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Monday, September 11, 2017


“Hope is not a strategy”…these somewhat harsh words of wisdom spoken by an old family friend who happens to be (drumroll, please!) a LAWYER.  So legally speaking, the man makes perfect sense.  He also happens to be (plot twist!) one of the kindest, loveliest human beings I know, so this advice was also coming from a true heart.

Actually, he didn’t give me this advice directly; it was shared in an anecdotal way for general consumption.  But I found myself repeating the line often in the weeks that followed.  A nerve was hit, but I couldn’t say just yet why.
Of course the last year of my life has been so fraught with uncertainty and turmoil that some days hope was the only strategy left available to me; but like a band-aid covering a permanent scar, the relief was illusory.  It occurred to me, not for the first time, that hope is a very different animal than faith, although we carelessly pair them up with some great frequency.  “Hope” is a yearning uncertainty; faith is a grounded knowing.

So this line, hope is not a strategy, brought into my mind the old “hope chests” of yore…used to collect items such as household linen by unmarried women in anticipation of married life.  Or the more contemporary “vision board”.  Not that having a vision of what you want to bring into your life is in any way wrong, or a bad idea.
But hope is not a strategy.

Now I am sure my friend’s intent was not to drain people of hope, but rather to indicate that a winning strategy must entail some ACTION!  You know, planning, researching, executing, that sort of thing that we all do every day whether we realize it or not.  But the reason we do so much of it unconsciously is because (drumroll, please!) most of the time we assume we are not going to fail.  In other words, we have FAITH that our actions will produce the desired results.
Example:  when we pack our kid’s lunch and make sure he has done his homework and put him on the bus in the morning, we don’t “hope” that he’ll make it to school and have a productive day, we assume that he will.  Because he has the tools and has taken the appropriate actions to make that happen.  When we make a list and head out to the grocery, we don’t “hope” we’ll be able to find enough food to make our family supper; when we pay our bills on time and maintain a positive balance in our bank accounts, we don’t “hope” our electricity doesn’t get turned off or our credit score isn’t ruined.

We have faith that our actions will produce the desired results. 
So if we are able to do this so well that it is virtually unconscious in most of our day-to-day routines, why are we not able to make this leap when it comes to our “hopes” (cough, cough) and dreams?  And why do we call them “hopes” anyway?  HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY!

The problem with “hope” as I see it, is that it has its own handy-dandy little built-in excuse:  DOUBT.  If you “hope”, you doubt.  I “hope” I can lose some weight! (um, of course you can)… I “hope” I can meet my deadline! (24 hours in a day!)…I “hope” I can make it to your party! (well, now you’re just lying).
You might as well say I doubt I can lose weight, meet my deadline and make it to your party.  Because that is the belief you have reinforced when you say you “hope” you can do something you so obviously CAN DO.  Sorry, tough love—but hope is not a strategy.

As useful as hope can be when life has kicked the tar out of us and we are on the mat wondering if we’ll ever get up, the bottom line is that hope is a band-aid that covers up our doubt—the relief is illusory.  The only thing that can make you rise again is faith.  And here’s the kicker—it doesn’t actually have to be faith in a so-called “higher power”—it can be as simple as faith in yourself or as logical as faith in logic.
Some of us have faith in the intrinsic goodness of humanity; some of us have faith in science.  Some of us have faith in chaos; some of us have faith in pronoia (the idea that everything is working in our favor).  Faith is the biggest driver we have towards action, ironically; ultimately it is our belief in the inevitability of certain outcomes that causes us to take the steps we need to get there.

Whew!  You still with me here?  Are we getting the realization that hope is not a strategy?
I “hope” so, meaning of course that I doubt all of you are.  But I have faith some of you will get it and in fact some of you are even ahead of me on this particular path.  We need to transform our hope chests into faith chests if we want to produce the desired results.

Whenever we are stuck in life it means we doubt our ability to discard the unwanted and accomplish what we desire.  But why would we ever do that?  When you think about it, not only do we manage the life we have planned for on a day-to-day basis, we also handle so many curve balls it’s no wonder baseball is considered the great American pastime. 
We do so damned much successfully, it’s amazing we haven’t been laughing the idea of “hope” in the face for years.  So what is it you are “hoping” to do?  If I told you there was not a doubt in the world that your actions would produce the desired results, what would you be doing differently?

Or is “hope” your excuse for not taking any action at all?