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Making Hope Happen

Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others



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About The Book

In this practical guide to the anatomy of hope and how to harness its incredible power in your own life, a leading psychologist “shines a light on one of the most powerful, and most misunderstood, emotional forces in our lives” (Daniel Pink, author of Drive).

Some people manage to bounce back quickly from setbacks, to lead happy, healthy, productive lives, no matter their circumstances. These people have found a way to make good things happen even when luck isn’t on their side. The secret ingredient they use to transform their lives, it turns out, is hope.

Using discoveries from the largest study of hopeful people ever conducted, Shane J. Lopez, PhD, “the world’s preeminent expert on hope” (Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness), reveals that hope is not just an emotion but an essential life tool. Hope is a leading indicator of success in relationships, academics, career, and business, and with Making Hope Happen, you can measure your level of hope and learn how to increase, use, and share it. In addition, Lopez shares the uplifting stories of real people who have created hope in their own lives and communities, from a CEO who befriended a curious nine-year-old to a college student who is thriving after two heart transplants.

Praised as “thoughtful and pragmatic” (Publishers Weekly), Making Hope Happen is for anyone seeking a better future—for themselves, for their business, or for the world. The message is clear: Hope is a choice. Hope can be learned. Hope is contagious. Hope can change your life.

Reading Group Guide

Classroom Activities for

Making Hope Happen
By Shane J. Lopez

Introducing Hope

Assign students a twenty-minute free write, in which they define hope. Hold a class discussion so that students can share their definitions. Discuss with students the difference between wishing and hoping, the role fear plays in keeping us from fulfilling our hopes, setting goals, and the importance of recognizing our limitations so that we can set realistic goals. Have students discuss the following statements identified by Shane Lopez in Making Hope Happen: 1) Hope matters; 2) Hope is a choice; 3) Hope can be learned; 4) Hope can be shared with others. Have students identify their source(s) of hope (self, parents, friends, religious beliefs, etc.).

Reflecting on the Nature of Hope

Have students agree or disagree with the following statements/concepts taken from Chapter Two of Making Hope Happen and then discuss their responses.

• Our thoughts about how the future affects us today.
• The present and the future are connected through our behavior.
• When hoping, I feel compelled to act.
• Hope is active, not passive.
• We have the power to make the future better than the present.
• There are multiple paths leading us to our goals.
• Hope walks hand-in-hand with fear.
• Fear can hijack us.
• We often fear loss even more than we desire gain.
• Hope is created by our daily choices.

Taking the Hope Scale

Have students put their hope to the test by completing the hope scale identified by Lopez in Chapter Two at the following link, and then analyze their scores:

Making Out a Hope Plan

Conduct an interactive exercise that takes student about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Introduce this to a student once they share with you that they are excited about a particular goal, or committed to learning how to learn a new skill. Go to for more details.

Studying a Novel

Select a classic or young adult novel that deals with the theme of hope for a class read. Have students read and discuss the challenges the protagonists face and how the protagonists overcome odds to achieve goals. Below are novels containing strong hope themes:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Behind the Eyes by Francisco Stork
The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
House of the Red Fish by Graham Salisbury
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin
Out of Bounds by Beverly Naidoo
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Stand Tall by Joan Bauer
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Holding a Distinguished Alumni Day

Identify several graduates from your school who have achieved professional success. Invite these individuals to your class to discuss how they identified and achieved their goals, what motivated them, what pitfalls they had to overcome, and how they managed to maintain hope when facing difficult times. Prepare students for their visits by giving them brief bios on each guest and assisting them in developing questions ahead of the guest speaker visits.


Have students maintain a daily journal in which they brainstorm their personal areas of interest and their “fantasies” about their futures. Use “future day” scripts from Hopeful How-To’s on if you need an engaging prompt. Ask students to reflect on their dreams and write steps they will need to take to achieve these goals, identify possible obstacles they may confront and identify possible steps they may take to overcome these obstacles, and write about fears they may have about their abilities to achieve these goals.

Forecasting the Future

Have students write about goals they would like to achieve by year’s end. What steps will they need to take for success? Have students reflect on their goals. Do they believe they have set their goals high enough? Too low? Why? If either, what adjustments can they make? Extend this activity into the future: where they would like to be in five years, ten, etc.

Interviewing Family/Friends

Have students identify an older adult whom they know well and view as successful. Ask them to interview that person about how that person achieved his/her goals, what obstacles he/she had to overcome and how he/she overcame them. In small groups, have students share and reflect on their interviews. What did they learn from the interviews? From small group conversations with their peers?

