Why You Shouldn’t Hope for the Best

“Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune.”

– SENECA

Have you ever noticed how we’re taught that our wants and desires have everything to do with our suffering, yet we’re also taught to “live in hope”? Have you ever stopped to consider how these messages might muddy the waters?

You see it all over the blogosphere, of course. “Don’t give up,” “Hang in there,” “Never lose hope”… 

But what, exactly, are we supposed to never lose hope for? A perfect body? A million dollars? For becoming a celebrity so we may be adored forever? For politicians to do as they promised – to do what’s right for our children?!

Hah! 

So many talk as if hope is the panacea to life’s problems. As if hope will set us free. I wonder how many people have stopped to ask themselves whether hoping is the problem? That maybe it’s because they’re hoping that they’re suffering? I wonder how many people miss their own lives because they’re constantly hoping for something different? 

I’m guessing it’s a lot.

What if you shouldn’t be hoping for something different? What if, when your survival isn’t at stake – when, at this moment, there is nothing wrong – what if hoping is the last thing you should be doing? 

What if accepting life as it stands is more important than hoping?

We cannot hope the pandemic will disappear tomorrow after all, or that evil will vanquish without a fight. Of course, we must believe in our ability to prevail, but to hope for things out of our control? 

Well, hello, psychological torture my old friend!

Maybe we can work towards improving our lives without feeling it needs to be? Maybe we can work in recognition that we already have everything we need? Maybe our work can be dedicated to helping others for that reason? For those who really do need to “live in hope” because their survival depends on it?

What Hope Is For

This is where I believe we need to be clear: Hope isn’t for external reality, it’s for your ability to deal with it. It’s for survivalIt’s designed to lift you from the brink of destruction. When your back is against the wall and you ingest birds in both of your engines, hope gives you the fortitude to land that fucker in the Hudson.

Talking of which, when Sully Sullenberger ingested a flock of geese in both engines, the most remarkable thing about that day wasn’t that he successfully managed to ditch an aeroplane on the Hudson. (Although that was pretty damn remarkable.) 

No, the most remarkable thing was his ability to rapidly come to terms with his predicament. The most remarkable thing was his ability to take stock of his situation and find the clarity needed to do his job under the most extreme circumstances. 

In a TV interview where he describes the events of that day, he said he remembers the first three conscious thoughts he had vividly. The first was, “This can’t be happening.” Followed by, “This doesn’t happen to me.” Then, he said, this was followed by a dawning realisation that this flight, unlike any other flight during his 40 + career in aviation, wouldn’t end on a runway with the aircraft undamaged. He said, “I was ok with that, as long as I could solve the problem.”

Talk about radical acceptance! I don’t know about you, but it takes me more time to accept life when the alarm goes off in the morning.

A Counterintuitive Approach

Here’s the funny thing about acceptance – it provides a counterintuitive approach to hope. If you have the fortitude to do so, it prevents you from hoping for something different. To be saved by some knight in shining armour. 

It means you’re left hoping for one thing and one thing alone: yourself. Your ability to deal with life as it stands. Even if that’s means you’ve just ingested birds in both of your engines!

Of course, that’s scary. Having to come to terms with the brutal facts of your reality. To understand that you and you alone are responsible for it. 

That’s why most people don’t. They’re too scared to own that level of responsibility. So they distract themselves through addiction and false hope, convincing themselves that their life circumstances are not their fault and, therefore, not their responsibility. 

Of course, that’s wrong. We are always responsible for things that aren’t our fault. In fact, that’s life. Life isn’t your fault, but here you are anyway. What do you want to do about it? Hope for something else?

Preparing for the Worst

Bruce Lee once said, “Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Of course, building the strength to deal with adversity when it happens is something you can control. Whether you have an easy life or not isn’t. What hand the universe deals you is beyond your control. What he’s really saying is you should hope for your best, not the best. 

How do you that?

By actively preparing yourself for the worst. By challenging yourself. By putting yourself in the dragon’s den and proving that you can. By defining yourself by your pain. There’s a reason why the proverbial kitchen sink is thrown at pilots every 3 months in the simulator. We are thrown in at the deep end and told to sink or swim. Deal with it or have your license invalidated.

In that same TV interview Sully said, that although they had never practiced a water landing in the simulator before, “Because I had learned my craft so well and because I knew my plane and my profession so intimately, I could set clear priorities. And so I chose to do only the highest priority items, and then I had the discipline to ignore everything I did not have time to do.”

What a legend.

I’ll finish with one more thought.

Acting in hope for your survival and those you love is easy. It’s necessary, so it’s easy. When you have no other choice but to act against all odds, of course, you act. It might not be easy to do, but the decision is. 

The real measure of a person is how they respond to events outside of their control. When they cannot act, despite their hopes. The real measure of a person is in their ability to accept. To accept the reality of their past – to accept and embrace the demons in their closet. To accept, ultimately, their own mortality. And that of those who they love most dearly. That is true courage. That is true strength.

