Hope is an Effective Strategy

By: Phoenix48

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.

– Emily Dickinson

Merriam-Webster defines hope as “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” Unfortunately, this definition appears to be the adolescent rendition of optimism and begs the question: Is hope merely a delusion or a fountainhead of motivation?

Greatest Strength and Weakness

Perhaps the answer lies in the middle. Hope can be the source of our greatest strength and greatest weakness. Somewhere between foolish dreams and pessimistic self-limiting beliefs are paths forward. So while it is not advisable to hold hope on a pedestal or seek to pursue it as a virtue, it is equally inadvisable to pride oneself in avoiding disappointment by holding low expectations.

Trapped in Pandora’s Box

Pandora opening box
“Pandora”, John William Waterhouse

In Greek mythology, Zeus gave Pandora a clay jar containing all the evils and miseries of the world, and a stern warning not to open it. Unfortunately, her curiosity got the better of her, and she opened the jar, releasing all of the evils, save one: Hope.

It is curious that hope was included with the world’s evils. One interpretation is that clearly hope has the potential to be evil if it represents blind optimism. Another meaning is derived from the alternative translation for the goddess of hope, Elpis, that being foreboding. Foreboding is an apprehensive fear that something bad is on the horizon; foreboding augurs despair. Thus, hope is the knife’s edge humans walk between foolish optimism and meaningless despair. Yet it is still contained in Pandora’s clay jar, clay being a symbol of creation, fertility, and the body across many myths and faiths. Therefore, hope is within reach of us all.

Uncertainty is the refuge of hope. – Henri Frederic Amiel

Hope is essential to not fall into despair. Desmond Tutu said that “Hope is being able to see that there is a light despite all the darkness”. Hope says that life will get better. It says that you will overcome adversity. Hope says you will meet this challenge and the ones that follow. In the same way, hope reassures us that things will work out; it is the sibling of confidence and courage.

Hope is The Inspiration of the Artist
“The Inspiration of the Artist”, Jean Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732–1806)

Stumbling in Darkness

Many situations may appear to be hopeless. But hope is not simply a wish; it requires a willingness to persevere and surmount challenges. When we stumble around in the darkness we may find resources we didn’t know we possessed, either within ourselves or in our understanding of the world, that have the potential to strengthen our character and enhance our lives. By adhering to hope and the possibility of change in even the most difficult (i.e. hopeless) situations we push the boundaries of what is possible for ourselves. Moreover, growth never occurs in our comfort zones, it only occurs at the edges.

Hope is therefore not a denial of reality, but instead a realization and acceptance of the fact that we can’t predict the future with certainty. The cautionary analog of this concept is we can’t know things are going to turn out the way we want no matter how hopeful we are.

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

– Vaclav Havel

Hope Is Not About Impossible Dreams and Fantasies

The objective is to retain hope while controlling dreams and fantasies. Hope fuels the willingness to reach a goal and striving to discover the different paths leading there. It allows us the courage to see things differently and to adjust our strategy. This hold true even if it doesn’t seem like there is a solution.

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe. – Dalai Lama

Hope is an Action

Above all, hope, like courage, is active. It is not something possessed, it is something done consciously and intentionally; without action is nothing more than a wish. Achieving a goal requires a decision, laying the groundwork for success, and finally moving directly to achieve the goal. Hope does not change that, but it is the fire in the belly that drives us forward.

God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.”

– Chester Nimitz

Note to Readers: The principle of Step #1: Honesty is included as part of the Integrity post and can be found here.

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