Shadowing Someone at Work

Working collaboratively with parents, other community members, and/or businesses, arrange for students to shadow an individual for one day or several in the workforce. Afterward, have students discuss their experiences and discuss steps they need to take to achieve a career in the areas they shadowed.

Dreaming About a Great Job

Have students close their eyes and envision themselves working in their dream job. What are they doing? Where are they? With whom are they working? How do they feel about their work? How are they viewed by others? Have students write about their dream or draw an image depicting their vision.

Taking a College for a Test Drive

Working with a local college, organize a campus visit for students. During this visit, students explore the campus but also have opportunities to sit in on some classes that may pique their interest in attending college and setting goals for a future career.

Studying a Role Model

Professional sports have many athletes who have achieved success despite incredible odds—athletes who grew up homeless, lost loved ones, or overcame physical and mental challenges to achieve success. Have students identify such a figure and research his/her pathway to success and share their findings with the class. What personality characteristics have contributed to this individual’s success? What obstacles did this individual have to overcome? What motivation, both internal and external, spurred him/her on during difficult times? How might this individual have set realistic goals and identified his/her talents and strengths?

Understanding Historical Figures/Leaders

Have students research a historical figure who provided successful leadership during a difficult time. How did this person rise to a position of leadership? Identify personality characteristics that contributed to his/her success. What external forces influenced his/her success? What role did family and/or friends play?

Analyzing Characters

As a class, have students view a film featuring a strong character who is determined to accomplish his/her dream and/or who must face incredible odds to achieve success. Have students document the high and low points in this person’s journey and discuss how he/she managed to forge ahead, despite disappointment. Discuss this person’s source of hope and how this person managed to stay motivated. Some films to consider are A Beautiful Mind (2001), The Blind Side (2009), Dead Poets Society (1989), October Sky (1999), and Rudy (1993).

Completing the Gallup Student Poll

If you want a sense of how hopeful your school is, register for the Gallup Student Poll. For no fee, you can measure the hope (and engagement and well-being) of every 5th through 12th grader in your school. Go to for details.

Guide written by Pam B. Cole, Professor of English Education & Literacy Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photograph by Steve Symmes @ Gallup

Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D., a Gallup Senior Scientist, is the world’s leading authority on the psychology of hope. He has published numerous professional books on what is right with people, including The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife and son.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (July 22, 2014)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451666236

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Raves and Reviews

“Hope is the most undervalued state of mind in the world. This book demystifies hope and makes it a much-needed secret weapon for all leaders at all levels.”

– Jim Clifton, CEO, Gallup

“Shane Lopez, the world’s preeminent expert on hope, shares his expertise and wisdom on what hope is, how to create more of it in your life, and how to teach it to others, with the aim of meeting your goals, leading a happier, more flourishing life, and making the world a better place.”

– Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness

"Making Hope Happen instantly draws you in. With intriguing stories and important insights on every page, this book not only illustrates the power of hope, but the simple steps we can all take to get more of it in our lives."

– Sian Beilock, author of Choke: What The Secrets Of The Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To

"Finally, a book that shines a light on one of the most powerful, and most misunderstood, emotional forces in our lives. Making Hope Happen is a smart and incisive look at the scientific and practical aspects of building visions of the future we can believe in and work toward."

– Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

"A clear and powerful introduction to the scientific study of hope by the leading researcher on this vital topic, Making Hope Happen is full of useful strategies for getting our future under control. A pleasure to read, and a treasure to save for those bleak days when defeat stares us in the face."

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

“There's no pill or supplement that can reverse aging. In fact, most of what explains longevity is not for sale--purpose, faith, and the hope. This book--from one of the nation's most renowned well-being researchers--explores the power of hope and shows us where to find it."

– Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow & author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

“Thoughtful and pragmatic, Lopez’s work will inspire readers to take control of their future, choose hope, and choose life.”

– Publishers Weekly

"Lopez explores the one emotion—hope—that divides our society into two camps: those of us who believe everyone has it; or, those who believe everyone else has it. Either way, we all want more of it—without even understanding what hope is and how to use it. The first step? Articulating the difference between optimism (a rosy attitude with which some are born) and hope (an ability to see that the future can be better and that you have a role in creating it). Hope is made, not handed down, he writes, and it can be learned even by pessimists."

– O: The Oprah Magazine

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