Difference Between Hope and Optimism

Hope vs Optimism

Though there exists a difference between hope and optimism, we often use these words together with the belief that these are almost identical. First let us pay attention to the definitions of these words. Optimism is being confident of the future, the belief that things will be alright and positive. Hope, on the other hand, is the feeling that something wanted might happen. At a glance, you might feel that they are implying the same thing. However, this is not true. Positive psychologists have been able to decipher the meaning behind the two words and highlight a key difference between these two words. This article attempts to clarify the individual meanings of the words and also highlight the difference. Let us begin with optimism.

What is Optimism?

Optimism can be defined as being confident of the future or success of something. Adopting an optimist view of the world and life, in general, can be advantageous to an individual. An optimist experiences more happiness and less distress because of their approach to life. This relieves them from being diagnosed with anxiety and even depression. Even when an optimist encounters a difficult situation, he can adjust accordingly because of his positive approach. This may include humor, having the ability to notice the opportunities, and not giving up in the face of hardships. This highlights that an optimist accepts the situation and works towards accomplishing his goals.

For example, imagine an individual who recently went through a breakup and also lost his job. The person feels as if he has failed both in personal life and also in professional life. But an optimist would find a silver lining and be positive about the future.

Psychologists believe that optimism can be learned. However, this can also be genetically inherited. If an individual is taught to see the positive aspect of each situation from childhood, this becomes a practice.

Difference Between Hope and Optimism

What is Hope?

Hope can be defined as a feeling that something wanted might happen. We all hope for many things in life such as to be happy, to find a good job, to find true love, to have good friends, the list would go on and on. For example:

I hope I would be able to pass with flying colors this time.

I hope she will have time to drop by.

These examples highlight that hope is the need to realize something that the individual desires. In this sense, it is different from being optimistic. However, this is only a general usage of the term. When it comes to positive psychology, the distinction between hope and optimism is presented in a different manner. This can further be understood through the ideas of Rick Snyder, a psychology specialist.

According to Snyder, optimism and hope are closely related, but there are differences between the two. He believes that unlike optimism, hope is an ability that an individual possesses to identify one’s aims, develop strategies to achieve them and also strive for excellence in the face of obstacles. This highlights that while optimism embraces the fact that things will be better disregarding reality, hope works within the framework of reality.

Hope vs Optimism

What is the difference between Hope and Optimism?

• Definition of Hope and Optimism:

• Optimism can be defined as being confident of the future or success of something.

• Hope is a feeling that something wanted might happen.

• Connections with reality:

• Optimism believes that the future will be positive and having a positive outlook to life irrespective of reality.

• Hope is confined to the desires of the individual within the limits of reality.

• Psychologist’s view:

• Unlike optimism, which is a belief that things will be positive, hope is an ability to strive for excellence in the face of obstacles.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Optimism by BK (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  2. Hope by pol sifter (CC BY 2.0)