How Positive Psychology can help us Embrace the Hopeful Message of Christmas


The end of 2011 is upon us, and I hope it’s been a great year for you. I hope you have experienced many moments of success, expanded your belief about what’s possible, and are looking toward your future with optimism and excitement. Unfortunately, I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe this year hasn’t been so stellar for you. You may have ran into some unexpected misfortune, and are still trying to climb back up the ladder to where you once gracefully stood, but that doesn’t mean things won’t get better. We will all run into difficult moments in life that can knock us down a few pegs. These moments test our faith and willingness to persevere. For some, it leads them to fizzle out and give up, and for others they continue to push onward and achieve their goals despite the impending obstacles. As this year comes to a close and the Christmas season approaches, remember the powerful message of hope that comes from the spirit of Christmas. The human strength of hope is what pushes us onward, keeps us motivated, and uplifts our attitude, so we can stay tenacious and dedicated to our mission and purpose even in difficult times.

What is Hope?

Do you energetically pursue your goals each and every day? Are you able to think of many ways around a problem and know you can find a solution? If so you are a hopeful person. Hope is trait that helps us to be resilient and manage stress in life. It leads us to perform better at work and school, enhances our physical health, and brightens our outlook of the future. The Hope Theory developed by University of Kansas Psychologist C. R. Snyder provides us insight into where hope comes from and how to enhance it. This theory explores hope as a goal-directed process where attainment of our goals can increase our perceived hope for the future. In other words, we can increase our hope by achieving goals and feeling a sense of mastery over our environment and competence in what we do. There are two main aspects that can help us achieve our goals according to this theory. As we pursue our goals, the two determining aspects of achievement and hope are a sense of agency or (willpower) and having a pathway or (waypower). Willpower is our why – It is the motivation and drive to pursue our life’s passions. If you’re an ambitious self-starter you probably don’t struggle with willpower. However, if you tend to feel drained and uninterested in what you do this may be an area to explore. Waypower is the how – It is the route we take and resources needed in order to make our goals a reality. Sometimes we need to develop our ability and skills. Sometimes we need to build a collaborative network to support and bolster our mission. Figure out what it is you need to make a change in the right direction.  When we are lacking either the will or the way it makes the attainment of our goals more difficult and it makes it less likely that we will persevere when obstacles emerge.

How can you rekindle hope?

Through the different seasons of life, there will be new challenges to rise to and obstacles that require us to find a new path. Here are two strategies to use for increasing willpower. If you feel you’re lacking in willpower you need to develop greater self-trust and confidence, as well as a more positive attitude and clear vision about what you desire.

  • Focus on past successes: Think back on accomplishments when you felt proud of yourself. Focus on these when you become discouraged. Remember the hard work required to achieve these results and get in touch with feelings of courage, inspiration, and curiosity that may have kept you moving.
  • Imagine your best future self: Imagine its 5 years from now; you have achieved all your goals. What does your life look like? What did you do to make this happen? This idea is adapted from psychologist Sonja Lyubormirsky and can help cultivate a positive outlook for the future.

If you are lacking in waypower you need to consider and brainstorm how you can get your needs met.

  • Write down five things you need to achieve your goal. It’s easy to overlook resources and opportunities when we’re feeling down and out. There are always numerous options to get us back on track, so make a list of what you need and where to get it.

A high hope person is able to consider numerous pathways when confronted with an obstacle. They don’t give-up when problems surface. They stay motivated and are able to find a way. Whether you’re stressed out from all the holiday preparations, or are truly going through a difficult and somber life transition, remember the strength and hope that is represented through Christmas. Photo credit: Shandi-lee