined and not actually fulfilling or worthwhile in the end result.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE OF HOPE
Hope is a projection of "having" something in the future. It is therefore the opposite to fear, which is the projection of not "having," of potential or expected loss.
And, of course, fear is the basis of virtually all unhappiness and depression.
To the degree that hope contributes a feeling of future "having" of something that will make us feel good it is a contributor to our happiness. (Note that noting what one has now that is good, the process called gratitude and appreciation, is also a super contributor.) Happiness is the viewpoint of feeling good about life and oneself - happiness is the purpose of life.
Hope, as an emotion, evolved in us humans because it was a survival tool, helping keep mood and motivation up so that we would not give up seeking food and doing battle where necessary. It is a positive, and necessary, psychologically beneficial "tool".
THE POTENTIAL TRAPS IN "HOPE"
If we base our life on what we "hope" will happen or what we "hope" we will have, we base our life on something very fragile, if we are not careful. We must be cognizant of the reality that many things are out of our control - especially things like "winning the lottery" or "my life's love coming into my life". Those are the things that are "fairy tales", though somewhat possible.
We should, instead, base hope on what we know can be created by doing what is necessary to create that. It is a bit like a manufacturing process - the raw material is worked on and then we produce a product that we knew would come out the other end.
Aside from the "fairy tale" trap, we enter into the potential danger of the "when, then" trap. "I'll be happy (or ok or ...) when ... happens". This means, from another observation point, that "I won't be happy until then." The "when, then" is based on a poorly constructed belief, one saying that I must have all of "x" before I can be happy. It is a "not having" viewpoint. But the people who are happy are the people who look at and see what they have, so that they feel fuller and more satisfied - and are dependent for their happiness on something they may or may not have. What is received in the future is a bonus, not a requirement for starting to be happy!
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN TYPES OF HOPE
All types of hope make people feel good. Notice that it is defined as a "feeling". All feelings and emotions are the results of beliefs. So, in a sense, hope actually reflects a belief about the future turning out ok in some way.
The problem lies with a hope for passive, magical panacea, essential wishful thinking, often including denial of what is so. This is a perpetuation of the "learned helplessness" way of thinking, of being "dependent" on something outside oneself to make things work. Religion is a great contributor to hope, but one must supplement that form of hope with what I call "self-caused" hope. Or the version of that in some religions is "believe in God, but row toward the shore."
An active, empowered approach to life is what will produce the greatest impact. So, the hope we primarily want to change is that one - the one with more substance and strength.
Passively hoping for better circumstances (or luck) doesn't work!
Realistic hope lies not in just making all circumstances better but in being able to garner more from the circumstances that exist and/or will happen. It is about seeing what is good (via appreciation and gratitude practices) and what further good can be created through one’s own power, not hoped for rescue from another or by a circumstance that we cannot control. The latter is the very definition of powerlessness and of dependency - it is the great facilitator of unhappiness.
THE CONTRIBUTORS TO "NOT-HOPE"
In the Western cultures, which overflows into other cultures also, being "independent and strong" is idolized. As a result, we expect to be able to produce all the results through our own power. This defies the rules for productivity and success, wherein we must train ourselves to properly utilize powerful resources to leverage our effectiveness. So, it is no wonder that we meet with inevitable "predictable failures". The problem then is that we become less hopeful because our expectations have not been met (which were unrealistic based on being unclear about how to achieve them). But this doesn't mean there is less hope. It simply means that we are using the wrong methods!
And, of course, the tendency of human beings to want to be "right" about their positions leads them to selectively "gather evidence" to prove that there is justification in being hopeless (or hopeful). This normally creates an unduly negative viewpoint, and locks it in.
The solution to this type of thinking is in applying the pieces necessary to develop the skill of right thinking, as we advocate strongly on this site.
HOW TO INCREASE HOPE
Determine what is realistically achievable and truly contributory to your life.
Many people set unfulfilling goals, the achievement of which still leaves a hole in life satisfaction, so be sure your goals are ones that will contribute to life satisfaction.
One test of how realistic a thing is is based on the ability of any person to achieve a goal if another person has done it - we simply need to find out what that person did and learn what is needed to support that. In this, we look at examples of other people who have done it, either in our reach or in biographies and/or advice books.
You can increase the amount of confidence that a result will be produced simply by answering the question: "Have others done it, not based on luck? "Do I have the basic intelligence (100 or above) to learn and to apply the learning?" and "Is it worth the effort?" If the answer to those is "yes" to all of these, then you will produce the result.
YES, AT TIMES THE RESULT WILL NOT BE ACHIEVED
If we go for something that has a risk in it, we might not achieve the result. And sometimes something unforeseeable and/or uncontrollable comes in to cause an undesired result.
In this case, we need to ask why didn't it work (incorrect reasoning, incompletion, pushing the boulder almost to the top and letting it roll backward over and over like Sisyphus, inadequate learning, and a limited number of causes - see What Is Missing In The Success Process, in the Success In Life section).
what is doable and why didn't it work before...
Having a "bank" of ideas and energy about one's future, including a "bucket list" of all you'd like to do and what you're willing to cause. And developing a LifePlan to achieve those elements would greatly increase right hope.
BUT THE MOST POWERFUL OF THEM ALL IS...
Character is the most powerful determinate of hope and confidence as it is the prime generator of a person operating effectively.
If one has the character (and the knowledge of what character is) that comes from a clear commitment to character, one will, absolutely, succeed in life. Note that character is developed the same way any muscle is developed - at first it will be relatively weak, but over exercising the muscle over and over, it becomes strong. It is character that gives us the confidence that we can be relied on to produce what we want into our life, without compromise and without dropping lower on the scale of victim vs. cause. ( Note that most people will protest that they are not allowing themselves to go into being a victim, but the scientific evidence exists in the results in their lives and in their personal psychology.)
Character = Power = Enhanced, reasonable Hope
Read the Character section and decide for yourself.