Hope & Optimism

I was fortunate to have a virtual reunion recently with my friends whom I studied Life Skills Coaching with several years ago. We’ve kept in touch over the years but haven’t seen each other for some time now. It was great to be able to talk & share again about our experiences and to be able to get some great feedback.

I was reflecting back on our call and was recalling some words & themes that stood out for me. One word in particular was prominent – hope. With the events of the past year, and in general, hope is a quality that can lift the spirit. Personally, it’s word that I use in particular contexts. I do try to be very aware of my word choices when I’m conversing with someone, so this was a good opportunity to examine some of my choices that have become more of a habit.

This is a very subjective look at words and I’m not going to reference official definitions or how others use these words. It’s more of my attempt to look at how these words resonate with me so I’m thankful for your indulgence.

I’ve found that my use of the word “hope” reflects a very ethereal and temporal quality that I personally find that it embodies. Statements like “I hope that…” have this smoke-like impermanence to me, as if I’m casting a handful of leaves to the breeze and leaving to chance where they will end up.

“Hope” is a very aspirational word to me. It can be that spark that illuminates the darkness, even for a moment, to perhaps show which way to go. But like a spark, I find that hope needs something else to sustain it. It can be very fleeting. I believe that hope’s strength is that it can be shared with others. Hope that is shared can be sustained although it does remain quite fragile. It takes effort to sustain hope but with a group of people, it can become easier.

I’ve noticed for myself how I’ve employed the word “optimism” more frequently in my vocabulary. Optimism has a different feeling for me. Where “hope” is aspirational, “optimism” is pragmatic & rational. Optimism has intent behind it and requires effort. It’s not a given that something will work out as you anticipated, so it requires a mindset to choose that viewpoint.

I think that this past year has shown me the difference between these words. It has been a time of more personal reflection and separation from others. That’s another distinction I have found with optimism. I feel that it is a more personal & individual approach. Where hope can be shared with others fairly naturally, optimism is harder because it requires effort. It can be more challenging to convey optimism to someone else. I think this may be because it requires more cognitive effort rather than being an emotional response. I think it also involves convincing someone of your thought patterns & beliefs which can be inherently challenging.

That being said, I feel that there’s the need for both hope & optimism in our lives. Hope can provide the inspiration to start on a journey, while optimism can sustain us along the way. Optimism requires effort & intent and can provide a foundation – it’s something we can actually train to do better. Hope, for me, is what arises during moments of reflection. It’s not always easy to find personally, but it is something that can be gifted from others.

Thank you for the time you’ve taken to read this and I hope it has resonated with you in some way.