The virtue of getting your hopes up


There’s a sizable contingent of the population that works very hard to negate any positive anticipation.

Stated in English: lots of people fight to keep from getting their hopes up.

They are waiting for a callback from a job interview. Waiting for a call from the person they just went out with. Waiting for an answer they desperately want to receive. Waiting.

But rather than waiting with positive anticipation, they fight hard against getting their hopes up.   Rather than envisioning what they’d look like in the role or mentally trying it on for size, they tell themselves that it’s unlikely that they got what they wanted.

For some it’s the idea that it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.

For others, it’s superstition. We don’t say the words “we’re winning” until we’ve won, lest we jinx it.

I’d like to make an alternative suggestion: Get your hopes up – and get them up in a major, major way.


I’m glad you asked.

You’re more likely to properly plan and hit the ground running if you are positively anticipating the win.

You applied for the job. You got a call for an interview, so you started doing a little homework. The interview went well, you got asked for a second interview. You did even more homework. Now, you’re waiting to see if you got the job or not.

By assuming that you absolutely got the job, you put yourself in the frame of mind to start preparing for the job! Go buy some new work clothes. Read up on all of the issues facing the organization. Plot your budget out for what the extra money will look like for you. When you get that call, and the job is yours, you are already in prime position to make the first 100 days of your new role a stellar demonstration of what you have to offer.

But Rickey, I’ll look like a fool if I don’t get it!

Um…to whom? I’d argue that we all spend an inordinate amount of time acting the way an imaginary gallery of critics would have us act. My advice – as real and harsh as it is: “dance like no one’s watching,” because NO ONE IS WATCHING YOU DANCE.

You are in this, ultimately, for you. Why on earth would you waste valuable time you could be using to get ready to kick ass, to instead play “too cool for school” so your imaginary friends don’t think you’re a dork?

P.S. You are a dork, for the record.

If you lose, it’s going to hurt whether you made today suck or made today a great, hopeful, positive day.

My mother always told me that worrying never robs tomorrow of its problems, it just robs today of its joy. Of course, she was actually just stating that out loud for her our self-counsel, because she was one of the biggest worriers on the planet when I was growing up. (She’s better now…probably because she sees now that she gave birth to a BEAST).

But she really was spot on. All we have is this moment. And this moment is either going to be awesome or be terrible or be somewhere in between. And once it is gone, it is gone forever.

Fast forward to the day you get/don’t get the good news you want.   That day will be “this moment” – that is, that day will, in that moment, be all you have. It doesn’t affect today, because today will be long gone.

So let’s try this on for size.

Today exists in a vacuum, independent of tomorrow. Today, you enjoy the weather, you enjoy your meals, you spend time with friends and family, you do good work, you laugh, you relax, you go to sleep.

Tomorrow hits and you wake up to bad news. Did yesterday suddenly turn bad? Nope…unless you are a magical time traveling pessimistic demon. Yesterday was good, and remains good, because it ceased to exist with the dawning of today!

On the flipside – if you let (yes – LET – as in “grant permission to”) today be anything less than great, it also doesn’t matter what tomorrow brings.

I’ve heard the term “bracing for impact” thrown around – the idea that preparing yourself for bad news makes it easier to take. Here’s the thing: bracing for impact (a) almost never works, (b) often makes your actual impact injure you worse, and (c) can be as exhausting and painful as the impact itself.

If you’re going to splat on the ground, what sounds better? Being blissfully unaware, enjoying the rush of air and the amazing view? Or panicking for minutes on end, dying a thousand deaths before you die the actual, final one?

Being pessimistic is awkward for your friends and family.

I know just a few minutes ago I told you that no one’s watching you dance. Sorry, that was mean. A few people actually are watching you. They love you, and your dance brings them immense joy.

They want to be excited for you. They don’t judge you (disproportionately…we all judge everyone and everything). It’s ok to let your guard down a little.

There’s a commercial on right now for DirecTV – you’ve probably seen it – called “The Settlers”. Quick summary: a prairie family from the 19th century lives in the suburbs, “settling” for cable instead of DirecTV. There’s a scene where the neighbor pulls up and asks the settler, “Hey Jebediah, how’s it going?”

The settler responds with a melancholy, “working the land, hoping for a fertile spring.”

The neighbor says, awkwardly, “alright,” and keeps walking – the line is turned brilliantly. You feel the full brunt of the 2016 neighbor’s feelings: trying to be pleasant and supportive, met with 19th century “optimism” (2016 pessimistic-realism), and not knowing exactly what to do with that…so walking away.

Guess what:

That settler is you. That normal guy is everyone else.

We are all rooting for you. We all love you. We want you to be happy and successful. It’s ok to genuinely be unsure about how you did. And there’s a positive, optimistic way to express that! But there’s also a self-defeating, dismissive, “realist” way to express that, which leaves your supporters feeling awkward and not knowing exactly what to say.

And if you don’t get it? Do you expect we’ll all be standing there, laughing at you for believing in yourself?

If that’s who your friends and family are, I’d suggest you need more help than this blog can give you.

Losing can’t happen without winning, and winning can’t happen without losing.

Okay, so this is a little more ephemeral and Taoist, but we have to experience the full range of human emotion in order to fully understand each stop along the path. We have to experience death to understand life. We have to experience sickness to understand wellness…and wellness to understand sickness. We have to experience loss to understand gain, and vice versa.

When things don’t go the way you want them to, take one minute to stand back and fully experience the negative feeling…and then process it and understand that this “negative” is just part of the human experience, and be grateful.

Stormy weather isn’t “ideal” but it’s beautiful nonetheless. And the act of experiencing the storm is a gift. What’s a “gift”? Something to which you are not entitled, but which you receive from the grace of someone else, with which your life is enhanced.

The act of missing out on something you hoped for is gift. It’s part of the human experience and is absolutely necessary to make you fully understand the rest of it. Embrace it fully. Let it hit you square in the jaw. Grow from it.

But don’t try to soften it by lowering your expectations, bracing for impact, or pretending it doesn’t matter.


Agree? Think I’m full of it? I’m getting my hopes up that you’ll leave a comment so we can discuss it further!





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  1. Pingback: I am thankful for pain. | Rickey Dobbs

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