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Strengths & Hope. Nyla Jolly Dalferes, California State University Northridge July 23, 2013. “People with a growth mindset …think of talents and abilities as things they can develop—as potentials that come to fruition through effort, practice, and instruction .” Carol S. Dweck.

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strengths hope

Strengths & Hope

Nyla Jolly Dalferes, California State University Northridge

July 23, 2013

“People with a growth mindset…think of talents and abilities as things they can develop—as potentials that come to fruition through effort, practice, and instruction.” Carol S. Dweck


Pandora received a box that she was forbidden to open. The box contained all human blessings and all human curses. Temptation overcame restraint, and Pandora opened the box. In a moment, all the curses were released into the world, and all the blessings escaped and were lost – except one – hope. Without hope, mortals can not endure.

our discussion
Our Discussion
  • Positive Psychology & Strengths
  • A look at Hope Theory
  • Ideas & Activities for UNIV 100
positive psychology
Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. It is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

Martin Seligman


A strength is a naturally occurring talent multiplied by knowledge and skill.

  • Knowledge is that which is learned.
  • Skill is knowledge put to practice.
  • Knowledge and skill increase with experience, education, and use.
  • Talent is inborn. It is a natural propensity. It cannot be learned.
  • Talent alone is not enough. A person may have a natural propensity towards music (or art, or sports) but without practice and education, the talent goes to waste.

Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0

where are we with this whole strengths thing
Where are we with this whole “Strengths” thing?
  • Over 1000 first year students are being introduced to the concepts of positive psychology and natural talents each year.
  • Responses to our surveys show that students feel more confident about their abilities to make career and academic decisions because they know their strengths.
  • But we are only introducing this concept…
what about hope
What about Hope?

What is hope?

(Shane Lopez video)

Hope vs. Wishing

hopeful students
Hopeful students
  • Hopeful students believe that the future will be better than the present and that they have the power to make it so
  • Hope fuels problem-solving and it helps faculty understand how to work with students to develop their own strengths.
  • Hopeful students…
    • are excited about the future
    • go to school
    • are engaged
    • are resilient
    • are happy

12% bump in letter grades for hopeful students

hope defined
Hope Defined

“the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”

“…not only is hope good for your wellbeing, but it’s a measurable quality that can be increased with practice”

“…the ability to clearly and consistently articulate goals (goals thinking), develop step-by-step plans to reach those goals (pathways thinking), and persevere in spite of obstacles (agency thinking).”

(Lopez, et al., 2009)


“…a human strength manifested in capacities to: (a) clearly conceptualize goals (goals thinking), (b) develop the specific strategies to reach those goals (pathways thinking), and (c) initiate and sustain the motivation for using those strategies (agency thinking).”

(Snyder, 1996)

how hopeful are you
How hopeful are you?

Do you think your future will be better than your present?

What do you believe?

  • I have the power to make my future better
  • I am excited about at least one thing in my future
  • I see paths to my goals
  • The paths to my goals are not free of obstacles
  • My past and present life circumstances are not the only determinants of my future

why talk about hope
Why Talk About Hope?

The basic tenants of Hope Theory can help our students positively relate to most of the core values of UNIV 100:

  • Goal setting
  • Utilizing campus resources
  • Life-long learning
  • Career planning
  • Positive relationships
  • Physical and mental well-being

“… a freshman seminar can support the identification, development, and use of strengths, while simultaneously contributing to gains in hope, motivation, well-being, and academic achievement.”

Bender & Clark

hope theory
Hope Theory

“High hope” individuals regularly operationalize three types of thinking and behavior:

  • Goals Thinking (Optimism): consistent emphasis on focused goals for the future
  • Pathways Thinking: belief in one’s capacity to generate routes toward a goal
  • Agency Thinking: belief in one’s capacity to initiate and sustain actions

(Snyder, 1991)

i nstilling l asting hope
Instilling Lasting Hope

Caine’s Arcade:

  • What are Caine’s talents and strengths?
  • What role did Caine’s father and others play in nourishing Caine’s talents and strengths?
  • What do you think would’ve happened if Caine’s father/others wouldn’t have been so supportive?
  • How did his father/others nourish his hopefulness?
suggestions for building hope
Suggestions for Building Hope
  • Think about what really excites you
  • Invest time in the things that you have a passion for and the things that you are good at
  • Think about forming strong relationships around the things that you are interested in
  • Create paths and opportunities to spend time doing what excites you
building hope
Building Hope

Reflection opportunities:

  • Who am I?
    • Strengths, Personality (StrengthsQuest Resources)
    • Interests, Hobbies, Values
    • What excites me? - GOALS
  • Where do I want to go in life?
    • Goals developed into -- PATHWAYS/ROUTES
    • What is my motivation? How will my strengths be instrumental in my success? – AGENCY

Formal Goal Setting:

  • Information Integration Activity on U100 Instructor’s Manual
  • SMART Goals on Pathways at
building hope1
Building Hope

Get students thinking about the future!

  • Have them go around and take pictures of Hope.
  • Have them think about what a good job and a happy future will look like.

Bender & Lake, 2012, University of Alabama

  • Students completed Gallup’s StrengthsQuest inventory and accompanying activities. Additionally, students engaged in reflective writing and discussion to describe progressive gains in understanding of their own developing strengths and the process of refining plans and goals. The culminating student artifact—a personalized Action Plan for personal and professional development, then becomes a living document detailing anticipated steps and timelines for the attainment of goals; strategies for ongoing refinement of signature strengths; and awareness of resources and sources of support needed to sustain motivation in their personal and professional endeavors.
goal setting hope building activities
Goal Setting & Hope Building Activities

“Strengths help us find our fit, and then become a vehicle for the attainment of goals.” Bender & Clark


Bender, D. & Lake, C. Using Hope Theory to Transform a Strengths-Based Freshman Seminar. Poster Presentation, 2012 National Conference for the First-Year‎

Komarraju, M., Musulkin, S. & Bhattacharya, G. (2010). Role of student–faculty interactions in developing college students’ academic self-concept, motivation, and achievement. Journal of College Student Development 51(3), 332-342.

Lopez, S. J., Rose, S., Robinson, C., Margues, S., and Pais-Ribeiro, J., (2009). Measuring and Promoting Hope in School Children. Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools (pp.35-51). New York, NY: Routledge.

Seligman, Martin E. P.; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, Vol 55(1), Jan 2000, 5-14.

Snyder, C. R., Sympson, S. C., Ybasco, F. C., Borders, T. F., Babyak, M. A., Higgins, R. L. (1996). Development and validation of the state hope scale. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(2), 321-335.