“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” -Lin Yutang

When I was driving home from work the other day, I heard on the radio that it is has now been three years since the “Great Recession” began in the United States.

That fact is accompanied by dismal statistics.  The national unemployment rate is now double the rate of three years ago.  The country’s total public debt load is $5 trillion more than it was in December 2007.  The median household income is down from three years ago.  And so on…. 

Listening to these figures, it feels like a wave of discouragement washes over you.

It’s the same feeling you get when you’ve been putting all of your energy into a personal change endeavor, and yet despite your efforts, the outcomes just keep getting worse.  Or when you put an increasing percentage of your paycheck into your retirement fund, but the value of the fund declines. 

What is the antidote to feelings of helplessness and discouragement? 

Hope.  A branch of psychology called “positive psychology” is dedicated to studying the positive dimensions of the human experience, including attributes like hope.

Researcher Shane Lopez, Ph.D., defines hope as a coming together of (1) goals thinking (I want to go from here to there), (2) pathways thinking (I can find many ways to get from here to there), and (3) agency thinking (I can take action because I perceive myself as capable). 

When people have more hope, they tend to have more happiness and more of a sense of life meaning.  Perhaps most importantly, they demonstrate a stronger ability to cope with difficult situations.

What would it take to become more hopeful about your personal financial situation?  What concrete action can you take to strengthen your goals thinking, your pathways thinking, or your agency thinking?