There is a less appealing ‘other side.’

By Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

It seems odd, to speak of a concept viewed as categorically optimistic as one that should also be applied with caution. Hope can keep us going. But hope can also hold us back, and it can be difficult to identify which is taking place.

There is no way to predict whether or not what we hope for will actually come to fruition. Often, we just continue to wish, and wait. We cling to our desires in anticipation of them being realized, someday.

The trouble with hope is that we never know if we’re holding on too long or letting go too soon.

This is the tragedy of it all. Sometimes we’re keeping doors open that should have been slammed shut long ago.

We watch our cell phones, hoping the person that we miss, the one for whom we are yearning will contact us. We hold on to relationships that have clearly come to an end, in hopes that the person will return. We keep ourselves from moving on even if they have, allowing months and possibly even years of our lives to pass us by — just in case.

In our careers, we stay at jobs in hopes that we’ll eventually be recognized and rewarded by management with the promotion that we deserve. Even if we feel we’ve shown more than enough to warrant advancement, we’ll sit tight. Even if we’ve been unfairly overlooked, we’ll hope.

There are few traits more admirable than loyalty. Yet, being hopeful can make us loyal to a fault. It can make us devoted without reason. Loyal to dead-end situations and improbable outcomes. We betray our own best interests in favor of hope.

Remaining hopeful can also make us complacent. Instead of actively pursuing what we want, we wait, often in vain, for it to come and meet us where we are. It is easier to leave things to chance and hope the results are in our favor. This way we don’t risk feeling like a failure if we actually stick our neck out, go after something and fall short.

The dilemma is the “what if.” The what ifs can help us persevere, or make us fearful. We’re afraid of making the wrong decision — Of giving up one second too soon. What if that person does call? What if my boss will promote me? What if things would have gone my way had I held out just a little while longer?

Yet, what if they don’t? This is not an advocation for thinking negatively. Granted, things don’t always materialize in synch with our desired timeline. But, what’s going to happen will happen whether or not we hope it happens. That expectation just leads to unnecessary mental and emotional anguish.

There is a time for hope. It can be the best option, particularly when the alternative is despair. We just have to be able to recognize when our hope is acting as fuel, and when it has become crippling.

Author of a critically-acclaimed book on women and dating. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687069786

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