Human beings are the both the luckiest and most cursed creatures on the planet. Not too many people consider the fact that, statistically speaking, the human race should not exist. The chance of us evolving into the beings that we are is slim to almost none at best. We are an anomaly; we are very lucky to be alive. Nevertheless, we are a cursed species.
Because we are capable of picturing events of the future in our minds, we become slaves to the possibilities. Our lives become focused on what can be and not what is at the moment. We are cursed to live two steps ahead of ourselves and ahead of what is reality. This curse, however, is often a gift in itself. Being able to perceive possible futures — happy, better futures — is what has kept the human race alive.
If we were not able to imagine better lives for ourselves then most of us would not find a reason to continue on living. Most of us have it pretty good, but hundreds of years ago — and still in some parts of the world today — everyday life means misery. Without the ability to visualize and hope, human beings would have never made it out of the Stone Age.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
Hope is what kept us going and what continues to keep us moving forward. But what exactly is hope? It’s defined as a feeling of expectation or desire for something to happen — yet its importance is its function rather than definition. Hoping is a tool of the mind; it allows us to maintain focus and — more importantly — put emotions behind the focus.
Of course, we can say that we hope it won’t rain today. We can say that we hope the Yankees will beat the Red Sox. We can hope for a lot of things that are entirely out of our control. This sort of hoping is not the kind that we should focus on. When we hope, we focus and simultaneously relate certain emotions to that hoping. When we hope for things that are in our control — say, we hope that we can run that mile in under 5 minutes or that we will get that promotion — we are zeroing in on not only what needs to be done in order for us to achieve our goals, but also reliving the emotions associated with the achievement of said goals.
“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” - Joseph Addison
Hoping is a form of visualization. We think, we imagine and we create possible futures for ourselves. We are sculpting a path that we wish to follow in order to achieve the goals that we wish to achieve. However, this only works when the dreams that we are hoping for pass two tests: the probability test and the control test. Is what you are hoping for probable? What are your chances? As long as there is the slimmest of chances, then hope is a great tool to get you there. Now, is what you are hoping for in your control?
Are there things that you can do to increase your chances or do you have no influence at all? Does what you want rely solely on the happenings of outside forces? If you are hoping to grow four inches in a week, then you can hope all you want — it will make no difference. If you are hoping that the stock market does well tomorrow then, again, you can hope all you want because it won’t make a difference.
“I find focus in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”-Dalai Lama
It’s knowing when you can affect the outcome that is most important. If you can’t affect it then rid it from your mind entirely because otherwise it will only weigh on you. If your actions have a chance of tipping the scales in your favor, then hope hard and hope often. When you mix focus with emotions, it more often than not, results in positive action.
We usually have more influence than we give ourselves credit for. The saying: “where there is a will, there is a way,” applies to many situations. However, not all outcomes are possible. Not everything is within our control and not every hoped for outcome is a possibility. A reader recently asked me when I believed that people should hope and when instead they should remain realistic. My answer is: always. We should always be hoping for possible futures, no matter how slim the chances — as long as there are chances. At the same time, we should always remain realistic. We should always be rational and look at situations for what they are. There won’t always be a way out.
There won’t always be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You won’t always get what you want. But if there is even the slightest chance that your dreams or wants will play out, then you should hope that they do. Channel your focus, your energy and your emotions to your cause and you will be moved to action. Action is the end result that we are truly looking for; hope itself is no more than a tool we use to get us there. Nothing changes without action.
“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” - Elbert Hubbard