Discovery Fit & Health
Hope and optimism help build a life raft during life's darker moments, preventing us from drowning in our despair when times get tough. In fact, studies show that hopeful people are happier, healthier and experience fewer accidents than people without hopeful optimism. Despite all that hope can do for you, however, it also can act as an obstacle between you and your goals.
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and author of "Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman," once said "There's no difference between a pessimist who says, 'It's all over, don't bother trying to do anything..." and an optimist who says, 'Relax, everything is doing to turn out fine.' Either way the results are the same. Nothing gets done." It's tough to argue against the value of hope for a cancer patient, or someone suffering from tragedy, but hope without action can bring more bad than good if someone simply relies on it with blind faith. In the long run, we're much more likely to achieve our goals with a solid plan of action than by simply enjoying the feel-good vibes of a hopeful attitude.
Hope can also be problematic when it's false, or against all odds. Such is the case of the gambler who spends his time believing that the big payoff is just around the corner, or the not-so-talented singer who dreams of success in the recording industry. Sure, it's possible that either of these people could realize their dreams, but the odds are stacked against them. In these instances, hope simply acts as a distraction from more achievable or realistic goals.
Given that hope by its very nature is future oriented, one can argue that people focused on hope are simply looking for an excuse to escape from the present. Part of the danger of looking toward the future is that you miss out on what's happening today, all around you. Even if your hopes for the future are realized, it's easy to continuously create new expectations, masked as hope, which keep you from ever truly living in the moment.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "Hope is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torment of man." Nietzsche was speaking in reference to the myth of Pandora's box, which was given to Pandora by the god Zeus. When Pandora opened the box, all of the evils of the world flew out except for hope (though some renderings of the story have hope leaving the box later). If a man were to encounter one of the evils from the box, he might give up his life, throw up his hands in surrender and die. If he has hope, he continues to endure the evil. But if it's an evil that can never be endured or outmatched, then the man has lived his entire life in useless misery, a life that's been made much longer by the illusion of hope. Some philosophers would believe, therefore, that if hope distracts you from the truth of your situation, then it's a bad thing.
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