Trouble is brewing, but you are convinced it can all turn out well. You
believe with all the depths of your being that things will get better. You have
hope; and you are doing things to improve your future. You are fearing the worst
but expecting the best. Hope is the antidote to the hopelessness of
despair. Hope moves us forward.
The possibility that things will get better,
- The chance for improvement,
- A positive stance on the future
- Anticipation of a future desirable event or outcome,
- Pleased about a prospective desirable event
Aspire, believe, desire, long for, optimism, eager, and wish are synonyms for
Origins and Benefits:
Hope fuels the human spirit. It drives us forward, encourages us to overcome
obstacles, and keeps us focused on achieving worthwhile goals. It encourages
imagination and risk-taking and can lead to positive transformations.
There is controversy over the concept of “false hope”. If you hold out hope
for something that is truly impossible, or so unlikely it is eventually
impossible, you may be having false hope. Is this good or bad? To make the
distinction, determine if your behavior is beneficial or not. As an example,
deciding to spend your food money to play the lottery in the hope you will win is almost certainly
destructive and regrettable. The chances of winning the lottery are vanishingly
small, and the need for food is certain. Here a “false hope” leads to a
destructive behavior and is harmful. Another example is the decision of a
high school student to abandon academic studies to concentrate on playing
professional sports or becoming a rock musician. The odds against success are
astronomical, yet the loss is certain. This is almost certainly a bad bet.
However, if you have been diagnosed with terminal cancer, hope can give you
peace of mind, relieve stress, and provide you the positive outlook and
motivation that can lead to helpful actions including eating well, getting the
recommended exercise, taking medications as instructed, seeking out the best
care for yourself, peace of mind, and spending time in meaningful ways.
Most “con games” are based on creating false hopes. This includes most forms
of gambling, sweepstakes, get rich quick schemes, risky investments, quack
cures, promised miracles, hoaxes,
urban legends, mysticism, faith exploitations, and other scams. Many of these are manipulations
that exploit distortions in our thinking or other
the evidence, consider a variety of viewpoints,
calculate the odds rationally, and approach such claims with extreme skepticism.
Maintain hope when there is some possibility of a good outcome. Take
constructive and responsible action to improve your chances. Do not abdicate
your responsibility for caution, skepticism, and action by submitting to
unfounded optimism. Hope is helpful when it results in positive action, it
is unhelpful if it inhibits action. Plan for the worst as you anticipate the best.
Hope is tested when what if meets what is. Accurate assessment, sound judgment, constructive action, and personal
responsibility mark the difference between real
hope and false hope.
The Keynote Address at the 2004 democratic national convention was an
inspiring speech given by
Audacity of Hope” He described many examples where the undaunted strength of
people overcame tremendous obstacles to achieve great things. Perhaps there is
no false hope, but only hope. He has recently written book
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.
In any case, strive for an accurate optimism.
The Stockdale Paradox
James Stockdale was the highest ranking US military officer in
the Hoa Loa
prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam war. He was brutally tortured more than
twenty times over the eight years he was imprisoned from 1965 to 1973. During
that time he dedicated himself to helping the other soldiers survive the ordeal. Jim
Collins, author of the book Good to Great, asked Stockdale how he endured, and
who in the camp failed to endure. In answering he said: “This is a very important lesson.
You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you cannot
afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your
current reality, whatever that may be.”
Jim Collins summarizes this
wisdom as the “Stockdale Paradox”:
Retain faith that you will prevail in the end,
regardless of the difficulties
and at the same time
Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.
Hope and reality combine for a real hope.
Real hope combines a hopeful outlook with a firm grip on reality. This is the
substance of commitment.
Each of us approaches a new problem, task, challenge, or opportunity with a
particular outlook. This outlook can range from a very positive, hopeful
spirit to a very negative, or hopeless stance. Many English language
words describe this initial outlook. These words range from hopeful, high hopes,
optimistic, open, positive,
and favorable to skeptical, pessimistic, doubtful, and hopeless. This outlook is
plotted on the vertical axis in the following diagram, ranging from hopeless at
the bottom to hopeful at the top.
As we get more involved in meeting the challenge we learn more about the real
problems facing us. Our grasp on reality begins to change. As more and
more information becomes available, we become better informed and create a more accurate
assessment of the situation. Our viewpoint evolves as we assimilate new
information. Alternatively, we may choose to remain uninformed
and ignorant, or deny, dismiss, or distort important information. This grasp of
reality is plotted on the horizontal axis in the following diagram. It ranges
from uninformed or distorted to informed and accurate.
The grid is divided into these four zones:
No Hope—Helpless—Give up now, don't even try, I already know
there is nothing I can do to help. Why bother? I won't even waste my time trying; it is
futile. This is
the region of learned helplessness and the defeatist
attitude. The outlook is doubtful and reality is unknown, distorted, denied, or
dismissed. Cynics, naysayers, and other gloomy and disheartened people lurk
False Hope—Wishful—I have an unshakable faith that all
will turn out well. I don't need to know anything more to know it will all turn
out fine in the end. This is the heaven's reward fallacy
based only on wishful thinking. The outlook is hopeful, but
the reality is unknown, distorted, denied, or dismissed. This is often a dangerous position of inaction
or ineffective action and little information. It believes hope is a strategy.
Visionary dreamers along with Pollyanna's and the crackpots of la-la land are
Lost Hope—Surrendered—The more I learn, the more hopeless this
becomes. I cannot overcome the obstacles; further effort is futile. I am
discouraged and choose not to go on. I'll save myself for another day. Life is
too short to push on a rope. I'll admit defeat and move on to the next
challenge, sadder but wiser. The outlook is doubtful, but the reality is accurate. Quitters share
this space along with shrewd gamblers, entrepreneurs, and others who decided to
retreat now so they can contribute another day.
