Have you ever had someone tell you to “have hope” when there’s absolutely no reason to have it?
Have you ever heard someone say they “hope” something will change in their lives, but deep down you just know it’s not going to happen for them?
I'm sure you've noticed how superstitiously speaking hope into "the Universe" usually has the opposite of the intended effect: It makes you hopeless.
The next time you “hope” and it doesn’t pan out, the next time you “hope” and the person doesn’t change, the next time you “hope” and illness still overcomes, you lose a little confidence that, behind "hope", there's little substance beyond "wish".
But don’t quit on hope. It has too much to offer.
Now, I think you and I would agree that there are times it’s best to give up hope completely. [In 9 Things You Simply Must Do, Henry Cloud reveals how successful people know when to move on. In summary, it's helpful to give up hope...
when the habits or relationships aren’t leading you where you want to go
when you’re living against your values
when there’s no reason to believe more time will fix it.
If one or more of these are true, it’s time to quit the thing you're hoping in.
But don't quit on hope. Real hope breeds endurance, wisdom and results.
In one of the most quoted letters of all time, Paul of Tarsus observed, “...suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3–4, NIV).
But, in order for that to happen, your suffering needs something worth suffering for, your perseverance needs a goal worth enduring for, your character needs something worth standing for, and you hope has got to be based on something stronger than a "wish".
So I thought it might be helpful to quickly describe 5 ways to know the difference between a hope that takes you further and a wish that holds you back.
#1 Past Proof vs Unprecedented
If the person, opportunity, plan, job, relationship, or habit has created any instances of the results you want, there's at least some reason to hope that you will get more of that in the future.
If the future you want has no correlation with the past you've experienced, you might wielding a wish.
#2 New vs Same
Before you cut ties with a person, place, or idea that hasn't provided what you want in the future, ask yourself if there has been any disruptively new feature introduced.
Notice I didn't say "more". If there is no past experience of the future you want, "more discipline", "more time", "more conversations" shouldn't give you a lot of confidence that you'll get a "new" outcome.
In order for "new" to occur, there must be something "new" in the mix. Examples include...
Starting therapy or coaching
New leadership at the helm
Different product or strategy
Adoption of an altered worldview or vision of reality
Beginning of a promising habit
If something truly "new" has been chosen, you might be able to hope.
If all you have is "more", all you have is a wish.
#3 Values vs Fears
There's an ancient wisdom principle that states:
The hopes of the godly result in happiness,
but the expectations of the wicked come to nothing.
(Proverbs 10:28 NLT-SE)
You don't have to agree with me, but I have a conviction that efforts and plans that sow love, generosity, reconciliation, compassion will reap a successful future in some way (I also have a lot of experience with this).
I believe God fuels actions that reflect God. When we act in sacrificial love, justice, mercy, honesty, and courage, our future will be expansive. You can have hope in that.
However, if your ideas are motivated by fear alone—fear of losing control, fear of looking bad, fear of being wrong, or fear of discomfort—you can want the future to have less fear and more opportunities, but that's an empty wish.
#4 Vision vs Dream
In the book cited above, Henry Cloud explains,
"Hope means investing time and energy toward results that you have solid reason to believe can be achieved."
(Henry Cloud, 9 Things You Simply Must Do, page 64)
I do a lot of work with my clients to get them crystal clear and white hot on a vision. What do you want to find out you're capable of? It's fun. It's exhilarating. It's necessary.
But nearly every client I've worked with has had to have a moment to get sober about their first draft.
Sometimes, we get stuck believing we're not capable of much. That's a problem.
But often, we will envision a future that's so grandiose, so out-of-touch with reality that we emotionally detach from it. We don't even begin to put a plan together (or stick with one very long) because our brains want to protect us from wasting energy on a plan to live on the moon 90 days from now.
I love a dream as much as the next dreamer, but I get hopeful when the dream has some grounding in reality.
But the biggest difference between a dream and a vision isn't the scale. It's actually much simpler.
#5 Plan vs Luck
How will you get what you want?
Your dream becomes a vision if it has a plan. That's it.
I'm not guaranteeing that every dream with a plan will become a reality. I'm not promising that every plan is an effective plan.
But I can guarantee every dream without a plan will stay a wish. You want more than that. Plan for more than that.
May you have hope and may it be clear and helpful. May it fuel your perseverance and character.