Hope vs. Optimism (and a killer clowns theory)

Hello Friends,

As 2020 draws toward an end, people around the world are looking forward to the dawning of a new year with new and positive possibilities. We entered 2020 with similar hope and optimism, and ended up taking a wild ride on a rough rollercoaster of a year. Who knew?

Yet, though people of the world have faced many challenges never before experienced, we will not be thwarted from believing better days are on the horizon. Humankind seems to be wired this way. Even in the darkest times, we have the capacity to hope things will get better. Some of us even possess a natural born optimism that things will become better, regardless of what today looks like.

Some of us are holding onto hope, others are staying optimistic. You might ask, aren’t hope and optimism the same?

Hope and optimism share a commonality. They are both positive conditions, unique to humankind. They help form the framework of perseverance built into the human spirit. By this, I mean, the nature of our way if thinking. While these wondrous capabilities are an essential aspect of our ability to survive, they differ from the basic survival instincts that reside in all animals and contribute to our continued and ever improving progression as a species.

So, what is the difference between hope and optimism?

Hope is something we hold within ourselves as a personal expectation for the positive outcome of circumstances as they come and go from our lives. It is a heart felt need that motivates us internally. It is a wish or desire for something specific to occur or carry through positively.

We keep this ambitious feeling close and protect it, like a squirelled nut, because it feeds our soul like a fuel and helps to propels us forward, despite the odds or size of adversities. It saves us from laying down and giving up.

Hope can be held in different ways. We can hope for better days, or hope something we want will come our way. We can feel hope that things will work out in the end, in terms if a difficult situation or a life change. We can be hopeful of our ability to meet challenges, holding onto a a belief in ourselves.

Hope is usually nestled deep down inside and from this quiet place can grow larger and stronger with the smallest bit of progress, or when the tiniest glimmer of positivity shines upon it. It drives us to keep going, even in the darkest times.

The downside to hope can be hope without action. It can become purely wishful thinking, such as relying solely on a higher power to “make things happen”. This forfeits our ability to affect change, although, sometimes we may have no other choice but to “wait and see”. Things can truly be out of our hands, at times.

On the other hand…

Optimism is a consistent state of mind, a positive outlook for favorable results in any experience. Optimists are proactive thinkers, planners and action takers.

Optimists are not living in a fantasy world of cotton candy beliefs, as some may think, but are fully engaged in affecting positive outcomes in their lives, at least to some degree. Their optimism expresses outwardly, an energy sensed by others, attractive in its forms of translation to behaviors, words, and physical presence.

Optimists experience other, personal benefits, as well. It has been proven through studies that optimists are physically and mentally healthier people who often live longer lives. They often look at adversity as a meaningful challenge and therefore possess better resilience in difficult times.

There is such a thing as being too optimistic, however. Blind optimism without some level of conscious management can lead to a kind of ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ behavior and a lack of development in logical problem solving skills.

So, which is better – Hope or Optimism. I don’t think there is a better – only balance. We can use a ‘killer clowns from outer space’ theory to make the comparison:

If we found ourselves in the clutches of killer clowns from outer space, having hope would help motivate our behaviors and actions, and be far more effective in our ability to survive than being simply optimistic. However, optimism is what keeps us from worrying unnecessarily about finding ourselves in that kind of situation, in the first place.

So, it seems that staying more positive than negative can produce a healthier, happier life over all. And having hope will help us stay motivated to keep striving for the things that matter most in life.

Have a wonderful week and stay stoked with positive vibes for 2021.


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