Hope is Bad?
I was listening to an interview on the EntreLeadership podcast this week and heard a phrase that really caught my attention:
“Hope might be your biggest enemy.”
I heard that and instantly thought; rubbish! How can hope be anything but noble and wonderful? It’s a virtue and something we all should be full of. Like me, maybe your mind went to the Bible verse 1Corinthians 13:13 about abiding in faith, hope, and love. Maybe you thought about President Obama and how his entire campaign centered on the theme of hope. Perhaps you thought of the acronym “Hold On Pain Ends” or maybe some other encouraging quote or phrase. How could we possibly think of hope as anything but a positive thing?
The podcast was an interview of Dr. Henry Cloud, author of Necessary Endings, and he says that hope might be your biggest enemy because hope placed in the wrong thing can be disastrous. It can take you in the wrong direction for far too long. Hope must be based in reality and in truth. Take for example Jim.
Jim decided at 16 that he wanted to become an astronaut when he got older. He loved the idea of studying the stars and maybe even traveling to space. He wanted to use a giant telescope and discover new planets. It’s all he had ever hoped for. Unfortunately, he hated math and he hated science.
Not only were Jim’s grades not very good in those subjects, but he also had little interest to study them or improve his grades. In his mind and in his dreams, however, Jim imagined himself as an astronaut. He held out hope that his dreams would come true somehow. Jim hadn’t even thought about doing anything else. He continued the rest of his high school career planning on becoming an astronaut. When it came time to apply for college his grades held him back from getting into any college that had an aerospace program, but he never lost hope.
After graduating, Jim moved to Florida in an attempt to get a job working for NASA. Jim hoped that if he could just get hired doing a menial job he might just be able to work his way up the ranks. He held onto hope through the tough times and when he became discouraged he imagined himself standing on the moon with the American flag in his hand. Jim did this a lot as he mopped the halls of the Kennedy Space Center.
It’s a fine line between being delusional and being hopeful. At what point should Jim have given up hope? Is it safe to say that he isn’t going to become an astronaut? How much happier would he have been if he could have stopped placing his hope in an unobtainable dream and instead allowed himself to imagine a new dream. Hope is a good thing, but there are times when realizing something is hopeless is necessary.
Should I Be Hopeless?
It would be impossible for me to come up with a formula or easy explanation for you to determine if your situation is hopeless. Everyone is unique and their experiences are unique; however, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself to help you decide if you’re on the right course.
- Am I passionate about the direction I’m going?
- Do I feel that I have the ability and a special talent for what I am doing?
- Am I full of anticipation and excitement? Or am I dreading the path ahead of me?
- Are the steps needed to get to my goal measurable and obtainable for me?
- Can I define what a successful outcome will look like?
- Do I have a timeline to reach my destination?
Hopeless is not a destination, so don’t stay there. Take a minute and look at your situation. Look at where you’re at and the results you’re getting. Be honest with yourself. Do you need to change directions? If you are heading in the wrong direction, then stop. Turn around and start plotting a new course. Don’t mistake stubbornness for determination.
The quicker you can ditch your delusional hopes and change course, the quicker you can arrive at your new destination. Imagine if you were driving your car east in an attempt to get from New York to California. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how determined you are, or how much you want to get to California. It isn’t going to happen until you realize you made a mistake and you need to turn around and head west.
It can be scary when you realize you need to change directions, you may feel lost and desperate. It doesn’t have to be like that. Let feelings of hopelessness work for you. Embrace them as guideposts and as opportunities for you to examine the path you’re on and start a new and exciting journey.
So here’s to the hopeless!