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On Hope

Updated on June 23, 2017
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Disclaimer: I am not in any way a doctor. If you are battling depression or have any other issues that require professional attention, please seek and ask for the care of a professional. It may very well be the best thing you ever did.

The Count of Monte Cristo is a novel written by French author Alexandre Dumas. It was finished in 1844 and it is, primarily, an epic tale of one man's unwavering search for revenge. We follow this man who, after being betrayed and wrongfully imprisoned, is thrown into a miserable existence for fourteen years. We see him give into despair and his subsequent salvation through hope. In fact, the saga ends with the following, surprisingly uplifting quote: "All human wisdom is contained in these two words: Wait and Hope."

Powerful stuff, isn't it? I definitely recommend you read the book if you haven't already. So why is being hopeful such a wise move? Shouldn't we strive to be more realistic? And how do we stay hopeful even when we're at our lowest?

Let's answer these questions by first addressing how people perpetually misuse the word "realistic". We've all seen it: you share your dreams and aspirations with someone, only to have them scoff and say "Come on, be realistic."

And sure, people can very well be delusional when it comes to what they hope to achieve, but the truth is that most goals people set for themselves are realistic: Buy a house. Be a star. Become president. Why not? It's all been done before. And a lot of people did it with a whole lot less.

Getting everything you've ever wanted is difficult. It takes time, discipline and hard work. And you're never guaranteed success. Meaning, you might do everything right and still fail. But, if you know what you're doing, you can greatly increase the odds of you making it. And hope is a big part of that.

If being realistic means seeing the world as it really is, then the truth is that wonderful things do happen to people, every day. Especially to those that work on their odds.

So why is hope so important to your success? Well, hope is what resilience is built on. It's why we stay in the fight, even after we've been beat down. It is what allows us to fail, again, and again, and again. And the more you fail, the more your odds for success go up. Why? Because unless you're doing the same thing over and over again, statistically speaking, you cannot fail forever. Eventually something's going to stick. And the beautiful thing about that is: you only need to succeed once.

But don't take my word for it. There are a lot of success stories out there. Look into any one of them and you'll find the same struggle. And it's the ones that can handle that struggle that get to reap the rewards in the end. What is needed is endurance, and you build that on hope.

So how do we stay hopeful?

I'm going to share an unbelievably simple secret with you today. Are you ready? Here it is: the secret to being hopeful is giving yourself options.

Remember how I said that in order to succeed you need to fail, a lot? Well in order to do that, you need to try something different every time. Sometimes that thing is painfully easy to see: maybe the concept is right, you're just not giving it a hundred percent. More often than not however, your plan just doesn't work and you need to come up with a new one. Most people aren't that creative. That being said, creativity is part of the process. You need to understand that, if you are to achieve anything.

Fortunately for those of us that aren't natural improvisers, there are a lot of books out there that offer a lot of creative solutions to a lot of problems. If you want it, chances are good that someone already has it and they've written a book on how to get it. There are also a lot of people that are more than willing to help if you ask them nicely. So there really is no excuse for quitting. Not with a realistic goal. As for unrealistic goals, that's another article in itself.

However you choose to figure out what your options are, what's important is that you're aware of them. You need to know they're out there. Your capacity to hope depends on it. Know that should you fail now, there's always something else you haven't tried yet.

If you're not aware of your options, you need to at least have faith that you are capable of figuring something out. This is what we call confidence. And it grows with experience. The more you prove to yourself that you are creative enough or persistent enough to find a way out of a tight spot, the easier it will be for you to face that challenge in the future.

Now, I cannot preach about options without acknowledging that sometimes there simply aren't any. In this case, you've either set a truly unrealistic goal for yourself, in which case, seeing how there is nothing humanly possible for you to do, you should quit.

Or, and this is important, your goal only appears unattainable for the time being. When the obstacle you have encountered is a variable, meaning it can and will change, what you lack is opportunity. And what you need to do is wait, marshal your resources, and take your shot when the time is right.

It is up to you to figure out which is which.

Finally, you need to understand that if you are going to succeed, hope alone is not enough. Having options is not enough. You need to act on them. If you fail, you have to try again.

When Edmond, the protagonist in Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo, says "Wait and Hope." he most certainly does not mean that you should sit back and expect good things to just happen to you. Edmond is not an idle character throughout the story.

What he means to say is that you cannot take the long road to success without patience, and you cannot endure the struggle without hope.

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