operating on hope – a good way to get nowhere

Hope is generally considered a good thing in our culture. People used the word “hopeless” to describe someone who has lost all reason to live. President Obama used the word “hope” to great impact during his presidential campaign. Hope is supposedly the thing that grants our lives meaning, the shining, beautiful force that keeps us all putting one foot in front of the other. I don’t personally see it in such a favorable light.

I have hoped for things in my life. When I was a kid, I hoped for a horse. Later, I hoped to meet the right guy. Later still, I hoped my business would succeed.

During that time, though, my relationship with hope has changed. I hoped for a horse and I got one, but not before working at a barn for years to pay for my own riding lessons. I did meet the right guy, but not without first dating a bunch of not right ones (and even refusing to marry one). And my business did succeed, but not before I worked several years at a part-time job while building my reputation on the side.

That’s the thing about hope. Hope must be coupled with action to get you anywhere. Hope without action amounts to nothing more than navel-gazing. Hope without action is the purview of people who play the lottery religiously instead of putting $4 into a savings account every week. Considering it’s statistically impossible to win the lottery, one course of action amounts to Hope + $4/wk  x 40 years = nothing. The other amounts to $4/wk + 5% interest x 40 years = $26k.

I see hope as inherently passive, and therefore often harmful. I see hope encouraging people to cling to unrealistic expectations or live an unfulfilling lifestyle. Personally, I no longer have much use for hope. I don’t mean this quite as cynically as it sounds. I just mean that hoping important aspects of my life will change or improve does not feel safe to me. I’d rather have a concrete plan that will get me what I want out of life and hope for a little unanticipated good luck to give me a boost along the way.

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