And it isn’t hope that will bring you peace – although it may save you. It’s acceptance that does that. That’s why, I suggest you start with radical acceptance for what is long before you start hoping. Then, and only then, if you still have the audacity to hope, you better be prepared to take action.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing at the following: 

https://pointlessoverthinking.com

https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Also on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot


37 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Hope for the Best

  • Such an inspiring post.
    I think hope is very important. Without hope we can give up completely, and lose the will to hang in there.
    I think, often, we are hoping that a ray of life will eventually push through the darkness. It’s true, our situation may never change … but perhaps some words of kindness will help us to feel loved and supported … or perhaps something will ease up in our awful circumstances … or perhaps we will find new resources and strength. these are the kinds of things we hope for.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hope is very important – I completely agree, but it has a dark side. I believe acceptance helps to keep our hopes grounded in reality – which is important. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • AP, An interesting, thought-provoking post! I enjoyed reading it and especially liked the story about Sully Sollenberger. I watched the famous landing on the news, of course, but you introduced an unfamiliar backstory.

    It is said that most of the things we fear never come to pass. I accept that unexpected things, both good and bad, will probably happen today. Hope may not be the main problem, but rather unrealistic expectations and leaving things to chance. Luck most often favors those who have prepared for all eventualities.

    Most of all, I am thankful that there are pilots who have the expertise to fly and the temperament to withstand the dangers and stresses of their jobs. It makes flying a lot more relaxing! I hope you are not encountering any of the “unruly passengers” we have been hearing about on the news!

    All the best! ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cheryl. The video I linked to is worth a watch! I think most of what I fear has already come to pass. The worst has already happened. It’s reliving it/ expecting it to happen again, that’s my problem.

      Anyway I think being realistic is better choice than either pessimism or optimism. You have to be careful with expectations. Certainly if you want something bad enough, better to take matters into your own hands and work for it rather then leaving it to chance.

      Thankfully I haven’t encountered any unruly passengers myself. I’ll stay prepared for the possibility though!

      Thanks again Cheryl. Always love to hear your thoughts. All the best to you too! 🙏

      Like

    • Hope is important. We must never lose hope in the grand scheme. I think it’s important to keep those hopes grounded in reality however. That’s where acceptance comes in. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it. 🙏

      Like

  • Yes!!! I completely agree. I think sometimes people can confuse catastrophizing and preparing for the worst, but like you described, preparing for the worst involves problem-solving, and catastrophizing only involves the problem.

    Liked by 3 people

  • Great post, AP! And I love this insight that you shared, “Hope isn’t for external reality, it’s for your ability to deal with it. It’s for survival.”

    Agreed. And the story about the Hudson River airplane incident is a good analogy. I didn’t know too much about the story but hearing the pilot’s thought process articulated is quite inspiring. That is truly some mental fortitude!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Ab! If you’ve not watched the movie Sully, it’s worth your time. They get the details spot on. Certainly some mental fortitude. Have a great weekend Ab 🙏

      Like

  • Great post AP2 on giving a different spin on ‘hope’. And yes, what about if we accept the present moment. Acceptance is HUGE.. Whatever is thrown at you: to deal with it as best you can (trying to stay calm) and accepting the situation. I like the Sully situation you referred to and what a clear example of how he used every tool in his box in a situation when he accepted it, remained calm so to set clear priorities in a grounded manner ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  • This was a great post! The story you shared was really representative to your point. Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Hope is for our survival, for internal use.🙂
    I will be waiting to read more of you in the future. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Hope for the worst and prepare for the best(outcome) is my mantra.
        Enjoyed reading.
        Indeed thought provoking !
        Forget blogosphere hammering day and night about HOPE,Happiness etc etc, only fooling each other!
        Using the brain appropriately in preparation for facing risks is far far better than just living on ‘HOPE’ and sit in meditation crossing the fingers and dreaming the ‘luck’ factor.
        🙏🙏🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  • These are the exact thoughts I’ve been having recently, especially because it’s been so hard to do the things that I need to do, especially when I base those tasks on my feelings for the day. But like Iron Wolf said, “You have to bully yourself so that others can’t.”

    And that’s the only reason why I’ve been sticking to my morning workout routine.

    Thanks for this awesome post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good work Stuart! I’m trying to master my evening routine at the moment. I find if I can get that right, the morning routine takes care of itself. I love that quote. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Glad you enjoyed the post. Take it easy Stuart 🙏🙂

      Like

  • Perhaps strangely, I can act in hope for those around me, loved ones and those I have known for only a short time. I don’t automatically have this ability when it comes to acting for myself.

    Acceptance and understanding we can only control the controllables is an important part of *living* our life, and not just being moved through it.

    Thank you for sharing this. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Hamish – Acting for those we love is a powerful motivator. I have a motto for living: Radical acceptance followed by meaningful action. Thanks for lending your wonderful thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s