diversity · politics · social activism

Hope, Goal Pursuit, and Social Activism


Hope is an ontological requirement of human beings-Freire

A number of previous researchers have attempted to define the meaning of hope as well as to measure the implications of hope in various life settings (e.g., wellness, mental health disorders, counseling services, athletic outcomes, academic outcomes, and teaching effectiveness; Snyder, 2002).  While several scholars have developed varying definitions of hope, hope, as conceptualized by Snyder, is a learned process of thinking that relates to goal acquisition (Snyder, Harris, Anderson, Holleran, Irving, Sigmon, 1991; Snyder, 1993, 1995; Shorey, Snyder, Rand, Hockemeyer, & Feldman, 2002).

Snyder, Sympson, Ybasco, Borders, Babyak, and Higgings (1996) posited that goal-directed thinking is comprised of the following two components: (1) pathway thinking and (2) agentic thinking.  Pathway thinking signifies an individual’s ability to conceptualize more than one pathway to goal attainment (i.e., planning), while agentic thinking utilizes thoughts that are aligned with initiation and maintenance associated with movement toward the particular goal (i.e., goal directed determination; Snyder, Sympson, et al., 1996; Curry, Snyder, et al., 1997).

Hope reflects the aggregate of pathway and agency modes of thinking (Curry et al., 1997).   According to Feldman & Snyder (2005), an individual is unlikely to meet a desired goal when either of the components of thought is lacking.  In short, Snyder (2002) delineated that goals serve as targets for “mental action sequences” (p. 250).   In this sense, hope is not merely an inborn personality trait, where some people are naturally hopeful while other people are not.  In fact, Snyder suggested that hope is not an emotional state at all (Shorey et al., 2002).  Rather, Snyder delineated that hope is a “cognitive motivational process in which emotions follow cognitions and then feedback to reciprocally interact with future appraisals in the process of goal pursuit” (Shorey et al., 2002, p. 327).

So while Snyder acknowledges that emotions are indeed involved in some aspects of the concept of hope, the emotions are secondary to the cognitive appraisals (Shorey, et al., 2002).  Hope involves believing that positive outcomes are possible, which inspires personal empowerment (Shorey et al., 2002).  Emotions, whether positive or negative, that result from past goal pursuits are then carried forward into future thinking about goal attainment.

As such, individuals who have been successful in terms of meeting goals in the past are more likely to be involved in high-hope thinking as compared to individuals who did not meet previous goals (Shorey et al., 2002).  Snyder posited that because the role of emotions is complex in terms of meaning variation between individuals, the role of emotions “should serve as an indicator of whether given goal-pursuit thought-to-action chains are perceived as successful or unsuccessful” (Shorey et al., 2000, p. 327).  These goal-pursuit thought-to-action chains when perceived as successful are likely to include a number of accessible resources, some of which are likely to involve the help of other people.

Evidence during the last decade has indicated that social relationships combined with community action are important for overall well-being, and this phenomenon holds true even where communities lack financial resources (Warren et al., 2001).  Kawachi and colleagues (1997) found that the extent of the disproportion between the rich and poor has a powerful and negative influence on social capital investments.

Social capital can be viewed from the location of empowerment and capacity expansion for poor communities (Warren et al., 2001).  Further, the building of social capital can inspire group based identity and political agendas that can foster resistance to institutional forms of oppression (Warren et al., 2001).

According to the Highlander Center (2005), grassroots action must be the catalyst for democratic change.  An activist community begins when a group targets a particular objective and selects the best method for mobilizing resources and acting collectively to achieve their goal (Oakes & Rogers, 2006).  Organizing changes how individuals respond to one another because organizing “is overwhelmingly about personal relationships” (Oakes & Rogers, 2006, p. 98).

Relationships developed within organizing groups extend well beyond short-term goals.  These relationships become power resources (i.e., social capital) for social action with the long-term goals of “building stable, efficacious organizations that use democratic processes to develop the problem-solving capacity and commitment of less powerful communities” (Oakes & Rogers, 2006, p. 99).  Community actions can do more than generate support for local issues; they potentially possess the power to persuade policy makers that change at the government and institutional level is necessary (Oakes & Rogers, 2006).



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