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Lisa Earle McLeod: Getting your hopes up isn’t such a bad thing

Published 10:06am Friday, August 28, 2009

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

This is the single stupidest piece of advice that ever was.

Because guess what? Nothing bad happens when you get your hopes up. I know people say you shouldn’t get your hopes up because you might be disappointed. But there’s a big difference between being overly attached to an outcome and being hopeful.

Being overly attached to an outcome means that you can’t stand it when things don’t go your way. Getting your hopes up just means that you’re excited about the possibility of success. And can you think of a single venture that doesn’t benefit from people being excited about it?

Consider these two scenarios: Person A and Person B are both up for a promotion.
They’re equally qualified for the job, but Person A doesn’t want to get their hopes up. Perhaps they were raised by a parent who continually warned them not to get too hopeful every time they got enthused; or perhaps they’re just afraid of disappointment.

So they set up the interview and spend the three weeks prior to it trying to keep the hope at bay. They don’t tell many people about the opportunity, and every time they find themselves fantasizing about it, they stop themselves, reining in their thoughts, not allowing themselves to imagine it happening.

The morning they leave for the interview, they tell their spouse, “I want this job, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

Now consider Person B who is interviewing for the same job, but who happens to be a hope junkie. In the weeks prior to their interview, they walk around positively beaming, imagining how exciting it would be to win the promotion, and they tell anyone who will listen, “I’m really hoping to get this job.”

On the day of the interview they walk out of the house, giving their spouse and kids a big thumbs up, saying “Let’s hope I get it!”

Who do you think has a better shot of getting the job?

Duh. When you’re hopeful you radiate a confidence and energy that significantly increases the likelihood of things going your way.

But what happens if neither of them gets the job? What if the boss gives the promotion to his deadbeat nephew instead?

Has the “don’t get your hopes up” person protected themselves from disappointment?
Probably not. You see, that’s the fallacy behind the “don’t get your hopes up” theory.

The truth is if you want the job, you want the job, and it’s not going to hurt any more or less if you walked around hopeful. In fact, just the opposite.

Person A spent three weeks nervous and worried, putting a lot of energy into keeping hope at bay, while Person B spent that same time hopeful and excited.

They might not have landed the job, but who knows what three weeks of hopeful energy did for them in terms of creating support and other opportunities.

Getting your hopes up isn’t about being stupid, and it’s not about getting our heart absolutely set on something. It’s just about allowing yourself to experience positive emotions.

Your brain can’t tell the difference between perception and reality.

When you don’t get your hopes up, you don’t protect yourself from disappointment, you actually experience it twice.

Once when you’re trying to avoid getting hopeful and then again, when your non-hopeful outlook is confirmed.

Hope. It’s a good thing.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, syndicated columnist and inspirational thought-leader.
A popular keynote speaker, Lisa is principal of McLeod & More Inc., a training and consulting firm specializing in sales, leadership and conflict management. Her newest book is The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small (January 2010 from Penguin Putnam).

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