The word hope has such a nice ring to it. When you think of the word hope what comes to mind? Most people have thoughts like:
- I hope I’ll lose weight
- I hope she does well in school this year
- I hope he calls me
- I hope I get that promotion
- Hopefully I’m not as stressed this year as last year
- Hopefully we can have some alone time together this week
These all seem like positive thoughts that could be useful. They all appear to set the tone for better things to come.
As humans we all desire to have the feeling of hope sometimes. Like when there’s been a tragedy somewhere in the world and you hope everyone affected will be ok, then hope can be comforting.
So if the feeling of hope indicates something positive, then when is it not helpful? Aren’t we taught at a young age to wish upon a star and hope for things?
The issue with being hopeful is that it is not a strategy that gets you what you want and really negates your power. The feeling of hope can be a problem because it’s passive and doesn’t inspire action. It’s often masking a negative emotion that you want to feel better about in the future.
By hoping and wishing, you don’t have to challenge yourself to face things like fear, doubt and uncertainty. Instead you put hope out into your world and you sit back and wait.
This week I’m going to discuss why being hopeful isn’t always helpful and a better alternative.
Why being hopeful isn’t always helpful
The problem with hope is two-fold – first it’s passive and second it creates dependence. Hope doesn’t create action and it actually keeps you powerless.
If you really think about it, hope leads to inaction and waiting for some future moment to give you what you want. Hope is dependent on something else and doesn’t take full responsibility for how you show up and create your life.
Hope is effortless and doesn’t require putting any skin in the game. It’s like hoping to win the lottery without ever buying a ticket.
Hope seems nice and useful but it never creates anything that you really want. When you just hope for something, you are abdicating responsibility for taking action which means you are in essence failing ahead of time.
Why would you choose to fail ahead of time? So that you don’t feel vulnerable or disappointed when you don’t get the results you want.
For example, if you are in a relationship with someone that isn’t going the way you want it to and you think “I hope he calls me”, the feeling of hope isn’t useful. The feeling of hope will lead you to not take action like picking up the phone and calling him instead of waiting.
If you fear being rejected or disappointed then hope keeps you “safe” from experiencing those negative emotions. Hope is a buffer that blocks your ability to take charge, take some action, get a result and then make a new decision based on whatever result you get.
If you keep hoping he calls you, then you don’t have to make a decision about whether this relationship is really what you want. If you keep hoping then you don’t have to take action to either move forward or walk away.
Hope is also a problem because it is a feeling of expectation where you want a circumstance to be different in the future so that you can feel differently. You hope for things like feeling better, for your life to improve or to get to a place of peace.
In this way the feeling of hope comes from wanting this moment to be different than it is. You want a circumstance that you don’t currently have because you believe you will feel better when that circumstance happens.
For example, if you have the thought “I hope she does better in school this year”, the question you should ask yourself is “Why?” Why do you hope she does better in school this year?
It might seem like a silly question to ask but it gets to heart of why being hopeful isn’t helpful. When you say “I hope she does better in school this year” it’s probably masking a feeling of concern or worry which doesn’t serve you or your child.
The tricky thing about hope is that it seems fine but the question really is, is it useful? Is there something more helpful than hope?
A better alternative
As I said before, the problem with hope is two-fold – on the one hand it doesn’t fuel action and on the other hand it’s dependent on some future moment to be better than the current moment.
When hope is fueling passive action, it looks like this:
- You hope you can work on being a better parent so you listen to a podcast on how to parent with a managed mind but don’t do the thought work advised in the podcast.
- You hope you can get a promotion at work so you take some continuing education classes in an area of interest but don’t take the steps to show your boss your added value and discuss how you deserve that promotion.
- You hope you can start working on some form of exercise so you cut out the ad for the new yoga class, put it on the refrigerator and wait until “the time is right”.
When hope is fueling how you show up in your life, you appear weak and uncertain. You appear wishy-washy, lacking determination and energy.
