I am an optimist.
But not just an optimist.
I’m an optimist who dances with hope on a regular basis.
Smooshing it all together, I’m a hopetimist.
The thing is, I’ve always been kind of big on Hope. And not in some sort of Quote-on-a-T-Shirt or quickly-slapped-up-Facebook-status way. My embracing of hope was kind of… bordering on obsessively thought out (ahem, I write a blog called ‘Just Ponderin”). I thought of Hope as Optimism’s ballast (well, I used to think it was Optimism’s balance but I have since gone to Boat School, so ‘ballast’ is now in my lexicon).
Anyway, while Optimism felt ‘sure’, Hope carried with it some degree – sometimes a very high degree – of uncertainty.
Hence, if Optimism, as a mindset, bolstered me…
Hope is what put me to work.
Because my generally optimistic self, left to her own devices, can honestly believe that everything is going to turn out okay (and trot off on her merry way), Hope reminds me that things might not go my way, and I’d better get my butt in gear to ease the universe toward my desired outcome.
For instance, Number One Son Sam was born with some very serious medical and developmental issues. At times, all the way into his teens, they felt insurmountable. Big deal scary life and death stuff. Believing he would be okay kept me going. Hoping he would be okay kept me researching, finding and talking with great doctors and therapists and learning learning specialists… I had to be educated, I had to advocate, I had to….
I had to do.
So that’s the way I’ve always thought about Hope. Pretty dang important toward getting to the good stuff… goals and wishes and dreams.
It may have been a strange way to think about the relationship between Optimism and Hope, and I’d never researched it, but it felt right to me.
Back in 2017, a doctor called Utpal Dholakia Ph.D. wrote an article that was published in Psychology Today that I almost didn’t read.
I saw the title, and then the introductory quote, and my eyes were rolling all over the place in mock disgust (they do that). Since I still have the article, I can share the introductory quote with you here:
“Hope is the most evil of evils because it prolongs mans’ torment.” – Friedrich Nietzche.
“Freakin’ Nietzsche.” I thought. And that wasn’t the first time I’d said that about him either. There was this certain paper in college…wait. Not the point.
Utpal Dholakia Ph.D., wasn’t doing himself any favors when he started with that Nietzche quote, and his words following didn’t help him out much either (as far as I was concerned). First, he states that he was a big of a fan of Optimism (blah blah “benefits during times of adversity”, blah blah “good for our health”, blah blah “recover faster”). And then he wrote – oh let me quote him here – “Hope, not so much. I just didn’t feel quite the same level of enthusiasm about hope.” And then… the cherry on top? Oh let me find it… it’s a gem…
“… the concept of hope seemed to me to be a decidedly inferior concept, like a cocktail of optimism mixed in with a bit of desperation and a dash of wishful thinking.”
But, once I’d read that I was invested… invested in HOPING that Dr. Hopeless Ph.D. included his e-mail at the end of his dang article so I could express my bubbling dissatisfaction.
So I read on.
And something very cool unfolded.
I learned that, when he dug into things, Dr. Dholakia did find some psychology-type papers that supported his own lack of respect for Hope. But an interesting thing – to me anyway – was that these papers said that Hope did tend to be more present when someone felt a lack of control, which is kind of close to my own point above: Hope is not as ‘certain’ as Optimism.
Then Dr. Dholakia dug into the ‘social psychology scholarly literature’ and, there, researchers saw things differently. Side note: Since these papers and articles were ‘scholarly literature’, I gave them way more weight because I figured they were smarter literatures.
They said that, while optimism is all about the belief of positive outcomes (I’m totally nut-shelling here) vs. negative outcomes in life (personal, romantic, economy, finances… life stuff), Hope… wait… let me get the scholarly definition for you…
“Hope is a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)”*
That sounds wicked smaht, but what does it mean?
It means I’m a freaking genius of scholarly article levels, that’s what it means!
Bow or curtsy in my direction now. Your choice.
Luckily, Dr. Dholakia translated, explaining that hopeful people know that the outcomes aren’t guaranteed, and tend to come up with lots of possible ways to meet their goals. Also they’re pretty motivated to get all action-y with these ‘pathways’ (plans, or ways forward).
Which brings me back to… If Optimism (certain) bolsters me, Hope (not certain) puts me to work.
Dr. Dholakia concluded with this:
“It seems clear that to be optimistic in a general way about our lives will serve us well, mentally and physically. But when the chips are down, and when we need a powerful shot of motivation to help us find new ways to reach our goal and push us forward towards its achievement, there is no substitute for hope.”
Nah. You get it.
But my own revised viewpoint is this… you know, after reading the article again and thinking about it for… approximately 174 hours:
Whether we consider ourselves – at our cores – to be optimists, realists, pessimists, or a dispositional mutts (Belle-ah offered that phrase, so I felt I had to use it)… I don’t think it matters.
Regardless of how we self-identify, when it comes to the natural state of our mental attitudes…
Hope is our ballast. It is our partner in crime.
There is no reason to work toward a desired outcome if we don’t think we might be successful, or at least move the ball forward.
Hope is… scientifically and scholarly (and, okay, figuratively)…
Our rocket fuel.
Thanks for readin’.
*That quote was by the late hope researcher (I love that there are people who research hope), C.R. Snyder
**This is Dr. Dholakia’s article from Feb. 26, 2017