Real Hope—Committed—I fully understand the difficulties I
face and I know I can prevail in the end. I am encouraged and will never give
up, despite the difficult challenges that lie ahead. The outlook is hopeful
and the reality is accurate. The aspirations of what if meld with the harsh
reality of what is to create an enduring result. Tenacious,
courageous, persistent, and inspiring
people are achieving results here.
We are encouraged when our outlook improves as we learn more about the
situation. We are discouraged when our outlook becomes less hopeful as we learn
more about the situation. We have dashed hopes when events take us from real
hope to lost hope.
Faith, Hope, and Trust
Faith unites hope and trust. Hope is faith that
things will get better. Trust is faith I can rely on you. They both are forward
looking estimations, and are often based more on intuition than on
The Scope of Hope
Results depend on how our hopes intersect with reality. Imagination is
unrestrained—we can form images of a wide range of possibilities, future
outcomes, or results. By asking “what if” we enter the realm of imagination, and
our dreams are limited only by our originality, creativity, and spirit.
But we live in the real world where what is possible is limited by
what is. Our imagination often exceeds the real-world
realm of possibilities. We may have pipe dreams that far exceed what is
possible. These are false hopes. Alternatively we may have
lost hope, become helpless,
and stopped imagining a better world. These are lost hopes. Real hope
explores the full range of possible outcomes—the results zone. Here our expectations
can aim high, as we strive for the best possible outcome, or aim low, as
we settle for some mediocre result. Our imagination is finite and we will
inevitably miss important opportunities that could have been seized, if only we
had imagined them.
The following diagram illustrates these concepts, showing the realm of
imagination in blue, the realm of possibilities in red, and the results zone in
black. Dream on as you maintain a grasp of reality.
Paths of Hope
Events that can trigger our hope are common occurrences. How we respond to
these losses and the choices we make affect our peace of mind, well being, and
our lives. The following figure illustrates choices we have and paths we
can take to sustain or dash our hope. Use this like you
would any other map: 1) decide where you are now, 2) decide where you want to
go, 3) choose the best path to get there, and 4) go down the chosen path.
You may wish to print out this
one-page version of the
Paths of Misfortune map
This diagram is an example of a type of chart known by systems analysts as a
state transition diagram. Each colored elliptical bubble represents a state of being that represents the way you are now. The labels on the arrows
represent actions or events and the arrows show paths into or out of each state. You
are at one place on this chart for one particular interaction at any particular
time. Other people are likely to be in other places on the chart. This is
similar to an ordinary road map where you plot where you are now, while other
people are at other places on the same map. Begin the analysis at the green “OK”
bubble, or wherever else you believe you are now.
OK: This is the beginning or neutral state. It corresponds to someone
who is feeling well.
The green color represents safety, tranquility, equanimity, and growth
Irrevocable loss: You recognize you have lost something valuable and
that it is gone forever. You are sad.
Sad: You recognize an irrevocable loss. Perhaps you are crying or
tearful. The yellow color represents the loss and pain.
Loss Accepted: When you can turn your thoughts to the future and leave
the past behind, you have accepted the loss and can get on with your life.
Loss Denied: Protesting, denying, bargaining, and reliving the past
all serve to deny the loss. You are living in the past and not ready to accept
the loss. Grieving will continue.
Grieving: Grieving is the struggle to prevent the loss. It is our way
of coping with loss and it may involve anger,
hope, or guilt. Once the protest
and denial is over and the loss is accepted as irrevocable, then grief can turn
into sadness and be resolved. Our focus shifts from the past to the future
during bereavement. The orange color represents the agony, pain, duration,
turmoil, and loss of the grieving period.
Loss Accepted, Future focus: You have decided it is time to get over it, accept the
loss, and get on with your life.
Trouble Recognized: You become aware that you can lose something you
value. You are worried and dread the possible loss.
Dread: You feel bad because you understand you may lose something.
Depending on what it is you stand to lose, you may feel anxious,
fear, anger, shame,
guilt, envy, or
jealousy. The yellow color represents the loss, anxiety,
and uncertainty of the time.
Positive Outlook: Although you recognize a bad outcome is possible,
you predict a favorable outcome and maintain hope.
Hope: You believe with all the depths of your
being that things will get better. You have hope; and you are doing things to
improve your future. You are fearing the worst but expecting the best. Hope is
the antidote to the hopelessness of despair. The
green color represents the positive outlook, while the yellow color represents
the uncertainty and possible bad outcome.
Negative Outlook: You predict the worst, and you have lost hope. You
Depression: You have lost hope, the
future looks bleak, you are depressed and feel hopeless. The red color
represents the prolonged pain and ongoing danger of the depression.
Good Outcome: Regardless if you were dreading, hoping, or depressed,
you were spared your worst fears and the actual outcome is good. You are
Relieved: The frustration has changed for the
better, and you learn that what you dreaded will not happen, you feel relief.
Everything is now much better, you relax and feel a sigh of relief. The green
color represents the good outcome and buoyancy of the relief.
Time Passes: The sensation of relief is rather brief. Soon you are
back to your ordinary self, looking toward the future.
Bad Outcome: Your fears have come true. Regardless if you were
dreading, hoping, or depressed, the actual outcome is bad, and now you are sad.
- “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.” ~
- “Hope is not a strategy.”
- “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~
- “It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” ~ Lewis Carroll
- “Know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em.” ~ Gambler's wisdom
- “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul” ~ Emily
- “Hope is passion for the possible.” ~
Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions,
by Richard S. Lazarus, Bernice N. Lazarus
Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life, by Paul Ekman
The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins
Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, by Daniel Goleman