This also affects how show up to others because if you don’t believe you can do something then why would others believe in you? When you believe, as opposed to hope, you create momentum
The interesting thing is that when you focus on hope and passivity, you will keep recreating the same results. You never give yourself the opportunity to have the result you really want.
A better alternative is to choose certainty or determination. Those feelings take you from where you are to where you want to be.
As a coach I’m less interested in what you are hoping for and more interested in what you’re committed to or feel determined about. The “how” to getting what you want in your life is much less important than the feeling that fuels the actions you take.
For example, instead of thinking “I hope I can stop yelling at my kids one day” you could choose the thought “My relationship with my children is worth the effort and I am committed to learning how to manage my emotions”. That thought is much more focused and will help you to be open and coachable, resulting in learning how to stop yelling at your kids.
When you don’t just hope for that new job but instead are committed to getting the job, you open yourself up to taking actions that weren’t possible from the feeling of hope. Will you regret being committed and taking action even if you don’t get the job? Of course not!
Once you’ve taken action from a place of commitment you now have that experience to build on and the momentum to do the next thing. Being hopeful that you get the new job doesn’t create the fuel to take action no matter what, which also slows your momentum.
The other way that being hopeful isn’t helpful is when you hope for a circumstance to be different than it is right now. The reason this isn’t helpful is that you are actually delaying a feeling, waiting for that circumstance to change.
For example, having the thought “I hope she does well in school this year” is fine if it comes from a feeling of love but if the underlying feeling is worry, then you are looking for her to do better in school so you can feel better. If the feeling you want is love or pride, those feelings are available to you now and don’t have to be dependent on some future moment in time.
The issue is that when you are hoping for something so you can feel a certain way, you are denying your ability to feel any emotion right now. You have the power to feel any emotion based on the thoughts you choose in this moment without waiting for some future moment to make it possible.
If you have been practicing thoughts that make you feel hopeful because you are waiting to feel happy in the future, you are wasting so much time. You are not taking responsibility for how you feel right now because you believe that you’ll feel differently when something changes.
The good news is that if you are hoping for X so that you can feel Y, you don’t have to wait. You can create the feeling of Y without X being any different.
When you learn the power of managing your mind by becoming aware of the thoughts you are currently thinking and how they are making you feel, you can decide what to think to create the feeling you really want. By stopping being dependent on circumstances to change to feel better, you take charge of how you create your life.
For example, if you are hoping that your children can start getting along so that you can feel peace at home then you are dependent on your children behaving differently. I don’t know about you, but my children behaved the way they wanted whether I liked it or not!
Instead of making the feeling of peace dependent on your children, you can create the feeling of peace right now. Even if your children were acting like angels, the only thing that would be creating your feeling of peace is the thoughts you are having about your children.
The best part is that those thoughts are optional and available at any time. Your children could be teasing each other, yelling at each other or ignoring each other and you could have the thought “I just love them and there’s nothing they can do about it”.
No matter how much you believe some future moment will be better than this present moment, that’s not the case. The only reason you believe that is because you haven’t worked on the skill of managing your mind.
Instead of waiting to see what will happen or waiting to see what your future holds, you can create your future on purpose. You don’t create what you want by hoping, you create it by choosing; choosing feelings that fuel action and choosing to not delay how you want to feel in the future.
I hope this was helpful…scratch that; I know it was helpful because I am committed to showing up every week as the best version of myself, no matter what!
- By hoping and wishing, you don’t have to challenge yourself to face things like fear, doubt and uncertainty.
- When you just hope for something, you are abdicating responsibility for taking action which means you are in essence failing ahead of time.
- Hope is also a problem because it is a feeling of expectation where you want a circumstance to be different in the future so that you can feel differently.
- The “how” to getting what you want in your life is much less important than the feeling that fuels the actions you take.
- When you learn the power of managing your mind by becoming aware of the thoughts you are currently thinking and how they are making you feel, you can decide what to think to create the feeling you really want.
If you’d like some help with switching from feeling hopeful to feeling committed, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to work together.