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Archive for Wednesday, January 1, 1992

NEW HOPES FOR A NEW YEAR

January 1, 1992

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As the sun rises today, the first day of 1992, the concept of hope will cross the minds of almost everyone, says a KU professor who thinks about hope all the time.

"I think people turn a new page in their lives when they start a new year," said Rick Snyder, professor of psychology and director of clinical psychology programs at KU.

"Hope is not some loose concept," he said. "I guarantee you, people will think about it."

Snyder, who has been conducting research on the concept of hope, said each new year brings new goals and new dreams.

Hope, says Snyder, gives people the opportunity to have not only the drive and energy needed to achieve their goals in the coming year, but also helps them find paths toward those goals.

"I don't think people can live a life without being in the business of thinking about goals that we have," he said.

"ONCE YOU accept that as a given . . . to get to goals you need two key components: energy and the pathways."

Snyder has developed a "hope scale," which he claims can predict whether a student will do well in school or if a sick or disabled person will have a better chance of leading a normal life.

The scale uses several statements to measure a person's determination, such as "I've been pretty successful in life" and "I energetically pursue my goals."

Other statements, such as "I can think of many ways to get out of a jam" and "There are lots of ways around any problem," measure a person's ability to find a path to his goals.

Snyder said the answers to the questions can determine if an individual has hope, or is simply an optimist.

"An optimist thinks that she or he will get where they want to go and they just think they'll get there, and they don't necessarily have the pathways," he said.

"A HOPEFUL person, on the other hand, has both the energy to get where they want to go and they have an ability to generate pathways."

For example, he said an optimist who wants to drive to Kansas City may be stopped on the road when he learns the road has ice or snow problems.

A hopeful person will plan ahead and actually find out if the interstate is open, and try to think of another way to get to the city, Snyder said.

"So when you put a hopeful person in a jam . . . what they'll do is back up and generate alternative pathways."

A study from 1985 to 1991 using the hope scale found that of more than 7,000 men and women from 18 to 70 years old, 40 percent were hopeful in the sense of believing they had both the drive and means to reach their goals.

About 20 percent said they had the means to obtain their goals, but lacked the energy to reach them, according to the study.

Another 20 percent registered just the opposite, saying they had the energy, but little confidence that they had the means to reach their goals.

THE REMAINING 20 percent in the survey reported little hope at all.

Snyder, who ironically won the Honor for Outstanding Progressive Educator (HOPE) award at KU in 1991, says he became interested in studying hope about three years ago.

"I'm very interested in what motivates people," he said. "I think our species have survived because of hope.

"I guess I find the theory very exciting because it's very concrete, actually. Children understand it, I think grownups understand it."

Through the research, Snyder has observed that hopeful people are better at attaining their goals.

"Of course it's not easy, but that's the definition of life," he said.

"The interesting thing about hopeful people is I don't think they've had any easier lives than non-hopeful people. But they can generate ways to get where they want to get."

SNYDER SAID a hopeful person sees life as a big board game and understands the rules. A low-hope person knows he or she has to play the game, but they don't view the goals and the process as a challenge, he said.

"Low-goal people tend to get stuck and they become frustrated," he said.

Low-hope people, he said, should learn to break their large goals into smaller ones.

"I don't think high-hope people are sort of hard charging, step-on- everybody type of people," he said. "I think they are able to regoal, if the initial goal becomes unattainable, to something they can reach."

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