Five years ago, I wrote about the correlation between expectations and happiness — lower your expectations and you will be happier — reign in expectations and stress and despair won’t be prominent when life does not go according to plan. And perhaps there is a semblance of truth to that notion.
But here’s where it’s nuanced. With diminished expectations, we chip away at hope. And how can we not hope for a better tomorrow? I consider myself to be someone with spirit. I become excited when I have an idea. I look forward to experiences and anticipate memorable ones. And while it’s important to cope when such experiences fall through, I think it’s even more important to hold onto what was originally present — that sense of hope.
Sure, I’ve been let down. I’ve had my eager mentality crushed. I’ve felt limited. There are plenty of factors in life beyond my control and that will never change.
Yet, regardless of disappointment, regardless of a discouraging outcome, I’d rather hope than not hope at all. I’d rather feel hope’s bright light than live my day to day in its absence.
The 2011 Times article, “Optimism Bias: Human Brain May Be Hardwired for Hope,” offers a perspective with roots in evolutionary psychology. Hope can be wired in the human brain to enhance survival. If present during trying times, hope can be a factor that allows some to transcend adversity and garner positivity for the days ahead.
“Hope keeps our minds at ease, lowers stress and improves physical health,” the article states. “Researchers studying heart-disease patients found that optimists were more likely than nonoptimistic patients to take vitamins, eat low-fat diets and exercise, thereby reducing their overall coronary risk. A study of cancer patients revealed that pessimistic patients under the age of 60 were more likely to die within eight months than nonpessimistic patients of the same initial health, status and age.”
Ashely Schild, a social worker who is also a personal friend of mine, conveyed that hope is what allows her to re-shape a negative situation. “Hope is something that guides me everyday, and I take comfort in knowing that disappointments can be temporary and channelled in a positive way.”
Janice O’Leary shared her thoughts with me on the subject as well. “In life we will always be disappointed, have anxiety, face difficulties,” she said. “Hope and faith are the only things we have to hold onto. Things can change in an instant, we should never give up hope.”
Psychology Today’s 2011 article, “The Will and Ways of Hope” notes that hope can incorporate learning goals and become a blueprint for the future.
“People with learning goals are actively engaged in their learning, constantly planning strategies to meet their goals, and monitoring their progress to stay on track,” the article explains. “A bulk of research shows that learning goals are positively related to success across a wide swatch of human life—from academic achievement to sports to arts to science to business.”
Life is always going to bring us challenges. Life is always going to be comprised of setbacks that might pull us down. Is it still foolish to have hope?
I say it’s not. Because without hope, what are we left with? I say hope is significant. I say it’s a beautiful part of what it means to be human.